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Pages of laws (books 7 - 12)



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laws (books 7 - 12)   


disposition, and a miserable want of education. Of this want of
education, the false praise of wealth which is bruited about both
among Hellenes and barbarians is the cause; they deem that to be the
first of goods which in reality is only the third. And in this way
they wrong both posterity and themselves, for nothing can be nobler
and better than that the truth about wealth should be spoken in all
states-namely, that riches are for the sake of the body, as the body
is for the sake of the soul. They are good, and wealth is intended
by nature to be for the sake of them, and is therefore inferior to
them both, and third in order of excellence. This argument teaches
us that he who would be happy ought not to seek to be rich, or
rather he should seek to be rich justly and temperately, and then
there would be no murders in states requiring to be purged away by
other murders. But now, as I said at first, avarice is the chiefest
cause and source of the worst trials for voluntary homicide. A
second cause is ambition: this creates jealousies, which are
troublesome companions, above all to the jealous man himself, and in a
less degree to the chiefs of the state. And a third cause is
cowardly and unjust fear, which has been the occasion of many murders.
When a man is doing or has done something which he desires that no one
should know him to be doing or to have done, he will take the life
of those who are likely to inform of such things, if he have no
other means of getting rid of them. Let this be said as a prelude
concerning crimes of violence in general; and I must not omit to
mention a tradition which is firmly believed by many, and has been
received by them from those who are learned in the mysteries: they say
that such deeds will be punished in the world below, and also that
when the perpetrators return to this world they will pay the natural
penalty which is due to the sufferer, and end their lives in like
manner by the hand of another. If he who is about to commit murder
believes this, and is made by the mere prelude to dread such a
penalty, there is no need to proceed with the proclamation of the law.
But if he will not listen, let the following law be declared and
registered against him:
Whoever shall wrongfully and of design slay with his own hand any of
his kinsmen, shall in the first place be deprived of legal privileges;
and he shall not pollute the temples, or the agora, or the harbours,
or any other place of meeting, whether he is forbidden of men or
not; for the law, which represents the whole state, forbids him, and
always is and will be in the attitude of forbidding him. And if a
cousin or nearer relative of the deceased, whether on the male or
female side, does not prosecute the homicide when he ought, and have
him proclaimed an outlaw, he shall in the first place be involved in
the pollution, and incur the hatred of the Gods, even as the curse
of the law stirs up the voices of men against him; and in the second
place he shall be liable to be prosecuted by any one who is willing to
inflict retribution on behalf of the dead. And he who would avenge a
murder shall observe all the precautionary ceremonies of lavation, and
any others which the God commands in cases of this kind. Let him
have proclamation made, and then go forth and compel the perpetrator
to suffer the execution of justice according to the law. Now the
legislator may easily show that these things must be accomplished by
prayers and sacrifices to certain Gods, who are concerned with the
prevention of murders in states. But who these Gods are, and what
should be the true manner of instituting such trials with due regard
to religion, the guardians of the law, aided by the interpreters,
and the prophets, and the God, shall determine, and when they have
determined let them carry on the prosecution at law. The cause shall
have the same judges who are appointed to decide in the case of
those who plunder temples. Let him who is convicted be punished with
death, and let him not be buried in the country of the murdered man,
for this would be shameless as well as impious. But if he fly and will
not stand his trial, let him fly for ever; or, if he set foot anywhere
on any part of the murdered man's country, let any relation of the

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