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Pages of laws (books 7 - 12)



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laws (books 7 - 12)   


that they may have some one to grow old with and that the pair may
take care of one another in age. If a woman dies, leaving children,
male or female, the law will advise rather than compel the husband
to bring up the children without introducing into the house a
stepmother. But if he have no children, then he shall be compelled
to marry until he has begotten a sufficient number of sons to his
family and to the state. And if a man dies leaving a sufficient number
of children, the mother of his children shall remain with them and
bring, them up. But if she appears to be too young to live
virtuously without a husband, let her relations communicate with the
women who superintend marriage, and let both together do what they
think best in these matters; if there is a lack of children, let the
choice be made with a view to having them; two children, one of either
sex, shall be deemed sufficient in the eye of the law. When a child is
admitted to be the offspring of certain parents and is acknowledged by
them, but there is need of a decision as to which parent the child
is to follow-in case a female slave have intercourse with a male
slave, or with a freeman or freedman, the offspring shall always
belong to the master of the female slave. Again, if a free woman
have intercourse with a male slave, the offspring shall belong to
the master of the slave; but if a child be born either of a slave by
her master, or of his mistress by a slave-and this be provence
offspring of the woman and its father shall be sent away by the
women who superintend marriage into another country, and the guardians
of the law shall send away the offspring of the man and its mother.
Neither God, nor a man who has understanding, will ever advise any
one to neglect his parents. To a discourse concerning the honour and
dishonour of parents, a prelude such as the following, about the
service of the Gods, will be a suitable introduction:-There are
ancient customs about the Gods which are universal, and they are of
two kinds: some of the Gods we see with our eyes and we honour them,
of others we honour the images, raising statues of them which we
adore; and though they are lifeless, yet we imagine that the living
Gods have a good will and gratitude to us on this account. Now, if a
man has a father or mother, or their fathers or mothers treasured up
in his house stricken in years, let him consider that no statue can be
more potent to grant his requests than they are, who are sitting at
his hearth if only he knows how to show true service to them.
Cle. And what do you call the true mode of service?
Ath. I will tell you, O my friend, for such things are worth
listening to.
Cle. Proceed.
Ath. Oedipus, as tradition says, when dishonoured by his sons,
invoked on them curses which every one declares to have been heard and
ratified by the Gods, and Amyntor in his wrath invoked curses on his
son Phoenix, and Theseus upon Hippolytus, and innumerable others
have also called down wrath upon their children, whence it is clear
that the Gods listen to the imprecations of parents; for the curses of
parents are, as they ought to be, mighty against their children as
no others are. And shall we suppose that the prayers of a father or
mother who is specially dishonoured by his or her children, are
heard by the Gods in accordance with nature; and that if a parent is
honoured by them, and in the gladness of his heart earnestly
entreats the Gods in his prayers to do them good, he is not equally
heard, and that they do not minister to his request? If not, they
would be very unjust ministers of good, and that we affirm to be
contrary to their nature.
Cle. Certainly.
Ath. May we not think, as I was saying just now, that we can possess
no image which is more honoured by the Gods, than that of a father
or grandfather, or of a mother stricken in years? whom when a man
honours, the heart of the God rejoices, and he is ready to answer
their prayers. And, truly, the figure of an ancestor is a wonderful
thing, far higher than that of a lifeless image. For the living,

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