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Pages of laws (books 7 - 12)



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laws (books 7 - 12)   


the hands we are, as it were, maimed by the folly of nurses and
mothers; for although our several limbs are by nature balanced, we
create a difference in them by bad habit. In some cases this is of
no consequence, as, for example, when we hold the lyre in the left
hand, and the plectrum in the right, but it is downright folly to make
the same distinction in other cases. The custom of the Scythians
proves our error; for they not only hold the bow from them with the
left hand and draw the arrow to them with their right, but use
either hand for both purposes. And there are many similar examples
in charioteering and other things, from which we may learn that
those who make the left side weaker than the right act contrary to
nature. In the case of the plectrum, which is of horn only, and
similar instruments, as I was saying, it is of no consequence, but
makes a great difference, and may be of very great importance to the
warrior who has to use iron weapons, bows and javelins, and the
like; above all, when in heavy armour, he has to fight against heavy
armour. And there is a very great difference between one who has
learnt and one who has not, and between one who has been trained in
gymnastic exercises and one who has not been. For as he who is
perfectly skilled in the Pancratium or boxing or wrestling, is not
unable to fight from his left side, and does not limp and draggle in
confusion when his opponent makes him change his position, so in
heavy-armed fighting, and in all other things if I am not mistaken,
the like holds-he who has these double powers of attack and defence
ought not in any case to leave them either unused or untrained, if
he can help; and if a person had the nature of Geryon or Briareus he
ought to be able with his hundred hands to throw a hundred darts. Now,
the magistrates, male and female, should see to all these things,
the women superintending the nursing and amusements of the children,
and the men superintending their education, that all of them, boys and
girls alike, may be sound hand and foot, and may not, if they can
help, spoil the gifts of nature by bad habits.
Education has two branches-one of gymnastic, which is concerned with
the body, and the other of music, which is designed for the
improvement of the soul. And gymnastic has also two branches-dancing
and wrestling; and one sort of dancing imitates musical recitation,
and aims at preserving dignity and freedom, the other aims at
producing health, agility, and beauty in the limbs and parts of the
body, giving the proper flexion and extension to each of them, a
harmonious motion being diffused everywhere, and forming a suitable
accompaniment to the dance. As regards wrestling, the tricks which
Antaeus and Cercyon devised in their systems out of a vain spirit of
competition, or the tricks of boxing which Epeius or Amycus
invented, are useless and unsuitable for war, and do not deserve to
have much said about them; but the art of wrestling erect and
keeping free the neck and hands and sides, working with energy and
constancy, with a composed strength, and for the sake of
health-these are always useful, and are not to be neglected, but to be
enjoined alike on masters and scholars, when we reach that part of
legislation; and we will desire the one to give their instructions
freely, and the others to receive them thankfully. Nor, again, must we
omit suitable imitations of war in our choruses; here in Crete you
have the armed dances if the Curetes, and the Lacedaemonians have
those of the Dioscuri. And our virgin lady, delighting in the
amusement of the dance, thought it not fit to amuse herself with empty
hands; she must be clothed in a complete suit of armour, and in this
attire go through the dance; and youths and maidens should in every
respect imitate her, esteeming highly the favour of the Goddess,
both with a view to the necessities of war, and to festive
occasions: it will be right also for the boys, until such time as they
go out to war, to make processions and supplications to all the Gods
in goodly array, armed and on horseback, in dances, and marches,
fast or slow, offering up prayers to the Gods and to the sons of Gods;
and also engaging in contests and preludes of contests, if at all,

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