laws (books 7 - 12)
evil deeds, and from small beginnings had grown great, and you fancied
that from being miserable they had become happy; and in their actions,
as in a mirror, you seemed to see the universal neglect of the Gods,
not knowing how they make all things work together and contribute to
the great whole. And thinkest thou, bold man, that thou needest not to
know this?-he who knows it not can never form any true idea of the
happiness or unhappiness of life or hold any rational discourse
respecting either. If Cleinias and this our reverend company succeed
in bringing to you that you know not what you say of the Gods, then
will God help you; but should you desire to hear more, listen to
what we say to the third opponent, if you have any understanding
whatsoever. For I think that we have sufficiently proved the existence
of the Gods, and that they care for men:-The other notion that they
are appeased by the wicked, and take gifts, is what we must not
concede to any one, and what every man should disprove to the utmost
of his power.
Cle. Very good; let us do as you say.
Ath. Well, then, by the Gods themselves I conjure you to tell
me-if they are to be propitiated, how are they to be propitiated?
Who are they, and what is their nature? Must they not be at least
rulers who have to order unceasingly the whole heaven?
Ath. And to what earthly rulers can they be compared, or who to
them? How in the less can we find an image of the greater? Are they
charioteers of contending pairs of steeds, or pilots of vessels?
Perhaps they might be compared to the generals of armies, or they
might be likened to physicians providing against the diseases which
make war upon the body, or to husbandmen observing anxiously the
effects of the seasons on the growth of plants; or I perhaps, to
shepherds of flocks. For as we acknowledge the world to be full of
many goods and also of evils, and of more evils than goods, there
is, as we affirm, an immortal conflict going on among us, which
requires marvellous watchfulness; and in that conflict the Gods and
demigods are our allies, and we are their property. Injustice and
insolence and folly are the destruction of us, and justice and
temperance and wisdom are our salvation; and the place of these latter
is in the life of the Gods, although some vestige of them may
occasionally be discerned among mankind. But upon this earth we know
that there dwell souls possessing an unjust spirit, who may be
compared to brute animals, which fawn upon their keepers, whether dogs
or shepherds, or the best and most perfect masters; for they in like
manner, as the voices of the wicked declare, prevail by flattery and
prayers and incantations, and are allowed to make their gains with
impunity. And this sin, which is termed dishonesty, is an evil of
the same kind as what is termed disease in living bodies or pestilence
in years or seasons of the year, and in cities and governments has
another name, which is injustice.
Cle. Quite true.
Ath. What else can he say who declares that the Gods are always
lenient to the doers of unjust acts, if they divide the spoil with
them? As if wolves were to toss a portion of their prey to the dogs,
and they, mollified by the gift, suffered them to tear the flocks.
Must not he who maintains that the Gods can be propitiated argue thus?
Cle. Precisely so.
Ath. And to which of the above-mentioned classes of guardians
would any man compare the Gods without absurdity? Will he say that
they are like pilots, who are themselves turned away from their duty
by "libations of wine and the savour of fat," and at last overturn
both ship and sailors?
Cle. Assuredly not.
Ath. And surely they are not like charioteers who are bribed to give
up the victory to other chariots?
Cle. That would be a fearful image of the Gods.
Ath. Nor are they like generals, or physicians, or husbandmen, or