laws (books 7 - 12)
the Olympic and other contests, in his zeal for his art, ind also
because he was of a manly and temperate disposition, never had any
connection with a woman or a youth during the whole time of his
training? And the same is said of Crison and Astylus and Diopompus and
many others; and yet, Cleinias, they were far worse educated in
their minds than your and my citizens, and in their bodies far more
Cle. No doubt this fact has been often affirmed positively by the
ancients of these athletes.
Ath. And had they; courage to abstain from what is ordinarilly
deemed a pleasure for the sake of a victory in wrestling, running, and
the like; and shall our young men be incapable of a similar
endurance for the sake of a much nobler victory, which is the
noblest of all, as from their youth upwards we will tell them,
charming them, as we hope, into the belief of this by tales and
sayings and songs?
Cle. Of what victory are you speaking?
Ath. Of the victory over pleasure, which if they win, they will live
happily; or if they are conquered, the reverse of happily. And,
further, may we not suppose that the fear of impiety will enable
them to master that which other inferior people have mastered?
Cle. I dare say.
Ath. And since we have reached this point in our legislation, and
have fallen into a difficulty by reason of the vices of mankind, I
affirm that our ordinance should simply run in the following terms:
Our citizens ought not to fall below the nature of birds and beasts in
general, who are born in great multitudes, and yet remain until the
age for procreation virgin and unmarried, but when they have reached
the proper time of life are coupled, male and female, and lovingly
pair together, and live the rest of their lives in holiness and
innocence, abiding firmly in their original compact:-surely, we will
say to them, you should be better than the animals. But if they are
corrupted by the other Hellenes and the common practice of barbarians,
and they see with their eyes and hear with their ears of the so-called
free love everywhere prevailing among them, and they themselves are
not able to get the better of the temptation, the guardians of the
law, exercising the functions of lawgivers, shall devise a second
law against them.
Cle. And what law would you advise them to pass if this one failed?
Ath. Clearly, Cleinias, the one which would naturally follow.
Cle. What is that?
Ath. Our citizens should not allow pleasures to strengthen with
indulgence, but should by toil divert the aliment and exuberance of
them into other parts of the body; and this will happen if no
immodesty be allowed in the practice of love. Then they will be
ashamed of frequent intercourse, and they will find pleasure, if
seldom enjoyed, to be a less imperious mistress. They should not be
found out doing anything of the sort. Concealment shall be honourable,
and sanctioned by custom and made law by unwritten prescription; on
the other hand, to be detected shall be esteemed dishonourable, but
not, to abstain wholly. In this way there will be a second legal
standard of honourable and dishonourable, involving a second notion of
right. Three principles will comprehend all those corrupt natures whom
we call inferior to themselves, and who form but one dass, and will
compel them not to transgress.
Cle. What are they?
Ath. The principle of piety, the love of honour, and the desire of
beauty, not in the body but in the soul. These are, perhaps,
romantic aspirations; but they are the noblest of aspirations, if they
could only be realized in all states, and, God willing, in the
matter of love we may be able to enforce one of two things-either that
no one shall venture to touch any person of the freeborn or noble
class except his wedded wife, or sow the unconsecrated and bastard
seed among harlots, or in barren and unnatural lusts; or at least we