laws (books 7 - 12)
shepherds; and no one would compare them to dogs who have silenced
Cle. A thing not to be spoken of.
Ath. And are not all the Gods the chiefest of all guardians, and
do they not guard our highest interests?
Cle. Yes; the chiefest.
Ath. And shall we say that those who guard our noblest interests,
and are the best of guardians, are inferior in virtue to dogs, and
to men even of moderate excellence, who would never betray justice for
the sake of gifts which unjust men impiously offer them?
Cle. Certainly not: nor is such a notion to be endured, and he who
holds this opinion may be fairly singled out and characterized as of
all impious men the wickedest and most impious.
Ath. Then are the three assertions-that the Gods exist, and that
they take care of men, and that they can never be persuaded to do
injustice, now sufficiently demonstrated? May we say that they are?
Cle. You have our entire assent to your words.
Ath. I have spoken with vehemence because I am zealous against
evil men; and I will tell dear Cleinias, why I am so. I would not have
the wicked think that, having the superiority in argument, they may do
as they please and act according to their various imaginations about
the Gods; and this zeal has led me to speak too vehemently; but if
we have at all succeeded in persuading the men to hate themselves
and love their opposites, the prelude of our laws about impiety will
not have been spoken in vain.
Cle. So let us hope; and even if we have failed, the style of our
argument will not discredit the lawgiver.
Ath. After the prelude shall follow a discourse, which will be the
interpreter of the law; this shall proclaim to all impious
persons:-that they must depart from their ways and go over to the
pious. And to those who disobey, let the law about impiety be as
follows:-If a man is guilty of any impiety in word or deed, any one
who happens to present shall give information to the magistrates, in
aid of the law; and let the magistrates who. first receive the
information bring him before the appointed court according to the law;
and if a magistrate, after receiving information, refuses to act, he
shall be tried for impiety at the instance of any one who is willing
to vindicate the laws; and if any one be cast, the court shall
estimate the punishment of each act of impiety; and let all such
criminals be imprisoned. There shall be three prisons in the state:
the first of them is to be the common prison in the neighbourhood of
the agora for the safe-keeping of the generality of offenders; another
is to be in the neighbourhood of the nocturnal council, and is to be
called the "House of Reformation"; another, to be situated in some
wild and desolate region in the centre of the country, shall be called
by some name expressive of retribution. Now, men fall into impiety
from three causes, which have been already mentioned, and from each of
these causes arise two sorts of impiety, in all six, which are worth
distinguishing, and should not all have the same punishment. For he
who does not believe in Gods, and yet has a righteous nature, hates
the wicked and dislikes and refuses to do injustice, and avoids
unrighteous men, and loves the righteous. But they who besides
believing that the world is devoid of Gods are intemperate, and have
at the same time good memories and quick wits, are worse; although
both of them are unbelievers, much less injury is done by the one than
by the other. The one may talk loosely about the Gods and about
sacrifices and oaths, and perhaps by laughing at other men he may make
them like himself, if he be not punished. But the other who holds
the same opinions and is called a clever man, is full of stratagem and
deceit-men of this class deal in prophecy and jugglery of all kinds,
and out of their ranks sometimes come tyrants and demagogues and
generals and hierophants of private mysteries and the Sophists, as
they are termed, with their ingenious devices. There are many kinds of
unbelievers, but two only for whom legislation is required; one the