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Pages of laws (books 7 - 12)



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laws (books 7 - 12)   


And in such cases almost all men take to saying something ridiculous
about their opponent, and there is no man who is in the habit of
laughing at another who does not miss virtue and earnestness
altogether, or lose the better half of greatness. Wherefore let no one
utter any taunting word at a temple, or at the public sacrifices, or
at games, or in the agora, or in a court of justice, or in any
public assembly. And let the magistrate who presides on these
occasions chastise an offender, and he shall be blameless; but if he
fails in doing so, he shall not claim the prize of virtue; for he is
one who heeds not the laws, and does not do what the legislator
commands. And if in any other place any one indulges in these sort
of revilings, whether he has begun the quarrel or is only retaliating,
let any elder who is present support the law, and control with blows
those who indulge in passion, which is another great evil; and if he
do not, let him be liable to pay the appointed penalty. And we say
now, that he who deals in reproaches against others cannot reproach
them without attempting to ridicule them; and this, when done in a
moment of anger, is what we make matter of reproach against him. But
then, do we admit into our state the comic writers who are so fond
of making mankind ridiculous, if they attempt in a good-natured manner
to turn the laugh against our citizens? or do we draw the
distinction of jest and earnest, and allow a man to make use of
ridicule in jest and without anger about any thing or person; though
as we were saying, not if he be angry have a set purpose? We forbid
earnest-that is unalterably fixed; but we have still to say who are to
be sanctioned or not to be sanctioned by the law in the employment
of innocent humour. A comic poet, or maker of iambic or satirical
lyric verse, shall not be permitted to ridicule any of the citizens,
either by word or likeness, either in anger or without anger. And if
any one is disobedient, the judges shall either at once expel him from
the country, or he shall pay a fine of three minae, which shall be
dedicated to the God who presides over the contests. Those only who
have received permission shall be allowed to write verses at one
another, but they shall be without anger and in jest; in anger and
in serious earnest they shall not be allowed. The decision of this
matter shall be left to the superintendent of the general education of
the young, and whatever he may license, the writer shall be allowed to
produce, and whatever he rejects let not the poet himself exhibit,
or ever teach anybody else, slave or freeman, under the penalty of
being dishonoured, and held disobedient to the laws.
Now he is not to be pitied who is hungry, or who suffers any
bodily pain, but he who is temperate, or has some other virtue, or
part of a virtue, and at the same time suffers from misfortune; it
would be an extraordinary thing if such an one, whether slave or
freeman, were utterly forsaken and fell into the extremes of poverty
in any tolerably well-ordered city or government. Wherefore the
legislator may safely make a law applicable to such cases in the
following terms:-Let there be no beggars in our state; and if
anybody begs, seeking to pick up a livelihood by unavailing prayers,
let the wardens of the agora turn him out of the agora, and the
wardens of the city out of the city, and the wardens of the country
send him out of any other parts of the land across the border, in
order that the land may be cleared of this sort of animal.
If a slave of either sex injure anything, which is not his or her
own, through inexperience, or some improper practice, and the person
who suffers damage be not himself in part to blame, the master of
the slave who has done the harm shall either make full satisfaction,
or give up the the slave who has done has done the injury. But if
master argue that the charge has arisen by collusion between the
injured party and the injurer, with the view of obtaining the slave,
let him sue the person, who says that he has been injured, for
malpractices. And if he gain a conviction, let him receive double
the value which the court fixes as the price of the slave; and if he
lose his suit, let him make amends for the injury, and give up the

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