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Pages of laws (books 7 - 12)



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laws (books 7 - 12)   


about robbers of temples and similar incurable, or almost incurable,
criminals. Having already agreed that such enactments ought always
to have a short prelude, we may speak to the criminal, whom some
tormenting desire by night and by day tempts to go and rob a temple,
the fewest possible words of admonition and exhortation:-O sir, we
will say to him, the impulse which moves you to rob temples is not
an ordinary human malady, nor yet a visitation of heaven, but a
madness which is begotten in a man from ancient and unexpiated
crimes of his race, an ever-recurring curse;-against this you must
guard with all your might, and how you are to guard we will explain to
you. When any such thought comes into your mind, go and perform
expiations, go as a suppliant to the temples of the Gods who avert
evils, go to the society of those who are called good men among you;
hear them tell and yourself try to repeat after them, that every man
should honour the noble and the just. Fly from the company of the
wicked-fly and turn not back; and if your disorder is lightened by
these remedies, well and good, but if not, then acknowledge death to
be nobler than life, and depart hence.
Such are the preludes which we sing to all who have thoughts of
unholy and treasonable actions, and to him who hearkens to them the
law has nothing to say. But to him who is disobedient when the prelude
is over, cry with a loud voice,-He who is taken in the act of
robbing temples, if he be a slave or stranger, shall have his evil
deed engraven on his face and hands, and shall be beaten with as
many stripes as may seem good to the judges, and be cast naked
beyond the borders of the land. And if he suffers this punishment he
will probably return to his right mind and be improved; for no penalty
which the law inflicts is designed for evil, but always makes him
who suffers either better or not so much worse as he would have
been. But if any citizen be found guilty of any great or unmentionable
wrong, either in relation to the gods, or his parents, or the state,
let the judge deem him to be incurable, remembering that after
receiving such an excellent education and training from youth
upward, he has not abstained from the greatest of crimes. His
punishment shall be death, which to him will be the least of evils;
and his example will benefit others, if he perish ingloriously, and be
cast beyond the borders of the land. But let his children and
family, if they avoid the ways of their father, have glory, and let
honourable mention be made of them, as having nobly and manfully
escaped out of evil into good. None of them should have their goods
confiscated to the state, for the lots of the citizens ought always to
continue the same and equal.
Touching the exaction of penalties, when a man appears to have
done anything which deserves a fine, he shall pay the fine, if he have
anything in excess of the lot which is assigned to him; but more
than that he shall not pay. And to secure exactness, let the guardians
of the law refer to the registers, and inform the judges of the
precise truth, in order that none of the lots may go uncultivated
for want of money. But if any one seems to deserve a greater
penalty, let him undergo a long and public imprisonment and be
dishonoured, unless some of his friends are willing to be surety for
him, and liberate him by assisting him to pay the fine. No criminal
shall go unpunished, not even for a single offence, nor if he have
fled the country; but let the penalty be according to his
deserts-death, or bonds, or blows, or degrading places of sitting or
standing, or removal to some temple on the borders of the land; or let
him pay fines, as we said before. In cases of death, let the judges be
the guardians of the law, and a court selected by merit from the
last year's magistrates. But how the causes are to be brought into
to court, how the summonses are to be served, the like, these things
may be left to the younger generation of legislators to determine; the
manner of voting we must determine ourselves.
Let the vote be given openly; but before they come to the vote let
the judges sit in order of seniority over against plaintiff and

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