Plato, Laws (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Pl. Leg.].
<<Pl. Leg. 779c Pl. Leg. 781d (Greek) >>Pl. Leg. 783d

780dthis practice it is neither easy to state nor, when stated, to carry into effect.

Clinias

Why do you show so much hesitation, Stranger, in mentioning this?

Athenian

Listen now, so that we may not spend much time on the matter to no purpose. Everything that takes place in the State, if it participates in order and law, confers all kinds of blessings; but most things that are either without order or badly-ordered counteract the effects of the well-ordered. And it is into this plight that the practice we are discussing has fallen. In your case, Clinias 780eand Megillus, public meals for men are, as I said, rightly and admirably established by a divine necessity, but for women this institution is left, quite wrongly, unprescribed by law, nor are public meals for them brought 781ato the light of day; instead of this, the female sex, that very section of humanity which, owing to its frailty, is in other respects most secretive and intriguing, is abandoned to its disorderly condition through the perverse compliance of the lawgiver. Owing to your neglect of that sex, you have had an influx of many consequences which would have been much better than they now are if they had been under legal control. For it is not merely, as one might suppose, a matter affecting one-half of our whole task—this matter of neglecting to regulate women,— 781bbut in as far as females are inferior in goodness to males, just in so far it affects more than the half. It is better, then, for the welfare of the State to revise and reform this institution, and to regulate all the institutions for both men and women in common. At present, however, the human race is so far from having reached this happy position, that a man of discretion must actually avoid all mention of the practice in districts and States 781cwhere even the existence of public meals is absolutely without any formal recognition. How then shall one attempt, without being laughed at, actually to compel women to take food and drink publicly and exposed to the view of all? The female sex would more readily endure anything rather than this: accustomed as they are to live a retired and private life, women will use every means to resist being led out into the light, and they will prove much too strong for the lawgiver. 781dSo that elsewhere, as I said, women would not so much as listen to the mention of the right rule without shrieks of indignation; but in our State perhaps they will. So if we agree that our discourse about the polity as a whole must not—so far as theory goes—prove abortive, I am willing to explain how this institution is good and fitting, if you are equally desirous to listen, but otherwise to leave it alone.

Clinias

Nay, Stranger, we are both inexpressibly desirous to listen.

Athenian

Let us listen, then. And do not be surprised if you find me taking the subject up again from an early point. For we are now enjoying leisure, 781eand there is no pressing reason to hinder us from considering laws from all possible points of view.

Clinias

Very true.

Athenian

Let us, then, revert again to our first statements. [Note] Thus much at least every man ought to understand,—that either the human race never had a beginning at all, 782aand will never have an end, but always was and always will be, or else it must have been in existence an incalculable length of time from the date when it first began.

Clinias

Undoubtedly.

Athenian

Well then, do we not suppose that all the world over and in all sorts of ways there have been risings and fallings of States, and institutions of every variety of order and disorder, and appetites for food—both meats and drinks—of every kind, and all sorts of variations in the seasons, during which it is probable that the animals underwent 782binnumerable changes?

Clinias

Certainly.

Athenian

Are we to believe, then, that vines, not previously existing, appeared at a certain stage; and olives, likewise, and the gifts of Demeter and Kore? [Note] And that some Triptolemus was the minister of such fruits? And during the period that these fruits were as yet non-existent, must we not suppose that the animals turned, as they do now, to feeding on one another.

Clinias

Of course. 782c

Athenian

The custom of men sacrificing one another is, in fact, one that survives even now among many peoples; whereas amongst others we hear of how the opposite custom existed, when they were forbidden so much as to eat an ox, and their offerings to the gods consisted, not of animals, but of cakes of meal and grain steeped in honey, and other such bloodless sacrifices, and from flesh they abstained as though it were unholy to eat it or to stain with blood the altars of the gods; instead of that, those of us men who then existed lived what is called an “Orphic life,” keeping wholly to inanimate food and, 782dcontrariwise, abstaining wholly from things animate.

Clinias

Certainly what you say is widely reported and easy to credit.

Athenian

Someone might ask us— “For what purpose have you now said all this?”

Clinias

A correct surmise, Stranger.

Athenian

So I will try, if I can, Clinias, to explain the subject which comes next in order.

Clinias

Say on.

Athenian

I observe that with men all things depend on a threefold need and desire, wherein if they proceed rightly,



Plato, Laws (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Pl. Leg.].
<<Pl. Leg. 779c Pl. Leg. 781d (Greek) >>Pl. Leg. 783d

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