Plato, translated by B. Jowett
Part 12 out of 12
And is not that farthest from reason which is at the greatest distance from
law and order?
And the lustful and tyrannical desires are, as we saw, at the greatest
And the royal and orderly desires are nearest?
Then the tyrant will live at the greatest distance from true or natural
pleasure, and the king at the least?
But if so, the tyrant will live most unpleasantly, and the king most
Would you know the measure of the interval which separates them?
Will you tell me?
There appear to be three pleasures, one genuine and two spurious: now the
transgression of the tyrant reaches a point beyond the spurious; he has run
away from the region of law and reason, and taken up his abode with certain
slave pleasures which are his satellites, and the measure of his
inferiority can only be expressed in a figure.
How do you mean?
I assume, I said, that the tyrant is in the third place from the oligarch;
the democrat was in the middle?
And if there is truth in what has preceded, he will be wedded to an image
of pleasure which is thrice removed as to truth from the pleasure of the
And the oligarch is third from the royal; since we count as one royal and
Yes, he is third.
Then the tyrant is removed from true pleasure by the space of a number
which is three times three?
The shadow then of tyrannical pleasure determined by the number of length
will be a plane figure.
And if you raise the power and make the plane a solid, there is no
difficulty in seeing how vast is the interval by which the tyrant is parted
from the king.
Yes; the arithmetician will easily do the sum.
Or if some person begins at the other end and measures the interval by
which the king is parted from the tyrant in truth of pleasure, he will find
him, when the multiplication is completed, living 729 times more
pleasantly, and the tyrant more painfully by this same interval.
What a wonderful calculation! And how enormous is the distance which
separates the just from the unjust in regard to pleasure and pain!
Yet a true calculation, I said, and a number which nearly concerns human
life, if human beings are concerned with days and nights and months and
years. (729 NEARLY equals the number of days and nights in the year.)
Yes, he said, human life is certainly concerned with them.
Then if the good and just man be thus superior in pleasure to the evil and
unjust, his superiority will be infinitely greater in propriety of life and
in beauty and virtue?
Well, I said, and now having arrived at this stage of the argument, we may
revert to the words which brought us hither: Was not some one saying that
injustice was a gain to the perfectly unjust who was reputed to be just?
Yes, that was said.
Now then, having determined the power and quality of justice and injustice,
let us have a little conversation with him.
What shall we say to him?
Let us make an image of the soul, that he may have his own words presented
before his eyes.
Of what sort?
An ideal image of the soul, like the composite creations of ancient
mythology, such as the Chimera or Scylla or Cerberus, and there are many
others in which two or more different natures are said to grow into one.
There are said of have been such unions.
Then do you now model the form of a multitudinous, many-headed monster,
having a ring of heads of all manner of beasts, tame and wild, which he is
able to generate and metamorphose at will.
You suppose marvellous powers in the artist; but, as language is more
pliable than wax or any similar substance, let there be such a model as you
Suppose now that you make a second form as of a lion, and a third of a man,
the second smaller than the first, and the third smaller than the second.
That, he said, is an easier task; and I have made them as you say.
And now join them, and let the three grow into one.
That has been accomplished.
Next fashion the outside of them into a single image, as of a man, so that
he who is not able to look within, and sees only the outer hull, may
believe the beast to be a single human creature.
I have done so, he said.
And now, to him who maintains that it is profitable for the human creature
to be unjust, and unprofitable to be just, let us reply that, if he be
right, it is profitable for this creature to feast the multitudinous
monster and strengthen the lion and the lion-like qualities, but to starve
and weaken the man, who is consequently liable to be dragged about at the
mercy of either of the other two; and he is not to attempt to familiarize
or harmonize them with one another--he ought rather to suffer them to fight
and bite and devour one another.
Certainly, he said; that is what the approver of injustice says.
To him the supporter of justice makes answer that he should ever so speak
and act as to give the man within him in some way or other the most
complete mastery over the entire human creature. He should watch over the
many-headed monster like a good husbandman, fostering and cultivating the
gentle qualities, and preventing the wild ones from growing; he should be
making the lion-heart his ally, and in common care of them all should be
uniting the several parts with one another and with himself.
Yes, he said, that is quite what the maintainer of justice say.
And so from every point of view, whether of pleasure, honour, or advantage,
the approver of justice is right and speaks the truth, and the disapprover
is wrong and false and ignorant?
Yes, from every point of view.
Come, now, and let us gently reason with the unjust, who is not
intentionally in error. 'Sweet Sir,' we will say to him, 'what think you
of things esteemed noble and ignoble? Is not the noble that which subjects
the beast to the man, or rather to the god in man; and the ignoble that
which subjects the man to the beast?' He can hardly avoid saying Yes--can
Not if he has any regard for my opinion.
But, if he agree so far, we may ask him to answer another question: 'Then
how would a man profit if he received gold and silver on the condition that
he was to enslave the noblest part of him to the worst? Who can imagine
that a man who sold his son or daughter into slavery for money, especially
if he sold them into the hands of fierce and evil men, would be the gainer,
however large might be the sum which he received? And will any one say
that he is not a miserable caitiff who remorselessly sells his own divine
being to that which is most godless and detestable? Eriphyle took the
necklace as the price of her husband's life, but he is taking a bribe in
order to compass a worse ruin.'
Yes, said Glaucon, far worse--I will answer for him.
Has not the intemperate been censured of old, because in him the huge
multiform monster is allowed to be too much at large?
And men are blamed for pride and bad temper when the lion and serpent
element in them disproportionately grows and gains strength?
And luxury and softness are blamed, because they relax and weaken this same
creature, and make a coward of him?
And is not a man reproached for flattery and meanness who subordinates the
spirited animal to the unruly monster, and, for the sake of money, of which
he can never have enough, habituates him in the days of his youth to be
trampled in the mire, and from being a lion to become a monkey?
True, he said.
And why are mean employments and manual arts a reproach? Only because they
imply a natural weakness of the higher principle; the individual is unable
to control the creatures within him, but has to court them, and his great
study is how to flatter them.
Such appears to be the reason.
And therefore, being desirous of placing him under a rule like that of the
best, we say that he ought to be the servant of the best, in whom the
Divine rules; not, as Thrasymachus supposed, to the injury of the servant,
but because every one had better be ruled by divine wisdom dwelling within
him; or, if this be impossible, then by an external authority, in order
that we may be all, as far as possible, under the same government, friends
True, he said.
And this is clearly seen to be the intention of the law, which is the ally
of the whole city; and is seen also in the authority which we exercise over
children, and the refusal to let them be free until we have established in
them a principle analogous to the constitution of a state, and by
cultivation of this higher element have set up in their hearts a guardian
and ruler like our own, and when this is done they may go their ways.
Yes, he said, the purpose of the law is manifest.
From what point of view, then, and on what ground can we say that a man is
profited by injustice or intemperance or other baseness, which will make
him a worse man, even though he acquire money or power by his wickedness?
From no point of view at all.
What shall he profit, if his injustice be undetected and unpunished? He
who is undetected only gets worse, whereas he who is detected and punished
has the brutal part of his nature silenced and humanized; the gentler
element in him is liberated, and his whole soul is perfected and ennobled
by the acquirement of justice and temperance and wisdom, more than the body
ever is by receiving gifts of beauty, strength and health, in proportion as
the soul is more honourable than the body.
Certainly, he said.
To this nobler purpose the man of understanding will devote the energies of
his life. And in the first place, he will honour studies which impress
these qualities on his soul and will disregard others?
Clearly, he said.
In the next place, he will regulate his bodily habit and training, and so
far will he be from yielding to brutal and irrational pleasures, that he
will regard even health as quite a secondary matter; his first object will
be not that he may be fair or strong or well, unless he is likely thereby
to gain temperance, but he will always desire so to attemper the body as to
preserve the harmony of the soul?
Certainly he will, if he has true music in him.
And in the acquisition of wealth there is a principle of order and harmony
which he will also observe; he will not allow himself to be dazzled by the
foolish applause of the world, and heap up riches to his own infinite harm?
Certainly not, he said.
He will look at the city which is within him, and take heed that no
disorder occur in it, such as might arise either from superfluity or from
want; and upon this principle he will regulate his property and gain or
spend according to his means.
And, for the same reason, he will gladly accept and enjoy such honours as
he deems likely to make him a better man; but those, whether private or
public, which are likely to disorder his life, he will avoid?
Then, if that is his motive, he will not be a statesman.
By the dog of Egypt, he will! in the city which is his own he certainly
will, though in the land of his birth perhaps not, unless he have a divine
I understand; you mean that he will be a ruler in the city of which we are
the founders, and which exists in idea only; for I do not believe that
there is such an one anywhere on earth?
In heaven, I replied, there is laid up a pattern of it, methinks, which he
who desires may behold, and beholding, may set his own house in order. But
whether such an one exists, or ever will exist in fact, is no matter; for
he will live after the manner of that city, having nothing to do with any
I think so, he said.
Of the many excellences which I perceive in the order of our State, there
is none which upon reflection pleases me better than the rule about poetry.
To what do you refer?
To the rejection of imitative poetry, which certainly ought not to be
received; as I see far more clearly now that the parts of the soul have
What do you mean?
Speaking in confidence, for I should not like to have my words repeated to
the tragedians and the rest of the imitative tribe--but I do not mind
saying to you, that all poetical imitations are ruinous to the
understanding of the hearers, and that the knowledge of their true nature
is the only antidote to them.
Explain the purport of your remark.
Well, I will tell you, although I have always from my earliest youth had an
awe and love of Homer, which even now makes the words falter on my lips,
for he is the great captain and teacher of the whole of that charming
tragic company; but a man is not to be reverenced more than the truth, and
therefore I will speak out.
Very good, he said.
Listen to me then, or rather, answer me.
Put your question.
Can you tell me what imitation is? for I really do not know.
A likely thing, then, that I should know.
Why not? for the duller eye may often see a thing sooner than the keener.
Very true, he said; but in your presence, even if I had any faint notion, I
could not muster courage to utter it. Will you enquire yourself?
Well then, shall we begin the enquiry in our usual manner: Whenever a
number of individuals have a common name, we assume them to have also a
corresponding idea or form:--do you understand me?
Let us take any common instance; there are beds and tables in the world--
plenty of them, are there not?
But there are only two ideas or forms of them--one the idea of a bed, the
other of a table.
And the maker of either of them makes a bed or he makes a table for our
use, in accordance with the idea--that is our way of speaking in this and
similar instances--but no artificer makes the ideas themselves: how could
And there is another artist,--I should like to know what you would say of
Who is he?
One who is the maker of all the works of all other workmen.
What an extraordinary man!
Wait a little, and there will be more reason for your saying so. For this
is he who is able to make not only vessels of every kind, but plants and
animals, himself and all other things--the earth and heaven, and the things
which are in heaven or under the earth; he makes the gods also.
He must be a wizard and no mistake.
Oh! you are incredulous, are you? Do you mean that there is no such maker
or creator, or that in one sense there might be a maker of all these things
but in another not? Do you see that there is a way in which you could make
them all yourself?
An easy way enough; or rather, there are many ways in which the feat might
be quickly and easily accomplished, none quicker than that of turning a
mirror round and round--you would soon enough make the sun and the heavens,
and the earth and yourself, and other animals and plants, and all the other
things of which we were just now speaking, in the mirror.
Yes, he said; but they would be appearances only.
Very good, I said, you are coming to the point now. And the painter too
is, as I conceive, just such another--a creator of appearances, is he not?
But then I suppose you will say that what he creates is untrue. And yet
there is a sense in which the painter also creates a bed?
Yes, he said, but not a real bed.
And what of the maker of the bed? were you not saying that he too makes,
not the idea which, according to our view, is the essence of the bed, but
only a particular bed?
Yes, I did.
Then if he does not make that which exists he cannot make true existence,
but only some semblance of existence; and if any one were to say that the
work of the maker of the bed, or of any other workman, has real existence,
he could hardly be supposed to be speaking the truth.
At any rate, he replied, philosophers would say that he was not speaking
No wonder, then, that his work too is an indistinct expression of truth.
Suppose now that by the light of the examples just offered we enquire who
this imitator is?
If you please.
Well then, here are three beds: one existing in nature, which is made by
God, as I think that we may say--for no one else can be the maker?
There is another which is the work of the carpenter?
And the work of the painter is a third?
Beds, then, are of three kinds, and there are three artists who superintend
them: God, the maker of the bed, and the painter?
Yes, there are three of them.
God, whether from choice or from necessity, made one bed in nature and one
only; two or more such ideal beds neither ever have been nor ever will be
made by God.
Why is that?
Because even if He had made but two, a third would still appear behind them
which both of them would have for their idea, and that would be the ideal
bed and not the two others.
Very true, he said.
God knew this, and He desired to be the real maker of a real bed, not a
particular maker of a particular bed, and therefore He created a bed which
is essentially and by nature one only.
So we believe.
Shall we, then, speak of Him as the natural author or maker of the bed?
Yes, he replied; inasmuch as by the natural process of creation He is the
author of this and of all other things.
And what shall we say of the carpenter--is not he also the maker of the
But would you call the painter a creator and maker?
Yet if he is not the maker, what is he in relation to the bed?
I think, he said, that we may fairly designate him as the imitator of that
which the others make.
Good, I said; then you call him who is third in the descent from nature an
Certainly, he said.
And the tragic poet is an imitator, and therefore, like all other
imitators, he is thrice removed from the king and from the truth?
That appears to be so.
Then about the imitator we are agreed. And what about the painter?--I
would like to know whether he may be thought to imitate that which
originally exists in nature, or only the creations of artists?
As they are or as they appear? you have still to determine this.
What do you mean?
I mean, that you may look at a bed from different points of view, obliquely
or directly or from any other point of view, and the bed will appear
different, but there is no difference in reality. And the same of all
Yes, he said, the difference is only apparent.
Now let me ask you another question: Which is the art of painting designed
to be--an imitation of things as they are, or as they appear--of appearance
or of reality?
Then the imitator, I said, is a long way off the truth, and can do all
things because he lightly touches on a small part of them, and that part an
image. For example: A painter will paint a cobbler, carpenter, or any
other artist, though he knows nothing of their arts; and, if he is a good
artist, he may deceive children or simple persons, when he shows them his
picture of a carpenter from a distance, and they will fancy that they are
looking at a real carpenter.
And whenever any one informs us that he has found a man who knows all the
arts, and all things else that anybody knows, and every single thing with a
higher degree of accuracy than any other man--whoever tells us this, I
think that we can only imagine him to be a simple creature who is likely to
have been deceived by some wizard or actor whom he met, and whom he thought
all-knowing, because he himself was unable to analyse the nature of
knowledge and ignorance and imitation.
And so, when we hear persons saying that the tragedians, and Homer, who is
at their head, know all the arts and all things human, virtue as well as
vice, and divine things too, for that the good poet cannot compose well
unless he knows his subject, and that he who has not this knowledge can
never be a poet, we ought to consider whether here also there may not be a
similar illusion. Perhaps they may have come across imitators and been
deceived by them; they may not have remembered when they saw their works
that these were but imitations thrice removed from the truth, and could
easily be made without any knowledge of the truth, because they are
appearances only and not realities? Or, after all, they may be in the
right, and poets do really know the things about which they seem to the
many to speak so well?
The question, he said, should by all means be considered.
Now do you suppose that if a person were able to make the original as well
as the image, he would seriously devote himself to the image-making branch?
Would he allow imitation to be the ruling principle of his life, as if he
had nothing higher in him?
I should say not.
The real artist, who knew what he was imitating, would be interested in
realities and not in imitations; and would desire to leave as memorials of
himself works many and fair; and, instead of being the author of encomiums,
he would prefer to be the theme of them.
Yes, he said, that would be to him a source of much greater honour and
Then, I said, we must put a question to Homer; not about medicine, or any
of the arts to which his poems only incidentally refer: we are not going
to ask him, or any other poet, whether he has cured patients like
Asclepius, or left behind him a school of medicine such as the Asclepiads
were, or whether he only talks about medicine and other arts at second-
hand; but we have a right to know respecting military tactics, politics,
education, which are the chiefest and noblest subjects of his poems, and we
may fairly ask him about them. 'Friend Homer,' then we say to him, 'if you
are only in the second remove from truth in what you say of virtue, and not
in the third--not an image maker or imitator--and if you are able to
discern what pursuits make men better or worse in private or public life,
tell us what State was ever better governed by your help? The good order
of Lacedaemon is due to Lycurgus, and many other cities great and small
have been similarly benefited by others; but who says that you have been a
good legislator to them and have done them any good? Italy and Sicily
boast of Charondas, and there is Solon who is renowned among us; but what
city has anything to say about you?' Is there any city which he might
I think not, said Glaucon; not even the Homerids themselves pretend that he
was a legislator.
Well, but is there any war on record which was carried on successfully by
him, or aided by his counsels, when he was alive?
There is not.
Or is there any invention of his, applicable to the arts or to human life,
such as Thales the Milesian or Anacharsis the Scythian, and other ingenious
men have conceived, which is attributed to him?
There is absolutely nothing of the kind.
But, if Homer never did any public service, was he privately a guide or
teacher of any? Had he in his lifetime friends who loved to associate with
him, and who handed down to posterity an Homeric way of life, such as was
established by Pythagoras who was so greatly beloved for his wisdom, and
whose followers are to this day quite celebrated for the order which was
named after him?
Nothing of the kind is recorded of him. For surely, Socrates, Creophylus,
the companion of Homer, that child of flesh, whose name always makes us
laugh, might be more justly ridiculed for his stupidity, if, as is said,
Homer was greatly neglected by him and others in his own day when he was
Yes, I replied, that is the tradition. But can you imagine, Glaucon, that
if Homer had really been able to educate and improve mankind--if he had
possessed knowledge and not been a mere imitator--can you imagine, I say,
that he would not have had many followers, and been honoured and loved by
them? Protagoras of Abdera, and Prodicus of Ceos, and a host of others,
have only to whisper to their contemporaries: 'You will never be able to
manage either your own house or your own State until you appoint us to be
your ministers of education'--and this ingenious device of theirs has such
an effect in making men love them that their companions all but carry them
about on their shoulders. And is it conceivable that the contemporaries of
Homer, or again of Hesiod, would have allowed either of them to go about as
rhapsodists, if they had really been able to make mankind virtuous? Would
they not have been as unwilling to part with them as with gold, and have
compelled them to stay at home with them? Or, if the master would not
stay, then the disciples would have followed him about everywhere, until
they had got education enough?
Yes, Socrates, that, I think, is quite true.
Then must we not infer that all these poetical individuals, beginning with
Homer, are only imitators; they copy images of virtue and the like, but the
truth they never reach? The poet is like a painter who, as we have already
observed, will make a likeness of a cobbler though he understands nothing
of cobbling; and his picture is good enough for those who know no more than
he does, and judge only by colours and figures.
In like manner the poet with his words and phrases may be said to lay on
the colours of the several arts, himself understanding their nature only
enough to imitate them; and other people, who are as ignorant as he is, and
judge only from his words, imagine that if he speaks of cobbling, or of
military tactics, or of anything else, in metre and harmony and rhythm, he
speaks very well--such is the sweet influence which melody and rhythm by
nature have. And I think that you must have observed again and again what
a poor appearance the tales of poets make when stripped of the colours
which music puts upon them, and recited in simple prose.
Yes, he said.
They are like faces which were never really beautiful, but only blooming;
and now the bloom of youth has passed away from them?
Here is another point: The imitator or maker of the image knows nothing of
true existence; he knows appearances only. Am I not right?
Then let us have a clear understanding, and not be satisfied with half an
Of the painter we say that he will paint reins, and he will paint a bit?
And the worker in leather and brass will make them?
But does the painter know the right form of the bit and reins? Nay, hardly
even the workers in brass and leather who make them; only the horseman who
knows how to use them--he knows their right form.
And may we not say the same of all things?
That there are three arts which are concerned with all things: one which
uses, another which makes, a third which imitates them?
And the excellence or beauty or truth of every structure, animate or
inanimate, and of every action of man, is relative to the use for which
nature or the artist has intended them.
Then the user of them must have the greatest experience of them, and he
must indicate to the maker the good or bad qualities which develop
themselves in use; for example, the flute-player will tell the flute-maker
which of his flutes is satisfactory to the performer; he will tell him how
he ought to make them, and the other will attend to his instructions?
The one knows and therefore speaks with authority about the goodness and
badness of flutes, while the other, confiding in him, will do what he is
told by him?
The instrument is the same, but about the excellence or badness of it the
maker will only attain to a correct belief; and this he will gain from him
who knows, by talking to him and being compelled to hear what he has to
say, whereas the user will have knowledge?
But will the imitator have either? Will he know from use whether or no his
drawing is correct or beautiful? or will he have right opinion from being
compelled to associate with another who knows and gives him instructions
about what he should draw?
Then he will no more have true opinion than he will have knowledge about
the goodness or badness of his imitations?
I suppose not.
The imitative artist will be in a brilliant state of intelligence about his
Nay, very much the reverse.
And still he will go on imitating without knowing what makes a thing good
or bad, and may be expected therefore to imitate only that which appears to
be good to the ignorant multitude?
Thus far then we are pretty well agreed that the imitator has no knowledge
worth mentioning of what he imitates. Imitation is only a kind of play or
sport, and the tragic poets, whether they write in Iambic or in Heroic
verse, are imitators in the highest degree?
And now tell me, I conjure you, has not imitation been shown by us to be
concerned with that which is thrice removed from the truth?
And what is the faculty in man to which imitation is addressed?
What do you mean?
I will explain: The body which is large when seen near, appears small when
seen at a distance?
And the same object appears straight when looked at out of the water, and
crooked when in the water; and the concave becomes convex, owing to the
illusion about colours to which the sight is liable. Thus every sort of
confusion is revealed within us; and this is that weakness of the human
mind on which the art of conjuring and of deceiving by light and shadow and
other ingenious devices imposes, having an effect upon us like magic.
And the arts of measuring and numbering and weighing come to the rescue of
the human understanding--there is the beauty of them--and the apparent
greater or less, or more or heavier, no longer have the mastery over us,
but give way before calculation and measure and weight?
And this, surely, must be the work of the calculating and rational
principle in the soul?
To be sure.
And when this principle measures and certifies that some things are equal,
or that some are greater or less than others, there occurs an apparent
But were we not saying that such a contradiction is impossible--the same
faculty cannot have contrary opinions at the same time about the same
Then that part of the soul which has an opinion contrary to measure is not
the same with that which has an opinion in accordance with measure?
And the better part of the soul is likely to be that which trusts to
measure and calculation?
And that which is opposed to them is one of the inferior principles of the
This was the conclusion at which I was seeking to arrive when I said that
painting or drawing, and imitation in general, when doing their own proper
work, are far removed from truth, and the companions and friends and
associates of a principle within us which is equally removed from reason,
and that they have no true or healthy aim.
The imitative art is an inferior who marries an inferior, and has inferior
And is this confined to the sight only, or does it extend to the hearing
also, relating in fact to what we term poetry?
Probably the same would be true of poetry.
Do not rely, I said, on a probability derived from the analogy of painting;
but let us examine further and see whether the faculty with which poetical
imitation is concerned is good or bad.
By all means.
We may state the question thus:--Imitation imitates the actions of men,
whether voluntary or involuntary, on which, as they imagine, a good or bad
result has ensued, and they rejoice or sorrow accordingly. Is there
No, there is nothing else.
But in all this variety of circumstances is the man at unity with himself--
or rather, as in the instance of sight there was confusion and opposition
in his opinions about the same things, so here also is there not strife and
inconsistency in his life? Though I need hardly raise the question again,
for I remember that all this has been already admitted; and the soul has
been acknowledged by us to be full of these and ten thousand similar
oppositions occurring at the same moment?
And we were right, he said.
Yes, I said, thus far we were right; but there was an omission which must
now be supplied.
What was the omission?
Were we not saying that a good man, who has the misfortune to lose his son
or anything else which is most dear to him, will bear the loss with more
equanimity than another?
But will he have no sorrow, or shall we say that although he cannot help
sorrowing, he will moderate his sorrow?
The latter, he said, is the truer statement.
Tell me: will he be more likely to struggle and hold out against his
sorrow when he is seen by his equals, or when he is alone?
It will make a great difference whether he is seen or not.
When he is by himself he will not mind saying or doing many things which he
would be ashamed of any one hearing or seeing him do?
There is a principle of law and reason in him which bids him resist, as
well as a feeling of his misfortune which is forcing him to indulge his
But when a man is drawn in two opposite directions, to and from the same
object, this, as we affirm, necessarily implies two distinct principles in
One of them is ready to follow the guidance of the law?
How do you mean?
The law would say that to be patient under suffering is best, and that we
should not give way to impatience, as there is no knowing whether such
things are good or evil; and nothing is gained by impatience; also, because
no human thing is of serious importance, and grief stands in the way of
that which at the moment is most required.
What is most required? he asked.
That we should take counsel about what has happened, and when the dice have
been thrown order our affairs in the way which reason deems best; not, like
children who have had a fall, keeping hold of the part struck and wasting
time in setting up a howl, but always accustoming the soul forthwith to
apply a remedy, raising up that which is sickly and fallen, banishing the
cry of sorrow by the healing art.
Yes, he said, that is the true way of meeting the attacks of fortune.
Yes, I said; and the higher principle is ready to follow this suggestion of
And the other principle, which inclines us to recollection of our troubles
and to lamentation, and can never have enough of them, we may call
irrational, useless, and cowardly?
Indeed, we may.
And does not the latter--I mean the rebellious principle--furnish a great
variety of materials for imitation? Whereas the wise and calm temperament,
being always nearly equable, is not easy to imitate or to appreciate when
imitated, especially at a public festival when a promiscuous crowd is
assembled in a theatre. For the feeling represented is one to which they
Then the imitative poet who aims at being popular is not by nature made,
nor is his art intended, to please or to affect the rational principle in
the soul; but he will prefer the passionate and fitful temper, which is
And now we may fairly take him and place him by the side of the painter,
for he is like him in two ways: first, inasmuch as his creations have an
inferior degree of truth--in this, I say, he is like him; and he is also
like him in being concerned with an inferior part of the soul; and
therefore we shall be right in refusing to admit him into a well-ordered
State, because he awakens and nourishes and strengthens the feelings and
impairs the reason. As in a city when the evil are permitted to have
authority and the good are put out of the way, so in the soul of man, as we
maintain, the imitative poet implants an evil constitution, for he indulges
the irrational nature which has no discernment of greater and less, but
thinks the same thing at one time great and at another small--he is a
manufacturer of images and is very far removed from the truth.
But we have not yet brought forward the heaviest count in our accusation:--
the power which poetry has of harming even the good (and there are very few
who are not harmed), is surely an awful thing?
Yes, certainly, if the effect is what you say.
Hear and judge: The best of us, as I conceive, when we listen to a passage
of Homer, or one of the tragedians, in which he represents some pitiful
hero who is drawling out his sorrows in a long oration, or weeping, and
smiting his breast--the best of us, you know, delight in giving way to
sympathy, and are in raptures at the excellence of the poet who stirs our
Yes, of course I know.
But when any sorrow of our own happens to us, then you may observe that we
pride ourselves on the opposite quality--we would fain be quiet and
patient; this is the manly part, and the other which delighted us in the
recitation is now deemed to be the part of a woman.
Very true, he said.
Now can we be right in praising and admiring another who is doing that
which any one of us would abominate and be ashamed of in his own person?
No, he said, that is certainly not reasonable.
Nay, I said, quite reasonable from one point of view.
What point of view?
If you consider, I said, that when in misfortune we feel a natural hunger
and desire to relieve our sorrow by weeping and lamentation, and that this
feeling which is kept under control in our own calamities is satisfied and
delighted by the poets;--the better nature in each of us, not having been
sufficiently trained by reason or habit, allows the sympathetic element to
break loose because the sorrow is another's; and the spectator fancies that
there can be no disgrace to himself in praising and pitying any one who
comes telling him what a good man he is, and making a fuss about his
troubles; he thinks that the pleasure is a gain, and why should he be
supercilious and lose this and the poem too? Few persons ever reflect, as
I should imagine, that from the evil of other men something of evil is
communicated to themselves. And so the feeling of sorrow which has
gathered strength at the sight of the misfortunes of others is with
difficulty repressed in our own.
How very true!
And does not the same hold also of the ridiculous? There are jests which
you would be ashamed to make yourself, and yet on the comic stage, or
indeed in private, when you hear them, you are greatly amused by them, and
are not at all disgusted at their unseemliness;--the case of pity is
repeated;--there is a principle in human nature which is disposed to raise
a laugh, and this which you once restrained by reason, because you were
afraid of being thought a buffoon, is now let out again; and having
stimulated the risible faculty at the theatre, you are betrayed
unconsciously to yourself into playing the comic poet at home.
Quite true, he said.
And the same may be said of lust and anger and all the other affections, of
desire and pain and pleasure, which are held to be inseparable from every
action--in all of them poetry feeds and waters the passions instead of
drying them up; she lets them rule, although they ought to be controlled,
if mankind are ever to increase in happiness and virtue.
I cannot deny it.
Therefore, Glaucon, I said, whenever you meet with any of the eulogists of
Homer declaring that he has been the educator of Hellas, and that he is
profitable for education and for the ordering of human things, and that you
should take him up again and again and get to know him and regulate your
whole life according to him, we may love and honour those who say these
things--they are excellent people, as far as their lights extend; and we
are ready to acknowledge that Homer is the greatest of poets and first of
tragedy writers; but we must remain firm in our conviction that hymns to
the gods and praises of famous men are the only poetry which ought to be
admitted into our State. For if you go beyond this and allow the honeyed
muse to enter, either in epic or lyric verse, not law and the reason of
mankind, which by common consent have ever been deemed best, but pleasure
and pain will be the rulers in our State.
That is most true, he said.
And now since we have reverted to the subject of poetry, let this our
defence serve to show the reasonableness of our former judgment in sending
away out of our State an art having the tendencies which we have described;
for reason constrained us. But that she may not impute to us any harshness
or want of politeness, let us tell her that there is an ancient quarrel
between philosophy and poetry; of which there are many proofs, such as the
saying of 'the yelping hound howling at her lord,' or of one 'mighty in the
vain talk of fools,' and 'the mob of sages circumventing Zeus,' and the
'subtle thinkers who are beggars after all'; and there are innumerable
other signs of ancient enmity between them. Notwithstanding this, let us
assure our sweet friend and the sister arts of imitation, that if she will
only prove her title to exist in a well-ordered State we shall be delighted
to receive her--we are very conscious of her charms; but we may not on that
account betray the truth. I dare say, Glaucon, that you are as much
charmed by her as I am, especially when she appears in Homer?
Yes, indeed, I am greatly charmed.
Shall I propose, then, that she be allowed to return from exile, but upon
this condition only--that she make a defence of herself in lyrical or some
And we may further grant to those of her defenders who are lovers of poetry
and yet not poets the permission to speak in prose on her behalf: let them
show not only that she is pleasant but also useful to States and to human
life, and we will listen in a kindly spirit; for if this can be proved we
shall surely be the gainers--I mean, if there is a use in poetry as well as
Certainly, he said, we shall be the gainers.
If her defence fails, then, my dear friend, like other persons who are
enamoured of something, but put a restraint upon themselves when they think
their desires are opposed to their interests, so too must we after the
manner of lovers give her up, though not without a struggle. We too are
inspired by that love of poetry which the education of noble States has
implanted in us, and therefore we would have her appear at her best and
truest; but so long as she is unable to make good her defence, this
argument of ours shall be a charm to us, which we will repeat to ourselves
while we listen to her strains; that we may not fall away into the childish
love of her which captivates the many. At all events we are well aware
that poetry being such as we have described is not to be regarded seriously
as attaining to the truth; and he who listens to her, fearing for the
safety of the city which is within him, should be on his guard against her
seductions and make our words his law.
Yes, he said, I quite agree with you.
Yes, I said, my dear Glaucon, for great is the issue at stake, greater than
appears, whether a man is to be good or bad. And what will any one be
profited if under the influence of honour or money or power, aye, or under
the excitement of poetry, he neglect justice and virtue?
Yes, he said; I have been convinced by the argument, as I believe that any
one else would have been.
And yet no mention has been made of the greatest prizes and rewards which
What, are there any greater still? If there are, they must be of an
Why, I said, what was ever great in a short time? The whole period of
three score years and ten is surely but a little thing in comparison with
Say rather 'nothing,' he replied.
And should an immortal being seriously think of this little space rather
than of the whole?
Of the whole, certainly. But why do you ask?
Are you not aware, I said, that the soul of man is immortal and
He looked at me in astonishment, and said: No, by heaven: And are you
really prepared to maintain this?
Yes, I said, I ought to be, and you too--there is no difficulty in proving
I see a great difficulty; but I should like to hear you state this argument
of which you make so light.
I am attending.
There is a thing which you call good and another which you call evil?
Yes, he replied.
Would you agree with me in thinking that the corrupting and destroying
element is the evil, and the saving and improving element the good?
And you admit that every thing has a good and also an evil; as ophthalmia
is the evil of the eyes and disease of the whole body; as mildew is of
corn, and rot of timber, or rust of copper and iron: in everything, or in
almost everything, there is an inherent evil and disease?
Yes, he said.
And anything which is infected by any of these evils is made evil, and at
last wholly dissolves and dies?
The vice and evil which is inherent in each is the destruction of each; and
if this does not destroy them there is nothing else that will; for good
certainly will not destroy them, nor again, that which is neither good nor
If, then, we find any nature which having this inherent corruption cannot
be dissolved or destroyed, we may be certain that of such a nature there is
That may be assumed.
Well, I said, and is there no evil which corrupts the soul?
Yes, he said, there are all the evils which we were just now passing in
review: unrighteousness, intemperance, cowardice, ignorance.
But does any of these dissolve or destroy her?--and here do not let us fall
into the error of supposing that the unjust and foolish man, when he is
detected, perishes through his own injustice, which is an evil of the soul.
Take the analogy of the body: The evil of the body is a disease which
wastes and reduces and annihilates the body; and all the things of which we
were just now speaking come to annihilation through their own corruption
attaching to them and inhering in them and so destroying them. Is not this
Consider the soul in like manner. Does the injustice or other evil which
exists in the soul waste and consume her? Do they by attaching to the soul
and inhering in her at last bring her to death, and so separate her from
And yet, I said, it is unreasonable to suppose that anything can perish
from without through affection of external evil which could not be
destroyed from within by a corruption of its own?
It is, he replied.
Consider, I said, Glaucon, that even the badness of food, whether
staleness, decomposition, or any other bad quality, when confined to the
actual food, is not supposed to destroy the body; although, if the badness
of food communicates corruption to the body, then we should say that the
body has been destroyed by a corruption of itself, which is disease,
brought on by this; but that the body, being one thing, can be destroyed by
the badness of food, which is another, and which does not engender any
natural infection--this we shall absolutely deny?
And, on the same principle, unless some bodily evil can produce an evil of
the soul, we must not suppose that the soul, which is one thing, can be
dissolved by any merely external evil which belongs to another?
Yes, he said, there is reason in that.
Either, then, let us refute this conclusion, or, while it remains
unrefuted, let us never say that fever, or any other disease, or the knife
put to the throat, or even the cutting up of the whole body into the
minutest pieces, can destroy the soul, until she herself is proved to
become more unholy or unrighteous in consequence of these things being done
to the body; but that the soul, or anything else if not destroyed by an
internal evil, can be destroyed by an external one, is not to be affirmed
by any man.
And surely, he replied, no one will ever prove that the souls of men become
more unjust in consequence of death.
But if some one who would rather not admit the immortality of the soul
boldly denies this, and says that the dying do really become more evil and
unrighteous, then, if the speaker is right, I suppose that injustice, like
disease, must be assumed to be fatal to the unjust, and that those who take
this disorder die by the natural inherent power of destruction which evil
has, and which kills them sooner or later, but in quite another way from
that in which, at present, the wicked receive death at the hands of others
as the penalty of their deeds?
Nay, he said, in that case injustice, if fatal to the unjust, will not be
so very terrible to him, for he will be delivered from evil. But I rather
suspect the opposite to be the truth, and that injustice which, if it have
the power, will murder others, keeps the murderer alive--aye, and well
awake too; so far removed is her dwelling-place from being a house of
True, I said; if the inherent natural vice or evil of the soul is unable to
kill or destroy her, hardly will that which is appointed to be the
destruction of some other body, destroy a soul or anything else except that
of which it was appointed to be the destruction.
Yes, that can hardly be.
But the soul which cannot be destroyed by an evil, whether inherent or
external, must exist for ever, and if existing for ever, must be immortal?
That is the conclusion, I said; and, if a true conclusion, then the souls
must always be the same, for if none be destroyed they will not diminish in
number. Neither will they increase, for the increase of the immortal
natures must come from something mortal, and all things would thus end in
But this we cannot believe--reason will not allow us--any more than we can
believe the soul, in her truest nature, to be full of variety and
difference and dissimilarity.
What do you mean? he said.
The soul, I said, being, as is now proven, immortal, must be the fairest of
compositions and cannot be compounded of many elements?
Her immortality is demonstrated by the previous argument, and there are
many other proofs; but to see her as she really is, not as we now behold
her, marred by communion with the body and other miseries, you must
contemplate her with the eye of reason, in her original purity; and then
her beauty will be revealed, and justice and injustice and all the things
which we have described will be manifested more clearly. Thus far, we have
spoken the truth concerning her as she appears at present, but we must
remember also that we have seen her only in a condition which may be
compared to that of the sea-god Glaucus, whose original image can hardly be
discerned because his natural members are broken off and crushed and
damaged by the waves in all sorts of ways, and incrustations have grown
over them of seaweed and shells and stones, so that he is more like some
monster than he is to his own natural form. And the soul which we behold
is in a similar condition, disfigured by ten thousand ills. But not there,
Glaucon, not there must we look.
At her love of wisdom. Let us see whom she affects, and what society and
converse she seeks in virtue of her near kindred with the immortal and
eternal and divine; also how different she would become if wholly following
this superior principle, and borne by a divine impulse out of the ocean in
which she now is, and disengaged from the stones and shells and things of
earth and rock which in wild variety spring up around her because she feeds
upon earth, and is overgrown by the good things of this life as they are
termed: then you would see her as she is, and know whether she have one
shape only or many, or what her nature is. Of her affections and of the
forms which she takes in this present life I think that we have now said
True, he replied.
And thus, I said, we have fulfilled the conditions of the argument; we have
not introduced the rewards and glories of justice, which, as you were
saying, are to be found in Homer and Hesiod; but justice in her own nature
has been shown to be best for the soul in her own nature. Let a man do
what is just, whether he have the ring of Gyges or not, and even if in
addition to the ring of Gyges he put on the helmet of Hades.
And now, Glaucon, there will be no harm in further enumerating how many and
how great are the rewards which justice and the other virtues procure to
the soul from gods and men, both in life and after death.
Certainly not, he said.
Will you repay me, then, what you borrowed in the argument?
What did I borrow?
The assumption that the just man should appear unjust and the unjust just:
for you were of opinion that even if the true state of the case could not
possibly escape the eyes of gods and men, still this admission ought to be
made for the sake of the argument, in order that pure justice might be
weighed against pure injustice. Do you remember?
I should be much to blame if I had forgotten.
Then, as the cause is decided, I demand on behalf of justice that the
estimation in which she is held by gods and men and which we acknowledge to
be her due should now be restored to her by us; since she has been shown to
confer reality, and not to deceive those who truly possess her, let what
has been taken from her be given back, that so she may win that palm of
appearance which is hers also, and which she gives to her own.
The demand, he said, is just.
In the first place, I said--and this is the first thing which you will have
to give back--the nature both of the just and unjust is truly known to the
And if they are both known to them, one must be the friend and the other
the enemy of the gods, as we admitted from the beginning?
And the friend of the gods may be supposed to receive from them all things
at their best, excepting only such evil as is the necessary consequence of
Then this must be our notion of the just man, that even when he is in
poverty or sickness, or any other seeming misfortune, all things will in
the end work together for good to him in life and death: for the gods have
a care of any one whose desire is to become just and to be like God, as far
as man can attain the divine likeness, by the pursuit of virtue?
Yes, he said; if he is like God he will surely not be neglected by him.
And of the unjust may not the opposite be supposed?
Such, then, are the palms of victory which the gods give the just?
That is my conviction.
And what do they receive of men? Look at things as they really are, and
you will see that the clever unjust are in the case of runners, who run
well from the starting-place to the goal but not back again from the goal:
they go off at a great pace, but in the end only look foolish, slinking
away with their ears draggling on their shoulders, and without a crown; but
the true runner comes to the finish and receives the prize and is crowned.
And this is the way with the just; he who endures to the end of every
action and occasion of his entire life has a good report and carries off
the prize which men have to bestow.
And now you must allow me to repeat of the just the blessings which you
were attributing to the fortunate unjust. I shall say of them, what you
were saying of the others, that as they grow older, they become rulers in
their own city if they care to be; they marry whom they like and give in
marriage to whom they will; all that you said of the others I now say of
these. And, on the other hand, of the unjust I say that the greater
number, even though they escape in their youth, are found out at last and
look foolish at the end of their course, and when they come to be old and
miserable are flouted alike by stranger and citizen; they are beaten and
then come those things unfit for ears polite, as you truly term them; they
will be racked and have their eyes burned out, as you were saying. And you
may suppose that I have repeated the remainder of your tale of horrors.
But will you let me assume, without reciting them, that these things are
Certainly, he said, what you say is true.
These, then, are the prizes and rewards and gifts which are bestowed upon
the just by gods and men in this present life, in addition to the other
good things which justice of herself provides.
Yes, he said; and they are fair and lasting.
And yet, I said, all these are as nothing either in number or greatness in
comparison with those other recompenses which await both just and unjust
after death. And you ought to hear them, and then both just and unjust
will have received from us a full payment of the debt which the argument
owes to them.
Speak, he said; there are few things which I would more gladly hear.
Well, I said, I will tell you a tale; not one of the tales which Odysseus
tells to the hero Alcinous, yet this too is a tale of a hero, Er the son of
Armenius, a Pamphylian by birth. He was slain in battle, and ten days
afterwards, when the bodies of the dead were taken up already in a state of
corruption, his body was found unaffected by decay, and carried away home
to be buried. And on the twelfth day, as he was lying on the funeral pile,
he returned to life and told them what he had seen in the other world. He
said that when his soul left the body he went on a journey with a great
company, and that they came to a mysterious place at which there were two
openings in the earth; they were near together, and over against them were
two other openings in the heaven above. In the intermediate space there
were judges seated, who commanded the just, after they had given judgment
on them and had bound their sentences in front of them, to ascend by the
heavenly way on the right hand; and in like manner the unjust were bidden
by them to descend by the lower way on the left hand; these also bore the
symbols of their deeds, but fastened on their backs. He drew near, and
they told him that he was to be the messenger who would carry the report of
the other world to men, and they bade him hear and see all that was to be
heard and seen in that place. Then he beheld and saw on one side the souls
departing at either opening of heaven and earth when sentence had been
given on them; and at the two other openings other souls, some ascending
out of the earth dusty and worn with travel, some descending out of heaven
clean and bright. And arriving ever and anon they seemed to have come from
a long journey, and they went forth with gladness into the meadow, where
they encamped as at a festival; and those who knew one another embraced and
conversed, the souls which came from earth curiously enquiring about the
things above, and the souls which came from heaven about the things
beneath. And they told one another of what had happened by the way, those
from below weeping and sorrowing at the remembrance of the things which
they had endured and seen in their journey beneath the earth (now the
journey lasted a thousand years), while those from above were describing
heavenly delights and visions of inconceivable beauty. The story, Glaucon,
would take too long to tell; but the sum was this:--He said that for every
wrong which they had done to any one they suffered tenfold; or once in a
hundred years--such being reckoned to be the length of man's life, and the
penalty being thus paid ten times in a thousand years. If, for example,
there were any who had been the cause of many deaths, or had betrayed or
enslaved cities or armies, or been guilty of any other evil behaviour, for
each and all of their offences they received punishment ten times over, and
the rewards of beneficence and justice and holiness were in the same
proportion. I need hardly repeat what he said concerning young children
dying almost as soon as they were born. Of piety and impiety to gods and
parents, and of murderers, there were retributions other and greater far
which he described. He mentioned that he was present when one of the
spirits asked another, 'Where is Ardiaeus the Great?' (Now this Ardiaeus
lived a thousand years before the time of Er: he had been the tyrant of
some city of Pamphylia, and had murdered his aged father and his elder
brother, and was said to have committed many other abominable crimes.) The
answer of the other spirit was: 'He comes not hither and will never come.
And this,' said he, 'was one of the dreadful sights which we ourselves
witnessed. We were at the mouth of the cavern, and, having completed all
our experiences, were about to reascend, when of a sudden Ardiaeus appeared
and several others, most of whom were tyrants; and there were also besides
the tyrants private individuals who had been great criminals: they were
just, as they fancied, about to return into the upper world, but the mouth,
instead of admitting them, gave a roar, whenever any of these incurable
sinners or some one who had not been sufficiently punished tried to ascend;
and then wild men of fiery aspect, who were standing by and heard the
sound, seized and carried them off; and Ardiaeus and others they bound head
and foot and hand, and threw them down and flayed them with scourges, and
dragged them along the road at the side, carding them on thorns like wool,
and declaring to the passers-by what were their crimes, and that they were
being taken away to be cast into hell.' And of all the many terrors which
they had endured, he said that there was none like the terror which each of
them felt at that moment, lest they should hear the voice; and when there
was silence, one by one they ascended with exceeding joy. These, said Er,
were the penalties and retributions, and there were blessings as great.
Now when the spirits which were in the meadow had tarried seven days, on
the eighth they were obliged to proceed on their journey, and, on the
fourth day after, he said that they came to a place where they could see
from above a line of light, straight as a column, extending right through
the whole heaven and through the earth, in colour resembling the rainbow,
only brighter and purer; another day's journey brought them to the place,
and there, in the midst of the light, they saw the ends of the chains of
heaven let down from above: for this light is the belt of heaven, and
holds together the circle of the universe, like the under-girders of a
trireme. From these ends is extended the spindle of Necessity, on which
all the revolutions turn. The shaft and hook of this spindle are made of
steel, and the whorl is made partly of steel and also partly of other
materials. Now the whorl is in form like the whorl used on earth; and the
description of it implied that there is one large hollow whorl which is
quite scooped out, and into this is fitted another lesser one, and another,
and another, and four others, making eight in all, like vessels which fit
into one another; the whorls show their edges on the upper side, and on
their lower side all together form one continuous whorl. This is pierced
by the spindle, which is driven home through the centre of the eighth. The
first and outermost whorl has the rim broadest, and the seven inner whorls
are narrower, in the following proportions--the sixth is next to the first
in size, the fourth next to the sixth; then comes the eighth; the seventh
is fifth, the fifth is sixth, the third is seventh, last and eighth comes
the second. The largest (or fixed stars) is spangled, and the seventh (or
sun) is brightest; the eighth (or moon) coloured by the reflected light of
the seventh; the second and fifth (Saturn and Mercury) are in colour like
one another, and yellower than the preceding; the third (Venus) has the
whitest light; the fourth (Mars) is reddish; the sixth (Jupiter) is in
whiteness second. Now the whole spindle has the same motion; but, as the
whole revolves in one direction, the seven inner circles move slowly in the
other, and of these the swiftest is the eighth; next in swiftness are the
seventh, sixth, and fifth, which move together; third in swiftness appeared
to move according to the law of this reversed motion the fourth; the third
appeared fourth and the second fifth. The spindle turns on the knees of
Necessity; and on the upper surface of each circle is a siren, who goes
round with them, hymning a single tone or note. The eight together form
one harmony; and round about, at equal intervals, there is another band,
three in number, each sitting upon her throne: these are the Fates,
daughters of Necessity, who are clothed in white robes and have chaplets
upon their heads, Lachesis and Clotho and Atropos, who accompany with their
voices the harmony of the sirens--Lachesis singing of the past, Clotho of
the present, Atropos of the future; Clotho from time to time assisting with
a touch of her right hand the revolution of the outer circle of the whorl
or spindle, and Atropos with her left hand touching and guiding the inner
ones, and Lachesis laying hold of either in turn, first with one hand and
then with the other.
When Er and the spirits arrived, their duty was to go at once to Lachesis;
but first of all there came a prophet who arranged them in order; then he
took from the knees of Lachesis lots and samples of lives, and having
mounted a high pulpit, spoke as follows: 'Hear the word of Lachesis, the
daughter of Necessity. Mortal souls, behold a new cycle of life and
mortality. Your genius will not be allotted to you, but you will choose
your genius; and let him who draws the first lot have the first choice, and
the life which he chooses shall be his destiny. Virtue is free, and as a
man honours or dishonours her he will have more or less of her; the
responsibility is with the chooser--God is justified.' When the
Interpreter had thus spoken he scattered lots indifferently among them all,
and each of them took up the lot which fell near him, all but Er himself
(he was not allowed), and each as he took his lot perceived the number
which he had obtained. Then the Interpreter placed on the ground before
them the samples of lives; and there were many more lives than the souls
present, and they were of all sorts. There were lives of every animal and
of man in every condition. And there were tyrannies among them, some
lasting out the tyrant's life, others which broke off in the middle and
came to an end in poverty and exile and beggary; and there were lives of
famous men, some who were famous for their form and beauty as well as for
their strength and success in games, or, again, for their birth and the
qualities of their ancestors; and some who were the reverse of famous for
the opposite qualities. And of women likewise; there was not, however, any
definite character in them, because the soul, when choosing a new life,
must of necessity become different. But there was every other quality, and
the all mingled with one another, and also with elements of wealth and
poverty, and disease and health; and there were mean states also. And
here, my dear Glaucon, is the supreme peril of our human state; and
therefore the utmost care should be taken. Let each one of us leave every
other kind of knowledge and seek and follow one thing only, if peradventure
he may be able to learn and may find some one who will make him able to
learn and discern between good and evil, and so to choose always and
everywhere the better life as he has opportunity. He should consider the
bearing of all these things which have been mentioned severally and
collectively upon virtue; he should know what the effect of beauty is when
combined with poverty or wealth in a particular soul, and what are the good
and evil consequences of noble and humble birth, of private and public
station, of strength and weakness, of cleverness and dullness, and of all
the natural and acquired gifts of the soul, and the operation of them when
conjoined; he will then look at the nature of the soul, and from the
consideration of all these qualities he will be able to determine which is
the better and which is the worse; and so he will choose, giving the name
of evil to the life which will make his soul more unjust, and good to the
life which will make his soul more just; all else he will disregard. For
we have seen and know that this is the best choice both in life and after
death. A man must take with him into the world below an adamantine faith
in truth and right, that there too he may be undazzled by the desire of
wealth or the other allurements of evil, lest, coming upon tyrannies and
similar villainies, he do irremediable wrongs to others and suffer yet
worse himself; but let him know how to choose the mean and avoid the
extremes on either side, as far as possible, not only in this life but in
all that which is to come. For this is the way of happiness.
And according to the report of the messenger from the other world this was
what the prophet said at the time: 'Even for the last comer, if he chooses
wisely and will live diligently, there is appointed a happy and not
undesirable existence. Let not him who chooses first be careless, and let
not the last despair.' And when he had spoken, he who had the first choice
came forward and in a moment chose the greatest tyranny; his mind having
been darkened by folly and sensuality, he had not thought out the whole
matter before he chose, and did not at first sight perceive that he was
fated, among other evils, to devour his own children. But when he had time
to reflect, and saw what was in the lot, he began to beat his breast and
lament over his choice, forgetting the proclamation of the prophet; for,
instead of throwing the blame of his misfortune on himself, he accused
chance and the gods, and everything rather than himself. Now he was one of
those who came from heaven, and in a former life had dwelt in a
well-ordered State, but his virtue was a matter of habit only, and he had
no philosophy. And it was true of others who were similarly overtaken,
that the greater number of them came from heaven and therefore they had
never been schooled by trial, whereas the pilgrims who came from earth
having themselves suffered and seen others suffer, were not in a hurry to
choose. And owing to this inexperience of theirs, and also because the lot
was a chance, many of the souls exchanged a good destiny for an evil or an
evil for a good. For if a man had always on his arrival in this world
dedicated himself from the first to sound philosophy, and had been
moderately fortunate in the number of the lot, he might, as the messenger
reported, be happy here, and also his journey to another life and return to
this, instead of being rough and underground, would be smooth and heavenly.
Most curious, he said, was the spectacle--sad and laughable and strange;
for the choice of the souls was in most cases based on their experience of
a previous life. There he saw the soul which had once been Orpheus
choosing the life of a swan out of enmity to the race of women, hating to
be born of a woman because they had been his murderers; he beheld also the
soul of Thamyras choosing the life of a nightingale; birds, on the other
hand, like the swan and other musicians, wanting to be men. The soul which
obtained the twentieth lot chose the life of a lion, and this was the soul
of Ajax the son of Telamon, who would not be a man, remembering the
injustice which was done him in the judgment about the arms. The next was
Agamemnon, who took the life of an eagle, because, like Ajax, he hated
human nature by reason of his sufferings. About the middle came the lot of
Atalanta; she, seeing the great fame of an athlete, was unable to resist
the temptation: and after her there followed the soul of Epeus the son of
Panopeus passing into the nature of a woman cunning in the arts; and far
away among the last who chose, the soul of the jester Thersites was putting
on the form of a monkey. There came also the soul of Odysseus having yet
to make a choice, and his lot happened to be the last of them all. Now the
recollection of former toils had disenchanted him of ambition, and he went
about for a considerable time in search of the life of a private man who
had no cares; he had some difficulty in finding this, which was lying about
and had been neglected by everybody else; and when he saw it, he said that
he would have done the same had his lot been first instead of last, and
that he was delighted to have it. And not only did men pass into animals,
but I must also mention that there were animals tame and wild who changed
into one another and into corresponding human natures--the good into the
gentle and the evil into the savage, in all sorts of combinations.
All the souls had now chosen their lives, and they went in the order of
their choice to Lachesis, who sent with them the genius whom they had
severally chosen, to be the guardian of their lives and the fulfiller of
the choice: this genius led the souls first to Clotho, and drew them
within the revolution of the spindle impelled by her hand, thus ratifying
the destiny of each; and then, when they were fastened to this, carried
them to Atropos, who spun the threads and made them irreversible, whence
without turning round they passed beneath the throne of Necessity; and when
they had all passed, they marched on in a scorching heat to the plain of
Forgetfulness, which was a barren waste destitute of trees and verdure; and
then towards evening they encamped by the river of Unmindfulness, whose
water no vessel can hold; of this they were all obliged to drink a certain
quantity, and those who were not saved by wisdom drank more than was
necessary; and each one as he drank forgot all things. Now after they had
gone to rest, about the middle of the night there was a thunderstorm and
earthquake, and then in an instant they were driven upwards in all manner
of ways to their birth, like stars shooting. He himself was hindered from
drinking the water. But in what manner or by what means he returned to the
body he could not say; only, in the morning, awaking suddenly, he found
himself lying on the pyre.
And thus, Glaucon, the tale has been saved and has not perished, and will
save us if we are obedient to the word spoken; and we shall pass safely
over the river of Forgetfulness and our soul will not be defiled.
Wherefore my counsel is, that we hold fast ever to the heavenly way and
follow after justice and virtue always, considering that the soul is
immortal and able to endure every sort of good and every sort of evil.
Thus shall we live dear to one another and to the gods, both while
remaining here and when, like conquerors in the games who go round to
gather gifts, we receive our reward. And it shall be well with us both in
this life and in the pilgrimage of a thousand years which we have been
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