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Pages of laws (books 7 - 12)



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laws (books 7 - 12)   


death may have no great sins to be punished in the world below. If
this be true, a man ought not to waste his substance under the idea
that all this lifeless mass of flesh which is in process of burial
is connected with him; he should consider that the son, or brother, or
the beloved one, whoever he may be, whom he thinks he is laying in the
earth, has gone away to complete and fulfil his own destiny, and
that his duty is rightly to order the present, and to spend moderately
on the lifeless altar of the Gods below. But the legislator does not
intend moderation to be take, in the sense of meanness. Let the law,
then, be as follows:-The expenditure on the entire funeral of him
who is of the highest class shall not exceed five minae; and for him
who is of the second class, three minae, and for him who is of the
third class, two minae, and for him, who is of the fourth class, one
mina, will be a fair limit of expense. The guardians of the law
ought to take especial care of the different ages of life, whether
childhood, or manhood, or any other age. And at the end of all, let
there be some one guardian of the law presiding, who shall be chosen
by the friends of the deceased to superintend, and let it be glory
to him to manage with fairness and moderation what relates to the
dead, and a discredit to him if they are not well managed. Let the
laying out and other ceremonies be in accordance with custom, but to
the statesman who adopts custom as his law we must give way in certain
particulars. It would be monstrous for example that he should
command any man to weep or abstain from weeping over the dead; but
he may forbid cries of lamentation, and not allow the voice of the
mourner to be heard outside the house; also, he may forbid the
bringing of the dead body into the open streets, or the processions of
mourners in the streets, and may require that before daybreak they
should be outside the city. Let these, then, be our laws relating to
such matters, and let him who obeys be free from penalty; but he who
disobeys even a single guardian of the law shall be punished by them
all with a fitting penalty. Other modes of burial, or again the denial
of burial, which is to be refused in the case of robbers of temples
and parricides and the like, have been devised and are embodied in the
preceding laws, so that now our work of legislation is pretty nearly
at an end; but in all cases the end does not consist in doing
something or acquiring something or establishing something-the end
will be attained and finally accomplished, when we have provided for
the perfect and lasting continuance of our institutions until then our
creation is incomplete.
Cle. That is very good Stranger; but I wish you would tell me more
clearly what you mean.
Ath. O Cleinias, many things of old time were well said and sung;
and the saying about the Fates was one of them.
Cle. What is it?
Ath. The saying that Lachesis or the giver of the lots is the
first of them, and that Clotho or the spinster is the second of
them, and that Atropos or the unchanging one is the third of them; and
that she is the preserver of the things which we have spoken, and
which have been compared in a figure to things woven by fire, they
both (i.e., Atropos and the fire) producing the quality of
unchangeableness. I am speaking of the things which in a state and
government give not only health and salvation to the body, but law, or
rather preservation of the law, in the soul; and, if I am not
mistaken, this seems to be still wanting in our laws: we have still to
see how we can implant in them this irreversible nature.
Cle. It will be no small matter if we can only discover how such a
nature can be implanted in anything.
Ath. But it certainly can be; so much I clearly see.
Cle. Then let us not think of desisting until we have imparted
this quality to our laws; for it is ridiculous, after a great deal
of labour has been spent, to place a thing at last on an insecure
foundation.
Megillus. I approve of your suggestion, and am quite of the same

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