Catalog # SKU0855
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Plato Jowett



by Plato


Translated by Benjamin Jowett

1st Published 348 BC

Plato (~428-~348 BC) - One of the greatest and most influential Greek philosophers, he was a disciple of Socrates and the teacher of Aristotle. Most of his works are written dialogues, many with Socrates as the main character. Plato founded a school of philosophy known as the Academy. Laws (348 BC) - Plato concentrated his declining powers on recording a code of laws which he hoped some Hellenic state might sanction. The Laws were thought to have been in the process of publication at the time of his death.


The typical Athenian apologizes for the tendency of his countrymen 'to spin a long discussion out of slender materials,' and in a similar spirit the Lacedaemonian Megillus apologizes for the Spartan brevity (compare Thucydid.), acknowledging at the same time that there may be occasions when long discourses are necessary.

The family of Megillus is the proxenus of Athens at Sparta; and he pays a beautiful compliment to the Athenian, significant of the character of the work, which, though borrowing many elements from Sparta, is also pervaded by an Athenian spirit. A good Athenian, he says, is more than ordinarily good, because he is inspired by nature and not manufactured by law. The love of listening which is attributed to the Timocrat in the Republic is also exhibited in him. The Athenian on his side has a pleasure in speaking to the Lacedaemonian of the struggle in which their ancestors were jointly engaged against the Persians.

A connexion with Athens is likewise intimated by the Cretan Cleinias. He is the relative of Epimenides, whom, by an anachronism of a century,--perhaps arising as Zeller suggests (Plat. Stud.) out of a confusion of the visit of Epimenides and Diotima (Symp.),--he describes as coming to Athens, not after the attempt of Cylon, but ten years before the Persian war. The Cretan and Lacedaemonian hardly contribute at all to the argument of which the Athenian is the expounder; they only supply information when asked about the institutions of their respective countries. A kind of simplicity or stupidity is ascribed to them. At first, they are dissatisfied with the free criticisms which the Athenian passes upon the laws of Minos and Lycurgus, but they acquiesce in his greater experience and knowledge of the world. They admit that there can be no objection to the enquiry; for in the spirit of the legislator himself, they are discussing his laws when there are no young men present to listen.

They are unwilling to allow that the Spartan and Cretan lawgivers can have been mistaken in honouring courage as the first part of virtue, and are puzzled at hearing for the first time that 'Goods are only evil to the evil.' Several times they are on the point of quarrelling, and by an effort learn to restrain their natural feeling (compare Shakespeare, Henry V, act iii. sc. 2). In Book vii., the Lacedaemonian expresses a momentary irritation at the accusation which the Athenian brings against the Spartan institutions, of encouraging licentiousness in their women, but he is reminded by the Cretan that the permission to criticize them freely has been given, and cannot be retracted. His only criterion of truth is the authority of the Spartan lawgiver; he is 'interested,' in the novel speculations of the Athenian, but inclines to prefer the ordinances of Lycurgus.

The three interlocutors all of them speak in the character of old men, which forms a pleasant bond of union between them. They have the feelings of old age about youth, about the state, about human things in general. Nothing in life seems to be of much importance to them; they are spectators rather than actors, and men in general appear to the Athenian speaker to be the playthings of the Gods and of circumstances. Still they have a fatherly care of the young, and are deeply impressed by sentiments of religion. They would give confidence to the aged by an increasing use of wine, which, as they get older, is to unloose their tongues and make them sing. The prospect of the existence of the soul after death is constantly present to them; though they can hardly be said to have the cheerful hope and resignation which animates Socrates in the Phaedo or Cephalus in the Republic. Plato appears to be expressing his own feelings in remarks of this sort.

For at the time of writing the first book of the Laws he was at least seventy-four years of age, if we suppose him to allude to the victory of the Syracusans under Dionysius the Younger over the Locrians, which occurred in the year 356. Such a sadness was the natural effect of declining years and failing powers, which make men ask, 'After all, what profit is there in life?' They feel that their work is beginning to be over, and are ready to say, 'All the world is a stage;' or, in the actual words of Plato, 'Let us play as good plays as we can,' though 'we must be sometimes serious, which is not agreeable, but necessary.' These are feelings which have crossed the minds of reflective persons in all ages, and there is no reason to connect the Laws any more than other parts of Plato's writings with the very uncertain narrative of his life, or to imagine that this melancholy tone is attributable to disappointment at having failed to convert a Sicilian tyrant into a philosopher.

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