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appearance, but in deed and truth, though she number not more than a
thousand defenders. A single State which is her equal you will
hardly find, either among Hellenes or barbarians, though many that
appear to be as great and many times greater.
That is most true, he said.
And what, I said, will be the best limit for our rulers to fix
when they are considering the size of the State and the amount of
territory which they are to include, and beyond which they will not
What limit would you propose?
I would allow the State to increase so far as is consistent with
unity; that, I think, is the proper limit.
Very good, he said.
Here then, I said, is another order which will have to be conveyed
to our guardians: Let our city be accounted neither large nor small,
but one and self-sufficing.
And surely, said he, this is not a very severe order which we impose
And the other, said I, of which we were speaking before is lighter
still, -I mean the duty of degrading the offspring of the guardians
when inferior, and of elevating into the rank of guardians the
offspring of the lower classes, when naturally superior. The intention
was, that, in the case of the citizens generally, each individual
should be put to the use for which nature which nature intended him,
one to one work, and then every man would do his own business, and
be one and not many; and so the whole city would be one and not many.
Yes, he said; that is not so difficult.
The regulations which we are prescribing, my good Adeimantus, are
not, as might be supposed, a number of great principles, but trifles
all, if care be taken, as the saying is, of the one great thing, --a
thing, however, which I would rather call, not great, but sufficient
for our purpose.
What may that be? he asked.
Education, I said, and nurture: If our citizens are well educated,
and grow into sensible men, they will easily see their way through all
these, as well as other matters which I omit; such, for example, as
marriage, the possession of women and the procreation of children,
which will all follow the general principle that friends have all
things in common, as the proverb says.
That will be the best way of settling them.
Also, I said, the State, if once started well, moves with
accumulating force like a wheel. For good nurture and education
implant good constitutions, and these good constitutions taking root
in a good education improve more and more, and this improvement
affects the breed in man as in other animals.
Very possibly, he said.
Then to sum up: This is the point to which, above all, the attention
of our rulers should be directed, --that music and gymnastic be
preserved in their original form, and no innovation made. They must do
their utmost to maintain them intact. And when any one says that
mankind most regard
The newest song which the singers have,
they will be afraid that he may be praising, not new songs, but a
new kind of song; and this ought not to be praised, or conceived to be
the meaning of the poet; for any musical innovation is full of
danger to the whole State, and ought to be prohibited. So Damon
tells me, and I can quite believe him;-he says that when modes of
music change, of the State always change with them.
Yes, said Adeimantus; and you may add my suffrage to Damon's and
Then, I said, our guardians must lay the foundations of their
fortress in music?
Yes, he said; the lawlessness of which you speak too easily steals
Yes, I replied, in the form of amusement; and at first sight it
Why, yes, he said, and there is no harm; were it not that little
by little this spirit of licence, finding a home, imperceptibly
penetrates into manners and customs; whence, issuing with greater
force, it invades contracts between man and man, and from contracts
goes on to laws and constitutions, in utter recklessness, ending at
last, Socrates, by an overthrow of all rights, private as well as
Is that true? I said.
That is my belief, he replied.
Then, as I was saying, our youth should be trained from the first in
a stricter system, for if amusements become lawless, and the youths
themselves become lawless, they can never grow up into
well-conducted and virtuous citizens.
Very true, he said.
And when they have made a good beginning in play, and by the help of
music have gained the habit of good order, then this habit of order,
in a manner how unlike the lawless play of the others! will
accompany them in all their actions and be a principle of growth to
them, and if there be any fallen places a principle in the State
will raise them up again.
Very true, he said.
Thus educated, they will invent for themselves any lesser rules
which their predecessors have altogether neglected.
What do you mean?
I mean such things as these: --when the young are to be silent
before their elders; how they are to show respect to them by
standing and making them sit; what honour is due to parents; what
garments or shoes are to be worn; the mode of dressing the hair;
deportment and manners in general. You would agree with me?
But there is, I think, small wisdom in legislating about such
matters, --I doubt if it is ever done; nor are any precise written
enactments about them likely to be lasting.
It would seem, Adeimantus, that the direction in which education
starts a man, will determine his future life. Does not like always
To be sure.
Until some one rare and grand result is reached which may be good,
and may be the reverse of good?
That is not to be denied.
And for this reason, I said, I shall not attempt to legislate
further about them.
Naturally enough, he replied.
Well, and about the business of the agora, dealings and the ordinary
dealings between man and man, or again about agreements with the
commencement with artisans; about insult and injury, of the
commencement of actions, and the appointment of juries, what would you
say? there may also arise questions about any impositions and
extractions of market and harbour dues which may be required, and in
general about the regulations of markets, police, harbours, and the
like. But, oh heavens! shall we condescend to legislate on any of
I think, he said, that there is no need to impose laws about them on
good men; what regulations are necessary they will find out soon
enough for themselves.
Yes, I said, my friend, if God will only preserve to them the laws
which we have given them.
And without divine help, said Adeimantus, they will go on for ever
making and mending their laws and their lives in the hope of attaining
You would compare them, I said, to those invalids who, having no
self-restraint, will not leave off their habits of intemperance?
Yes, I said; and what a delightful life they lead! they are always
doctoring and increasing and complicating their disorders, and
always fancying that they will be cured by any nostrum which anybody
advises them to try.
Such cases are very common, he said, with invalids of this sort.
Yes, I replied; and the charming thing is that they deem him their
worst enemy who tells them the truth, which is simply that, unless
they give up eating and drinking and wenching and idling, neither drug
nor cautery nor spell nor amulet nor any other remedy will avail.
Charming! he replied. I see nothing charming in going into a passion
with a man who tells you what is right.
These gentlemen, I said, do not seem to be in your good graces.
Nor would you praise the behaviour of States which act like the
men whom I was just now describing. For are there not ill-ordered
States in which the citizens are forbidden under pain of death to
alter the constitution; and yet he who most sweetly courts those who
live under this regime and indulges them and fawns upon them and is
skilful in anticipating and gratifying their humours is held to be a
great and good statesman --do not these States resemble the persons
whom I was describing?
Yes, he said; the States are as bad as the men; and I am very far
from praising them.
But do you not admire, I said, the coolness and dexterity of these
ready ministers of political corruption?
Yes, he said, I do; but not of all of them, for there are some
whom the applause of the multitude has deluded into the belief that
they are really statesmen, and these are not much to be admired.
What do you mean? I said; you should have more feeling for them.
When a man cannot measure, and a great many others who cannot
measure declare that he is four cubits high, can he help believing
what they say?
Nay, he said, certainly not in that case.
Well, then, do not be angry with them; for are they not as good as a
play, trying their hand at paltry reforms such as I was describing;
they are always fancying that by legislation they will make an end
of frauds in contracts, and the other rascalities which I was
mentioning, not knowing that they are in reality cutting off the heads
of a hydra?
Yes, he said; that is just what they are doing.
I conceive, I said, that the true legislator will not trouble
himself with this class of enactments whether concerning laws or the
constitution either in an ill-ordered or in a well-ordered State;
for in the former they are quite useless, and in the latter there will
be no difficulty in devising them; and many of them will naturally
flow out of our previous regulations.
What, then, he said, is still remaining to us of the work of
Nothing to us, I replied; but to Apollo, the God of Delphi, there
remains the ordering of the greatest and noblest and chiefest things
Which are they? he said.
The institution of temples and sacrifices, and the entire service of
gods, demigods, and heroes; also the ordering of the repositories of
the dead, and the rites which have to be observed by him who would
propitiate the inhabitants of the world below. These are matters of
which we are ignorant ourselves, and as founders of a city we should
be unwise in trusting them to any interpreter but our ancestral deity.
He is the god who sits in the center, on the navel of the earth, and
he is the interpreter of religion to all mankind.
You are right, and we will do as you propose.
But where, amid all this, is justice? son of Ariston, tell me where.
Now that our city has been made habitable, light a candle and
search, and get your brother and Polemarchus and the rest of our
friends to help, and let us see where in it we can discover justice
and where injustice, and in what they differ from one another, and
which of them the man who would be happy should have for his
portion, whether seen or unseen by gods and men.