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laws (books 7 - 12)   


truly spoken; for I myself agree that all men ought to avoid the
life of unmingled pain or pleasure, and pursue always a middle course.
And having spoken well, may I add that you have been well answered?
Ath. Very good, Cleinias; and now let us all three consider a
further point.
Cle. What is it?
Ath. That all the matters which we are now describing are commonly
called by the general name of unwritten customs, and what are termed
the laws of our ancestors are all of similar nature. And the
reflection which lately arose in our minds, that we can neither call
these things laws, nor yet leave them unmentioned, is justified; for
they are the bonds of the whole state, and come in between the written
laws which are or are hereafter to be laid down; they are just
ancestral customs of great antiquity, which, if they are rightly
ordered and made habitual, shield and preserve the previously existing
written law; but if they depart from right and fall into disorder,
then they are like the props of builders which slip away out of
their Place and cause a universal ruin-one part drags another down,
and the fair super-structure falls because the old foundations are
undermined. Reflecting upon this, Cleinias, you ought to bind together
the new state in every possible way, omitting nothing, whether great
or small, of what are called laws or manners or pursuits, for by these
means a city is bound together, and all these things are only
lasting when they depend upon one another; and, therefore, we must not
wonder if we find that many apparently trifling customs or usages come
pouring in and lengthening out our laws.
Cle. Very true: we are disposed to agree with you.
Ath. Up to the age of three years, whether of boy or girl, if a
person strictly carries out our previous regulations and makes them
a principal aim, he will do much for the advantage of the young
creatures. But at three, four, five, and even six years the childish
nature will require sports; now is the time to get rid of self-will in
him, punishing him, but not so as to disgrace him. We were saying
about slaves, that we ought neither to add insult to punishment so
as to anger them, nor yet to leave them unpunished lest they become
self-willed; and a like rule is to be observed in the case of the
free-born. Children at that age have certain natural modes of
amusement which they find out for themselves when they meet. And all
the children who are between the ages of three and six ought to meet
at the temples the villages, the several families of a village uniting
on one spot. The nurses are to see that the children behave properly
and orderly-they themselves and all their companies are to be under
the control of twelve matrons, one for each company, who are
annually selected to inspect them from the women previously mentioned,
[i.e., the women who have authority over marriage], whom the guardians
of the law appoint. These matrons shall be chosen by the women who
have authority over marriage, one out of each tribe; all are to be
of the same age; and let each of them, as soon as she is appointed,
hold office and go to the temples every day, punishing all
offenders, male or female, who are slaves or strangers, by the help of
some of the public slaves; but if any citizen disputes the punishment,
let her bring him before the wardens of the city; or, if there be no
dispute, let her punish him herself. After the age of six years the
time has arrived for the separation of the sexes-let boys live with
boys, and girls in like manner with girls. Now they must begin to
learn-the boys going to teachers of horsemanship and the use of the
bow, the javelin, and sling, and the girls too, if they do not object,
at any rate until they know how to manage these weapons, and
especially how to handle heavy arms; for I may note, that the practice
which now prevails is almost universally misunderstood.
Cle. In what respect?
Ath. In that the right and left hand are supposed to be by nature
differently suited for our various uses of them; whereas no difference
is found in the use of the feet and the lower limbs; but in the use of

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