republic (books 6 - 10)
They are the opposite extremes, he said, for one is the very
best and the other is the very worst.
There can be no mistake, I said, as to which is which, and
therefore I will at once inquire whether you would arrive at
a similar decision about their relative happiness and misery.
And here we must not allow ourselves to be panic-stricken at
the apparition of the tyrant, who is only a unit and may per-
haps have a few retainers about him; but let us go as we
ought into every corner of the city and look all about, and
then we will give our opinion.
A fair invitation, he replied; and I see, as everyone must,
that a tyranny is the wretchedest form of government, and the
rule of a king the happiest.
And in estimating the men, too, may I not fairly make a
like request, that I should have a judge whose mind can enter
into and see through human nature? he must not be like a
child who looks at the outside and is dazzled at the pompous
aspect which the tyrannical nature assumes to the beholder,
but let him be one who has a clear insight. May I suppose
that the judgment is given in the hearing of us all by one
who is able to judge, and has dwelt in the same place with
him, and been present at his daily life and known him in his
family relations, where he may be seen stripped of his tragedy
attire, and again in the hour of public danger--he shall tell
us about the happiness and misery of the tyrant when com-
pared with other men?
That again, he said, is a very fair proposal.
Shall I assume that we ourselves are able and experienced
judges and have before now met with such a person? We
shall then have someone who will answer our inquiries.
By all means.
Let me ask you not to forget the parallel of the individual
and the State; bearing this in mind, and glancing in turn
from one to the other of them, will you tell me their respec-
What do you mean? he asked.
Beginning with the State, I replied, would you say that a
city which is governed by a tyrant is free or enslaved?
No city, he said, can be more completely enslaved.
And yet, as you see, there are freemen as well as masters
in such a State?
Yes, he said, I see that there are--a few; but the people,
speaking generally, and the best of them are miserably de-
graded and enslaved.
Then if the man is like the State, I said, must not the same
rule prevail? His soul is full of meanness and vulgarity--
the best elements in him are enslaved; and there is a small
ruling part, which is also the worst and maddest.