laws (books 7 - 12)
earliest years of life greatly contributes to create a part of
virtue in the soul.
Cle. Quite true.
Ath. Further, a cheerful temper, or the reverse, may be regarded
as having much to do with high spirit on the one hand, or with
cowardice on the other.
Cle. To be sure.
Ath. Then now we must endeavour to show how and to what extent we
may, if we please, without difficulty implant either character in
Ath. There is a common opinion, that luxury makes the disposition of
youth discontented and irascible and vehemently excited by trifles;
that on the other hand excessive and savage servitude makes men mean
and abject, and haters of their kind, and therefore makes them
Cle. But how must the state educate those who do not as yet
understand the language of the country, and are therefore incapable of
appreciating any sort of instruction?
Ath. I will tell you how:-Every animal that is born is wont to utter
some cry, and this is especially the case with man, and he is also
affected with the inclination to weep more than any other animal.
Cle. Quite true.
Ath. Do not nurses, when they want to know what an infant desires,
judge by these signs?-when anything is brought to the infant and he is
silent, then he is supposed to be pleased, but, when he weeps and
cries out, then he is not pleased. For tears and cries are the
inauspicious signs by which children show what they love and hate. Now
the time which is thus spent is no less than three years, and is a
very considerable portion of life to be passed ill or well.
Ath. Does not the discontented and ungracious nature appear to you
to be full of lamentations and sorrows more than a good man ought to
Ath. Well, but if during these three years every possible care
were taken that our nursling should have as little of sorrow and fear,
and in general of pain as was possible, might we not expect in early
childhood to make his soul more gentle and cheerful?
Cle. To be sure, Stranger-more especially if we could procure him
a variety of pleasures.
Ath. There I can no longer agree, Cleinias: you amaze me. To bring
him up in such a way would be his utter ruin; for the beginning is
always the most critical part of education. Let us see whether I am
Ath. The point about which you and I differ is of great
importance, and I hope that you, Megillus, will help to decide between
us. For I maintain that the true life should neither seek for
pleasures, nor, on the other hand, entirely avoid pains, but should
embrace the middle state, which I just spoke of as gentle and
benign, and is a state which we by some divine presage and inspiration
rightly ascribe to God. Now, I say, he among men, too, who would be
divine ought to pursue after this mean habit-he should not rush
headlong into pleasures, for he will not be free from pains; nor
should we allow any one, young or old, male or female, to be thus
given any more than ourselves, and least of all the newly-born infant,
for in infancy more than at any other time the character is
engrained by habit. Nay, more, if I were not afraid of appearing to be
ridiculous, I would say that a woman during her year of pregnancy
should of all women be most carefully tended, and kept from violent or
excessive pleasures and pains, and should at that time cultivate
gentleness and benevolence and kindness.
Cle. You need not, ask Megillus, Stranger, which of us has most