And now, assuming children of both sexes to have been born, it will be
proper for us to consider, in the next place, their nurture and education;
this cannot be left altogether unnoticed, and yet may be thought a subject
fitted rather for precept and admonition than for law. In private life
there are many little things, not always apparent, arising out of the
pleasures and pains and desires of individuals, which run counter to the
intention of the legislator, and make the characters of the citizens
various and dissimilar:--this is an evil in states; for by reason of their
smallness and frequent occurrence, there would be an unseemliness and want
of propriety in making them penal by law; and if made penal, they are the
destruction of the written law because mankind get the habit of frequently
transgressing the law in small matters. The result is that you cannot
legislate about them, and still less can you be silent. I speak somewhat
darkly, but I shall endeavour also to bring my wares into the light of
day, for I acknowledge that at present there is a want of clearness in
what I am saying.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN. Am I not right in maintaining that a good education is that
which tends most to the improvement of mind and body?
ATHENIAN: And nothing can be plainer than that the fairest bodies are
those which grow up from infancy in the best and straightest manner?
ATHENIAN: And do we not further observe that the first shoot of every
living thing is by far the greatest and fullest? Many will even contend
that a man at twenty-five does not reach twice the height which he
attained at five.
ATHENIAN: Well, and is not rapid growth without proper and abundant
exercise the source endless evils in the body?
ATHENIAN: And the body should have the most exercise when it receives most
CLEINIAS: But, Stranger, are we to impose this great amount of exercise
upon newly-born infants?
ATHENIAN: Nay, rather on the bodies of infants still unborn.
CLEINIAS: What do you mean, my good sir? In the process of gestation?
ATHENIAN: Exactly. I am not at all surprised that you have never heard of
this very peculiar sort of gymnastic applied to such little creatures,
which, although strange, I will endeavour to explain to you.
CLEINIAS: By all means.
ATHENIAN: The practice is more easy for us to understand than for you, by
reason of certain amusements which are carried to excess by us at Athens.
Not only boys, but often older persons, are in the habit of keeping quails
and cocks (compare Republic), which they train to fight one another. And
they are far from thinking that the contests in which they stir them up to
fight with one another are sufficient exercise; for, in addition to this,
they carry them about tucked beneath their armpits, holding the smaller
birds in their hands, the larger under their arms, and go for a walk of a
great many miles for the sake of health, that is to say, not their own
health, but the health of the birds; whereby they prove to any intelligent
person, that all bodies are benefited by shakings and movements, when they
are moved without weariness, whether the motion proceeds from themselves,
or is caused by a swing, or at sea, or on horseback, or by other bodies in
whatever way moving, and that thus gaining the mastery over food and
drink, they are able to impart beauty and health and strength. But
admitting all this, what follows? Shall we make a ridiculous law that the
pregnant woman shall walk about and fashion the embryo within as we
fashion wax before it hardens, and after birth swathe the infant for two
years? Suppose that we compel nurses, under penalty of a legal fine, to be
always carrying the children somewhere or other, either to the temples, or
into the country, or to their relations' houses, until they are well able
to stand, and to take care that their limbs are not distorted by leaning
on them when they are too young (compare Arist. Pol.),--they should
continue to carry them until the infant has completed its third year; the
nurses should be strong, and there should be more than one of them. Shall
these be our rules, and shall we impose a penalty for the neglect of them?
No, no; the penalty of which we were speaking will fall upon our own heads
more than enough.
CLEINIAS: What penalty?
ATHENIAN: Ridicule, and the difficulty of getting the feminine and
servant-like dispositions of the nurses to comply.
CLEINIAS: Then why was there any need to speak of the matter at all?
ATHENIAN: The reason is, that masters and freemen in states, when they
hear of it, are very likely to arrive at a true conviction that without
due regulation of private life in cities, stability in the laying down of
laws is hardly to be expected (compare Republic); and he who makes this
reflection may himself adopt the laws just now mentioned, and, adopting
them, may order his house and state well and be happy.
CLEINIAS: Likely enough.
ATHENIAN: And therefore let us proceed with our legislation until we have
determined the exercises which are suited to the souls of young children,
in the same manner in which we have begun to go through the rules relating
to their bodies.
CLEINIAS: By all means.
ATHENIAN: Let us assume, then, as a first principle in relation both to
the body and soul of very young creatures, that nursing and moving about
by day and night is good for them all, and that the younger they are, the
more they will need it (compare Arist. Pol.); infants should live, if that
were possible, as if they were always rocking at sea. This is the lesson
which we may gather from the experience of nurses, and likewise from the
use of the remedy of motion in the rites of the Corybantes; for when
mothers want their restless children to go to sleep they do not employ
rest, but, on the contrary, motion--rocking them in their arms; nor do
they give them silence, but they sing to them and lap them in sweet
strains; and the Bacchic women are cured of their frenzy in the same
manner by the use of the dance and of music.
CLEINIAS: Well, Stranger, and what is the reason of this?
ATHENIAN: The reason is obvious.
ATHENIAN: The affection both of the Bacchantes and of the children is an
emotion of fear, which springs out of an evil habit of the soul. And when
some one applies external agitation to affections of this sort, the motion
coming from without gets the better of the terrible and violent internal
one, and produces a peace and calm in the soul, and quiets the restless
palpitation of the heart, which is a thing much to be desired, sending the
children to sleep, and making the Bacchantes, although they remain awake,
to dance to the pipe with the help of the Gods to whom they offer
acceptable sacrifices, and producing in them a sound mind, which takes the
place of their frenzy. And, to express what I mean in a word, there is a
good deal to be said in favour of this treatment.
ATHENIAN: But if fear has such a power we ought to infer from these facts,
that every soul which from youth upward has been familiar with fears, will
be made more liable to fear (compare Republic), and every one will allow
that this is the way to form a habit of cowardice and not of courage.
CLEINIAS: No doubt.
ATHENIAN: And, on the other hand, the habit of overcoming, from our youth
upwards, the fears and terrors which beset us, may be said to be an
exercise of courage.
ATHENIAN: And we may say that the use of exercise and motion in the
earliest years of life greatly contributes to create a part of virtue in
CLEINIAS: Quite true.
ATHENIAN: Further, a cheerful temper, or the reverse, may be regarded as
having much to do with high spirit on the one hand, or with cowardice on
CLEINIAS: To be sure.
ATHENIAN: Then now we must endeavour to show how and to what extent we
may, if we please, without difficulty implant either character in the
ATHENIAN: There is a common opinion, that luxury makes the disposition of
youth discontented and irascible and vehemently excited by trifles; that
on the other hand excessive and savage servitude makes men mean and
abject, and haters of their kind, and therefore makes them undesirable
CLEINIAS: But how must the state educate those who do not as yet
understand the language of the country, and are therefore incapable of
appreciating any sort of instruction?
ATHENIAN: I will tell you how:--Every animal that is born is wont to utter
some cry, and this is especially the case with man, and he is also
affected with the inclination to weep more than any other animal.
CLEINIAS: Quite true.
ATHENIAN: Do not nurses, when they want to know what an infant desires,
judge by these signs?--when anything is brought to the infant and he is
silent, then he is supposed to be pleased, but, when he weeps and cries
out, then he is not pleased. For tears and cries are the inauspicious
signs by which children show what they love and hate. Now the time which
is thus spent is no less than three years, and is a very considerable
portion of life to be passed ill or well.
ATHENIAN: Does not the discontented and ungracious nature appear to you to
be full of lamentations and sorrows more than a good man ought to be?
ATHENIAN: Well, but if during these three years every possible care were
taken that our nursling should have as little of sorrow and fear, and in
general of pain as was possible, might we not expect in early childhood to
make his soul more gentle and cheerful? (Compare Arist. Pol.)
CLEINIAS: To be sure, Stranger--more especially if we could procure him a
variety of pleasures.
ATHENIAN: There I can no longer agree, Cleinias: you amaze me. To bring
him up in such a way would be his utter ruin; for the beginning is always
the most critical part of education. Let us see whether I am right.
ATHENIAN: The point about which you and I differ is of great importance,
and I hope that you, Megillus, will help to decide between us. For I
maintain that the true life should neither seek for pleasures, nor, on the
other hand, entirely avoid pains, but should embrace the middle state
(compare Republic), which I just spoke of as gentle and benign, and is a
state which we by some divine presage and inspiration rightly ascribe to
God. Now, I say, he among men, too, who would be divine ought to pursue
after this mean habit--he should not rush headlong into pleasures, for he
will not be free from pains; nor should we allow any one, young or old,
male or female, to be thus given any more than ourselves, and least of all
the newly-born infant, for in infancy more than at any other time the
character is engrained by habit. Nay, more, if I were not afraid of
appearing to be ridiculous, I would say that a woman during her year of
pregnancy should of all women be most carefully tended, and kept from
violent or excessive pleasures and pains, and should at that time
cultivate gentleness and benevolence and kindness.
CLEINIAS: You need not ask Megillus, Stranger, which of us has most truly
spoken; for I myself agree that all men ought to avoid the life of
unmingled pain or pleasure, and pursue always a middle course. And having
spoken well, may I add that you have been well answered?
ATHENIAN: Very good, Cleinias; and now let us all three consider a further
CLEINIAS: What is it?
ATHENIAN: That all the matters which we are now describing are commonly
called by the general name of unwritten customs, and what are termed the
laws of our ancestors are all of similar nature. And the reflection which
lately arose in our minds, that we can neither call these things laws, nor
yet leave them unmentioned, is justified; for they are the bonds of the
whole state, and come in between the written laws which are or are
hereafter to be laid down; they are just ancestral customs of great
antiquity, which, if they are rightly ordered and made habitual, shield
and preserve the previously existing written law; but if they depart from
right and fall into disorder, then they are like the props of builders
which slip away out of their place and cause a universal ruin--one part
drags another down, and the fair super-structure falls because the old
foundations are undermined. Reflecting upon this, Cleinias, you ought to
bind together the new state in every possible way, omitting nothing,
whether great or small, of what are called laws or manners or pursuits,
for by these means a city is bound together, and all these things are only
lasting when they depend upon one another; and, therefore, we must not
wonder if we find that many apparently trifling customs or usages come
pouring in and lengthening out our laws.
CLEINIAS: Very true: we are disposed to agree with you.
ATHENIAN: Up to the age of three years, whether of boy or girl, if a
person strictly carries out our previous regulations and makes them a
principal aim, he will do much for the advantage of the young creatures.
But at three, four, five, and even six years the childish nature will
require sports; now is the time to get rid of self-will in him, punishing
him, but not so as to disgrace him. We were saying about slaves, that we
ought neither to add insult to punishment so as to anger them, nor yet to
leave them unpunished lest they become self-willed; and a like rule is to
be observed in the case of the free-born. Children at that age have
certain natural modes of amusement which they find out for themselves when
they meet. And all the children who are between the ages of three and six
ought to meet at the temples of the villages, the several families of a
village uniting on one spot. The nurses are to see that the children
behave properly and orderly--they themselves and all their companies are
to be under the control of twelve matrons, one for each company, who are
annually selected to inspect them from the women previously mentioned
[i.e. the women who have authority over marriage], whom the guardians of
the law appoint. These matrons shall be chosen by the women who have
authority over marriage, one out of each tribe; all are to be of the same
age; and let each of them, as soon as she is appointed, hold office and go
to the temples every day, punishing all offenders, male or female, who are
slaves or strangers, by the help of some of the public slaves; but if any
citizen disputes the punishment, let her bring him before the wardens of
the city; or, if there be no dispute, let her punish him herself. After
the age of six years the time has arrived for the separation of the sexes
--let boys live with boys, and girls in like manner with girls. Now they
must begin to learn--the boys going to teachers of horsemanship and the
use of the bow, the javelin, and sling, and the girls too, if they do not
object, at any rate until they know how to manage these weapons, and
especially how to handle heavy arms; for I may note, that the practice
which now prevails is almost universally misunderstood.
CLEINIAS: In what respect?
ATHENIAN: In that the right and left hand are supposed to be by nature
differently suited for our various uses of them; whereas no difference is
found in the use of the feet and the lower limbs; but in the use of the
hands we are, as it were, maimed by the folly of nurses and mothers; for
although our several limbs are by nature balanced, we create a difference
in them by bad habit. In some cases this is of no consequence, as, for
example, when we hold the lyre in the left hand, and the plectrum in the
right, but it is downright folly to make the same distinction in other
cases. The custom of the Scythians proves our error; for they not only
hold the bow from them with the left hand and draw the arrow to them with
their right, but use either hand for both purposes. And there are many
similar examples in charioteering and other things, from which we may
learn that those who make the left side weaker than the right act contrary
to nature. In the case of the plectrum, which is of horn only, and similar
instruments, as I was saying, it is of no consequence, but makes a great
difference, and may be of very great importance to the warrior who has to
use iron weapons, bows and javelins, and the like; above all, when in
heavy armour, he has to fight against heavy armour. And there is a very
great difference between one who has learnt and one who has not, and
between one who has been trained in gymnastic exercises and one who has
not been. For as he who is perfectly skilled in the Pancratium or boxing
or wrestling, is not unable to fight from his left side, and does not limp
and draggle in confusion when his opponent makes him change his position,
so in heavy-armed fighting, and in all other things, if I am not mistaken,
the like holds--he who has these double powers of attack and defence ought
not in any case to leave them either unused or untrained, if he can help;
and if a person had the nature of Geryon or Briareus he ought to be able
with his hundred hands to throw a hundred darts. Now, the magistrates,
male and female, should see to all these things, the women superintending
the nursing and amusements of the children, and the men superintending
their education, that all of them, boys and girls alike, may be sound hand
and foot, and may not, if they can help, spoil the gifts of nature by bad
Education has two branches--one of gymnastic, which is concerned with the
body, and the other of music, which is designed for the improvement of the
soul. And gymnastic has also two branches--dancing and wrestling; and one
sort of dancing imitates musical recitation, and aims at preserving
dignity and freedom, the other aims at producing health, agility, and
beauty in the limbs and parts of the body, giving the proper flexion and
extension to each of them, a harmonious motion being diffused everywhere,
and forming a suitable accompaniment to the dance. As regards wrestling,
the tricks which Antaeus and Cercyon devised in their systems out of a
vain spirit of competition, or the tricks of boxing which Epeius or Amycus
invented, are useless and unsuitable for war, and do not deserve to have
much said about them; but the art of wrestling erect and keeping free the
neck and hands and sides, working with energy and constancy, with a
composed strength, for the sake of health--these are always useful, and
are not to be neglected, but to be enjoined alike on masters and scholars,
when we reach that part of legislation; and we will desire the one to give
their instructions freely, and the others to receive them thankfully. Nor,
again, must we omit suitable imitations of war in our choruses; here in
Crete you have the armed dances of the Curetes, and the Lacedaemonians
have those of the Dioscuri. And our virgin lady, delighting in the
amusement of the dance, thought it not fit to amuse herself with empty
hands; she must be clothed in a complete suit of armour, and in this
attire go through the dance; and youths and maidens should in every
respect imitate her, esteeming highly the favour of the Goddess, both with
a view to the necessities of war, and to festive occasions: it will be
right also for the boys, until such time as they go out to war, to make
processions and supplications to all the Gods in goodly array, armed and
on horseback, in dances and marches, fast or slow, offering up prayers to
the Gods and to the sons of Gods; and also engaging in contests and
preludes of contests, if at all, with these objects. For these sorts of
exercises, and no others, are useful both in peace and war, and are
beneficial alike to states and to private houses. But other labours and
sports and exercises of the body are unworthy of freemen, O Megillus and
I have now completely described the kind of gymnastic which I said at
first ought to be described; if you know of any better, will you
communicate your thoughts?
CLEINIAS: It is not easy, Stranger, to put aside these principles of
gymnastic and wrestling and to enunciate better ones.
ATHENIAN: Now we must say what has yet to be said about the gifts of the
Muses and of Apollo: before, we fancied that we had said all, and that
gymnastic alone remained; but now we see clearly what points have been
omitted, and should be first proclaimed; of these, then, let us proceed to
CLEINIAS: By all means.
ATHENIAN: Let me tell you once more--although you have heard me say the
same before--that caution must be always exercised, both by the speaker
and by the hearer, about anything that is very singular and unusual. For
my tale is one which many a man would be afraid to tell, and yet I have a
confidence which makes me go on.
CLEINIAS: What have you to say, Stranger?
ATHENIAN: I say that in states generally no one has observed that the
plays of childhood have a great deal to do with the permanence or want of
permanence in legislation. For when plays are ordered with a view to
children having the same plays, and amusing themselves after the same
manner, and finding delight in the same playthings, the more solemn
institutions of the state are allowed to remain undisturbed. Whereas if
sports are disturbed, and innovations are made in them, and they
constantly change, and the young never speak of their having the same
likings, or the same established notions of good and bad taste, either in
the bearing of their bodies or in their dress, but he who devises
something new and out of the way in figures and colours and the like is
held in special honour, we may truly say that no greater evil can happen
in a state; for he who changes the sports is secretly changing the manners
of the young, and making the old to be dishonoured among them and the new
to be honoured. And I affirm that there is nothing which is a greater
injury to all states than saying or thinking thus. Will you hear me tell
how great I deem the evil to be?
CLEINIAS: You mean the evil of blaming antiquity in states?
CLEINIAS: If you are speaking of that, you will find in us hearers who are
disposed to receive what you say not unfavourably but most favourably.
ATHENIAN: I should expect so.
ATHENIAN: Well, then, let us give all the greater heed to one another's
words. The argument affirms that any change whatever except from evil is
the most dangerous of all things; this is true in the case of the seasons
and of the winds, in the management of our bodies and the habits of our
minds--true of all things except, as I said before, of the bad. He who
looks at the constitution of individuals accustomed to eat any sort of
meat, or drink any drink, or to do any work which they can get, may see
that they are at first disordered by them, but afterwards, as time goes
on, their bodies grow adapted to them, and they learn to know and like
variety, and have good health and enjoyment of life; and if ever
afterwards they are confined again to a superior diet, at first they are
troubled with disorders, and with difficulty become habituated to their
new food. A similar principle we may imagine to hold good about the minds
of men and the natures of their souls. For when they have been brought up
in certain laws, which by some Divine Providence have remained unchanged
during long ages, so that no one has any memory or tradition of their ever
having been otherwise than they are, then every one is afraid and ashamed
to change that which is established. The legislator must somehow find a
way of implanting this reverence for antiquity, and I would propose the
following way: People are apt to fancy, as I was saying before, that when
the plays of children are altered they are merely plays, not seeing that
the most serious and detrimental consequences arise out of the change; and
they readily comply with the child's wishes instead of deterring him, not
considering that these children who make innovations in their games, when
they grow up to be men, will be different from the last generation of
children, and, being different, will desire a different sort of life, and
under the influence of this desire will want other institutions and laws;
and no one of them reflects that there will follow what I just now called
the greatest of evils to states. Changes in bodily fashions are no such
serious evils, but frequent changes in the praise and censure of manners
are the greatest of evils, and require the utmost prevision.
CLEINIAS: To be sure.
ATHENIAN: And now do we still hold to our former assertion, that rhythms
and music in general are imitations of good and evil characters in men?
What say you?
CLEINIAS: That is the only doctrine which we can admit.
ATHENIAN: Must we not, then, try in every possible way to prevent our
youth from even desiring to imitate new modes either in dance or song? nor
must any one be allowed to offer them varieties of pleasures.
CLEINIAS: Most true.
ATHENIAN: Can any of us imagine a better mode of effecting this object
than that of the Egyptians?
CLEINIAS: What is their method?
ATHENIAN: To consecrate every sort of dance or melody. First we should
ordain festivals--calculating for the year what they ought to be, and at
what time, and in honour of what Gods, sons of Gods, and heroes they ought
to be celebrated; and, in the next place, what hymns ought to be sung at
the several sacrifices, and with what dances the particular festival is to
be honoured. This has to be arranged at first by certain persons, and,
when arranged, the whole assembly of the citizens are to offer sacrifices
and libations to the Fates and all the other Gods, and to consecrate the
several odes to Gods and heroes: and if any one offers any other hymns or
dances to any one of the Gods, the priests and priestesses, acting in
concert with the guardians of the law, shall, with the sanction of
religion and the law, exclude him, and he who is excluded, if he do not
submit, shall be liable all his life long to have a suit of impiety
brought against him by any one who likes.
CLEINIAS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: In the consideration of this subject, let us remember what is
due to ourselves.
CLEINIAS: To what are you referring?
ATHENIAN: I mean that any young man, and much more any old one, when he
sees or hears anything strange or unaccustomed, does not at once run to
embrace the paradox, but he stands considering, like a person who is at a
place where three paths meet, and does not very well know his way--he may
be alone or he may be walking with others, and he will say to himself and
them, 'Which is the way?' and will not move forward until he is satisfied
that he is going right. And this is what we must do in the present
instance: A strange discussion on the subject of law has arisen, which
requires the utmost consideration, and we should not at our age be too
ready to speak about such great matters, or be confident that we can say
anything certain all in a moment.
CLEINIAS: Most true.
ATHENIAN: Then we will allow time for reflection, and decide when we have
given the subject sufficient consideration. But that we may not be
hindered from completing the natural arrangement of our laws, let us
proceed to the conclusion of them in due order; for very possibly, if God
will, the exposition of them, when completed, may throw light on our
CLEINIAS: Excellent, Stranger; let us do as you propose.
ATHENIAN: Let us then affirm the paradox that strains of music are our
laws (nomoi), and this latter being the name which the ancients gave to
lyric songs, they probably would not have very much objected to our
proposed application of the word. Some one, either asleep or awake, must
have had a dreamy suspicion of their nature. And let our decree be as
follows: No one in singing or dancing shall offend against public and
consecrated models, and the general fashion among the youth, any more than
he would offend against any other law. And he who observes this law shall
be blameless; but he who is disobedient, as I was saying, shall be
punished by the guardians of the laws, and by the priests and priestesses.
Suppose that we imagine this to be our law.
CLEINIAS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: Can any one who makes such laws escape ridicule? Let us see. I
think that our only safety will be in first framing certain models for
composers. One of these models shall be as follows: If when a sacrifice is
going on, and the victims are being burnt according to law--if, I say, any
one who may be a son or brother, standing by another at the altar and over
the victims, horribly blasphemes, will not his words inspire despondency
and evil omens and forebodings in the mind of his father and of his other
CLEINIAS: Of course.
ATHENIAN: And this is just what takes place in almost all our cities. A
magistrate offers a public sacrifice, and there come in not one but many
choruses, who take up a position a little way from the altar, and from
time to time pour forth all sorts of horrible blasphemies on the sacred
rites, exciting the souls of the audience with words and rhythms and
melodies most sorrowful to hear; and he who at the moment when the city is
offering sacrifice makes the citizens weep most, carries away the palm of
victory. Now, ought we not to forbid such strains as these? And if ever
our citizens must hear such lamentations, then on some unblest and
inauspicious day let there be choruses of foreign and hired minstrels,
like those hirelings who accompany the departed at funerals with barbarous
Carian chants. That is the sort of thing which will be appropriate if we
have such strains at all; and let the apparel of the singers be, not
circlets and ornaments of gold, but the reverse. Enough of all this. I
will simply ask once more whether we shall lay down as one of our
principles of song--
ATHENIAN: That we should avoid every word of evil omen; let that kind of
song which is of good omen be heard everywhere and always in our state. I
need hardly ask again, but shall assume that you agree with me.
CLEINIAS: By all means; that law is approved by the suffrages of us all.
ATHENIAN: But what shall be our next musical law or type? Ought not
prayers to be offered up to the Gods when we sacrifice?
ATHENIAN: And our third law, if I am not mistaken, will be to the effect
that our poets, understanding prayers to be requests which we make to the
Gods, will take especial heed that they do not by mistake ask for evil
instead of good. To make such a prayer would surely be too ridiculous.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: Were we not a little while ago quite convinced that no silver or
golden Plutus should dwell in our state?
CLEINIAS: To be sure.
ATHENIAN: And what has it been the object of our argument to show? Did we
not imply that the poets are not always quite capable of knowing what is
good or evil? And if one of them utters a mistaken prayer in song or
words, he will make our citizens pray for the opposite of what is good in
matters of the highest import; than which, as I was saying, there can be
few greater mistakes. Shall we then propose as one of our laws and models
relating to the Muses--
CLEINIAS: What? will you explain the law more precisely?
ATHENIAN: Shall we make a law that the poet shall compose nothing contrary
to the ideas of the lawful, or just, or beautiful, or good, which are
allowed in the state? nor shall he be permitted to communicate his
compositions to any private individuals, until he shall have shown them to
the appointed judges and the guardians of the law, and they are satisfied
with them. As to the persons whom we appoint to be our legislators about
music and as to the director of education, these have been already
indicated. Once more then, as I have asked more than once, shall this be
our third law, and type, and model--What do you say?
CLEINIAS: Let it be so, by all means.
ATHENIAN: Then it will be proper to have hymns and praises of the Gods,
intermingled with prayers; and after the Gods prayers and praises should
be offered in like manner to demigods and heroes, suitable to their
ATHENIAN: In the next place there will be no objection to a law, that
citizens who are departed and have done good and energetic deeds, either
with their souls or with their bodies, and have been obedient to the laws,
should receive eulogies; this will be very fitting.
CLEINIAS: Quite true.
ATHENIAN: But to honour with hymns and panegyrics those who are still
alive is not safe; a man should run his course, and make a fair ending,
and then we will praise him; and let praise be given equally to women as
well as men who have been distinguished in virtue. The order of songs and
dances shall be as follows: There are many ancient musical compositions
and dances which are excellent, and from these the newly-founded city may
freely select what is proper and suitable; and they shall choose judges of
not less than fifty years of age, who shall make the selection, and any of
the old poems which they deem sufficient they shall include; any that are
deficient or altogether unsuitable, they shall either utterly throw aside,
or examine and amend, taking into their counsel poets and musicians, and
making use of their poetical genius; but explaining to them the wishes of
the legislator in order that they may regulate dancing, music, and all
choral strains, according to the mind of the judges; and not allowing them
to indulge, except in some few matters, their individual pleasures and
fancies. Now the irregular strain of music is always made ten thousand
times better by attaining to law and order, and rejecting the honeyed
Muse--not however that we mean wholly to exclude pleasure, which is the
characteristic of all music. And if a man be brought up from childhood to
the age of discretion and maturity in the use of the orderly and severe
music, when he hears the opposite he detests it, and calls it illiberal;
but if trained in the sweet and vulgar music, he deems the severer kind
cold and displeasing. So that, as I was saying before, while he who hears
them gains no more pleasure from the one than from the other, the one has
the advantage of making those who are trained in it better men, whereas
the other makes them worse.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: Again, we must distinguish and determine on some general
principle what songs are suitable to women, and what to men, and must
assign to them their proper melodies and rhythms. It is shocking for a
whole harmony to be inharmonical, or for a rhythm to be unrhythmical, and
this will happen when the melody is inappropriate to them. And therefore
the legislator must assign to these also their forms. Now both sexes have
melodies and rhythms which of necessity belong to them; and those of women
are clearly enough indicated by their natural difference. The grand, and
that which tends to courage, may be fairly called manly; but that which
inclines to moderation and temperance, may be declared both in law and in
ordinary speech to be the more womanly quality. This, then, will be the
general order of them.
Let us now speak of the manner of teaching and imparting them, and the
persons to whom, and the time when, they are severally to be imparted. As
the shipwright first lays down the lines of the keel, and thus, as it
were, draws the ship in outline, so do I seek to distinguish the patterns
of life, and lay down their keels according to the nature of different
men's souls; seeking truly to consider by what means, and in what ways, we
may go through the voyage of life best. Now human affairs are hardly worth
considering in earnest, and yet we must be in earnest about them--a sad
necessity constrains us. And having got thus far, there will be a fitness
in our completing the matter, if we can only find some suitable method of
doing so. But what do I mean? Some one may ask this very question, and
quite rightly, too.
ATHENIAN: I say that about serious matters a man should be serious, and
about a matter which is not serious he should not be serious; and that God
is the natural and worthy object of our most serious and blessed
endeavours, for man, as I said before, is made to be the plaything of God,
and this, truly considered, is the best of him; wherefore also every man
and woman should walk seriously, and pass life in the noblest of pastimes,
and be of another mind from what they are at present.
CLEINIAS: In what respect?
ATHENIAN: At present they think that their serious pursuits should be for
the sake of their sports, for they deem war a serious pursuit, which must
be managed well for the sake of peace; but the truth is, that there
neither is, nor has been, nor ever will be, either amusement or
instruction in any degree worth speaking of in war, which is nevertheless
deemed by us to be the most serious of our pursuits. And therefore, as we
say, every one of us should live the life of peace as long and as well as
he can. And what is the right way of living? Are we to live in sports
always? If so, in what kind of sports? We ought to live sacrificing, and
singing, and dancing, and then a man will be able to propitiate the Gods,
and to defend himself against his enemies and conquer them in battle. The
type of song or dance by which he will propitiate them has been described,
and the paths along which he is to proceed have been cut for him. He will
go forward in the spirit of the poet:
'Telemachus, some things thou wilt thyself find in thy heart, but other
things God will suggest; for I deem that thou wast not born or brought up
without the will of the Gods.'
And this ought to be the view of our alumni; they ought to think that what
has been said is enough for them, and that any other things their Genius
and God will suggest to them--he will tell them to whom, and when, and to
what Gods severally they are to sacrifice and perform dances, and how they
may propitiate the deities, and live according to the appointment of
nature; being for the most part puppets, but having some little share of
MEGILLUS: You have a low opinion of mankind, Stranger.
ATHENIAN: Nay, Megillus, be not amazed, but forgive me: I was comparing
them with the Gods; and under that feeling I spoke. Let us grant, if you
wish, that the human race is not to be despised, but is worthy of some
Next follow the buildings for gymnasia and schools open to all; these are
to be in three places in the midst of the city; and outside the city and
in the surrounding country, also in three places, there shall be schools
for horse exercise, and large grounds arranged with a view to archery and
the throwing of missiles, at which young men may learn and practise. Of
these mention has already been made; and if the mention be not
sufficiently explicit, let us speak further of them and embody them in
laws. In these several schools let there be dwellings for teachers, who
shall be brought from foreign parts by pay, and let them teach those who
attend the schools the art of war and the art of music, and the children
shall come not only if their parents please, but if they do not please;
there shall be compulsory education, as the saying is, of all and sundry,
as far as this is possible; and the pupils shall be regarded as belonging
to the state rather than to their parents. My law would apply to females
as well as males; they shall both go through the same exercises. I assert
without fear of contradiction that gymnastic and horsemanship are as
suitable to women as to men. Of the truth of this I am persuaded from
ancient tradition, and at the present day there are said to be countless
myriads of women in the neighbourhood of the Black Sea, called
Sauromatides, who not only ride on horseback like men, but have enjoined
upon them the use of bows and other weapons equally with the men. And I
further affirm, that if these things are possible, nothing can be more
absurd than the practice which prevails in our own country, of men and
women not following the same pursuits with all their strength and with one
mind, for thus the state, instead of being a whole, is reduced to a half,
but has the same imposts to pay and the same toils to undergo; and what
can be a greater mistake for any legislator to make than this?
CLEINIAS: Very true; yet much of what has been asserted by us, Stranger,
is contrary to the custom of states; still, in saying that the discourse
should be allowed to proceed, and that when the discussion is completed,
we should choose what seems best, you spoke very properly, and I now feel
compunction for what I have said. Tell me, then, what you would next wish
ATHENIAN: I should wish to say, Cleinias, as I said before, that if the
possibility of these things were not sufficiently proven in fact, then
there might be an objection to the argument, but the fact being as I have
said, he who rejects the law must find some other ground of objection;
and, failing this, our exhortation will still hold good, nor will any one
deny that women ought to share as far as possible in education and in
other ways with men. For consider; if women do not share in their whole
life with men, then they must have some other order of life.
ATHENIAN: And what arrangement of life to be found anywhere is preferable
to this community which we are now assigning to them? Shall we prefer that
which is adopted by the Thracians and many other races who use their women
to till the ground and to be shepherds of their herds and flocks, and to
minister to them like slaves? Or shall we do as we and people in our part
of the world do--getting together, as the phrase is, all our goods and
chattels into one dwelling, we entrust them to our women, who are the
stewards of them, and who also preside over the shuttles and the whole art
of spinning? Or shall we take a middle course, as in Lacedaemon, Megillus-
-letting the girls share in gymnastic and music, while the grown-up women,
no longer employed in spinning wool, are hard at work weaving the web of
life, which will be no cheap or mean employment, and in the duty of
serving and taking care of the household and bringing up the children, in
which they will observe a sort of mean, not participating in the toils of
war; and if there were any necessity that they should fight for their city
and families, unlike the Amazons, they would be unable to take part in
archery or any other skilled use of missiles, nor could they, after the
example of the Goddess, carry shield or spear, or stand up nobly for their
country when it was being destroyed, and strike terror into their enemies,
if only because they were seen in regular order? Living as they do, they
would never dare at all to imitate the Sauromatides, who, when compared
with ordinary women, would appear to be like men. Let him who will, praise
your legislators, but I must say what I think. The legislator ought to be
whole and perfect, and not half a man only; he ought not to let the female
sex live softly and waste money and have no order of life, while he takes
the utmost care of the male sex, and leaves half of life only blest with
happiness, when he might have made the whole state happy.
MEGILLUS: What shall we do, Cleinias? Shall we allow a stranger to run
down Sparta in this fashion?
CLEINIAS: Yes; for as we have given him liberty of speech we must let him
go on until we have perfected the work of legislation.
MEGILLUS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: Then now I may proceed?
CLEINIAS: By all means.
ATHENIAN: What will be the manner of life among men who may be supposed to
have their food and clothing provided for them in moderation, and who have
entrusted the practice of the arts to others, and whose husbandry
committed to slaves paying a part of the produce, brings them a return
sufficient for men living temperately; who, moreover, have common tables
in which the men are placed apart, and near them are the common tables of
their families, of their daughters and mothers, which day by day, the
officers, male and female, are to inspect--they shall see to the behaviour
of the company, and so dismiss them; after which the presiding magistrate
and his attendants shall honour with libations those Gods to whom that day
and night are dedicated, and then go home? To men whose lives are thus
ordered, is there no work remaining to be done which is necessary and
fitting, but shall each one of them live fattening like a beast? Such a
life is neither just nor honourable, nor can he who lives it fail of
meeting his due; and the due reward of the idle fatted beast is that he
should be torn in pieces by some other valiant beast whose fatness is worn
down by brave deeds and toil. These regulations, if we duly consider them,
will never be exactly carried into execution under present circumstances,
nor as long as women and children and houses and all other things are the
private property of individuals; but if we can attain the second-best form
of polity, we shall be very well off. And to men living under this second
polity there remains a work to be accomplished which is far from being
small or insignificant, but is the greatest of all works, and ordained by
the appointment of righteous law. For the life which may be truly said to
be concerned with the virtue of body and soul is twice, or more than
twice, as full of toil and trouble as the pursuit after Pythian and
Olympic victories, which debars a man from every employment of life. For
there ought to be no bye-work interfering with the greater work of
providing the necessary exercise and nourishment for the body, and
instruction and education for the soul. Night and day are not long enough
for the accomplishment of their perfection and consummation; and therefore
to this end all freemen ought to arrange the way in which they will spend
their time during the whole course of the day, from morning till evening
and from evening till the morning of the next sunrise. There may seem to
be some impropriety in the legislator determining minutely the numberless
details of the management of the house, including such particulars as the
duty of wakefulness in those who are to be perpetual watchmen of the whole
city; for that any citizen should continue during the whole of any night
in sleep, instead of being seen by all his servants, always the first to
awake and get up--this, whether the regulation is to be called a law or
only a practice, should be deemed base and unworthy of a freeman; also
that the mistress of the house should be awakened by her hand-maidens
instead of herself first awakening them, is what the slaves, male and
female, and the serving-boys, and, if that were possible, everybody and
everything in the house should regard as base. If they rise early, they
may all of them do much of their public and of their household business,
as magistrates in the city, and masters and mistresses in their private
houses, before the sun is up. Much sleep is not required by nature, either
for our souls or bodies, or for the actions which they perform. For no one
who is asleep is good for anything, any more than if he were dead; but he
of us who has the most regard for life and reason keeps awake as long as
he can, reserving only so much time for sleep as is expedient for health;
and much sleep is not required, if the habit of moderation be once rightly
formed. Magistrates in states who keep awake at night are terrible to the
bad, whether enemies or citizens, and are honoured and reverenced by the
just and temperate, and are useful to themselves and to the whole state.
A night which is passed in such a manner, in addition to all the above-
mentioned advantages, infuses a sort of courage into the minds of the
citizens. When the day breaks, the time has arrived for youth to go to
their schoolmasters. Now neither sheep nor any other animals can live
without a shepherd, nor can children be left without tutors, or slaves
without masters. And of all animals the boy is the most unmanageable,
inasmuch as he has the fountain of reason in him not yet regulated; he is
the most insidious, sharp-witted, and insubordinate of animals. Wherefore
he must be bound with many bridles; in the first place, when he gets away
from mothers and nurses, he must be under the management of tutors on
account of his childishness and foolishness; then, again, being a freeman,
he must be controlled by teachers, no matter what they teach, and by
studies; but he is also a slave, and in that regard any freeman who comes
in his way may punish him and his tutor and his instructor, if any of them
does anything wrong; and he who comes across him and does not inflict upon
him the punishment which he deserves, shall incur the greatest disgrace;
and let the guardian of the law, who is the director of education, see to
him who coming in the way of the offences which we have mentioned, does
not chastise them when he ought, or chastises them in a way which he ought
not; let him keep a sharp look-out, and take especial care of the training
of our children, directing their natures, and always turning them to good
according to the law.
But how can our law sufficiently train the director of education himself;
for as yet all has been imperfect, and nothing has been said either clear
or satisfactory? Now, as far as possible, the law ought to leave nothing
to him, but to explain everything, that he may be an interpreter and tutor
to others. About dances and music and choral strains, I have already
spoken both as to the character of the selection of them, and the manner
in which they are to be amended and consecrated. But we have not as yet
spoken, O illustrious guardian of education, of the manner in which your
pupils are to use those strains which are written in prose, although you
have been informed what martial strains they are to learn and practise;
what relates in the first place to the learning of letters, and secondly,
to the lyre, and also to calculation, which, as we were saying, is needful
for them all to learn, and any other things which are required with a view
to war and the management of house and city, and, looking to the same
object, what is useful in the revolutions of the heavenly bodies--the
stars and sun and moon, and the various regulations about these matters
which are necessary for the whole state--I am speaking of the arrangements
of days in periods of months, and of months in years, which are to be
observed, in order that seasons and sacrifices and festivals may have
their regular and natural order, and keep the city alive and awake, the
Gods receiving the honours due to them, and men having a better
understanding about them: all these things, O my friend, have not yet been
sufficiently declared to you by the legislator. Attend, then, to what I am
now going to say: We were telling you, in the first place, that you were
not sufficiently informed about letters, and the objection was to this
effect--that you were never told whether he who was meant to be a
respectable citizen should apply himself in detail to that sort of
learning, or not apply himself at all; and the same remark holds good of
the study of the lyre. But now we say that he ought to attend to them. A
fair time for a boy of ten years old to spend in letters is three years;
the age of thirteen is the proper time for him to begin to handle the
lyre, and he may continue at this for another three years, neither more
nor less, and whether his father or himself like or dislike the study, he
is not to be allowed to spend more or less time in learning music than the
law allows. And let him who disobeys the law be deprived of those youthful
honours of which we shall hereafter speak. Hear, however, first of all,
what the young ought to learn in the early years of life, and what their
instructors ought to teach them. They ought to be occupied with their
letters until they are able to read and write; but the acquisition of
perfect beauty or quickness in writing, if nature has not stimulated them
to acquire these accomplishments in the given number of years, they should
let alone. And as to the learning of compositions committed to writing
which are not set to the lyre, whether metrical or without rhythmical
divisions, compositions in prose, as they are termed, having no rhythm or
harmony--seeing how dangerous are the writings handed down to us by many
writers of this class--what will you do with them, O most excellent
guardians of the law? or how can the lawgiver rightly direct you about
them? I believe that he will be in great difficulty.
CLEINIAS: What troubles you, Stranger? and why are you so perplexed in
ATHENIAN: You naturally ask, Cleinias, and to you and Megillus, who are my
partners in the work of legislation, I must state the more difficult as
well as the easier parts of the task.
CLEINIAS: To what do you refer in this instance?
ATHENIAN: I will tell you. There is a difficulty in opposing many myriads
CLEINIAS: Well, and have we not already opposed the popular voice in many
ATHENIAN: That is quite true; and you mean to imply that the road which we
are taking may be disagreeable to some but is agreeable to as many others,
or if not to as many, at any rate to persons not inferior to the others,
and in company with them you bid me, at whatever risk, to proceed along
the path of legislation which has opened out of our present discourse, and
to be of good cheer, and not to faint.
ATHENIAN: And I do not faint; I say, indeed, that we have a great many
poets writing in hexameter, trimeter, and all sorts of measures--some who
are serious, others who aim only at raising a laugh--and all mankind
declare that the youth who are rightly educated should be brought up in
them and saturated with them; some insist that they should be constantly
hearing them read aloud, and always learning them, so as to get by heart
entire poets; while others select choice passages and long speeches, and
make compendiums of them, saying that these ought to be committed to
memory, if a man is to be made good and wise by experience and learning of
many things. And you want me now to tell them plainly in what they are
right and in what they are wrong.
CLEINIAS: Yes, I do.
ATHENIAN: But how can I in one word rightly comprehend all of them? I am
of opinion, and, if I am not mistaken, there is a general agreement, that
every one of these poets has said many things well and many things the
reverse of well; and if this be true, then I do affirm that much learning
is dangerous to youth.
CLEINIAS: How would you advise the guardian of the law to act?
ATHENIAN: In what respect?
CLEINIAS: I mean to what pattern should he look as his guide in permitting
the young to learn some things and forbidding them to learn others. Do not
shrink from answering.
ATHENIAN: My good Cleinias, I rather think that I am fortunate.
CLEINIAS: How so?
ATHENIAN: I think that I am not wholly in want of a pattern, for when I
consider the words which we have spoken from early dawn until now, and
which, as I believe, have been inspired by Heaven, they appear to me to be
quite like a poem. When I reflected upon all these words of ours, I
naturally felt pleasure, for of all the discourses which I have ever
learnt or heard, either in poetry or prose, this seemed to me to be the
justest, and most suitable for young men to hear; I cannot imagine any
better pattern than this which the guardian of the law who is also the
director of education can have. He cannot do better than advise the
teachers to teach the young these words and any which are of a like
nature, if he should happen to find them, either in poetry or prose, or if
he come across unwritten discourses akin to ours, he should certainly
preserve them, and commit them to writing. And, first of all, he shall
constrain the teachers themselves to learn and approve them, and any of
them who will not, shall not be employed by him, but those whom he finds
agreeing in his judgment, he shall make use of and shall commit to them
the instruction and education of youth. And here and on this wise let my
fanciful tale about letters and teachers of letters come to an end.
CLEINIAS: I do not think, Stranger, that we have wandered out of the
proposed limits of the argument; but whether we are right or not in our
whole conception, I cannot be very certain.
ATHENIAN: The truth, Cleinias, may be expected to become clearer when, as
we have often said, we arrive at the end of the whole discussion about
ATHENIAN: And now that we have done with the teacher of letters, the
teacher of the lyre has to receive orders from us.
ATHENIAN: I think that we have only to recollect our previous discussions,
and we shall be able to give suitable regulations touching all this part
of instruction and education to the teachers of the lyre.
CLEINIAS: To what do you refer?
ATHENIAN: We were saying, if I remember rightly, that the sixty years old
choristers of Dionysus were to be specially quick in their perceptions of
rhythm and musical composition, that they might be able to distinguish
good and bad imitation, that is to say, the imitation of the good or bad
soul when under the influence of passion, rejecting the one and displaying
the other in hymns and songs, charming the souls of youth, and inviting
them to follow and attain virtue by the way of imitation.
CLEINIAS: Very true.
ATHENIAN: And with this view the teacher and the learner ought to use the
sounds of the lyre, because its notes are pure, the player who teaches and
his pupil rendering note for note in unison; but complexity, and variation
of notes, when the strings give one sound and the poet or composer of the
melody gives another--also when they make concords and harmonies in which
lesser and greater intervals, slow and quick, or high and low notes, are
combined--or, again, when they make complex variations of rhythms, which
they adapt to the notes of the lyre--all that sort of thing is not suited
to those who have to acquire speedy and useful knowledge of music in three
years; for opposite principles are confusing, and create a difficulty in
learning, and our young men should learn quickly, and their mere necessary
acquirements are not few or trifling, as will be shown in due course. Let
the director of education attend to the principles concerning music which
we are laying down. As to the songs and words themselves which the masters
of choruses are to teach and the character of them, they have been already
described by us, and are the same which, when consecrated and adapted to
the different festivals, we said were to benefit cities by affording them
an innocent amusement.
CLEINIAS: That, again, is true.
ATHENIAN: Then let him who has been elected a director of music receive
these rules from us as containing the very truth; and may he prosper in
his office! Let us now proceed to lay down other rules in addition to the
preceding about dancing and gymnastic exercise in general. Having said
what remained to be said about the teaching of music, let us speak in like
manner about gymnastic. For boys and girls ought to learn to dance and
practise gymnastic exercises--ought they not?
ATHENIAN: Then the boys ought to have dancing masters, and the girls
dancing mistresses to exercise them.
CLEINIAS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: Then once more let us summon him who has the chief concern in
the business, the superintendent of youth [i.e. the director of
education]; he will have plenty to do, if he is to have the charge of
music and gymnastic.
CLEINIAS: But how will an old man be able to attend to such great charges?
ATHENIAN: O my friend, there will be no difficulty, for the law has
already given and will give him permission to select as his assistants in
this charge any citizens, male or female, whom he desires; and he will
know whom he ought to choose, and will be anxious not to make a mistake,
from a due sense of responsibility, and from a consciousness of the
importance of his office, and also because he will consider that if young
men have been and are well brought up, then all things go swimmingly, but
if not, it is not meet to say, nor do we say, what will follow, lest the
regarders of omens should take alarm about our infant state. Many things
have been said by us about dancing and about gymnastic movements in
general; for we include under gymnastics all military exercises, such as
archery, and all hurling of weapons, and the use of the light shield, and
all fighting with heavy arms, and military evolutions, and movements of
armies, and encampings, and all that relates to horsemanship. Of all these
things there ought to be public teachers, receiving pay from the state,
and their pupils should be the men and boys in the state, and also the
girls and women, who are to know all these things. While they are yet
girls they should have practised dancing in arms and the whole art of
fighting--when grown-up women, they should apply themselves to evolutions
and tactics, and the mode of grounding and taking up arms; if for no other
reason, yet in case the whole military force should have to leave the city
and carry on operations of war outside, that those who will have to guard
the young and the rest of the city may be equal to the task; and, on the
other hand, when enemies, whether barbarian or Hellenic, come from without
with mighty force and make a violent assault upon them, and thus compel
them to fight for the possession of the city, which is far from being an
impossibility, great would be the disgrace to the state, if the women had
been so miserably trained that they could not fight for their young, as
birds will, against any creature however strong, and die or undergo any
danger, but must instantly rush to the temples and crowd at the altars and
shrines, and bring upon human nature the reproach, that of all animals man
is the most cowardly!
CLEINIAS: Such a want of education, Stranger, is certainly an unseemly
thing to happen in a state, as well as a great misfortune.
ATHENIAN: Suppose that we carry our law to the extent of saying that women
ought not to neglect military matters, but that all citizens, male and
female alike, shall attend to them?
CLEINIAS: I quite agree.
ATHENIAN: Of wrestling we have spoken in part, but of what I should call
the most important part we have not spoken, and cannot easily speak
without showing at the same time by gesture as well as in word what we
mean; when word and action combine, and not till then, we shall explain
clearly what has been said, pointing out that of all movements wrestling
is most akin to the military art, and is to be pursued for the sake of
this, and not this for the sake of wrestling.
CLEINIAS: Excellent. ATHENIAN: Enough of wrestling; we will now proceed to
speak of other movements of the body. Such motion may be in general called
dancing, and is of two kinds: one of nobler figures, imitating the
honourable, the other of the more ignoble figures, imitating the mean; and
of both these there are two further subdivisions. Of the serious, one kind
is of those engaged in war and vehement action, and is the exercise of a
noble person and a manly heart; the other exhibits a temperate soul in the
enjoyment of prosperity and modest pleasures, and may be truly called and
is the dance of peace. The warrior dance is different from the peaceful
one, and may be rightly termed Pyrrhic; this imitates the modes of
avoiding blows and missiles by dropping or giving way, or springing aside,
or rising up or falling down; also the opposite postures which are those
of action, as, for example, the imitation of archery and the hurling of
javelins, and of all sorts of blows. And when the imitation is of brave
bodies and souls, and the action is direct and muscular, giving for the
most part a straight movement to the limbs of the body--that, I say, is
the true sort; but the opposite is not right. In the dance of peace what
we have to consider is whether a man bears himself naturally and
gracefully, and after the manner of men who duly conform to the law. But
before proceeding I must distinguish the dancing about which there is any
doubt, from that about which there is no doubt. Which is the doubtful
kind, and how are the two to be distinguished? There are dances of the
Bacchic sort, both those in which, as they say, they imitate drunken men,
and which are named after the Nymphs, and Pan, and Silenuses, and Satyrs;
and also those in which purifications are made or mysteries celebrated--
all this sort of dancing cannot be rightly defined as having either a
peaceful or a warlike character, or indeed as having any meaning whatever,
and may, I think, be most truly described as distinct from the warlike
dance, and distinct from the peaceful, and not suited for a city at all.
There let it lie; and so leaving it to lie, we will proceed to the dances
of war and peace, for with these we are undoubtedly concerned. Now the
unwarlike muse, which honours in dance the Gods and the sons of the Gods,
is entirely associated with the consciousness of prosperity; this class
may be subdivided into two lesser classes, of which one is expressive of
an escape from some labour or danger into good, and has greater pleasures,
the other expressive of preservation and increase of former good, in which
the pleasure is less exciting--in all these cases, every man when the
pleasure is greater, moves his body more, and less when the pleasure is
less; and, again, if he be more orderly and has learned courage from
discipline he moves less, but if he be a coward, and has no training or
self-control, he makes greater and more violent movements, and in general
when he is speaking or singing he is not altogether able to keep his body
still; and so out of the imitation of words in gestures the whole art of
dancing has arisen. And in these various kinds of imitation one man moves
in an orderly, another in a disorderly manner; and as the ancients may be
observed to have given many names which are according to nature and
deserving of praise, so there is an excellent one which they have given to
the dances of men who in their times of prosperity are moderate in their
pleasures--the giver of names, whoever he was, assigned to them a very
true, and poetical, and rational name, when he called them Emmeleiai, or
dances of order, thus establishing two kinds of dances of the nobler sort,
the dance of war which he called the Pyrrhic, and the dance of peace which
he called Emmeleia, or the dance of order; giving to each their
appropriate and becoming name. These things the legislator should indicate
in general outline, and the guardian of the law should enquire into them
and search them out, combining dancing with music, and assigning to the
several sacrificial feasts that which is suitable to them; and when he has
consecrated all of them in due order, he shall for the future change
nothing, whether of dance or song. Thenceforward the city and the citizens
shall continue to have the same pleasures, themselves being as far as
possible alike, and shall live well and happily.
I have described the dances which are appropriate to noble bodies and
generous souls. But it is necessary also to consider and know uncomely
persons and thoughts, and those which are intended to produce laughter in
comedy, and have a comic character in respect of style, song, and dance,
and of the imitations which these afford. For serious things cannot be
understood without laughable things, nor opposites at all without
opposites, if a man is really to have intelligence of either; but he
cannot carry out both in action, if he is to have any degree of virtue.
And for this very reason he should learn them both, in order that he may
not in ignorance do or say anything which is ridiculous and out of place--
he should command slaves and hired strangers to imitate such things, but
he should never take any serious interest in them himself, nor should any
freeman or freewoman be discovered taking pains to learn them; and there
should always be some element of novelty in the imitation. Let these then
be laid down, both in law and in our discourse, as the regulations of
laughable amusements which are generally called comedy. And, if any of the
serious poets, as they are termed, who write tragedy, come to us and say--
'O strangers, may we go to your city and country or may we not, and shall
we bring with us our poetry--what is your will about these matters?'--how
shall we answer the divine men? I think that our answer should be as
follows: Best of strangers, we will say to them, we also according to our
ability are tragic poets, and our tragedy is the best and noblest; for our
whole state is an imitation of the best and noblest life, which we affirm
to be indeed the very truth of tragedy. You are poets and we are poets,
both makers of the same strains, rivals and antagonists in the noblest of
dramas, which true law can alone perfect, as our hope is. Do not then
suppose that we shall all in a moment allow you to erect your stage in the
agora, or introduce the fair voices of your actors, speaking above our
own, and permit you to harangue our women and children, and the common
people, about our institutions, in language other than our own, and very
often the opposite of our own. For a state would be mad which gave you
this licence, until the magistrates had determined whether your poetry
might be recited, and was fit for publication or not. Wherefore, O ye sons
and scions of the softer Muses, first of all show your songs to the
magistrates, and let them compare them with our own, and if they are the
same or better we will give you a chorus; but if not, then, my friends, we
cannot. Let these, then, be the customs ordained by law about all dances
and the teaching of them, and let matters relating to slaves be separated
from those relating to masters, if you do not object.
CLEINIAS: We can have no hesitation in assenting when you put the matter
ATHENIAN: There still remain three studies suitable for freemen.
Arithmetic is one of them; the measurement of length, surface, and depth
is the second; and the third has to do with the revolutions of the stars
in relation to one another. Not every one has need to toil through all
these things in a strictly scientific manner, but only a few, and who they
are to be we will hereafter indicate at the end, which will be the proper
place; not to know what is necessary for mankind in general, and what is
the truth, is disgraceful to every one: and yet to enter into these
matters minutely is neither easy, nor at all possible for every one; but
there is something in them which is necessary and cannot be set aside, and
probably he who made the proverb about God originally had this in view
when he said, that 'not even God himself can fight against necessity;'
he meant, if I am not mistaken, divine necessity; for as to the human
necessities of which the many speak, when they talk in this manner,
nothing can be more ridiculous than such an application of the words.
CLEINIAS: And what necessities of knowledge are there, Stranger, which are
divine and not human?
ATHENIAN: I conceive them to be those of which he who has no use nor any
knowledge at all cannot be a God, or demi-god, or hero to mankind, or able
to take any serious thought or charge of them. And very unlike a divine
man would he be, who is unable to count one, two, three, or to distinguish
odd and even numbers, or is unable to count at all, or reckon night and
day, and who is totally unacquainted with the revolution of the sun and
moon, and the other stars. There would be great folly in supposing that
all these are not necessary parts of knowledge to him who intends to know
anything about the highest kinds of knowledge; but which these are, and
how many there are of them, and when they are to be learned, and what is
to be learned together and what apart, and the whole correlation of them,
must be rightly apprehended first; and these leading the way we may
proceed to the other parts of knowledge. For so necessity grounded in
nature constrains us, against which we say that no God contends, or ever
CLEINIAS: I think, Stranger, that what you have now said is very true and
agreeable to nature.
ATHENIAN: Yes, Cleinias, that is so. But it is difficult for the
legislator to begin with these studies; at a more convenient time we will
make regulations for them.
CLEINIAS: You seem, Stranger, to be afraid of our habitual ignorance of
the subject: there is no reason why that should prevent you from speaking
ATHENIAN: I certainly am afraid of the difficulties to which you allude,
but I am still more afraid of those who apply themselves to this sort of
knowledge, and apply themselves badly. For entire ignorance is not so
terrible or extreme an evil, and is far from being the greatest of all;
too much cleverness and too much learning, accompanied with an ill
bringing up, are far more fatal.
ATHENIAN: All freemen I conceive, should learn as much of these branches
of knowledge as every child in Egypt is taught when he learns the
alphabet. In that country arithmetical games have been invented for the
use of mere children, which they learn as a pleasure and amusement. They
have to distribute apples and garlands, using the same number sometimes
for a larger and sometimes for a lesser number of persons; and they
arrange pugilists and wrestlers as they pair together by lot or remain
over, and show how their turns come in natural order. Another mode of
amusing them is to distribute vessels, sometimes of gold, brass, silver,
and the like, intermixed with one another, sometimes of one metal only; as
I was saying they adapt to their amusement the numbers in common use, and
in this way make more intelligible to their pupils the arrangements and
movements of armies and expeditions, and in the management of a household
they make people more useful to themselves, and more wide awake; and again
in measurements of things which have length, and breadth, and depth, they
free us from that natural ignorance of all these things which is so
ludicrous and disgraceful.
CLEINIAS: What kind of ignorance do you mean?
ATHENIAN: O my dear Cleinias, I, like yourself, have late in life heard
with amazement of our ignorance in these matters; to me we appear to be
more like pigs than men, and I am quite ashamed, not only of myself, but
of all Hellenes.
CLEINIAS: About what? Say, Stranger, what you mean.
ATHENIAN: I will; or rather I will show you my meaning by a question, and
do you please to answer me: You know, I suppose, what length is?
ATHENIAN: And what breadth is?
CLEINIAS: To be sure.
ATHENIAN: And you know that these are two distinct things, and that there
is a third thing called depth?
CLEINIAS: Of course.
ATHENIAN: And do not all these seem to you to be commensurable with
ATHENIAN: That is to say, length is naturally commensurable with length,
and breadth with breadth, and depth in like manner with depth?
ATHENIAN: But if some things are commensurable and others wholly
incommensurable, and you think that all things are commensurable, what is
your position in regard to them?
CLEINIAS: Clearly, far from good.
ATHENIAN: Concerning length and breadth when compared with depth, or
breadth and length when compared with one another, are not all the
Hellenes agreed that these are commensurable with one another in some way?
CLEINIAS: Quite true.
ATHENIAN: But if they are absolutely incommensurable, and yet all of us
regard them as commensurable, have we not reason to be ashamed of our
compatriots; and might we not say to them: O ye best of Hellenes, is not
this one of the things of which we were saying that not to know them is
disgraceful, and of which to have a bare knowledge only is no great
ATHENIAN: And there are other things akin to these, in which there spring
up other errors of the same family.
CLEINIAS: What are they?
ATHENIAN: The natures of commensurable and incommensurable quantities in
their relation to one another. A man who is good for anything ought to be
able, when he thinks, to distinguish them; and different persons should
compete with one another in asking questions, which will be a far better
and more graceful way of passing their time than the old man's game of
CLEINIAS: I dare say; and these pastimes are not so very unlike a game of
ATHENIAN: And these, as I maintain, Cleinias, are the studies which our
youth ought to learn, for they are innocent and not difficult; the
learning of them will be an amusement, and they will benefit the state. If
any one is of another mind, let him say what he has to say.
ATHENIAN: Then if these studies are such as we maintain, we will include
them; if not, they shall be excluded.
CLEINIAS: Assuredly: but may we not now, Stranger, prescribe these studies
as necessary, and so fill up the lacunae of our laws?
ATHENIAN: They shall be regarded as pledges which may be hereafter
redeemed and removed from our state, if they do not please either us who
give them, or you who accept them.
CLEINIAS: A fair condition.
ATHENIAN: Next let us see whether we are or are not willing that the study
of astronomy shall be proposed for our youth.
ATHENIAN: Here occurs a strange phenomenon, which certainly cannot in any
point of view be tolerated.
CLEINIAS: To what are you referring?
ATHENIAN: Men say that we ought not to enquire into the supreme God and
the nature of the universe, nor busy ourselves in searching out the causes
of things, and that such enquiries are impious; whereas the very opposite
is the truth.
CLEINIAS: What do you mean?
ATHENIAN: Perhaps what I am saying may seem paradoxical, and at variance
with the usual language of age. But when any one has any good and true
notion which is for the advantage of the state and in every way acceptable
to God, he cannot abstain from expressing it.
CLEINIAS: Your words are reasonable enough; but shall we find any good or
true notion about the stars?
ATHENIAN: My good friends, at this hour all of us Hellenes tell lies, if I
may use such an expression, about those great Gods, the Sun and the Moon.
CLEINIAS: Lies of what nature?
ATHENIAN: We say that they and divers other stars do not keep the same
path, and we call them planets or wanderers.
CLEINIAS: Very true, Stranger; and in the course of my life I have often
myself seen the morning star and the evening star and divers others not
moving in their accustomed course, but wandering out of their path in all
manner of ways, and I have seen the sun and moon doing what we all know
that they do.
ATHENIAN: Just so, Megillus and Cleinias; and I maintain that our citizens
and our youth ought to learn about the nature of the Gods in heaven, so
far as to be able to offer sacrifices and pray to them in pious language,
and not to blaspheme about them.
CLEINIAS: There you are right, if such a knowledge be only attainable; and
if we are wrong in our mode of speaking now, and can be better instructed
and learn to use better language, then I quite agree with you that such a
degree of knowledge as will enable us to speak rightly should be acquired
by us. And now do you try to explain to us your whole meaning, and we, on
our part, will endeavour to understand you.
ATHENIAN: There is some difficulty in understanding my meaning, but not a
very great one, nor will any great length of time be required. And of this
I am myself a proof; for I did not know these things long ago, nor in the
days of my youth, and yet I can explain them to you in a brief space of
time; whereas if they had been difficult I could certainly never have
explained them all, old as I am, to old men like yourselves.
CLEINIAS: True; but what is this study which you describe as wonderful and
fitting for youth to learn, but of which we are ignorant? Try and explain
the nature of it to us as clearly as you can.
ATHENIAN: I will. For, O my good friends, that other doctrine about the
wandering of the sun and the moon and the other stars is not the truth,
but the very reverse of the truth. Each of them moves in the same path--
not in many paths, but in one only, which is circular, and the varieties
are only apparent. Nor are we right in supposing that the swiftest of them
is the slowest, nor conversely, that the slowest is the quickest. And if
what I say is true, only just imagine that we had a similar notion about
horses running at Olympia, or about men who ran in the long course, and
that we addressed the swiftest as the slowest and the slowest as the
swiftest, and sang the praises of the vanquished as though he were the
victor--in that case our praises would not be true, nor very agreeable to
the runners, though they be but men; and now, to commit the same error
about the Gods which would have been ludicrous and erroneous in the case
of men--is not that ludicrous and erroneous?
CLEINIAS: Worse than ludicrous, I should say.
ATHENIAN: At all events, the Gods cannot like us to be spreading a false
report of them.
CLEINIAS: Most true, if such is the fact.
ATHENIAN: And if we can show that such is really the fact, then all these
matters ought to be learned so far as is necessary for the avoidance of
impiety; but if we cannot, they may be let alone, and let this be our
CLEINIAS: Very good.
ATHENIAN: Enough of laws relating to education and learning. But hunting
and similar pursuits in like manner claim our attention. For the
legislator appears to have a duty imposed upon him which goes beyond mere
legislation. There is something over and above law which lies in a region
between admonition and law, and has several times occurred to us in the
course of discussion; for example, in the education of very young children
there were things, as we maintain, which are not to be defined, and to
regard them as matters of positive law is a great absurdity. Now, our laws
and the whole constitution of our state having been thus delineated, the
praise of the virtuous citizen is not complete when he is described as the
person who serves the laws best and obeys them most, but the higher form
of praise is that which describes him as the good citizen who passes
through life undefiled and is obedient to the words of the legislator,
both when he is giving laws and when he assigns praise and blame. This is
the truest word that can be spoken in praise of a citizen; and the true
legislator ought not only to write his laws, but also to interweave with
them all such things as seem to him honourable and dishonourable. And the
perfect citizen ought to seek to strengthen these no less than the
principles of law which are sanctioned by punishments. I will adduce an
example which will clear up my meaning, and will be a sort of witness to
my words. Hunting is of wide extent, and has a name under which many
things are included, for there is a hunting of creatures in the water, and
of creatures in the air, and there is a great deal of hunting of land
animals of all kinds, and not of wild beasts only. The hunting after man
is also worthy of consideration; there is the hunting after him in war,
and there is often a hunting after him in the way of friendship, which is
praised and also blamed; and there is thieving, and the hunting which is
practised by robbers, and that of armies against armies. Now the
legislator, in laying down laws about hunting, can neither abstain from
noting these things, nor can he make threatening ordinances which will
assign rules and penalties about all of them. What is he to do? He will
have to praise and blame hunting with a view to the exercise and pursuits
of youth. And, on the other hand, the young man must listen obediently;
neither pleasure nor pain should hinder him, and he should regard as his
standard of action the praises and injunctions of the legislator rather
than the punishments which he imposes by law. This being premised, there
will follow next in order moderate praise and censure of hunting; the
praise being assigned to that kind which will make the souls of young men
better, and the censure to that which has the opposite effect. And now let
us address young men in the form of a prayer for their welfare: O friends,
we will say to them, may no desire or love of hunting in the sea, or of
angling or of catching the creatures in the waters, ever take possession
of you, either when you are awake or when you are asleep, by hook or with
weels, which latter is a very lazy contrivance; and let not any desire of
catching men and of piracy by sea enter into your souls and make you cruel
and lawless hunters. And as to the desire of thieving in town or country,
may it never enter into your most passing thoughts; nor let the insidious
fancy of catching birds, which is hardly worthy of freemen, come into the
head of any youth. There remains therefore for our athletes only the
hunting and catching of land animals, of which the one sort is called
hunting by night, in which the hunters sleep in turn and are lazy; this is
not to be commended any more than that which has intervals of rest, in
which the wild strength of beasts is subdued by nets and snares, and not
by the victory of a laborious spirit. Thus, only the best kind of hunting
is allowed at all--that of quadrupeds, which is carried on with horses and
dogs and men's own persons, and they get the victory over the animals by
running them down and striking them and hurling at them, those who have a
care of godlike manhood taking them with their own hands. The praise and
blame which is assigned to all these things has now been declared; and let
the law be as follows: Let no one hinder these who verily are sacred
hunters from following the chase wherever and whithersoever they will; but
the hunter by night, who trusts to his nets and gins, shall not be allowed
to hunt anywhere. The fowler in the mountains and waste places shall be
permitted, but on cultivated ground and on consecrated wilds he shall not
be permitted; and any one who meets him may stop him. As to the hunter in
waters, he may hunt anywhere except in harbours or sacred streams or
marshes or pools, provided only that he do not pollute the water with
poisonous juices. And now we may say that all our enactments about
education are complete.
CLEINIAS: Very good.