Plato, Laws (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Pl. Leg.].
<<Pl. Leg. 794b Pl. Leg. 796c (Greek) >>Pl. Leg. 798c

795dthe male and female officers, the women overseeing the games and the feeding of the children, and the men their lessons, to the intent that all the boys and girls may be sound of hand and foot, and may in no wise, if possible, get their natures warped by their habits. The lessons may, for practical convenience, be divided under two heads—the gymnastical, which concern the body, and the musical, which aim at goodness of soul. Of gymnastic there are two kinds, dancing 795eand wrestling. Of dancing there is one branch in which the style of the Muse is imitated, preserving both freedom and nobility, and another which aims at physical soundness, agility and beauty by securing for the various parts and members of the body the proper degree of flexibility and extension and bestowing also the rhythmical motion which belongs to each, and which accompanies 796athe whole of dancing and is diffused throughout it completely. As to the devices introduced by Antaeus or Cercyon [Note] in the art of wrestling for the sake of empty glory, or in boxing by Epeius or Amycus, since they are useless in the business of war, they merit no eulogy. But the exercises of stand-up wrestling, with the twisting free of neck, hands and sides, when practiced with ardor and with a firm and graceful pose, and directed towards strength and health,—these must not be omitted, since they are useful for all purposes; but we must charge both the pupils and their teachers— 796bwhen we reach this point in our legislation—that the latter should impart these lessons gently, and the former receive them gratefully. Nor should we omit such mimic dances as are fitting for use by our choirs,—for instance, the sword-dance of the Curetes [Note] here in Crete, and that of the Dioscori [Note] in Lacedaemon; and at Athens, too, our Virgin-Lady [Note] gladdened by the pastime of the dance deemed it not seemly to sport with empty hands, 796cbut rather to tread the measure vested in full panoply. These examples it would well become the boys and girls to copy, and so cultivate the favor of the goddess, alike for service in war and for use at festivals. It shall be the rule for the children, from the age of six until they reach military age, whenever they approach any god and form processions, to be always equipped with arms and horses, and with dance and march, now quick, now slow, to make their supplications to the gods and the children of gods. 796dContests, too, and preliminary trials must be carried out with a view to the objects stated, if at all; for these objects are useful both in peace and war, alike for the State and for private families; but all other kinds of work and play and bodily exercise are not worthy of a gentleman. And now, O Megillus and Clinias, I have pretty fully described that gymnastic training which—as I said [Note] early in our discourse—requires description: here it is in its full completeness. So if you know of a better gymnastic than this, 796edisclose it.

Clinias

It is no easy thing, Stranger, to reject your account of gymnastic training and competition, and produce a better one.

Athenian

The subject which comes next to this, and deals with the gifts of Apollo and the Muses, is one which we previously [Note] thought we had done with, and that the only subject left was gymnastic; but I plainly see now, not only what still remains to be said to everybody, but also that it ought to come first. Let us, then, state these points in order.

Clinias

By all means let us do so. 797a

Athenian

Give ear to me now, albeit ye have already done so in the past. None the less, one must take great heed, now as before, both in the telling and in the hearing of a thing that is supremely strange and novel. To make the statement that I am going to make is an alarming task; yet I will summon up my courage, and not shrink from it.

Clinias

What is the statement you refer to, Stranger?

Athenian

I assert that there exists in every State a complete ignorance about children's games—how that they are of decisive importance for legislation, as determining whether the laws enacted are to be permanent or not. 797bFor when the program of games is prescribed and secures that the same children always play the same games and delight in the same toys in the same way and under the same conditions, it allows the real and serious laws also to remain undisturbed; but when these games vary and suffer innovations, amongst other constant alterations the children are always shifting their fancy from one game to another, so that neither in respect of their own bodily gestures nor in respect of their equipment have they any fixed and acknowledged standard of propriety and impropriety; but the man they hold in special honor is he who is always innovating or introducing some novel device 797cin the matter of form or color or something of the sort; whereas it would be perfectly true to say that a State can have no worse pest than a man of that description, since he privily alters the characters of the young, and causes them to contemn what is old and esteem what is new. And I repeat again that there is no greater mischief a State can suffer than such a dictum and doctrine: just listen while I tell you how great an evil it is.



Plato, Laws (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Pl. Leg.].
<<Pl. Leg. 794b Pl. Leg. 796c (Greek) >>Pl. Leg. 798c

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