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Plato : LAWS

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

Translated by Benjamin Jowett - 60 Pages (Part 2) - Greek fonts
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LAWS part 2 of 3, 4, 5

Part 1

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Part 2 Page 22

Meg. And yet, Stranger, I perceive that I cannot say, without more thought, what I should call the government of Lacedaemon, for it seems to me to be like a tyranny - the power of our Ephors is marvellously tyrannical; and sometimes it appears to me to be of all cities the most democratical; and who can reasonably deny that it is an aristocracy? We have also a monarchy which is held for life, and is said by all mankind, and not by ourselves only, to be the most ancient of all monarchies; and, therefore, when asked on a sudden, I cannot precisely say which form of government the Spartan is.

Cle. I am in the same difficulty, Megillus; for I do not feel confident that the polity of Cnosus is any of these.

Ath. The reason is, my excellent friends, that you really have polities, but the states of which we were just now speaking are merely aggregations of men dwelling in cities who are the subjects and servants of a part of their own state, and each of them is named after the dominant power; they are not polities at all. But if states are to be named after their rulers, the true state ought to be called by the name of the God who rules over wise men.

Cle. And who is this God?

Ath. May I still make use of fable to some extent, in the hope that I may be better able to answer your question: shall I?

Cle. By all means.

Ath. In the primeval world, and a long while before the cities came into being whose settlements we have described, there is said to have been in the time of Cronos a blessed rule and life, of which the best - ordered of existing states is a copy.

Cle. It will be very necessary to hear about that.

Ath. I quite agree with you; and therefore I have introduced the subject.

Cle. Most appropriately; and since the tale is to the point, you will do well in giving us the whole story.

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