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Pages of laws (books 7 - 12)



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laws (books 7 - 12)   


shall he suffer who slays him who of all men, as they say, is his
own best friend? I mean the suicide, who deprives himself by
violence of his appointed share of life, not because the law of the
state requires him, nor yet under the compulsion of some painful and
inevitable misfortune which has come upon him, nor because he has
had to suffer from irremediable and intolerable shame, but who from
sloth or want of manliness imposes upon himself an unjust penalty. For
him, what ceremonies there are to be of purification and burial God
knows, and about these the next of kin should enquire of the
interpreters and of the laws thereto relating, and do according to
their injunctions. They who meet their death in this way shall be
buried alone, and none shall be laid by their side; they shall be
buried ingloriously in the borders of the twelve portions the land, in
such places as are uncultivated and nameless, and no column or
inscription shall mark the place of their interment. And if a beast of
burden or other animal cause the death of any one, except in the
case of anything of that kind happening to a competitor in the
public contests, the kinsmen of the deceased shall prosecute the
slayer for murder, and the wardens of the country, such, and so many
as the kinsmen appoint, shall try the cause, and let the beast when
condemned be slain by them, and let them cast it beyond the borders.
And if any lifeless thing deprive a man of life, except in the case of
a thunderbolt or other fatal dart sent from the Gods-whether a man
is killed by lifeless objects, falling upon him, or by his falling
upon them, the nearest of kin shall appoint the nearest neighbour to
be a judge, and thereby acquit himself and the whole family of
guilt. And he shall cast forth the guilty thing beyond the border,
as has been said about the animals.
If a man is found dead, and his murderer be unknown, and after a
diligent search cannot be detected, there shall be the same
proclamation as in the previous cases, and the same interdict on the
murderer; and having proceeded against him, they shall proclaim in the
agora by a herald, that he who has slain such and such a person, and
has been convicted of murder, shall not set his foot in the temples,
nor at all in the country of the murdered man, and if he appears and
is discovered, he shall die, and be cast forth unburied beyond the
border. Let this one law then be laid down by us about murder; and let
cases of this sort be so regarded.
And now let us say in what cases and under what circumstances the
murderer is rightly free from guilt:-If a man catch a thief coming,
into his house by night to steal, and he take and kill him, or if he
slay a footpad in self-defence, he shall be guiltless. And any one who
does violence to a free woman or a youth, shall be slain with impunity
by the injured person, or by his or her father or brothers or sons. If
a man find his wife suffering violence, he may kill the violator,
and be guiltless in the eye of the law; or if a person kill another in
warding off death from his father or mother or children or brethren or
wife who are doing no wrong, he shall assuredly be guiltless.
Thus much as to the nurture and education of the living soul of man,
having which, he can, and without which, if he unfortunately be
without them, he cannot live; and also concerning the
punishments:-which are to be inflicted for violent deaths, let thus
much be enacted. Of the nurture and education of the body we have
spoken before, and next in order we have to speak of deeds of
violence, voluntary and involuntary, which men do to one another;
these we will now distinguish, as far as we are able, according to
their nature and number, and determine what will be the suitable
penalties of each, and so assign to them their proper place in the
series of our enactments. The poorest legislator will have no
difficulty in determining that wounds and mutilations arising out of
wounds should follow next in order after deaths. Let wounds be divided
as homicides were divided-into those which are involuntary, and
which are given in passion or from fear, and those inflicted
voluntarily and with premeditation. Concerning all this, we must

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