laws (books 7 - 12)
between them. Nor does the thought of such a thing ever enter at all
into the minds of most of them.
Meg. Very true.
Ath. Does not a little word extinguish all pleasures of that sort?
Meg. What word?
Ath. The declaration that they are unholy, hated of God, and most
infamous; and is not the reason of this that no one has ever said
the opposite, but every one from his earliest childhood has heard
men speaking in the same manner about them always and everywhere,
whether in comedy or in the graver language of tragedy? When the
poet introduces on the stage a Thyestes or an Oedipus, or a Macareus
having secret intercourse with his sister, he represents him, when
found out, ready to kill himself as the penalty of his sin.
Meg. You are very right in saying that tradition, if no breath of
opposition ever assails it, has a marvellous power.
Ath. Am I not also right in saying that the legislator who wants
to master any of the passions which master man may easily know how
to subdue them? He will consecrate the tradition of their evil
character among all, slaves and freemen, women and children,
throughout the city:-that will be the surest foundation of the law
which he can make.
Meg. Yes; but will he ever succeed in making all mankind use the
same language about them?
Ath. A good objection; but was I not just now saying that I had a
way to make men use natural love and abstain from unnatural, not
intentionally destroying the seeds of human increase, or sowing them
in stony places, in which they will take no root; and that I would
command them to abstain too from any female field of increase in which
that which is sown is not likely to grow? Now if a law to this
effect could only be made perpetual, and gain an authority such as
already prevents intercourse of parents and children-such a law,
extending to other sensual desires, and conquering them, would be
the source of ten thousand blessings. For, in the first place,
moderation is the appointment of nature, and deters men from all
frenzy and madness of love, and from all adulteries and immoderate use
of meats and drinks, and makes them good friends to their own wives.
And innumerable other benefits would result if such a could only be
enforced. I can imagine some lusty youth who is standing by, and
who, on hearing this enactment, declares in scurrilous terms that we
are making foolish and impossible laws, and fills the world with his
outcry. And therefore I said that I knew a way of enacting and
perpetuating such a law, which was very easy in one respect, but in
another most difficult. There is no difficulty in seeing that such a
law is possible, and in what way; for, as I was saying, the
ordinance once consecrated would master the soul of, every man, and
terrify him into obedience. But matters have now come to such a pass
that even then the desired result seems as if it could not be
attained, just as the continuance of an entire state in the practice
of common meals is also deemed impossible. And although this latter is
partly disproven by the fact of their existence among you, still
even in your cities the common meals of women would be regarded as
unnatural and impossible. I was thinking of the rebelliousness of
the human heart when I said that the permanent establishment of
these things is very difficult.
Meg. Very true.
Ath. Shall I try and find some sort of persuasive argument which
will prove to you that such enactments are possible, and not beyond
Cle. By all means.
Ath. Is a man more likely to abstain from the pleasures of love
and to do what he is bidden about them, when his body is in a good
condition, or when he is in an ill condition, and out of training?
Cle. He will be far more temperate when he is in training.
Ath. And have we not heard of Iccus of Tarentum, who, with a view to