Ancient History & Civilisation


In reading what follows it is important to have in mind one or two of the main features of Greek education in Plato’s day. It was, normally, a matter for the private individual: and in making it the concern of the state, Plato was doing something that to the Athenian (though not to the Spartan; and Plato was to some extent influenced by Sparta) was an innovation. Education had three principal subdivisions: reading and writing, physical education, and what we may call secondary or literary education. This last consisted mainly in a study of the works of the poets, which were learnt to be recited and, where necessary, sung to the lyre, so that it included a knowledge of music; it corresponded, broadly, to the secondary stage of our own system, and was followed by two years’ military training which began at eighteen. It must also be remembered that the Greeks had no Bible, and what the Bible has been to us as a source of theology and morals, the poets were to the Greeks. And if Plato seems very preoccupied with the moral and theological aspect of the poets it is because it was from them that the ordinary Greek was expected to acquire his moral and theological notions.

1. Secondary or Literary Education

Since the minds of the young are very impressionable we must, if we are to educate them properly, make sure that the poetry on which they are brought up is suitable for the purpose. Most existing poetry is unsuitable: (a) theologically, because it misrepresents God. God is perfectly good, and therefore changeless and incapable of deceit, and must never be otherwise represented.

[376] ‘That then would be our Guardians’ basic character. But how are they to be brought up and educated? If we try to answer this question, I wonder whether it will help us at all in our main (d) inquiry into the origin of justice and injustice in society? We do not want to leave out anything relevant, but we don’t want to embark on too long a discussion.’

To which Adeimantus replied, ‘I expect the discussion will help our inquiry all right.’

‘Then, my dear Adeimantus, we must certainly pursue the question,’ I rejoined, ‘even though it proves a long business.’

‘We must.’

‘So let us tell the tale of the education of our imaginary Guardians as if we had all the leisure of the traditional storyteller.’

(e) ‘Let us by all means.’

‘What kind of education shall we give them then? We shall find it difficult to improve on the time-honoured distinction between the physical training we give to the body and the education1 we give to the mind and character.’


‘And we shall begin by educating mind and character, shall we not?’

‘Of course.’

‘In this education you would include stories, would you not?’


377 (a) ‘These are of two kinds, true stories and fiction.2 Our education must use both, and start with fiction.’

‘I don’t know what you mean.’

‘But you know that we begin by telling children stories. These are, in general, fiction, though they contain some truth. And we tell children stories before we start them on physical training.’

‘That is so.’

‘That is what I meant by saying that we must start to educate the mind before training the body.’

‘You are right,’ he said.

‘And the first step, as you know, is always what matters most,3 particularly when we are dealing with those who are young and tender. That is the time when they are easily moulded and (b) when any impression we choose to make leaves a permanent mark.’

‘That is certainly true.’

‘Shall we therefore readily allow our children to listen to any stories made up by anyone, and to form opinions that are for the most part the opposite of those we think they should have when they grow up?’

‘We certainly shall not.’

‘Then it seems that our first business is to supervise the production of stories, and choose only those we think suitable, and (c) reject the rest. We shall persuade mothers and nurses to tell our chosen stories to their children, and by means of them to mould their minds and characters which are more important than their bodies.4 The greater part of the stories current today we shall have to reject.’

‘Which are you thinking of?’

‘We can take some of the major legends as typical. For all, whether major or minor, should be cast in the same mould and (d) have the same effect. Do you agree?’

‘Yes: but I’m not sure which you refer to as major.’

‘The stories in Homer and Hesiod and the poets. For it is the poets who have always made up fictions and stories to tell to men.’

‘What sort of stories do you mean and what fault do you find in them?’

‘The worst fault possible,’ I replied, ‘especially if the fiction is an ugly one.’

‘And what is that?’

‘Misrepresenting the nature of gods and heroes, like a portrait (e) painter whose portraits bear no resemblance to their originals.’

‘That is a fault which certainly deserves censure. But give me more details.’

‘Well, on the most important of subjects, there is first and foremost the foul story about Ouranos5 and the things Hesiod 378 (a) says he did, and the revenge Cronos took on him. While the story of what Cronos did, and what he suffered at the hands of his son, is not fit as it is to be lightly repeated to the young and foolish, even if it were true; it would be best to say nothing about it, or if it must be told, tell it to a select few under oath of secrecy, at a rite which required, to restrict it still further, the sacrifice not of a mere pig but of something large and difficult to get.’

‘These certainly are awkward stories.’

(b) ‘And they shall not be repeated in our state, Adeimantus,’ I said. ‘Nor shall any young audience be told that anyone who commits horrible crimes, or punishes his father unmercifully, is doing nothing out of the ordinary but merely what the first and greatest of the gods have done before.’

‘I entirely agree,’ said Adeimantus, ‘that these stories are unsuitable.’

‘Nor can we permit stories of wars and plots and battles (c) among the gods; they are quite untrue, and if we want our prospective guardians to believe that quarrelsomeness is one of the worst of evils, we must certainly not let them be told the story of the Battle of the Giants or embroider it on robes,6 or tell them other tales about many and various quarrels between gods and heroes and their friends and relations. On the contrary, if we are to persuade them that no citizen has ever quarrelled with any other, because it is sinful, our old men and women (d) must tell children stories with this end in view from the first, and we must compel our poets to tell them similar stories when they grow up. But we can admit to our state no stories about Hera being tied up by her son,7 or Hephaestus being flung out of Heaven by his father for trying to help his mother when she was getting a beating,8 nor any of Homer’s Battles of the Gods,9 whether their intention is allegorical or not. Children cannot distinguish between what is allegory and what isn’t, and opinions formed at that age are usually difficult to eradicate or change; we should therefore surely regard it as of the utmost(e) importance that the first stories they hear shall aim at encouraging the highest excellence of character.’

‘Your case is a good one,’ he agreed, ‘but if someone wanted details, and asked what stories we were thinking of, what should we say?’

To which I replied, ‘My dear Adeimantus, you and I are not engaged on writing stories but on founding a state. And the founders of a state, though they must know the type of story 379 (a) the poet must produce, and reject any that do not conform to that type, need not write them themselves.’

‘True: but what are the lines on which our poets must work when they deal with the gods?’10

‘Roughly as follows,’ I said. ‘God must surely always be represented as he really is, whether the poet is writing epic, lyric, or tragedy.’

‘He must.’

‘And in reality of course god is good, and he must be so (b) described.’


‘But nothing good is harmful, is it?’11

‘I think not.’

‘Then can anything that is not harmful do harm?’


‘And can what does no harm do evil?’

‘No again.’

‘And can what does no evil be the cause of any evil?’

‘How could it?’

‘Well then; is the good beneficial?’


‘So it must be the cause of well-being.’


‘So the good is not the cause of everything, but only of states of well-being and not of evil.’

‘Most certainly,’ he agreed. (c)

‘Then god, being good, cannot be responsible for everything, as is commonly said, but only for a small part of human life, for the greater part of which he has no responsibility. For we have a far smaller share of good than of evil, and while god must be held to be sole cause of good, we must look for some factors other than god as cause of the evil.’

‘I think that’s very true,’ he said.

‘So we cannot allow Homer or any other poet to make such (d) a stupid mistake about the gods, as when he says that

Zeus has two jars standing on the floor of his palace, full of fates, good in one and evil in the other; and that the man to whom Zeus allots a mixture of both has “varying fortunes sometimes good and sometimes bad”, while the man to whom he allots unmixed evil is “chased by ravening (e)despair over the face of the earth”.12 Nor can we allow references to Zeus as “dispenser of good and evil”.13 And we cannot approve if it is said that Athene and Zeus prompted the breach of solemn treaty and oath by Pandarus, or that the strife and 380 (a) contentions of the gods were due to Themis and Zeus.14 Nor again can we let our children hear from Aeschylus that God implants a fault in man, when he wishes to destroy a house utterly.15

No: we must forbid anyone who writes a play about the sufferings of Niobe (the subject of the play from which these last lines are quoted), or the house of Pelops, or the Trojan war, or any similar topic, to say they are acts of god; or if he does he must produce the sort of interpretation we are now demanding, (b) and say that god’s acts were good and just, and that the sufferers were benefited by being punished. What the poet must not be allowed to say is that those who were punished were made wretched through god’s action. He may refer to the wicked as wretched because they needed punishment, provided he makes it clear that in punishing them god did them good. But if a state (c) is to be run on the right lines, every possible step must be taken to prevent anyone, young or old, either saying or being told, whether in poetry or prose, that god, being good, can cause harm or evil to any man. To say so would be sinful, inexpedient, and inconsistent.’

‘I should approve of a law for this purpose and you have my vote for it,’ he said.

‘Then of our laws laying down the principles which those who write or speak about the gods must follow, one would be this: God is the cause, not of all things, but only of good .’

‘I am quite content with that,’ he said.

‘And what about our second law? Do you think god is a kind (d) of magician who can appear at will in different forms at different times, sometimes turning into them himself and appearing in many different shapes, at other times misleading us into the belief that he has done so? Or is he without deceit and least likely of all things to change his proper form?’

‘I can’t answer that off-hand,’ he replied.

‘Well, if anything does change its proper form, must not the change be due either to itself or to something else?’ (e)

‘It must.’

‘And are not things in the best condition least liable to change or alteration by something else? For instance, the healthiest and strongest physiques are least liable to change owing to diet and exercise, and the healthiest and strongest plants owing to sun 381 (a)and wind and the like.’

‘That is so.’

‘And are not characters16 which have most courage and sense least liable to be upset and changed by external influences?’


‘And similarly any composite object, a piece of furniture or a house or a garment, is least subject to wear and tear if it is well made and in good condition.’

‘That is true.’ (b)

‘So, in general, whether a thing is natural or artificial or both, it is least subject to change from outside if its condition is good.’

‘So it seems.’

‘But god and the things of god are entirely perfect.’

‘That is undeniable.’

‘On this argument, then, god is not in the least likely to take on many forms.’

‘Not in the least.’

‘Then will god change or alter himself of his own will?’

‘If he changes at all,’ he replied, ‘that must be how he does.’

‘Will the change increase or decrease his goodness and beauty?’

(c) ‘Any change must be for the worse. For god’s beauty and goodness are perfect.’

‘You are absolutely right,’ I said. ‘And, that being so, do you think that anyone, manor god, would deliberately make himself worse in any respect?’

‘Impossible,’ he said.

‘Then it must also be impossible,’ I replied, ‘for a god to wish to change himself. Every god is perfect in beauty and goodness, and remains in his own form without variation for ever.’

‘The conclusion is unavoidable.’

(d) ‘So we cannot have any poet saying that the gods “disguise themselves as strangers from abroad, and wander round our towns in every kind of shape”;17 we cannot have stories told about the transformations of Proteus18 and Thetis,19 or poets bringing Hera on the stage disguised as a priestess begging alms (e) for “the life giving children of Inachus, river of Argos”.20 We must stop all stories of this kind, and stop mothers being misled by them and scaring their children with harmful myths by telling tales about a host of gods that prowl about at night in a strange variety of shapes. So we shall prevent them blaspheming the gods and making cowards of their children.’

‘None of these things should be allowed.’

‘Then if the gods are themselves incapable of change, will they deceive us and bewitch us into thinking that they appear in all sorts of disguises?’

‘They might, I suppose.’

382 (a) ‘Come,’ said I, ‘can god want to disguise himself and lie to us, either in word or action?’

‘I don’t know,’ he replied.

‘But,’ I asked, ‘don’t you know that gods and men all detest true falsehood, if I may so describe it?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean that no man wants to be deceived in the most important part of him and about the most important things; that is when he is most terrified of falsehood.’

‘I still don’t understand.’

(b) ‘Because you think I’m talking about something mysterious,’ I answered. ‘But all I’m talking about is being deceived in one’s

own mind about realities, and so being the victim of falsehood and ignorance; that is where men are least ready to put up with the presence of falsehood and particularly detest it.’

‘Yes, I agree with that.’

‘But surely when a man is deceived in his own mind we can fairly call his ignorance of the truth “true falsehood”. For a false statement is merely some kind of representation of a state of mind, an expression consequent on it, and not the original (c) unadulterated falsehood. Don’t you agree?’


‘So real falsehood is detested by gods and men.’

‘I agree.’

‘But what about spoken falsehood? Is it not sometimes and on some occasions useful, and not then detestable? We can use it, for example, as a kind of preventive medicine against our enemies, or when anyone we call our friend tries to do something wrong from madness or folly. And we can make use of it in the (d) myths we are engaged in discussing; we don’t know the truth about the past but we can invent a fiction21 as like it as may be.’

‘That’s perfectly true.’

‘In which of these ways is falsehood of use to god? Does he need to make up fictions because he does not know the past?’

‘It would be absurd to suppose so.’

‘So god is not the author of poetic fictions.’


‘Does he tell lies because he is afraid of his enemies, then?’

‘Certainly not.’ (e)

‘Or because of the folly or madness of any of his friends?’

‘God loves neither the foolish nor the mad,’ he replied.

‘God has, then, no reason to tell lies.’


‘So we conclude that there is no falsehood at all in the realm of the spiritual and divine?’

‘Most certainly.’

‘God is therefore without deceit or falsehood in action or word, he does not change himself, nor deceive others, awake or dreaming, with visions or words or special signs.’

‘I agree entirely with what you say.’ 383 (a)

‘Do you agree then that the second principle to be followed in all that is said or written about the gods is that they shall not be represented as using magic to disguise themselves nor as playing us false in word or deed?’

‘I agree.’

‘And so among the many things we admire in Homer we shall not include the dream Zeus sent to Agamemnon.22 Nor shall we admire Aeschylus23 when he makes Thetis say that Apollo sang (b) at her wedding in praise of her child

Promising him long life, from sickness free,
And every blessing: his triumphant praise
Rejoiced my heart. Those lips, I thought, divine,
Flowing with prophecy, must God’s promise speak.
Yet he the singer, he our wedding guest,
Phoebus Apollo, prophet, slew my son.

If a poet says this sort of thing about the gods we shall be angry and refuse to let him produce his play; nor shall we allow it to be used to educate our children – that is if our Guardians are to grow up god fearing and holy, so far as that is humanly possible.’

‘I agree entirely with your principles,’ he said, ‘and we can treat them as law.’

(b) Morally, most existing poetry is unsuitable because in its representations of gods and heroes it describes, and so encourages, various forms of moral weaknesses.

BK III ‘As far as the gods are concerned, then, we have now outlined the sort of stories which men ought and ought not to hear from 386 (a) their earliest childhood, if they are to honour the gods and their parents, and know how important it is to love one another.’

‘And I think we are quite right,’ he said.

‘But what if they are to be brave? Must we not extend our range to include something that will give them the least possible (b) fear of death? Will anyone who in his heart fears death ever be brave?’

‘Certainly not.’

‘And will anyone who believes in terrors in the after-life be without fear of death, and prefer death in battle to defeat and slavery?’


‘It looks, then, as if we shall have to control story-tellers on this topic too. We must ask the poets to stop giving their present gloomy account of the after-life, which is both untrue and unsuitable to produce a fighting spirit, and make them speak (c) more favourably of it.’

‘I agree,’ he said.

‘We must begin, then,’ I said, ‘by cutting out all passages such as the following–

I would rather be a serf in the house of some landless man, with little enough for himself to live on, than king of all dead men that have done with life;24

and this

and expose to mortal and immortal eyes the hateful chambers of decay (d) that fill the gods themselves with horror;25


Ah then, it is true that something of us does survive even in the Halls of Hades, but with no intellect at all, only the ghost and semblance of a man;26

and this

he alone has a mind to reason with: the rest are mere shadows flitting to and fro;27


his disembodied soul took wing for the House of Hades, bewailing its lot and the youth and manhood that it left;28

387 (a) and this

the spirit vanished like a wisp of smoke and went gibbering under ground;29


gibbering like bats that squeak and flutter in the depths of some mysterious cave when one of them has fallen from the rocky roof, losing his hold on his clustered friends, with shrill discord the company set out.30

(b) We must ask Homer and the other poets to excuse us if we delete all passages of this kind. It is not that they are bad poetry or are not popular; indeed the better they are as poetry the more unsuitable they are for the ears of children or men who are to be free and fear slavery more than death.’

‘I absolutely agree.’

‘We must get rid, too, of all those horrifying and frightening names in the underworld – the Rivers of Wailing and Gloom, (c) and the ghosts and corpses, and all other things of this kind whose very names are enough to make everyone who hears them shudder. They may do well enough for other purposes; but we are afraid that the thrill of terror they cause will make our Guardians more nervous and less tough than they should be.’

‘And our anxiety is justified.’

‘Shall we get rid of them then?’


‘And require writers and poets to proceed on the opposite principle?’


(d) ‘We must also, I suppose, cut out pitiful laments by famous men.’

‘We must,’ he replied, ‘if we are to be consistent.’

‘Let us see if the excision will be justified. We agree, surely, that one good man does not think death holds any terror for another who is a friend of his.’

‘We do.’

‘And so he would hardly mourn for him as if he had suffered something terrible.’

‘That is true.’

‘And what is more, we reckon that such a man is in himself most self-sufficient in what is needed for a good life and of all (e) men least dependent on others.’


‘So the loss of son or brother, or of property, or anything else of the kind, will hold the least terrors for the good man.’

‘He will be least affected by them.’

‘So when any catastrophe of the kind overtakes him, he will lament it less and bear it more calmly than others.’

‘He will.’

‘Then we should be quite right to cut out from our poetry lamentations by famous men. We can give them to the less 388 (a) reputable women characters or to the bad men, so that those whom we say we are bringing up as Guardians of our state will be ashamed to imitate them.’

‘You are quite right.’

‘We shall therefore again request Homer and the poets not to describe Achilles, the son of a goddess,

as sometimes lying on his side, sometimes on his back, and then again on his face,

and then standing up and

wandering distraught along the shore of the unharvested sea,31

or (b)

picking up the dark dust in both hands and pouring it on his head,32

with all the weeping and lamenting the poet describes. Nor can we allow a Priam, who was closely related to the gods, in his entreaties to

grovel in the dung and implore them all, calling on each man by his name.33

Still more emphatically shall we request the poets not to represent the gods lamenting with words like

(c) Ah misery me, the unhappy mother of the bravest of men.34

And least of all can we have them presuming to misrepresent the greatest of all gods by making him say

I have a warm place in my heart for this man who is being chased before my eyes round the walls of Troy.35


Fate is unkind to me – Sarpedon whom I dearly love is destined to be (d) killed by Patroclus son of Menoetius.36

For, my dear Adeimantus, if our young men listen to passages like these seriously and don’t laugh at them as unworthy, they are hardly likely to think this sort of conduct unworthy of them as men, or to resist the temptation to similar words and actions. They will feel no shame and show no endurance, but break into complaints and laments at the slightest provocation.’

(e) ‘That is quite true.’

‘But that is not the behaviour our argument has just required; and we must trust it till someone produces a better one.’

‘Yes, we must.’

‘And surely we don’t want our guardians to be too fond of laughter either. Indulgence in violent laughter commonly invites a violent reaction.’

‘I have noticed that,’ he said.

389 (a) ‘We must not therefore allow descriptions of reputable characters being over come by laughter. And similar descriptions of gods are far less allowable.’

‘Far less, I agree.’

‘So we can’t have Homer saying of the gods and a fit of helpless laughter seized the happy gods as they watched Hephaestus bustling up and down the hall.37

Your argument won’t allow that.’

‘Call it my argument if you like,’ he replied; ‘in any event we (b) can’t allow it.’

‘And surely we must value truthfulness highly. For if we were right when we said just now38 that falsehood is no use to the gods and only useful to men as a kind of medicine, it’s clearly a kind of medicine that should be entrusted to doctors and not to laymen.’


‘It will be for the rulers of our city, then, if anyone, to use falsehood in dealing with citizen or enemy for the good of the State; no one else must do so. And if any citizen lies to our (c) rulers, we shall regard it as a still graver offence than it is for a patient to lie to his doctor, or for an athlete to lie to his trainer about his physical condition, or for a sailor to misrepresent to his captain any matter concerning the ship or crew, or the state of himself or his fellow-sailors.’

‘Very true.’

‘And so if anyone else is found in our state telling lies, (d) “whether he be craftsman, prophet, physician or shipwright”,39 he will be punished for introducing a practice likely to capsize and wreck the ship of state.’

‘We must punish him if we are to be as good as our word.’

‘Then again we shall want our youngmen to be self-controlled.’

‘Of course.’

‘And for the mass of men does not self-control largely consist in obedience to their rulers, and ruling their own desire for the (e) pleasures of eating, drinking, and sex?’

‘I agree.’

‘We shall approve, therefore, the sort of thing that Homer makes Diomede say,

Be quiet, man, and take your cue from me;40

and verses like those which follow it,

The Achaeans moved forward, breathing valour, in silent obedience to their officers.41

And there are other similar passages.’

‘They deserve approval.’

‘But what about

You drunken sot, with the eyes of a dog and the courage of a doe,42

390 (a) and the lines that follow? Can we approve of them and other impertinences of the rank and file against those in authority, in prose or verse?’

‘We cannot.’

‘For they are hardly suitable to encourage the young to self-control, though we need not be surprised if they give pleasure in other ways. What do you think?’

‘I agree.’

‘Then is it likely to encourage self-restraint if the poet represents the wisest of men saying that he thinks the best moment (b) of all is when

the tables are laden with bread and meat, and a steward carries round the wine he has drawn from the bowl and fills their cups?43

And what about lines like

death by starvation is the most miserable end that one can meet?44

And then there is the story of how Zeus stayed awake, when all the other gods and men were asleep, with some plan in mind, (c) but forgot it easily enough when his desire for sex was roused; he was indeed so struck by Hera’s appearance that he wanted to make love to her on the spot, without going indoors, saying that he had never desired her so much since the days when they first used to make love “without their parents’ knowledge”.45 And there’s the story of Hephaestus trapping Ares and Aphrodite because of similar goings-on.’46

‘All these are in my view most unsuitable,’ he commented emphatically.

‘But when a poet tells or a dramatist presents tales of endurance (d) against odds by famous men, then we must give him an audience. For instance, when Homer makes Odysseus strike himself on the chest, and “call his heart to order”, saying,

Patience my heart! You have put up with fouler than this.’47

‘We must certainly listen to him then.’

‘But we must not let him make his characters mercenary or grasping.’

‘Certainly not.’ (e)

‘We cannot let a poet say,

The gods can be won with gifts, and so can the king’s majesty.48

We cannot agree that Achilles’ tutor Phoenix gave him proper advice when he told him not to desist from his “wrath” and help the Achaeans unless they brought him presents. Nor can we consent to regard Achilles as so grasping that he took Agamemnon’s presents, or refused to give up Hector’s body unless he was paid a ransom.’49391 (a)

‘It would be quite wrong,’ he said, ‘to commend things of this sort.’

‘I say it with hesitation, because of Homer’s authority,’ I went on, ‘but it is positively wicked to say these things about Achilles or believe them when we hear them said. There are other examples. Achilles says to Apollo,

You have made a fool of me, Archer-king, and are the most mischievous of gods: how much I should like to pay you out if I had the power.50

He refuses to obey the River Scamander, who is a god, and is (b) ready to fight him, and he sends the lock of his hair dedicated to the River Spercheius as a gift to ‘the Lord Patroclus’, who was already dead.51 We can believe none of this, and we shall regard as untrue also the whole story of the dragging of the body of Hector round the tomb of Patroclus and the slaughter (c) of prisoners at his pyre.52 We cannot, in fact, have our citizens believe that Achilles, whose mother was a goddess, and whose father, Peleus, was a man of the utmost self-control and a grandson of Zeus, and who had in Chiron the wisest of schoolmasters, was in such a state of inner confusion that he combined in himself the two contrary maladies of ungenerous meanness about money and excessive arrogance to gods and men.’

‘You are right,’ he said.

‘We must therefore neither believe nor allow the story of the dreadful rapes attempted by Theseus, son of Poseidon, and (d) Peirithous, son of Zeus,53 or any of the other lies now told about the terrible and wicked things which other sons of gods and heroes are said to have dared to do. We must compel our poets to say either that they never did these things or that they are not the sons of gods; we cannot allow them to assert both. And they must not try to persuade our youngmen that the gods are the source of evil, and that heroes are no better than ordinary (e) mortals; that, as we have said, is a wicked lie, for we have proved that no evil can originate with the gods.’

‘Of course.’

‘Moreover such lies are positively harmful. For those who hear them will be lenient towards their own shortcomings if they believe that this sort of thing is and was always done by the relatives of the gods,

close kin of Zeus, to whom
the ancestral altar high in heaven
on Ida’s mount belongs,

and in whose veins

still runs the blood of gods.54

We must therefore put a stop to stories of this kind before they 392 (a) breed in our youngmen an undue tolerance of wickedness.’

‘We certainly must.’

So far the argument has been confined to the poets’ treatment of gods and heroes: similar rules cannot be laid down for the treatment of men until justice has been defined.

‘What kind of literature remains, then, for us to deal with in our definition of what can and cannot be allowed? For we have now described the kind of things that should and should not be said about gods and demi-gods, heroes and the life after death.’

‘Yes, we have dealt fully with them.’

‘What is left would seem to be literature dealing with men.’


‘But we cannot deal with that topic at present.’

‘Why not?’

‘Because I am afraid that we shall find that poets and storytellers are in error in matters of the greatest human importance. (b) They have said that unjust men are often happy, and just men wretched, that wrong doing pays if you can avoid being found out, and that justice is what is good for someone else but is to your own disadvantage. We must forbid them to say this sort of thing, and require their poems and stories to have quite the opposite moral. Do you agree?’

‘I’m quite sure you’re right,’ he replied.

‘But if you agree I am right there, can I not already claim your agreement about the subject we are discussing at such length?’

‘Yes, you are quite right.’

‘We must not agree, therefore, about the kind of thing that (c) ought to be said about human life, until we have defined justice, and the advantages it naturally55 brings to its possessor irrespective of appearances.’

‘Quite true.’

(c) Formal requirements

Plato turns from content to form. He classes poetry according to the degree to which it employs what we should call ‘direct speech’ as opposed to indirect speech and narrative. Direct speech involves what he calls ‘representation’, 56that is, it requires the poet or narrator to put himself in the position of the character speaking, think his thoughts, and feel his feelings. Plato objects to this on the grounds that he does not want his Guardians to deviate from their own character by representing other characters, especially bad characters. If the discussion seems at times, to us, academic, we should remember that the Greek schoolboy, when reciting Homer, was ‘expected to throw himself into the story and deliver the speeches with the tones and gestures of an actor’, and that it is to such ‘imaginative identification’,57and therefore to any use of the drama in education that Plato, rightly or wrongly, objects.

‘So much then for the subject-matter of literature. We must next deal with its style of presentation, and so cover both what is to be said and how it is to be said.’

To this Adeimantus replied that he did not understand what (d) I meant. ‘Then I must explain,’ I said; ‘perhaps you will see if I put it this way. Any story or poem narrates things past, present, or future, does it not?’

‘There is no alternative.’

‘And for the purpose it employs either simple narrative or representation, or a mixture of both.’

‘I’m still not quite clear what you mean.’

‘I’m afraid I’m being ridiculously obscure,’ I said. ‘So let me (e) try to explain my meaning by confining myself to a particular example, like an incompetent lecturer. You know the beginning of the Iliad, where the poet says that Chryses begs Agamemnon 393(a) to release his daughter; and when Agamemnon gets angry and refuses, Chryses calls down the wrath of the god58 on the Greeks?’


‘Well, up to the words

He appealed to the whole Achaean army, and most of all to its two commanders, the sons of Atreus,59

the poet is speaking in his own person, and does not attempt to persuade us that the speaker is anyone but himself. But afterwards(b) he speaks in the person of Chryses, and does his best to make us think that it is not Homer but an aged priest who is talking. This is the way in which he constructs almost all his narrative of the Trojan war and of what happened in Ithaca and in the Odyssey generally.’

‘That is true enough,’ he said.

‘So his narrative consists of both speeches and of passages between speeches, does it not?’

‘It does.’

‘And when he makes a speech in the person of someone else, (c) shall we not say that he assimilates his manner of speech as nearly as he can to that of the character concerned?’

‘We shall; why do you ask?’

‘Is not to assimilate oneself to another person in speech or manner to “represent” the person to whom one is assimilating oneself?’

‘It is.’

‘This then is the sort of way in which Homer and the other poets use representation in the course of their narrative.’

‘Yes, I understand.’

‘If, of course, the poet never concealed his own personality his poetic narrative would be wholly devoid of representation. (d) But to prevent any possibility of further misunderstanding, I will explain how this could be done. Suppose that Homer, after telling how Chryses came with his daughter’s ransom to beg her back from the Achaeans, and in particular from their kings, had gone on not as if it were Chryses speaking but Homer, there would have been no representation but only narrative. The passage would have run as follows (I’m not a poet, so I shall give it in prose) – The priest came and prayed that the gods (e) would allow the Achaeans to capture Troy and return in safety, and begged the Achaeans to show their respect for the god by releasing his daughter in exchange for the ransom. The others respected his request and agreed, but Agamemnon was angry and told him to go away now and never return; otherwise his sceptre and priestly garlands might afford him no protection. Agamemnon added that he would not release his daughter before she grew old with him in Argos, and that if the old man wanted to get home safely he had better go, and not provoke 394 (a) him any more. The old man was afraid when he heard what Agamemnon said, and departed without a word, but when he had left the camp he prayed earnestly to Apollo, calling on him by all his titles and reminding him of the services he had rendered him in building temples and offering sacrifices; and he begged Apollo in his prayer that, in return, he would avenge his tears (b) on the Achaeans with his arrows. That,’ I concluded, ‘is how the passage would run in simple narrative without representation.’

‘I understand,’ he replied.

‘And so you will also understand,’ I went on, ‘that the opposite of this is when one omits the poet’s words between the speeches and leaves only dialogue.’

‘Yes, I understand,’ he answered; ‘that is what happens in tragedy, for example.’

‘You have taken my meaning exactly,’ I said. ‘And I think I have now made clear what I failed to explain before, that poetry (c) and fiction fall into three classes. First, that which employs representation only, tragedy and comedy, as you say. Secondly, that in which the poet speaks in his own person; the best example is lyric poetry. Thirdly, that which employs both methods, epic and various other kinds of poetry. Is that clear?’

‘Yes: I understand now what you were trying to say,’ he said.

‘And you will remember that just before that I said that we had settled the question of subject-matter and must now deal with that of form.’

‘Yes, I remember.’

(d) ‘What I meant, then,’I said, ‘was that we must decide whether we should allow our poets to use representation freely in their narrative, and if not when they should and should not use it and how, or whether we should forbid it entirely.’

‘I suspect,’ he replied, ‘that you are wondering whether we should allow tragedy and comedy in our state or not.’

‘Maybe,’ I replied, ‘or maybe the question is more far-reaching. I don’t know yet; we must go wherever the wind of the argument carries us.’

‘Fair enough,’ he said.

(e) ‘Do you think, then, Adeimantus, that we want our guardians to be capable of playing many parts60 or not? Does it not follow, from the principles we adopted earlier, that one man does only one job well, and that if he tries to take on a number of jobs, the division of effort will mean that he will fail to make his mark at any of them?’

‘The conclusion follows.’

‘And it will also apply to representation; a man cannot play many parts61 as well as he can one.’

‘He cannot.’

‘It is unlikely therefore that anyone engaged on any worth- 395 (a) while occupation will be able to give a variety of representations.62 For the same writers are incapable of equally good work even in two such closely allied forms of representation as comedy and tragedy. You did say these were both forms of representation, did you not?’

‘Yes; and it’s true that a man can’t write both.’

‘Nor can the same people be reciters63 and actors, or actors in tragedy and comedy. All these are forms of representation, (b) are they not?’

‘They are.’

‘And human nature seems to be more finely subdivided than this, which makes it impossible to play many roles well, whether in real life or in representations of it on the stage.’

‘That’s very true.’

‘So we argued originally that our Guardians were to be freed from all forms of manual work; their function was to be the (c) expert provision of freedom for our state, and that and nothing else not relevant to it was to be their sole business. They must neither do nor represent actions of any other kind. If they do take part in dramatic or other representations, they must from their earliest years act the part only of characters suitable to them – men of courage, self-control, piety, freedom of spirit and similar qualities. They should neither do a mean action, nor be clever at acting a mean or otherwise disgraceful part on the stage for fear of catching the infection in real life. For have you not noticed how dramatic and similar representations, if (d) indulgence in them is prolonged into adult life, establish habits of physical poise, intonation and thought which become second nature?’64

‘Indeed I have,’ he replied.

‘Since then we care for our Guardians, and want them to be men of worth,’ I said, ‘we will not allow them to take the parts of women, young or old (for they are men), nor to represent (e) them abusing their husbands or quarrelling with heaven and boasting of their supposed good fortune, or mourning and lamenting in misfortune. Far less can we permit representation of women in sickness or love or childbirth.’

‘We must forbid this sort of thing entirely.’

‘And the same is true of representations of slaves – male or female – when they are doing the work of slaves.’


‘And of bad men who are cowards and whose behaviour is just the opposite of what we have just described. Such characters 396 (a) indulge in comic abuse and use foul language, drunk or sober, and say and do other typical things that are an offence against themselves and their neighbours. Nor, I suppose, ought they to get into the habit of imitating actions or words of madmen. Our Guardians must recognize that there are men and women who are mad and bad, but they must not represent them in poetry or drama.’

‘You are quite right,’ he said.

‘Then can we tolerate representations of smiths or craftsmen (b) at work, or men rowing triremes or in command of them, or anything else of the kind?’

‘No: because none of these are occupations to which our Guardians are allowed to pay any attention.’

‘And what about horses neighing and bulls bellowing, and rivers splashing and the sea roaring, and thunder rolling, and so on?’

‘We have already forbidden madness and the imitation of madmen,’ he replied.

‘What you mean, if I understand you rightly, is that there is one style of narrative which the man of really good character will employ when he has anything to say, and another style in (c) which the man of opposite character and upbringing will always choose to express himself.’

‘Describe them,’ he said.

‘I think,’ I replied, ‘that the decent man, when he comes in the course of a narrative to a speech or action by a man of good character will be willing to impersonate him and feel no shame at this kind of representation. This will be especially true if he is representing the good man behaving with steadiness and determination, and only failing in a few respects and to a limited (d) degree, owing to illness or love or drink or some other misfortune. But if he comes across an unworthy character, he will be ashamed to copy seriously a man worse than himself, except perhaps for his short periods of good behaviour, and will not consent to do so. He has no practice in such representation, and will refuse with disgust to model himself on characters which (e) his judgement despises as lower than his own and put himself in their place, except perhaps for the purpose of amusement.’

‘Very likely.’

‘He will, in fact, make use of the form of narrative which we mentioned when we were talking of Homer’s epics a few minutes ago, and will combine both representation and narrative, but the proportion of representation will be small. Or am I wrong?’

‘No, that’s just the kind of principle on which he will express himself.’

‘And other types of man will be all the readier to widen their 397 (a) range the worse they are, and will think nothing beneath them. They will seriously try to represent in public all the things we were talking about. We shall have the noises of thunder and wind and hail, and of axles and wheels, the notes of trumpets, pipes, flutes, and every possible instrument, the barking of dogs, (b) the baaing of sheep, and twittering of birds. And so this style of expression will depend largely on representation by sound and gesture, and narrative will play but a small part.’

‘That follows too.’

‘These then are the two styles of expression to which I referred,’ I said.

‘Yes, I see,’ he replied.

‘And of these two styles, one is pretty uniform, given music of appropriate mode and rhythm to accompany it. In fact if one handles it rightly one and the same mode and harmony can be employed throughout, because of the uniformity of the style, (c) and something similar is true of rhythm.’

‘That is certainly true,’ he said.

‘The other style, on the other hand, will have the opposite requirements. It will need every kind of mode, and every kind of rhythm, if it is to find suitable expression, as its variety of change is unlimited.’

‘Very much so.’

‘But must not all poets and speakers go in for one or other of these two styles or some combination of them?’

‘They must.’

(d) ‘Then what are we to do?’ I asked. ‘Are we to admit all three into our city, or pick on one of the unmixed styles or the combination of the two?’

‘My own vote,’ he replied, ‘would go to the unmixed style which represents the good man.’

‘And yet, Adeimantus,’ I reminded him, ‘the combination of the two styles is very pleasant, and the opposite style to the one you have chosen gives most pleasure of all to children and nurses and the general public.’

‘Yes, it gives most pleasure.’

‘But perhaps you will say that it is unsuitable for our state, (e) because there one man does one job and does not play two or a multiplicity of roles.’

‘It certainly is unsuitable.’

‘And so ours is the only state in which we shall find (for example) the shoemaker sticking to his shoe making and not turning pilot as well, the farmer sticking to his farming and not taking on court work into the bargain, and the soldier sticking to his soldiering and not running a business as well, and so on?’


398 (a) ‘So if we are visited in our state by someone who has the skill to transform himself into all sorts of characters and represent all sorts of things, and he wants to show off himself and his poems to us, we shall treat him with all the reverence due to a priest and giver of rare pleasure, but shall tell him that he and his kind have no place in our city, their presence being forbidden by our code, and send him elsewhere, after anointing him with myrrh and crowning him with fillets of wool. For ourselves, we (b) shall for our own good employ story-tellers and poets who are severe rather than amusing, who portray65 the style of the good man and in their works abide by the principles we laid down for them when we started out on this attempt to educate our military class.’66

‘That undoubtedly is what we should do,’ he said, ‘if we had the choice.’

‘And I think,’ said I, ‘that that probably completes our survey of the literature and stories to be employed in our education. We have dealt both with subject-matter and with form.’

‘I agree,’ he replied.

(d) Musical requirements

Music is dealt with on a similar basis. Greek music was employed largely as an accompaniment to song, and what this section is concerned to say is that, having laid down rules governing the content and form of poetry, we must now require their musical accompaniment to be appropriate. As appears from the text, the Greeks recognized several types or styles of music, and were inclined to associate them with different types of feeling and character, an association made by both Plato and Aristotle. So particular varieties of the Lydian style were regarded as mournful, the Ionian scale as relaxing, the Dorian and Phrygian as expressing courage and self-control. But the technicalities of Greek music are not easy to understand: see the Oxford Classical Dictionary, underMusic.

‘Then we are left with the varieties of song and music to (c) discuss,’ I went on.

‘That’s pretty obvious.’

‘And I suppose that it would be pretty easy for anyone to discover what sort of requirements we must make about them, if we are to be consistent.’

Glaucon laughed. ‘I’m afraid I’m not included in your “anyone”,’ he said; ‘for at the moment I can’t really suggest what we ought to say – though I’m not without my suspicions.’

‘Well at any rate you can agree easily enough that song consists of three elements, words, mode, and rhythm.’ (d)

‘Yes, I agree to that.’

‘As far as the words are concerned, then, the same principles will apply as those we have just laid down for words not set to music, both for their content and form.’67


‘And surely the mode and rhythm should suit the words.’


‘But we agreed as far as the words are concerned to dispense with dirges and laments, did we not?’

‘We did.’

(e) ‘Tell me then – you are a musician – which are the modes suitable for dirges?’

‘The Mixed Lydian and the Extreme Lydian and similar modes.’

‘Then we can reject them,’ I said: ‘even women, if they are respectable, have no use for them, let alone men.’

‘Quite right.’

‘But drunkenness, softness, or idleness are also qualities most unsuitable in a Guardian?’

‘Of course.’

‘What, then, are the relaxing modes and the ones we use for drinking songs?’

‘The Ionian and certain Lydian modes, commonly described as “languid”.’

399 (a) ‘Will they then,’ I asked, ‘be of any use for training soldiers?’

‘None at all,’ he replied. ‘You seem to be left with the Dorian and Phrygian.’

‘I’m no expert on modes,’ said I; ‘but leave me one that will represent appropriately the voice and accent of a brave man on military service or any dangerous undertaking, who faces misfortune, be it injury or death, or any other calamity, with (b) the same steadfast endurance. And I want another mode to represent him in the voluntary non-violent occupations of peacetime: for instance, persuading some one to grant a request, praying to God or instructing or admonishing his neighbour, oragain submitting himself to the requests or instruction or persuasion of others and acting as he decides, and in all showing no conceit, (c) but moderation and common sense and willingness to accept the outcome. Give me these two modes, one stern, one pleasant, which will best represent sound courage and moderation in good fortune or in bad.’

‘The two modes you are asking for,’ he rejoined, ‘are the two I have just mentioned.’

‘And so,’ I went on, ‘we shan’t need for our music and song a multiplicity of strings or a wide harmonic range.’ (d)

‘Apparently not.’

‘We shan’t therefore keep craftsmen to make instruments of many strings or wide range, like harps and zithers.’

‘I suppose not.’

‘Then will you allow flutes and flute-makers in our city? Has not the flute the widest range of all, being in fact the original which other instruments of wide range imitate?’

‘That’s plain enough,’ he said.

‘We are left, then, with the lyre and the cithara for use in our city. Though the shepherds in the country might have some sort of pipe.’

‘That seems to be the conclusion of our argument.’

‘We aren’t really doing anything revolutionary, you know, (e) my dear Glaucon,’ I said, ‘in preferring Apollo and his instruments to Marsyas68 and his.’

‘Good God, no,’ he replied.

‘And in the dog’s name,’69 I rejoined, ‘we have, without noticing it, been purging our state of the luxury from which we said it suffered.’

‘And very sensible too,’ he replied.

‘Well, let us continue the purge,’ said I. ‘After mode we should presumably deal next with rhythm. We shan’t want very elaborate or varied combinations, but merely need to find which rhythms suit a life of courage and discipline. We shall then adapt the beat and tune to the appropriate words, and not the words 400 (a) to the beat and tune. But it’s your business to say what these rhythms are, as you did with the modes.’

‘I’m afraid I really can’t do that,’ he replied. ‘There are three basic types of rhythm, from which the various rhythmic combinations are built up, just as in sound there are four elements which go to build up the modes. So much I know and can tell you. But which are suited to represent which kind of life, I cannot say.’

(b) ‘Well, we’ll consult Damon70 about it,’ I said, ‘and ask him what combinations are suitable to express meanness, insolence, madness, and other evil characteristics, and which rhythms we must keep to express their opposites. I seem to remember hearing him talking rather obscurely about “composite march rhythms”, “dactyls”, and “heroics”, arranging them in various mysterious ways and marking longs and shorts; he talked also, I think, about “iambics and trochees”, and assigned them quantities(c) of different lengths. And I believe that he praised or blamed the composition of the foot as well as the rhythm as a whole, or perhaps it was the combination of the two: I really can’t remember. In any case, as I said, we can refer to Damon. For it would need a lot of argument to settle the details, don’t you think?’

‘Heavens, yes!’


Plato proceeds to sum up the general purpose of this stage of education – to train both character and moral and aesthetic judgement, these last two being closely allied. The influence of environment on growing minds is again emphasized: it is because of this that so rigid a control of the music and poetry to be used in education is required. Mathematical and (so far as it then existed) scientific training is reserved for a later stage of the Guardians’ education: see Part VIII. But a reference there to introducing ‘arithmetic and geometry’ in childhood shows that though no reference is made to them here some mathematics is to be studied at this earlier stage (d).

‘But there is one thing you can decide at once, that beauty and ugliness result from good rhythm and bad.’

‘That is undeniable.’

(d) ‘And good rhythm is the consequence of music adapted to a good style of expression,71 bad rhythm of the opposite; and the same is true of mode, good and bad, if, as we said a moment ago, both the rhythm and mode should be suited to the words and not vice versa.’

‘The words must of course determine the music,’ he said.

‘But what about the style and diction?’ I asked. ‘Don’t they depend on character?’

‘They must.’

‘And the rest on style?’


‘Good literature, therefore, and good music, beauty of form and good rhythm all depend on goodness of character;72 I don’t mean that lack of awareness of the world which we politely call (e) “goodness”, but a mind and character truly well and fairly formed.’

‘I quite agree.’

‘And are not these things which our young men must pursue, if they are to perform their function in life properly?’

‘They must.’

‘The graphic arts are full of the same qualities and so are the 401 (a) related crafts, weaving and embroidery, architecture and the manufacture of furniture of all kinds; and the same is true of living things, animals and plants. For in all of them we find beauty and ugliness. And ugliness of form and bad rhythm and disharmony are akin to poor-quality expression and character, and their opposites are akin to and represent good character and discipline.’

‘That is perfectly true.’

‘It is not only to the poets therefore that we must issue orders (b) requiring them to portray good character in their poems or not to write at all; we must issue similar orders to all artists and craftsmen, and prevent them portraying bad character, ill-discipline, meanness, or ugliness in pictures of living things, in sculpture, architecture, or any work of art, and if they are unable to comply they must be forbidden to practise their art among us. We shall thus prevent our guardians being brought up among representations of what is evil, and so day by day and little (c) by little, by grazing widely as it were in an unhealthy pasture, insensibly doing themselves a cumulative psychological73damage that is very serious. We must look for artists and craftsmen capable of perceiving the real nature of what is beautiful, and then our youngmen, living as it were in a healthy climate, will benefit because all the works of art they see and hear influence them for good, like the breezes from some healthy (d) country, insensibly leading them from earliest childhood into close sympathy and conformity with beauty and reason.’

‘That would indeed be the best way to bring them up.’

‘And that, my dear Glaucon,’ I said, ‘is why this stage of education is crucial. For rhythm and harmony penetrate deeply into the mind and take a most powerful hold on it, and, if education is good, bring and impart grace and beauty, if it is (e) bad, the reverse. And moreover the proper training we propose to give will make a man quick to perceive the shortcomings of works of art or nature, whose ugliness he will rightly dislike; anything beautiful he will welcome gladly, will make it his own 402 (a) and so grow in true goodness of character; anything ugly he will rightly condemn and dislike, even when he is still young and cannot understand the reason for so doing, while when reason comes he will recognize and welcome her as a familiar friend because of his upbringing.’

‘In my view,’ he said, ‘that is the purpose of this stage of education.’

‘Well then,’ I went on, ‘when we were learning to read we were not satisfied until we could recognize the limited number of letters of the alphabet in all the various words in which they occurred; we did not think them beneath our notice in large (b) words or small, but tried to recognize them everywhere on the grounds that we should not be literate till we could.’

‘That is true.’

‘And we can’t recognize reflections of the letters in water or in a mirror till we know the letters themselves. The same skill and training are needed to recognize both.’

‘Yes, they are.’

‘Then I must surely be right in saying that we shall not be (c) properly educated ourselves, nor will the Guardians whom we are training, until we can recognize the qualities of discipline, courage, generosity, greatness of mind, and others akin to them, as well as their opposites, in all their many manifestations. We must be able to perceive both the qualities themselves wherever they occur and representations of them, and must not despise instances great or small, but reckon that the same skill and training are needed to recognize both.’74

‘You are most certainly right,’ he agreed.

‘And is not the fairest sight of all,’ I asked, ‘for him who has (d) eyes to see it, the combination in the same bodily form of beauty of character and looks to match and harmonize with it?’

‘It is indeed.’

‘And what is very beautiful will also be very attractive, will it not?’


‘It is, then, with people of this sort that the educated man will fall in love; where the harmony is imperfect he will not be attracted.’

‘Not if the defect is one of character,’ he replied; ‘if it’s a physical defect, he will not let it be a bar to his affection.’ (e)

‘I know,’ I said; ‘you’ve got, or once had, a boy friend like that. And I agree with you. But tell me: does excessive pleasure go with self-control and moderation?’

‘Certainly not; excessive pleasure breaks down one’s control just as much as excessive pain.’

‘Does it go with other kinds of goodness?’


‘Then does it go with violence and indiscipline?’ 403 (a)


‘And is there any greater or keener pleasure than that of sex?’

‘No: nor any more frenzied.’

‘But to love rightly is to love what is orderly and beautiful in an educated and disciplined way.’

‘I entirely agree.’

‘Then can true love have any contact with frenzy or excess of any kind?’

‘It can have none.’

‘It can therefore have no contact with this sexual pleasure, (b) and lovers whose mutual love is true must neither of them indulge in it.’

‘They certainly must not, Socrates,’ he replied emphatically.

‘And so I suppose that you will lay down laws in the state we are founding which will allow a lover to associate with his boy friend and kiss him and touch him, if he permits it, as a father does his son, if his motives are good; but require that his association with anyone he’s fond of must never give rise to suspicion (c) of anything beyond this, otherwise he will be thought a man of no taste or education.’

‘That is how I should legislate.’

‘And that, I think,’ said I, ‘concludes what we have to say about this stage of education, and a very appropriate conclusion too – for the object of education is to teach us to love what is beautiful.’

‘I agree.’

2. Physical Education

Plato does not go into detail but makes it clear that he is thinking of a military as much as of an athletic training: which is why, perhaps, he tends to regard it, as appears later, as a stage of education, lasting approximately from the eighteenth to the twentieth year, rather than as something which accompanies the secondary education which he has just finished describing. Young men at Athens in the fourth century spent two years, from eighteen to twenty, doing a course of compulsory military training, and it is of military training as much as of physical education in our sense that Plato is thinking.

   The passage proceeds to criticize certain developments of contemporary medicine of which Plato disapproved (criticisms which read harshly to us, though they indicate that Plato is thinking of health education in general as much as physical education in the narrower sense), and more briefly, to condemn litigiousness (Plato undoubtedly has contemporary Athens in mind); it ends by emphasizing that physical, as much as literary, education is aimed primarily at the development of character.

   ‘The next stage in the training of our young men will be physical education.’

‘Of course.’

‘And here again they must be carefully trained from childhood onwards. My own opinions about this are as follows: let me see (d) if you agree. In my view physical excellence does not of itself produce a good mind and character: on the other hand, excellence of mind and character will make the best of the physique it is given. What do you think?’

‘I agree.’

‘If the mind therefore has been adequately trained, we should do well then to leave to it the minutiae of physical training: all we need do, for brevity’s sake, is to give a rough outline.’ (e)


‘We have already for bidden drunkenness.75 A Guardian is the last person in the world to get drunk and not know where he is.’

‘It would be absurd,’ he replied, ‘for a Guardian to need someone to look after him.’

‘What about diet? Our Guardians, you will agree, are competing in the most important of all contests.’


‘Is the ordinary athlete’s physical condition appropriate for 404 (a) them?’

‘Perhaps so.’

‘But the athlete in training is a sleepy creature and his health delicately balanced. Haven’t you noticed how they sleep most of their time, and how the smallest deviation from their routine leads to serious illness?’

‘Yes, I’ve noticed that.’

‘So we shall need a more sophisticated form of training for our soldier athletes. They must be as wakeful as watchdogs, their sight and hearing must be of the keenest, and their health must not be too delicate to endure the many changes in the water they drink and in the rest of their diet and the varieties of temperature that campaigning entails.’ (b)

‘I agree.’

‘And do you not also agree that the best form of physical training would be one akin to the simple education we have just been describing?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean a physical training that is simple and flexible, particularly in its training for war.’

‘In what way?’

‘Even Homer can tell you that,’ I replied. ‘For you know that when his heroes are on campaign he does not feast them on fish, (c) although they are on the shore of the Hellespont, nor on boiled meat, but only roast. That is what suits soldiers best, because it is, generally speaking, easier to cook something direct on the fire than carry round pots and pans for the purpose.’

‘Much easier.’

‘And Homer, I think, never mentions seasonings. Indeed, even the ordinary athlete knows that if he is to be fit he must keep off everything of that sort.’

‘And he is quite right to act on the knowledge.’

(d) ‘If that’s your view I assume that you don’t approve of the luxury of Syracusan and Sicilian cooking.’

‘I should think not.’

‘And what about Corinthian girl-friends? Do you disapprove of them for men who want to keep fit?’

‘I certainly do.’

‘You would disapprove too of the supposed delights of Attic confectionery?’


‘We might, I think, with justice compare these luxurious ways of living and eating with the music and song which used a wide (e) range of mode and rhythm.’

‘Quite so.’

‘Elaborate music, we found, produces indiscipline, and elaborate food produces disease. But simplicity in music produces discipline of character, and simplicity in physical education health of body.’

‘Very true.’

405 (a) ‘And the prevalence of indiscipline and disease in a community leads, does it not, to the opening of law courts and surgeries in large numbers, and law and medicine begin to give themselves airs, especially when they are taken with great seriousness even by free men.’

‘That is bound to happen.’

‘And when not only the lower classes and manual workers, but also those who have some pretensions to a liberal education, need skilled doctors and lawyers, that is a pretty conclusive proof that the education in a state is disgracefully bad. For is it not a strikingly disgraceful sign of a bad education if one has to seek justice at the hands of others as one’s masters and judges (b) because one lacks it in oneself?’

‘I can’t think of anything more disgraceful,’ he said.

‘Yet it’s still more disgraceful, don’t you think,’ I replied, ‘when a man not only spends most of his life in court as plaintiff or defendant, but is even vulgar enough to be proud of it – proud that he is an expert law-breaker, up to all the dodges, and that he knows all the holes to wriggle through to avoid a (c) conviction? And all this for mean and unworthy ends, without any idea how far better it is to arrange one’s life so that one has no need of a jury dozing on the bench.’

‘Yes,’ he agreed, ‘that’s still more disgraceful.’

‘And it’s disgraceful too to need a doctor not only for injury or regular disease, but because by leading the kind of idle life (d) we have described we have filled our bodies with gases and fluids, like a stagnant pool, and driven the medical profession to invent names for our diseases, like flatulence and catarrh. Don’t you agree?’

‘I do indeed,’ he replied, ‘these new-fangled names for diseases are very far-fetched.’

‘And I don’t think you would have found them in the days of Asclepius,’76 I added. ‘Or so I should judge from the fact that (e) when Eurypylus was wounded at Troy, and given Pramnian wine sprinkled with barley-meal and grated cheese to drink – a mixture you would have thought would have given him a fever 406 (a) – the sons of Asclepius had no fault to find with the women who gave him the drink, or with Patroclus who was treating him.’

‘And yet it was an odd prescription for a wounded man,’ he said.

‘Not,’ I replied, ‘if you reflect that it was not till the days of Herodicus, so they say, that doctors made use in their treatment of modern methods of cosseting disease. Herodicus was an athletic trainer, whose health failed, and he proceeded to make (b) first and foremost himself, and then many others after him, miserable by a combination of medicine and physical training.’

‘How did he do that?’

‘By dying a lingering death. His whole attention was devoted to his disease which was mortal; he could not cure himself of it, but spent the rest of his life too busy to do anything but doctor himself and being made wretched by any departure from his routine treatment. And his skill prolonged the struggle against death till he was an old man.’

‘What a reward for skill!’

(c) ‘And quite a suitable one for a man who did not know that it was not from ignorance or lack of experience of it that Asclepius did not reveal this method of treatment to his successors, but because he knew that when things are well run each man has a job in society which he must do, and has no time to spend his life being ill and undergoing cures. We see that this applies to the working class, and it is absurd not to see that it also applies to the wealthy and privileged, as we think them.’

‘Explain,’ he said.

(d) ‘If a carpenter is ill,’ I replied, ‘and goes to a doctor, he expects to be given an emetic and be cured, or to get rid of the trouble by purge or cautery or operation. If he is ordered to undergo a long cure, wrapping his head up and all that sort of thing, he will probably say that he’s no time to be ill and that a life in which one must give all one’s attention to one’s ailments and none to one’s proper job simply is not worth living. Then he (e) will dismiss the doctor who has given the advice, go back to his normal routine, and either regain his health and get on with his job, or, if his constitution won’t stand it, die and be rid of his troubles.’

‘That’s the right way for that sort of man to treat medical advice,’ he agreed.

‘The reason being,’ I said, ‘that he has a job to do, and if he 407 (a) does not do it, life is not worth while.’

‘Yes, clearly.’

‘But hasn’t the rich man his proper job to do, which will make his life not worth livingif he is prevented from doing it?’

‘He isn’t usually reckoned to have.’

‘You haven’t listened to Phocylides,’77 was my reply, ‘who said that when a man no longer has to work for his living, he should “practise excellence”.’

‘I should have thought he might start even earlier,’ he said.

‘Don’t let’s quarrel with him about that,’ I returned, ‘but let us inform ourselves whether the rich man should make this his job, and whether his life is worth living if he can’t carry on with it. If valetudinarianism prevents a man giving his attention to (b)carpentry and similar occupations, isn’t it also a hindrance to obeying Phocylides’ orders?’

‘It certainly is a hindrance. There’s nothing worse than this fussiness about one’s health, in excess of normal physical training. It’s tiresome in the home, as well as in the army or in a sedentary civilian office.’

‘Worst of all, it makes any kind of study or thought or private meditation difficult. If you are always wondering if you’ve got (c) a headache or are feeling giddy, and blaming your philosophical studies for it, you will always be prevented from exercising and proving your talents. You’ll always think you’re ill, and never stop worrying about your health.’

‘That’s what’s likely to happen.’

‘Let us say, then, that Asclepius too knew all this, and there fore introduced medical treatment for those who have a good constitution and lead a healthy life. If they get some specific (d) disease, he gets rid of it by drugs or surgery, but tells them to go on leading their normal life so as not to make them less useful to the community. But he makes no attempt to cure those whose constitution is basically diseased by treating them with a series of evacuations and doses which can only lead to an unhappy prolongation of life, and the production of children as unhealthy as themselves. No, he thought that no treatment should be given to the man who cannot survive the routine of his ordinary job, and who is therefore of no use either to himself or society.’ (e)

‘You talk as if Asclepius was a real statesman!’

‘Of course he was,’ said I, ‘and because he was we find that 408 (a) his sons are good soldiers at Troy, and doctor people in the way I am describing. You will remember how, when Menelaus was wounded by Pandarus, they “sucked out the blood and skilfully applied soothing ointments”.78 But they gave him no further orders about diet, any more than they did to Eurypylus; for they thought that “ointments” were enough to cure a man who had previously lived a regular and healthy life, whatever mixture he drank after treatment. The life of a man whose constitution was (b) bad and undermined by loose living was, they thought, of no use to them or to anyone else; it was not their business to use their skill on such cases or cure them, even if they were richer than Midas.’

‘Discerning men, these sons of Asclepius.’

‘Which is as it should be,’ I said. ‘But Pindar and the tragedians79 don’t believe us, and say that Asclepius was a son of Apollo, that he was bribed by a large fee to cure a rich man (c) who was at death’s door, and blasted by a thunderbolt in consequence. But we cannot, if we are to be consistent, agree with them on both counts: if he was son of a god he was not out for profit, and if he was out for profit he was not son of a god.’

‘All that is very true. But tell me, Socrates,’ he asked, ‘surely we shall need good doctors in our state? And good doctors are likely to be those who have the widest experience in treating (d) patients both in health and sickness, just as good judges80 are likely to be those who have mixed with all sorts of people.’

‘We certainly need good doctors and judges,’ I answered, ‘but do you know what I mean by good?’

‘I shall if you tell me.’

‘I will try. But your question puts together dissimilar things.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘The best way for a doctor to acquire skill is to have, in addition to his knowledge of medical science, as wide and as early an acquaintance as possible with serious illness; in addition he should have experienced all kinds of disease in his own person (e) and not be of an altogether healthy constitution. For doctors don’t use their bodies to cure other people’s bodies – if so, they could not allow their health to be or become bad – they use their minds; and if their mental powers are or become bad their treatment can’t be good.’


‘But with a judge it’s a matter of mind controlling mind. And 409 (a) the mind must not be brought up from its youth to associate with wickedness, or to run through a whole range of crimes in order to get first-hand experience on which to be able to judge them quickly in other people, as the doctor does with diseases of the body: on the contrary, the mind must, while it is still young, remain quite without experience of or contact with bad characters, if its condition is to be truly good and its judgements just. That is why people of good character seem simple81 when they are young, and are easily taken in by dishonesty – because they have nothing corresponding in themselves to give them a (b) sympathetic understanding of wickedness.’

‘That is commonly their experience,’ he agreed.

‘Which is why a good judge must not be a young man,’ I replied, ‘but an old one to whom knowledge of wickedness has come late in life, not as a feature he perceives in his own character, but as an evil whose nature he has learned after long practice to discern in other people, something about which he (c) has knowledge but of which he has no personal experience.’

‘A man like that would be a real judge indeed.’

‘And a good one, which is what you asked,’ I pointed out; ‘for he has the qualities of mind to make him a good one.82 But your wily, suspicious type, who has done many wrongs and thinks himself super-smart, looks pretty formidable so long as he is dealing with men like himself, against whom his own bad principles put him on his guard; but when he comes up against men of experience and good character he looks very silly with his untimely suspicions and the unawareness of what honesty is which he owes to his own lack of good principle. But he meets (d) more rogues than honest men, and so appears a clever fellow and not a silly one, both to himself and others.’

‘That’s perfectly true,’ he said.

‘We must not look to this type, then, for our good and wise judge, but to the other. Wickedness can never know either itself or excellence, but excellence, when education is added to natural endowment, can in course of time acquire knowledge of wickedness(e)as well as of itself. It is the good man, therefore, and not the bad man who will, in my opinion, make our wise judge.’

‘I agree with you.’

‘This then is the kind of medical and judicial provision for which you will legislate in your state. It will provide treatment 410 (a) for those of your citizens whose physical and psychological constitution is good; as for the others, it will leave the unhealthy to die, and those whose psychological constitution is incurably corrupt it will put to death.’

‘That seems to be the best thing both for the individual sufferer and for society.’

‘And so,’ I said, ‘your young men, so long as they maintain their simple form of education, which, as we have said, breeds self-control, will take care not to need judicial treatment.’


(b) ‘And if being so educated they follow on the same track in their physical training, they will, if they choose, succeed in never needing a doctor except in real necessity.’

‘I agree.’

‘It is, of course, to stimulate their energy and initiative83 that they undergo these strenuous exercises in their physical training, not merely to make themselves tough, which is the object of the diet and exercises of the ordinary athlete.’

‘You are quite right.’

‘And that, my dear Glaucon,’ I went on, ‘is why I say that the (c) purpose of the two established types of education (mental84 and physical) is not, as some suppose, to deal one with the mind and the other with the body.’

‘What is it then?’ he asked.

‘I think that perhaps the main aim of both is to train the mind.’

‘And how do they do that?’

‘Have you noticed,’ I asked, ‘how a lifelong devotion to physical exercise, to the exclusion of anything else, produces a certain type of mind? Just as a neglect of it produces another type?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘One type tends to be uncivilized and tough, the other soft (d) and over-sensitive, and… ’

‘Yes, I have noticed that,’ he broke in; ‘excessive emphasis on athletics produces an excessively uncivilized type, while a purely literary training leaves men indecently soft.’

‘It is the energy and initiative in their nature that may make them uncivilized,’ I said; ‘if you treat it properly it should make them brave, but if you overstrain it it turns them tough and uncouth, as you would expect.’

‘I agree,’ he said.

‘The philosophic temperament, on the other hand, is gentle; (e) too much relaxation may produce an excessive softness, but if it is treated properly the result should be humane and civilized.’

‘That is so.’

‘Now we agreed that our Guardians must have both these elements in their nature, did we not?’


‘And must not these two elements be harmoniously adjusted?’ 411 (a)

‘Of course.’

‘And will proper adjustment produce a character that is self-controlled and brave?’


‘And maladjustment one that is cowardly and crude?’

‘Very much so.’

‘So when a man surrenders to the sound of music and lets its sweet, soft, mournful strains, which we have just described, be funnelled into his soul through his ears, and gives up all his time to the glamorous moanings of song, the effect at first on his energy and initiative of mind, if he has any, is to soften it as iron is softened in a furnace, and made workable instead of hard and unworkable: but if he persists and does not break the (b) enchantment, the next stage is that it melts and runs, till the spirit has quite run out of him and his mental sinews (if I may so put it) are cut, and he has become what Homer calls “a feeble fighter”.’

‘That is all very true.’

‘This result is one that follows quickly if he is naturally spiritless in the first place. But if he is a man of spirit, the effect is, by weakening his spirit, to make him unstable, a man who flies into a rage at a trifle and calms down as quickly. His energy (c) has degenerated into peevishness and ill temper and he is subject to constant irritability.’


‘On the other hand, there is the man who takes a lot of strenuous physical exercise and lives well, but has little acquaintance with literature or philosophy. The physical health that results from such a course first fills him with confidence and energy, and increases his courage.’

‘It certainly does.’

‘But what happens if he devotes himself exclusively to it, and (d) has no intelligent interests? Any latent love he may have for learning is weakened by being starved of instruction or inquiry and by never taking part in any discussion or educated activity,85 and becomes deaf and blind because its perceptions are never cleared and it is never roused or fed.’

‘That is what happens.’

‘And so he becomes an unintelligent philistine, with no use for reasoned discussion, and an animal addiction to settle everything (e) by brute force. His life is one of clumsy ignorance, unrelieved by grace or beauty.’

‘That describes him exactly.’

‘What I should say therefore is that these two branches of education seem to have been given by some god to men to train these two parts of us – the one to train our philosophic part, the other our energy and initiative.86 They are not intended the one to train body, the other mind, except incidentally, but to 412 (a) ensure a proper harmony between energy and initiative on the one hand and reason on the other, by tuning each to the right pitch.’

‘Yes, so it seems.’

‘And so we may venture to assert that anyone who can produce the perfect blend of the physical and intellectual87 sides of education and apply them to the training of character, is producing music and harmony of far more importance than any mere musician tuning strings.’

‘A very reasonable assertion, Socrates.’

‘We must therefore ensure, my dear Glaucon,’ I said, ‘that there is always someone like this in charge of education in our state, if its constitution is to be preserved.’

‘We most certainly must.’

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