had knowledge, the imitation would be the perfect truth, and an
imitation no longer.
Y. Soc. Quite true.
Str. And the principle that no great number of men are able to
acquire a knowledge of any art has been already admitted by us.
Y. Soc. Yes, it has.
Str. Then the royal or political art, if there be such an art,
will never be attained either by the wealthy or by the other mob.
Y. Soc. Impossible.
Str. Then the nearest approach which these lower forms of
can ever make to the true government of the one scientific ruler, is
to do nothing contrary to their own written laws and
Y. Soc. Very good.
Str. When the rich imitate the true form, such a government is
called aristocracy; and when they are regardless of the laws,
Y Soc. True.
Str. Or again, when an individual rules according to law in
imitation of him who knows, we call him a king; and if he rules
according to law, we give him the same name, whether he rules with
opinion or with knowledge.
Y. Soc. To be sure.
Str. And when an individual truly possessing knowledge rules, his
name will surely be the same-he will be called a king; and thus the
five names of governments, as they are now reckoned, become one.
Y. Soc. That is true.
Str. And when an individual ruler governs neither by law nor by
custom, but following in the steps of the true man of
that he can only act for the best by violating the laws, while in
reality appetite and ignorance are the motives of the imitation, may
not such an one be called a tyrant?
Y. Soc. Certainly.
Str. And this we believe to be the origin of the tyrant and the
king, of oligarchies, and aristocracies, and democracies-because men
are offended at the one monarch, and can never be made to
any one can be worthy of such authority, or is able and
willing in the
spirit of virtue and knowledge to act justly and holily to all; they
fancy that he will be a despot who will wrong and harm and slay whom
he pleases of us; for if there could be such a despot as we
describe, they would acknowledge that we ought to be too glad to
have him, and that he alone would be the happy ruler of a true and
Y. Soc. To be sure.
Str. But then, as the State is not like a beehive, and has no
natural head who is at once recognized to be the superior
both in body
and in mind, mankind are obliged to meet and make laws, and
endeavour to approach as nearly as they can to the true form of
Y. Soc. True.
Str. And when the foundation of politics is in the letter only and
in custom, and knowledge is divorced from action, can we wonder
Socrates, at the miseries which there are, and always will be, in
States? Any other art, built on such a foundation and thus
conducted, would ruin all that it touched. Ought we not rather to
wonder at the natural strength of the political bond? For States
have endured all this, time out of mind, and yet some of them still
remain and are not overthrown, though many of them, like
ships at sea,