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Pages of laws (books 7 - 12)



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laws (books 7 - 12)   


being less than thirty years of age, may with impunity chastise and
beat the swearer, but if instead of obeying the laws he takes no heed,
he shall be liable to the charge of having betrayed them. If a man
sells any adulterated goods and will not obey these regulations, he
who knows and can prove the fact, and does prove it in the presence of
the magistrates, if he be a slave or a metic, shall have the
adulterated goods; but if he be a citizen, and do not pursue the
charge, he shall be called a rogue, and deemed to have robbed the Gods
of the agora; or if he proves the charge, he shall dedicate the
goods to the Gods of the agora. He who is proved to have sold any
adulterated goods, in addition to losing the goods themselves, shall
be beaten with stripes-a stripe for a drachma, according to the
price of the goods; and the herald shall proclaim in the agora the
offence for which he is going to be beaten. The warden of the agora
and the guardians of the law shall obtain information from experienced
persons about the rogueries and adulterations of the sellers, and
shall write up what the seller ought and ought not to do in each case;
and let them inscribe their laws on a column in front of the court
of the wardens of the agora, that they may be clear instructors of
those who have business in the agora. Enough has been said in what has
preceded about the wardens of the city, and if anything seems to be
wanting, let them communicate with the guardians of the law, and write
down the omission, and place on a column in the court of the wardens
of the city the primary and secondary regulations which are laid
down for them about their office.
After the practices of adulteration naturally follow the practices
of retail trade. Concerning these, we will first of all give a word of
counsel and reason, and the law shall come afterwards. Retail trade in
a city is not by nature intended to do any harm, but quite the
contrary; for is not he a benefactor who reduces the inequalities
and incommensurabilities of goods to equality and common measure?
And this is what the power of money accomplishes, and the merchant may
be said to be appointed for this purpose. The hireling and the
tavern-keeper, and many other occupations, some of them more and
others less seemly-alike have this object;-they seek to satisfy our
needs and equalize our possessions. Let us then endeavour to see
what has brought retail trade into ill-odour, and wherein, lies the
dishonour and unseemliness of it, in order that if not entirely, we
may yet partially, cure the evil by legislation. To effect this is
no easy matter, and requires a great deal of virtue.
Cleinias. What do you mean?
Athenian Stranger. Dear Cleinias, the class of men is small-they
must have been rarely gifted by nature, and trained by
education-who, when assailed by wants and desires, are able to hold
out and observe moderation, and when they might make a great deal of
money are sober in their wishes, and prefer a moderate to a large
gain. But the mass of mankind are the very opposite: their desires are
unbounded, and when they might gain in moderation they prefer gains
without limit; wherefore all that relates to retail trade, and
merchandise, and the keeping of taverns, is denounced and numbered
among dishonourable things. For if what I trust may never be and
will not be, we were to compel, if I may venture to say a ridiculous
thing, the best men everywhere to keep taverns for a time, or carry on
retail trade, or do anything of that sort; or if, in consequence of
some fate or necessity, the best women were compelled to follow
similar callings, then we should know how agreeable and pleasant all
these things are; and if all such occupations were managed on
incorrupt principles, they would be honoured as we honour a mother
or a nurse. But now that a man goes to desert places and builds bouses
which can only be reached be long journeys, for the sake of retail
trade, and receives strangers who are in need at the welcome
resting-place, and gives them peace and calm when they are tossed by
the storm, or cool shade in the heat; and then instead of behaving
to them as friends, and showing the duties of hospitality to his

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