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Pages of laws (books 7 - 12)



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laws (books 7 - 12)   


before arbiters or before their neighbours. The class of craftsmen who
have furnished human life with the arts is dedicated to Hephaestus and
Athene; and there is a class of craftsmen who preserve the works of
all craftsmen by arts of defence, the votaries of Ares and Athene,
to which divinities they too are rightly dedicated. All these continue
through life serving the country and the people; some of them are
leaders in battle; others make for hire implements and works, and they
ought not to deceive in such matters, out of respect to the Gods who
are their ancestors. If any craftsman through indolence omit to
execute his work in a given time, not reverencing the God who gives
him the means of life, but considering, foolish fellow, that he is his
own God and will let him off easily, in the first place, he shall
suffer at the hands of the God, and in the second place, the law shall
follow in a similar spirit. He shall owe to him who contracted with
him the price of the works which he has failed in performing, and he
shall begin again and execute them gratis in the given time. When a
man undertakes a work, the law gives him the same advice which was
given to the seller, that he should not attempt to raise the price,
but simply ask the value; this the law enjoins also on the contractor;
for the craftsman assuredly knows the value of his work. Wherefore, in
free states the man of art ought not to attempt to impose upon private
individuals by the help of his art, which is by nature a true thing;
and he who is wronged in a matter of this sort, shall have a right
of action against the party who has wronged him. And if any one lets
out work to a craftsman, and does not pay him duly according to the
lawful agreement, disregarding Zeus the guardian of the city and
Athene, who are the partners of the state, and overthrows the
foundations of society for the sake of a little gain, in his case
let the law and the Gods maintain the common bonds of the state. And
let him who, having already received the work in exchange, does not
pay the price in the time agreed, pay double the price; and if a
year has elapsed, although interest is not to be taken on loans, yet
for every drachma which he owes to the contractor let him pay a
monthly interest of an obol. Suits about these matters are to be
decided by the courts of the tribes; and by the way, since we have
mentioned craftsmen at all, we must not forget the other craft of war,
in which generals and tacticians are the craftsmen, who undertake
voluntarily the work of our safety, as other craftsmen undertake other
public works;-if they execute their work well the law will never
tire of praising him who gives them those honours which are the just
rewards of the soldier; but if any one, having already received the
benefit of any noble service in war, does not make the due return of
honour, the law will blame him. Let this then be the law, having an
ingredient of praise, not compelling but advising the great body of
the citizens to honour the brave men who are the saviours of the whole
state, whether by their courage or by their military skill;-they
should honour them, I say, in the second place; for the first and
highest tribute of respect is to be given to those who are able
above other men to honour the words of good legislators.
The greater part of the dealings between man and man have been now
regulated by us with the exception of those that relate to orphans and
the supervision of orphans by their guardians. These follow next in
order, and must be regulated in some way. But to arrive at them we
must begin with the testamentary wishes of the dying and the case of
those who may have happened to die intestate. When I said, Cleinias,
that we must regulate them, I had in my mind the difficulty and
perplexity in which all such matters are involved. You cannot leave
them unregulated, for individuals would make regulations at variance
with one another, and repugnant to the laws and habits of the living
and to their own previous habits, if a person were simply allowed to
make any will which he pleased, and this were to take effect in
whatever state he may have been at the end of his life; for most of us
lose our senses in a manner, and feel crushed when we think that we
are about to die.

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