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Plato : LAWS

Persons of the dialogue: An Athenian stranger - Cleinias, a Cretan
 - Megillus, a Lacedaemonian

Translated by Benjamin Jowett - 80 Pages (Part 1) - Greek fonts
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LAWS part 1 of 2, 3, 4, 5

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Cle. Yes, Stranger, and if we proceed onward we shall come to groves of cypresses, which are of rare height and beauty, and there are green meadows, in which we may repose and converse.

Ath. Very good.

Cle. Very good, indeed; and still better when we see them; let us move on cheerily.

Ath. I am willing - And first, I want to know why the law has ordained that you shall have common meals and gymnastic exercises, and wear arms.

Cle. I think, Stranger, that the aim of our institutions is easily intelligible to any one. Look at the character of our country: Crete is not like Thessaly, a large plain; and for this reason they have horsemen in Thessaly, and we have runners - the inequality of the ground in our country is more adapted to locomotion on foot; but then, if you have runners you must have light arms - no one can carry a heavy weight when running, and bows and arrows are convenient because they are light. Now all these regulations have been made with a view to war, and the legislator appears to me to have looked to this in all his arrangements: - the common meals, if I am not mistaken, were instituted by him for a similar reason, because he saw that while they are in the field the citizens are by the nature of the case compelled to take their meals together for the sake of mutual protection. He seems to me to have thought the world foolish in not understanding that all are always at war with one another; and if in war there ought to be common meals and certain persons regularly appointed under others to protect an army, they should be continued in peace. For what men in general term peace would be said by him to be only a name; in reality every city is in a natural state of war with every other, not indeed proclaimed by heralds, but everlasting. And if you look closely, you will find that this was the intention of the Cretan legislator; all institutions, private as well as public, were arranged by him with a view to war; in giving them he was under the impression that no possessions or institutions are of any value to him who is defeated in battle; for all the good things of the conquered pass into the hands of the conquerors.

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