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Plato : 7th EPISTLE

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Page 4


With these thoughts in my mind I came to Italy and Sicily on my first visit. My first impressions on arrival were those of strong disapproval - disapproval of the kind of life which was there called the life of happiness, stuffed full as it was with the banquets of the Italian Greeks and Syracusans, who ate to repletion twice every day, and were never without a partner for the night; and disapproval of the habits which this manner of life produces. For with these habits formed early in life, no man under heaven could possibly attain to wisdom - human nature is not capable of such an extraordinary combination. Temperance also is out of the question for such a man; and the same applies to virtue generally. No city could remain in a state of tranquillity under any laws whatsoever, when men think it right to squander all their property in extravagant, and consider it a duty to be idle in everything else except eating and drinking and the laborious prosecution of debauchery. It follows necessarily that the constitutions of such cities must be constantly changing, tyrannies, oligarchies and democracies succeeding one another, while those who hold the power cannot so much as endure the name of any form of government which maintains justice and equality of rights.

With a mind full of these thoughts, on the top of my previous convictions, I crossed over to Syracuse - led there perhaps by chance - but it really looks as if some higher power was even then planning to lay a foundation for all that has now come to pass with regard to Dion and Syracuse - and for further troubles too, I fear, unless you listen to the advice which is now for the second time offered by me. What do I mean by saying that my arrival in Sicily at that movement proved to be the foundation on which all the sequel rests? I was brought into close intercourse with Dion who was then a young man, and explained to him my views as to the ideals at which men should aim, advising him to carry them out in practice. In doing this I seem to have been unaware that I was, in a fashion, without knowing it, contriving the overthrow of the tyranny which; subsequently took place. For Dion, who rapidly assimilated my teaching as he did all forms of knowledge, listened to me with an eagerness which I had never seen equalled in any young man, and resolved to live for the future in a better way than the majority of Italian and Sicilian Greeks, having set his affection on virtue in preference to pleasure and self - indulgence. The result was that until the death of Dionysios he lived in a way which rendered him somewhat unpopular among those whose manner of life was that which is usual in the courts of despots.

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