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Three Millennia of Greek Literature


from Politicus, * 294.a-294.c, 301b-c, translated by B. Jowett

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TRANGER. (...) the law does not perfectly comprehend what is noblest and most just for all and therefore cannot enforce what is best. The differences of men and actions, and the endless irregular movements of human things, do not admit of -any universal and simple rule. And no art whatsoever can lay down a rule which will last for all time. YSOC. Of course not. STR. But the law is always striving to make one; - like an obstinate and ignorant tyrant, who will not allow anything to be done contrary to his appointment, or any question to be asked - not even in sudden changes of circumstances, when something happens to be better than what he commanded for some one. YSOC Certainly; the law treats us all precisely in the manner which you describe. STR. A perfectly simple principle can never be applied to a state of things which is the reverse of simple. YSOC. True. (...)

STR. And when an individual ruler governs neither by law nor by custom, but following in the steps of the true man of science pretends that he can only act for the best by violating the laws, while in reality appetite and ignorance are the motives of the imitation, may not such an one be called a tyrant? YSOC. Certainly.

ἀδύνατον πάντα περιλαβεῖν

ΞΕ. Ὅτι νόμος οὐκ ἄν ποτε δύναιτο τό τε ἄριστον καὶ τὸ δικαιότατον ἀκριβῶς πᾶσιν ἅμα περιλαβὼν τὸ βέλτιστον ἐπιτάττειν· αἱ γὰρ ἀνομοιότητες τῶν τε ἀνθρώπων καὶ τῶν πράξεων καὶ τὸ μηδέποτε μηδὲν ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν ἡσυχίαν ἄγειν τῶν ἀνθρωπίνων οὐδὲν ἐῶσιν ἁπλοῦν ἐν οὐδενὶ περὶ ἁπάντων καὶ ἐπὶ πάντα τὸν χρόνον ἀποφαίνεσθαι τέχνην οὐδ΄ ἡντινοῦν. ταῦτα δὴ συγχωροῦμέν που; ΝΕ. ΣΩ. Τί μήν; ΞΕ. Τὸν δέ γε νόμον ὁρῶμεν σχεδὸν ἐπ΄ αὐτὸ τοῦτο συντείνοντα͵ ὥσπερ τινὰ ἄνθρωπον αὐθάδη καὶ ἀμαθῆ καὶ μηδένα μηδὲν ἐῶντα ποιεῖν παρὰ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ τάξιν͵ μηδ΄ ἐπερωτᾶν μηδένα͵ μηδ΄ ἄν τι νέον ἄρα τῳ συμβαίνῃ βέλτιον παρὰ τὸν λόγον ὃν αὐτὸς ἐπέταξεν. ΝΕ. ΣΩ. Ἀληθῆ· ποιεῖ γὰρ ἀτεχνῶς καθάπερ εἴρηκας νῦν ὁ νόμος ἡμῖν ἑκάστοις. ΞΕ. Οὐκοῦν ἀδύνατον εὖ ἔχειν πρὸς τὰ μηδέποτε ἁπλᾶ τὸ διὰ παντὸς γιγνόμενον ἁπλοῦν; ΝΕ. ΣΩ. Κινδυνεύει. (...)

Τί δ΄ ὅταν μήτε κατὰ νόμους μήτε κατὰ ἔθη πράττῃ τις εἷς ἄρχων͵ προσποιῆται δὲ ὥσπερ ὁ ἐπιστήμων ὡς ἄρα παρὰ τὰ γεγραμμένα τό γε βέλτιστον ποιητέον͵ ᾖ δέ τις ἐπιθυμία καὶ ἄγνοια τούτου τοῦ μιμήματος ἡγουμένη͵ μῶν οὐ τότε τὸν τοιοῦτον ἕκαστον τύραννον κλητέον; ΝΕ. ΣΩ. Τί μήν; 

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