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360 BC
The Republic
by Plato
translated by Benjamin Jowett
360 B.C.

THE Republic of Plato is the longest of his works with the exception
of the Laws, and is certainly the greatest of them. There are nearer
approaches to modern metaphysics in the Philebus and in the Sophist;
the Politicus or Statesman is more ideal; the form and institutions of
the State are more clearly drawn out in the Laws; as works of art, the
Symposium and the Protagoras are of higher excellence. But no other
Dialogue of Plato has the same largeness of view and the same
perfection of style; no other shows an equal knowledge of the world,
or contains more of those thoughts which are new as well as old, and
not of one age only but of all. Nowhere in Plato is there a deeper
irony or a greater wealth of humor or imagery, or more dramatic power.
Nor in any other of his writings is the attempt made to interweave
life and speculation, or to connect politics with philosophy. The
Republic is the centre around which the other Dialogues may be
grouped; here philosophy reaches the highest point to which ancient
thinkers ever attained. Plato among the Greeks, like Bacon among the
moderns, was the first who conceived a method of knowledge, although
neither of them always distinguished the bare outline or form from the
substance of truth; and both of them had to be content with an
abstraction of science which was not yet realized. He was the greatest
metaphysical genius whom the world has seen; and in him, more than
in any other ancient thinker, the germs of future knowledge are
contained. The sciences of logic and psychology, which have supplied
so many instruments of thought to after-ages, are based upon the
analyses of Socrates and Plato. The principles of definition, the
law of contradiction, the fallacy of arguing in a circle, the
distinction between the essence and accidents of a thing or notion,
between means and ends, between causes and conditions; also the
division of the mind into the rational, concupiscent, and irascible
elements, or of pleasures and desires into necessary and unnecessary
--these and other great forms of thought are all of them to be found
in the Republic, and were probably first invented by Plato. The
greatest of all logical truths, and the one of which writers on
philosophy are most apt to lose sight, the difference between words
and things, has been most strenuously insisted on by him, although
he has not always avoided the confusion of them in his own writings.
But he does not bind up truth in logical formulae, --logic is still
veiled in metaphysics; and the science which he imagines to
"contemplate all truth and all existence" is very unlike the
doctrine of the syllogism which Aristotle claims to have discovered.
Neither must we forget that the Republic is but the third part of
a still larger design which was to have included an ideal history of
Athens, as well as a political and physical philosophy. The fragment
of the Critias has given birth to a world-famous fiction, second
only in importance to the tale of Troy and the legend of Arthur; and
is said as a fact to have inspired some of the early navigators of the
sixteenth century. This mythical tale, of which the subject was a
history of the wars of the Athenians against the Island of Atlantis,
is supposed to be founded upon an unfinished poem of Solon, to which
it would have stood in the same relation as the writings of the
logographers to the poems of Homer. It would have told of a struggle
for Liberty, intended to represent the conflict of Persia and
Hellas. We may judge from the noble commencement of the Timaeus,
from the fragment of the Critias itself, and from the third book of
the Laws, in what manner Plato would have treated this high
argument. We can only guess why the great design was abandoned;
perhaps because Plato became sensible of some incongruity in a
fictitious history, or because he had lost his interest in it, or
because advancing years forbade the completion of it; and we may
please ourselves with the fancy that had this imaginary narrative ever
been finished, we should have found Plato himself sympathizing with
the struggle for Hellenic independence, singing a hymn of triumph over
Marathon and Salamis, perhaps making the reflection of Herodotus where
he contemplates the growth of the Athenian empire--"How brave a
thing is freedom of speech, which has made the Athenians so far exceed
every other state of Hellas in greatness!" or, more probably,
attributing the victory to the ancient good order of Athens and to the
favor of Apollo and Athene.
Again, Plato may be regarded as the "captain" ('arhchegoz') or
leader of a goodly band of followers; for in the Republic is to be
found the original of Cicero's De Republica, of St. Augustine's City
of God, of the Utopia of Sir Thomas More, and of the numerous other
imaginary States which are framed upon the same model. The extent to
which Aristotle or the Aristotelian school were indebted to him in the
Politics has been little recognized, and the recognition is the more
necessary because it is not made by Aristotle himself. The two
philosophers had more in common than they were conscious of; and
probably some elements of Plato remain still undetected in
Aristotle. In English philosophy too, many affinities may be traced,
not only in the works of the Cambridge Platonists, but in great
original writers like Berkeley or Coleridge, to Plato and his ideas.
That there is a truth higher than experience, of which the mind
bears witness to herself, is a conviction which in our own
generation has been enthusiastically asserted, and is perhaps
gaining ground. Of the Greek authors who at the Renaissance brought
a new life into the world Plato has had the greatest influence. The
Republic of Plato is also the first treatise upon education, of
which the writings of Milton and Locke, Rousseau, Jean Paul, and
Goethe are the legitimate descendants. Like Dante or Bunyan, he has
a revelation of another life; like Bacon, he is profoundly impressed
with the un unity of knowledge; in the early Church he exercised a
real influence on theology, and at the Revival of Literature on
politics. Even the fragments of his words when "repeated at
second-hand" have in all ages ravished the hearts of men, who have
seen reflected in them their own higher nature. He is the father of
idealism in philosophy, in politics, in literature. And many of the
latest conceptions of modern thinkers and statesmen, such as the unity
of knowledge, the reign of law, and the equality of the sexes, have
been anticipated in a dream by him.


The argument of the Republic is the search after Justice, the nature
of which is first hinted at by Cephalus, the just and blameless old
man --then discussed on the basis of proverbial morality by Socrates
and Polemarchus --then caricatured by Thrasymachus and partially
explained by Socrates --reduced to an abstraction by Glaucon and
Adeimantus, and having become invisible in the individual reappears at
length in the ideal State which is constructed by Socrates. The
first care of the rulers is to be education, of which an outline is
drawn after the old Hellenic model, providing only for an improved
religion and morality, and more simplicity in music and gymnastic, a
manlier strain of poetry, and greater harmony of the individual and
the State. We are thus led on to the conception of a higher State,
in which "no man calls anything his own," and in which there is
neither "marrying nor giving in marriage," and "kings are
philosophers" and "philosophers are kings;" and there is another and
higher education, intellectual as well as moral and religious, of
science as well as of art, and not of youth only but of the whole of
life. Such a State is hardly to be realized in this world and would
quickly degenerate. To the perfect ideal succeeds the government of
the soldier and the lover of honor, this again declining into
democracy, and democracy into tyranny, in an imaginary but regular
order having not much resemblance to the actual facts. When "the wheel
has come full circle" we do not begin again with a new period of human
life; but we have passed from the best to the worst, and there we end.
The subject is then changed and the old quarrel of poetry and
philosophy which had been more lightly treated in the earlier books of
the Republic is now resumed and fought out to a conclusion. Poetry
is discovered to be an imitation thrice removed from the truth, and
Homer, as well as the dramatic poets, having been condemned as an
imitator, is sent into banishment along with them. And the idea of the
State is supplemented by the revelation of a future life.
The division into books, like all similar divisions, is probably
later than the age of Plato. The natural divisions are five in number;
--(1) Book I and the first half of Book II down to the paragraph
beginning, "I had always admired the genius of Glaucon and
Adeimantus," which is introductory; the first book containing a
refutation of the popular and sophistical notions of justice, and
concluding, like some of the earlier Dialogues, without arriving at
any definite result. To this is appended a restatement of the nature
of justice according to common opinion, and an answer is demanded to
the question --What is justice, stripped of appearances? The second
division (2) includes the remainder of the second and the whole of the
third and fourth books, which are mainly occupied with the
construction of the first State and the first education. The third
division (3) consists of the fifth, sixth, and seventh books, in which
philosophy rather than justice is the subject of inquiry, and the
second State is constructed on principles of communism and ruled by
philosophers, and the contemplation of the idea of good takes the
place of the social and political virtues. In the eighth and ninth
books (4) the perversions of States and of the individuals who
correspond to them are reviewed in succession; and the nature of
pleasure and the principle of tyranny are further analyzed in the
individual man. The tenth book (5) is the conclusion of the whole,
in which the relations of philosophy to poetry are finally determined,
and the happiness of the citizens in this life, which has now been
assured, is crowned by the vision of another.
Or a more general division into two parts may be adopted; the
first (Books I - IV) containing the description of a State framed
generally in accordance with Hellenic notions of religion and
morality, while in the second (Books V - X) the Hellenic State is
transformed into an ideal kingdom of philosophy, of which all other
governments are the perversions. These two points of view are really
opposed, and the opposition is only veiled by the genius of Plato. The
Republic, like the Phaedrus, is an imperfect whole; the higher light
of philosophy breaks through the regularity of the Hellenic temple,
which at last fades away into the heavens. Whether this imperfection
of structure arises from an enlargement of the plan; or from the
imperfect reconcilement in the writer's own mind of the struggling
elements of thought which are now first brought together by him; or,
perhaps, from the composition of the work at different times --are
questions, like the similar question about the Iliad and the
Odyssey, which are worth asking, but which cannot have a distinct
answer. In the age of Plato there was no regular mode of
publication, and an author would have the less scruple in altering
or adding to a work which was known only to a few of his friends.
There is no absurdity in supposing that he may have laid his labors
aside for a time, or turned from one work to another; and such
interruptions would be more likely to occur in the case of a long than
of a short writing. In all attempts to determine the chronological
he order of the Platonic writings on internal evidence, this
uncertainty about any single Dialogue being composed at one time is
a disturbing element, which must be admitted to affect longer works,
such as the Republic and the Laws, more than shorter ones. But, on the
other hand, the seeming discrepancies of the Republic may only arise
out of the discordant elements which the philosopher has attempted
to unite in a single whole, perhaps without being himself able to
recognize the inconsistency which is obvious to us. For there is a
judgment of after ages which few great writers have ever been able
to anticipate for themselves. They do not perceive the want of
connection in their own writings, or the gaps in their systems which
are visible enough to those who come after them. In the beginnings
of literature and philosophy, amid the first efforts of thought and
language, more inconsistencies occur than now, when the paths of
speculation are well worn and the meaning of words precisely
defined. For consistency, too, is the growth of time; and some of
the greatest creations of the human mind have been wanting in unity.
Tried by this test, several of the Platonic Dialogues, according to
our modern ideas, appear to be defective, but the deficiency is no
proof that they were composed at different times or by different
hands. And the supposition that the Republic was written
uninterruptedly and by a continuous effort is in some degree confirmed
by the numerous references from one part of the work to another.
The second title, "Concerning Justice," is not the one by which
the Republic is quoted, either by Aristotle or generally in antiquity,
and, like the other second titles of the Platonic Dialogues, may
therefore be assumed to be of later date. Morgenstern and others
have asked whether the definition of justice, which is the professed
aim, or the construction of the State is the principal argument of the
work. The answer is, that the two blend in one, and are two faces of
the same truth; for justice is the order of the State, and the State
is the visible embodiment of justice under the conditions of human
society. The one is the soul and the other is the body, and the
Greek ideal of the State, as of the individual, is a fair mind in a
fair body. In Hegelian phraseology the State is the reality of which
justice is the ideal. Or, described in Christian language, the kingdom
of God is within, and yet develops into a Church or external
kingdom; "the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens," is
reduced to the proportions of an earthly building. Or, to use a
Platonic image, justice and the State are the warp and the woof
which run through the whole texture. And when the constitution of
the State is completed, the conception of justice is not dismissed,
but reappears under the same or different names throughout the work,
both as the inner law of the individual soul, and finally as the
principle of rewards and punishments in another life. The virtues
are based on justice, of which common honesty in buying and selling is
the shadow, and justice is based on the idea of good, which is the
harmony of the world, and is reflected both in the institutions of
States and in motions of the heavenly bodies. The Timaeus, which takes
up the political rather than the ethical side of the Republic, and
is chiefly occupied with hypotheses concerning the outward world,
yet contains many indications that the same law is supposed to reign
over the State, over nature, and over man.
Too much, however, has been made of this question both in ancient
and in modern times. There is a stage of criticism in which all works,
whether of nature or of art, are referred to design. Now in ancient
writings, and indeed in literature generally, there remains often a
large element which was not comprehended in the original design. For
the plan grows under the author's hand; new thoughts occur to him in
the act of writing; he has not worked out the argument to the end
before he begins. The reader who seeks to find some one idea under
which the whole may be conceived, must necessarily seize on the
vaguest and most general. Thus Stallbaum, who is dissatisfied with the
ordinary explanations of the argument of the Republic, imagines
himself to have found the true argument "in the representation of
human life in a State perfected by justice and governed according to
the idea of good." There may be some use in such general descriptions,
but they can hardly be said to express the design of the writer. The
truth is, that we may as well speak of many designs as of one; nor
need anything be excluded from the plan of a great work to which the
mind is naturally led by the association of ideas, and which does
not interfere with the general purpose. What kind or degree of unity
is to be sought after in a building, in the plastic arts, in poetry,
in prose, is a problem which has to be determined relatively to the
subject-matter. To Plato himself, the inquiry "what was the
intention of the writer," or "what was the principal argument of the
Republic" would have been hardly intelligible, and therefore had
better be at once dismissed.
Is not the Republic the vehicle of three or four great truths which,
to Plato's own mind, are most naturally represented in the form of the
State? Just as in the Jewish prophets the reign of Messiah, or "the
day of the Lord," or the suffering Servant or people of God, or the
"Sun of righteousness with healing in his wings" only convey, to us at
least, their great spiritual ideals, so through the Greek State
Plato reveals to us his own thoughts about divine perfection, which is
the idea of good --like the sun in the visible world; --about human
perfection, which is justice --about education beginning in youth
and continuing in later years --about poets and sophists and tyrants
who are the false teachers and evil rulers of mankind --about "the
world" which is the embodiment of them --about a kingdom which
exists nowhere upon earth but is laid up in heaven to be the pattern
and rule of human life. No such inspired creation is at unity with
itself, any more than the clouds of heaven when the sun pierces
through them. Every shade of light and dark, of truth, and of
fiction which is the veil of truth, is allowable in a work of
philosophical imagination. It is not all on the same plane; it
easily passes from ideas to myths and fancies, from facts to figures
of speech. It is not prose but poetry, at least a great part of it,
and ought not to be judged by the rules of logic or the
probabilities of history. The writer is not fashioning his ideas
into an artistic whole; they take possession of him and are too much
for him. We have no need therefore to discuss whether a State such
as Plato has conceived is practicable or not, or whether the outward
form or the inward life came first into the mind of the writer. For
the practicability of his ideas has nothing to do with their truth;
and the highest thoughts to which he attains may be truly said to bear
the greatest "marks of design" --justice more than the external
frame-work of the State, the idea of good more than justice. The great
science of dialectic or the organization of ideas has no real content;
but is only a type of the method or spirit in which the higher
knowledge is to be pursued by the spectator of all time and all
existence. It is in the fifth, sixth, and seventh books that Plato
reaches the "summit of speculation," and these, although they fail
to satisfy the requirements of a modern thinker, may therefore be
regarded as the most important, as they are also the most original,
portions of the work.
It is not necessary to discuss at length a minor question which
has been raised by Boeckh, respecting the imaginary date at which
the conversation was held (the year 411 B. C. which is proposed by him
will do as well as any other); for a writer of fiction, and especially
a writer who, like Plato, is notoriously careless of chronology,
only aims at general probability. Whether all the persons mentioned in
the Republic could ever have met at any one time is not a difficulty
which would have occurred to an Athenian reading the work forty
years later, or to Plato himself at the time of writing (any more than
to Shakespeare respecting one of his own dramas); and need not greatly
trouble us now. Yet this may be a question having no answer "which
is still worth asking," because the investigation shows that we can
not argue historically from the dates in Plato; it would be useless
therefore to waste time in inventing far-fetched reconcilements of
them in order avoid chronological difficulties, such, for example,
as the conjecture of C. F. Hermann, that Glaucon and Adeimantus are
not the brothers but the uncles of Plato, or the fancy of Stallbaum
that Plato intentionally left anachronisms indicating the dates at
which some of his Dialogues were written.


The principal characters in the Republic are Cephalus,
Polemarchus, Thrasymachus, Socrates, Glaucon, and Adeimantus. Cephalus
appears in the introduction only, Polemarchus drops at the end of
the first argument, and Thrasymachus is reduced to silence at the
close of the first book. The main discussion is carried on by
Socrates, Glaucon, and Adeimantus. Among the company are Lysias (the
orator) and Euthydemus, the sons of Cephalus and brothers of
Polemarchus, an unknown Charmantides --these are mute auditors; also
there is Cleitophon, who once interrupts, where, as in the Dialogue
which bears his name, he appears as the friend and ally of
Cephalus, the patriarch of house, has been appropriately engaged
in offering a sacrifice. He is the pattern of an old man who has
almost done with life, and is at peace with himself and with all
mankind. He feels that he is drawing nearer to the world below, and
seems to linger around the memory of the past. He is eager that
Socrates should come to visit him, fond of the poetry of the last
generation, happy in the consciousness of a well-spent life, glad at
having escaped from the tyranny of youthful lusts. His love of
conversation, his affection, his indifference to riches, even his
garrulity, are interesting traits of character. He is not one of those
who have nothing to say, because their whole mind has been absorbed in
making money. Yet he acknowledges that riches have the advantage of
placing men above the temptation to dishonesty or falsehood. The
respectful attention shown to him by Socrates, whose love of
conversation, no less than the mission imposed upon him by the Oracle,
leads him to ask questions of all men, young and old alike, should
also be noted. Who better suited to raise the question of justice than
Cephalus, whose life might seem to be the expression of it? The
moderation with which old age is pictured by Cephalus as a very
tolerable portion of existence is characteristic, not only of him, but
of Greek feeling generally, and contrasts with the exaggeration of
Cicero in the De Senectute. The evening of life is described by
Plato in the most expressive manner, yet with the fewest possible
touches. As Cicero remarks (Ep. ad Attic. iv. 16), the aged Cephalus
would have been out of place in the discussion which follows, and
which he could neither have understood nor taken part in without a
violation of dramatic propriety.
His "son and heir" Polemarchus has the frankness and impetuousness
of youth; he is for detaining Socrates by force in the opening
scene, and will not "let him off" on the subject of women and
children. Like Cephalus, he is limited in his point of view, and
represents the proverbial stage of morality which has rules of life
rather than principles; and he quotes Simonides as his father had
quoted Pindar. But after this he has no more to say; the answers which
he makes are only elicited from him by the dialectic of Socrates. He
has not yet experienced the influence of the Sophists like Glaucon and
Adeimantus, nor is he sensible of the necessity of refuting them; he
belongs to the pre-Socratic or pre-dialectical age. He is incapable of
arguing, and is bewildered by Socrates to such a degree that he does
not know what he is saying. He is made to admit that justice is a
thief, and that the virtues follow the analogy of the arts. From his
brother Lysias we learn that he fell a victim to the Thirty Tyrants,
but no allusion is here made to his fate, nor to the circumstance that
Cephalus and his family were of Syracusan origin, and had migrated
from Thurii to Athens.
The "Chalcedonian giant," Thrasymachus, of whom we have already
heard in the Phaedrus, is the personification of the Sophists,
according to Plato's conception of them, in some of their worst
characteristics. He is vain and blustering, refusing to discourse
unless he is paid, fond of making an oration, and hoping thereby to
escape the inevitable Socrates; but a mere child in argument, and
unable to foresee that the next "move" (to use a Platonic
expression) will "shut him up." He has reached the stage of framing
general notions, and in this respect is in advance of Cephalus and
Polemarchus. But he is incapable of defending them in a discussion,
and vainly tries to cover his confusion in banter and insolence.
Whether such doctrines as are attributed to him by Plato were really
held either by him or by any other Sophist is uncertain; in the
infancy of philosophy serious errors about morality might easily
grow up --they are certainly put into the mouths of speakers in
Thucydides; but we are concerned at present with Plato's description
of him, and not with the historical reality. The inequality of the
contest adds greatly to the humor of the scene. The pompous and
empty Sophist is utterly helpless in the hands of the great master
of dialectic, who knows how to touch all the springs of vanity and
weakness in him. He is greatly irritated by the irony of Socrates, but
his noisy and imbecile rage only lays him more and more open to the
thrusts of his assailant. His determination to cram down their
throats, or put "bodily into their souls" his own words, elicits a cry
of horror from Socrates. The state of his temper is quite as worthy of
remark as the process of the argument. Nothing is more amusing than
his complete submission when he has been once thoroughly beaten. At
first he seems to continue the discussion with reluctance, but soon
with apparent good-will, and he even testifies his interest at a later
stage by one or two occasional remarks. When attacked by Glaucon he is
humorously protected by Socrates "as one who has never been his
enemy and is now his friend." From Cicero and Quintilian and from
Aristotle's Rhetoric we learn that the Sophist whom Plato has made
so ridiculous was a man of note whose writings were preserved in later
ages. The play on his name which was made by his contemporary
Herodicus, "thou wast ever bold in battle," seems to show that the
description of him is not devoid of verisimilitude.
When Thrasymachus has been silenced, the two principal
respondents, Glaucon and Adeimantus, appear on the scene: here, as
in Greek tragedy, three actors are introduced. At first sight the
two sons of Ariston may seem to wear a family likeness, like the two
friends Simmias and Cebes in the Phaedo. But on a nearer examination
of them the similarity vanishes, and they are seen to be distinct
characters. Glaucon is the impetuous youth who can "just never have
enough of fechting" (cf. the character of him in Xen. Mem. iii. 6);
the man of pleasure who is acquainted with the mysteries of love;
the "juvenis qui gaudet canibus," and who improves the breed of
animals; the lover of art and music who has all the experiences of
youthful life. He is full of quickness and penetration, piercing
easily below the clumsy platitudes of Thrasymachus to the real
difficulty; he turns out to the light the seamy side of human life,
and yet does not lose faith in the just and true. It is Glaucon who
seizes what may be termed the ludicrous relation of the philosopher to
the world, to whom a state of simplicity is "a city of pigs," who is
always prepared with a jest when the argument offers him an
opportunity, and who is ever ready to second the humor of Socrates and
to appreciate the ridiculous, whether in the connoisseurs of music, or
in the lovers of theatricals, or in the fantastic behavior of the
citizens of democracy. His weaknesses are several times alluded to
by Socrates, who, however, will not allow him to be attacked by his
brother Adeimantus. He is a soldier, and, like Adeimantus, has been
distinguished at the battle of Megara.
The character of Adeimantus is deeper and graver, and the profounder
objections are commonly put into his mouth. Glaucon is more
demonstrative, and generally opens the game. Adeimantus pursues the
argument further. Glaucon has more of the liveliness and quick
sympathy of youth; Adeimantus has the maturer judgment of a grown-up
man of the world. In the second book, when Glaucon insists that
justice and injustice shall be considered without regard to their
consequences, Adeimantus remarks that they are regarded by mankind
in general only for the sake of their consequences; and in a similar
vein of reflection he urges at the beginning of the fourth book that
Socrates falls in making his citizens happy, and is answered that
happiness is not the first but the second thing, not the direct aim
but the indirect consequence of the good government of a State. In the
discussion about religion and mythology, Adeimantus is the respondent,
but Glaucon breaks in with a slight jest, and carries on the
conversation in a lighter tone about music and gymnastic to the end of
the book. It is Adeimantus again who volunteers the criticism of
common sense on the Socratic method of argument, and who refuses to
let Socrates pass lightly over the question of women and children.
It is Adeimantus who is the respondent in the more argumentative, as
Glaucon in the lighter and more imaginative portions of the
Dialogue. For example, throughout the greater part of the sixth
book, the causes of the corruption of philosophy and the conception of
the idea of good are discussed with Adeimantus. Then Glaucon resumes
his place of principal respondent; but he has a difficulty in
apprehending the higher education of Socrates, and makes some false
hits in the course of the discussion. Once more Adeimantus returns
with the allusion to his brother Glaucon whom he compares to the
contentious State; in the next book he is again superseded, and
Glaucon continues to the end.
Thus in a succession of characters Plato represents the successive
stages of morality, beginning with the Athenian gentleman of the olden
time, who is followed by the practical man of that day regulating
his life by proverbs and saws; to him succeeds the wild generalization
of the Sophists, and lastly come the young disciples of the great
teacher, who know the sophistical arguments but will not be
convinced by them, and desire to go deeper into the nature of
things. These too, like Cephalus, Polemarchus, Thrasymachus, are
clearly distinguished from one another. Neither in the Republic, nor
in any other Dialogue of Plato, is a single character repeated.
The delineation of Socrates in the Republic is not wholly
consistent. In the first book we have more of the real Socrates,
such as he is depicted in the Memorabilia of Xenophon, in the earliest
Dialogues of Plato, and in the Apology. He is ironical, provoking,
questioning, the old enemy of the Sophists, ready to put on the mask
of Silenus as well as to argue seriously. But in the sixth book his
enmity towards the Sophists abates; he acknowledges that they are
the representatives rather than the corrupters of the world. He also
becomes more dogmatic and constructive, passing beyond the range
either of the political or the speculative ideas of the real Socrates.
In one passage Plato himself seems to intimate that the time had now
come for Socrates, who had passed his whole life in philosophy, to
give his own opinion and not to be always repeating the notions of
other men. There is no evidence that either the idea of good or the
conception of a perfect State were comprehended in the Socratic
teaching, though he certainly dwelt on the nature of the universal and
of final causes (cp. Xen. Mem. i. 4; Phaedo 97); and a deep thinker
like him in his thirty or forty years of public teaching, could hardly
have falled to touch on the nature of family relations, for which
there is also some positive evidence in the Memorabilia (Mem. i. 2, 51
foll.) The Socratic method is nominally retained; and every
inference is either put into the mouth of the respondent or
represented as the common discovery of him and Socrates. But any one
can see that this is a mere form, of which the affectation grows
wearisome as the work advances. The method of inquiry has passed
into a method of teaching in which by the help of interlocutors the
same thesis is looked at from various points of view.
The nature of the process is truly characterized by Glaucon, when he
describes himself as a companion who is not good for much in an
investigation, but can see what he is shown, and may, perhaps, give
the answer to a question more fluently than another.
Neither can we be absolutely certain that, Socrates himself taught
the immortality of the soul, which is unknown to his disciple
Glaucon in the Republic; nor is there any reason to suppose that he
used myths or revelations of another world as a vehicle of
instruction, or that he would have banished poetry or have denounced
the Greek mythology. His favorite oath is retained, and a slight
mention is made of the daemonium, or internal sign, which is alluded
to by Socrates as a phenomenon peculiar to himself. A real element
of Socratic teaching, which is more prominent in the Republic than
in any of the other Dialogues of Plato, is the use of example and
illustration ('taphorhtika auto prhospherhontez'): "Let us apply the
test of common instances." "You," says Adeimantus, ironically, in
the sixth book, "are so unaccustomed to speak in images." And this use
of examples or images, though truly Socratic in origin, is enlarged by
the genius of Plato into the form of an allegory or parable, which
embodies in the concrete what has been already described, or is
about to be described, in the abstract. Thus the figure of the cave in
Book VII is a recapitulation of the divisions of knowledge in Book VI.
The composite animal in Book IX is an allegory of the parts of the
soul. The noble captain and the ship and the true pilot in Book VI are
a figure of the relation of the people to the philosophers in the
State which has been described. Other figures, such as the dog in
the second, third, and fourth books, or the marriage of the
portionless maiden in the sixth book, or the drones and wasps in the
eighth and ninth books, also form links of connection in long
passages, or are used to recall previous discussions.
Plato is most true to the character of his master when he
describes him as "not of this world." And with this representation
of him the ideal State and the other paradoxes of the Republic are
quite in accordance, though they can not be shown to have been
speculations of Socrates. To him, as to other great teachers both
philosophical and religious, when they looked upward, the world seemed
to be the embodiment of error and evil. The common sense of mankind
has revolted against this view, or has only partially admitted it. And
even in Socrates himself the sterner judgment of the multitude at
times passes into a sort of ironical pity or love. Men in general
are incapable of philosophy, and are therefore at enmity with the
philosopher; but their misunderstanding of him is unavoidable: for
they have never seen him as he truly is in his own image; they are
only acquainted with artificial systems possessing no native force
of truth --words which admit of many applications. Their leaders
have nothing to measure with, and are therefore ignorant of their
own stature. But they are to be pitied or laughed at, not to be
quarrelled with; they mean well with their nostrums, if they could
only learn that they are cutting off a Hydra's head. This moderation
towards those who are in error is one of the most characteristic
features of Socrates in the Republic. In all the different
representations of Socrates, whether of Xenophon or Plato, and the
differences of the earlier or later Dialogues, he always retains the
character of the unwearied and disinterested seeker after truth,
without which he would have ceased to be Socrates.
Leaving the characters we may now analyze the contents of the
Republic, and then proceed to consider (1) The general aspects of this
Hellenic ideal of the State, (2) The modern lights in which the
thoughts of Plato may be read.


I WENT down yesterday to the Piraeus with Glaucon the son of
Ariston, that I might offer up my prayers to the goddess; and also
because I wanted to see in what manner they would celebrate the
festival, which was a new thing. I was delighted with the procession
of the inhabitants; but that of the Thracians was equally, if not
more, beautiful. When we had finished our prayers and viewed the
spectacle, we turned in the direction of the city; and at that instant
Polemarchus the son of Cephalus chanced to catch sight of us from a
distance as we were starting on our way home, and told his servant
to run and bid us wait for him. The servant took hold of me by the
cloak behind, and said: Polemarchus desires you to wait.
I turned round, and asked him where his master was.
There he is, said the youth, coming after you, if you will only
Certainly we will, said Glaucon; and in a few minutes Polemarchus
appeared, and with him Adeimantus, Glaucon's brother, Niceratus the
son of Nicias, and several others who had been at the procession.


Polemarchus said to me: I perceive, Socrates, that you and our
companion are already on your way to the city.
You are not far wrong, I said.
But do you see, he rejoined, how many we are?
Of course.
And are you stronger than all these? for if not, you will have to
remain where you are.
May there not be the alternative, I said, that we may persuade you
to let us go?
But can you persuade us, if we refuse to listen to you? he said.
Certainly not, replied Glaucon.
Then we are not going to listen; of that you may be assured.
Adeimantus added: Has no one told you of the torch-race on horseback
in honour of the goddess which will take place in the evening?
With horses! I replied: That is a novelty. Will horsemen carry
torches and pass them one to another during the race?
Yes, said Polemarchus, and not only so, but a festival will he
celebrated at night, which you certainly ought to see. Let us rise
soon after supper and see this festival; there will be a gathering
of young men, and we will have a good talk. Stay then, and do not be
Glaucon said: I suppose, since you insist, that we must.
Very good, I replied.


Accordingly we went with Polemarchus to his house; and there we
found his brothers Lysias and Euthydemus, and with them Thrasymachus
the Chalcedonian, Charmantides the Paeanian, and Cleitophon the son of
Aristonymus. There too was Cephalus the father of Polemarchus, whom
I had not seen for a long time, and I thought him very much aged. He
was seated on a cushioned chair, and had a garland on his head, for he
had been sacrificing in the court; and there were some other chairs in
the room arranged in a semicircle, upon which we sat down by him. He
saluted me eagerly, and then he said: --
You don't come to see me, Socrates, as often as you ought: If I were
still able to go and see you I would not ask you to come to me. But at
my age I can hardly get to the city, and therefore you should come
oftener to the Piraeus. For let me tell you, that the more the
pleasures of the body fade away, the greater to me is the pleasure and
charm of conversation. Do not then deny my request, but make our house
your resort and keep company with these young men; we are old friends,
and you will be quite at home with us.
I replied: There is nothing which for my part I like better,
Cephalus, than conversing with aged men; for I regard them as
travellers who have gone a journey which I too may have to go, and
of whom I ought to enquire, whether the way is smooth and easy, or
rugged and difficult. And this is a question which I should like to
ask of you who have arrived at that time which the poets call the
'threshold of old age' --Is life harder towards the end, or what
report do you give of it?
I will tell you, Socrates, he said, what my own feeling is. Men of
my age flock together; we are birds of a feather, as the old proverb
says; and at our meetings the tale of my acquaintance commonly is
--I cannot eat, I cannot drink; the pleasures of youth and love are
fled away: there was a good time once, but now that is gone, and
life is no longer life. Some complain of the slights which are put
upon them by relations, and they will tell you sadly of how many evils
their old age is the cause. But to me, Socrates, these complainers
seem to blame that which is not really in fault. For if old age were
the cause, I too being old, and every other old man, would have felt
as they do. But this is not my own experience, nor that of others whom
I have known. How well I remember the aged poet Sophocles, when in
answer to the question, How does love suit with age, Sophocles,
--are you still the man you were? Peace, he replied; most gladly
have I escaped the thing of which you speak; I feel as if I had
escaped from a mad and furious master. His words have often occurred
to my mind since, and they seem as good to me now as at the time
when he uttered them. For certainly old age has a great sense of
calm and freedom; when the passions relax their hold, then, as
Sophocles says, we are freed from the grasp not of one mad master
only, but of many. The truth is, Socrates, that these regrets, and
also the complaints about relations, are to be attributed to the
same cause, which is not old age, but men's characters and tempers;
for he who is of a calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure
of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition youth and age are
equally a burden.
I listened in admiration, and wanting to draw him out, that he might
go on --Yes, Cephalus, I said: but I rather suspect that people in
general are not convinced by you when you speak thus; they think
that old age sits lightly upon you, not because of your happy
disposition, but because you are rich, and wealth is well known to
be a great comforter.
You are right, he replied; they are not convinced: and there is
something in what they say; not, however, so much as they imagine. I
might answer them as Themistocles answered the Seriphian who was
abusing him and saying that he was famous, not for his own merits
but because he was an Athenian: 'If you had been a native of my
country or I of yours, neither of us would have been famous.' And to
those who are not rich and are impatient of old age, the same reply
may be made; for to the good poor man old age cannot be a light
burden, nor can a bad rich man ever have peace with himself.
May I ask, Cephalus, whether your fortune was for the most part
inherited or acquired by you?
Acquired! Socrates; do you want to know how much I acquired? In
the art of making money I have been midway between my father and
grandfather: for my grandfather, whose name I bear, doubled and
trebled the value of his patrimony, that which he inherited being much
what I possess now; but my father Lysanias reduced the property
below what it is at present: and I shall be satisfied if I leave to
these my sons not less but a little more than I received.
That was why I asked you the question, I replied, because I see that
you are indifferent about money, which is a characteristic rather of
those who have inherited their fortunes than of those who have
acquired them; the makers of fortunes have a second love of money as a
creation of their own, resembling the affection of authors for their
own poems, or of parents for their children, besides that natural love
of it for the sake of use and profit which is common to them and all
men. And hence they are very bad company, for they can talk about
nothing but the praises of wealth. That is true, he said.
Yes, that is very true, but may I ask another question? What do
you consider to be the greatest blessing which you have reaped from
your wealth?
One, he said, of which I could not expect easily to convince others.
For let me tell you, Socrates, that when a man thinks himself to be
near death, fears and cares enter into his mind which he never had
before; the tales of a world below and the punishment which is exacted
there of deeds done here were once a laughing matter to him, but now
he is tormented with the thought that they may be true: either from
the weakness of age, or because he is now drawing nearer to that other
place, he has a clearer view of these things; suspicions and alarms
crowd thickly upon him, and he begins to reflect and consider what
wrongs he has done to others. And when he finds that the sum of his
transgressions is great he will many a time like a child start up in
his sleep for fear, and he is filled with dark forebodings. But to him
who is conscious of no sin, sweet hope, as Pindar charmingly says,
is the kind nurse of his age:

Hope, he says, cherishes the soul of him who lives in justice and
holiness and is the nurse of his age and the companion of his journey;
--hope which is mightiest to sway the restless soul of man.

How admirable are his words! And the great blessing of riches, I
do not say to every man, but to a good man, is, that he has had no
occasion to deceive or to defraud others, either intentionally or
unintentionally; and when he departs to the world below he is not in
any apprehension about offerings due to the gods or debts which he
owes to men. Now to this peace of mind the possession of wealth
greatly contributes; and therefore I say, that, setting one thing
against another, of the many advantages which wealth has to give, to a
man of sense this is in my opinion the greatest.
Well said, Cephalus, I replied; but as concerning justice, what is
it? --to speak the truth and to pay your debts --no more than this?
And even to this are there not exceptions? Suppose that a friend
when in his right mind has deposited arms with me and he asks for them
when he is not in his right mind, ought I to give them back to him? No
one would say that I ought or that I should be right in doing so,
any more than they would say that I ought always to speak the truth to
one who is in his condition.
You are quite right, he replied.
But then, I said, speaking the truth and paying your debts is not
a correct definition of justice.


Quite correct, Socrates, if Simonides is to be believed, said
Polemarchus interposing.
I fear, said Cephalus, that I must go now, for I have to look
after the sacrifices, and I hand over the argument to Polemarchus
and the company.
Is not Polemarchus your heir? I said.
To be sure, he answered, and went away laughing to the sacrifices.


Tell me then, O thou heir of the argument, what did Simonides say,
and according to you truly say, about justice?
He said that the repayment of a debt is just, and in saying so he
appears to me to be right.
I should be sorry to doubt the word of such a wise and inspired man,
but his meaning, though probably clear to you, is the reverse of clear
to me. For he certainly does not mean, as we were now saying that I
ought to return a return a deposit of arms or of anything else to
one who asks for it when he is not in his right senses; and yet a
deposit cannot be denied to be a debt.
Then when the person who asks me is not in his right mind I am by no
means to make the return?
Certainly not.
When Simonides said that the repayment of a debt was justice, he did
not mean to include that case?
Certainly not; for he thinks that a friend ought always to do good
to a friend and never evil.
You mean that the return of a deposit of gold which is to the injury
of the receiver, if the two parties are friends, is not the
repayment of a debt, --that is what you would imagine him to say?
And are enemies also to receive what we owe to them?
To be sure, he said, they are to receive what we owe them, and an
enemy, as I take it, owes to an enemy that which is due or proper to
him --that is to say, evil.
Simonides, then, after the manner of poets, would seem to have
spoken darkly of the nature of justice; for he really meant to say
that justice is the giving to each man what is proper to him, and this
he termed a debt.
That must have been his meaning, he said.
By heaven! I replied; and if we asked him what due or proper thing
is given by medicine, and to whom, what answer do you think that he
would make to us?
He would surely reply that medicine gives drugs and meat and drink
to human bodies.
And what due or proper thing is given by cookery, and to what?
Seasoning to food.
And what is that which justice gives, and to whom?
If, Socrates, we are to be guided at all by the analogy of the
preceding instances, then justice is the art which gives good to
friends and evil to enemies.
That is his meaning then?
I think so.
And who is best able to do good to his friends and evil to his
enemies in time of sickness?
The physician.
Or when they are on a voyage, amid the perils of the sea?
The pilot.
And in what sort of actions or with a view to what result is the
just man most able to do harm to his enemy and good to his friends?
In going to war against the one and in making alliances with the
But when a man is well, my dear Polemarchus, there is no need of a
And he who is not on a voyage has no need of a pilot?
Then in time of peace justice will be of no use?
I am very far from thinking so.
You think that justice may be of use in peace as well as in war?
Like husbandry for the acquisition of corn?
Or like shoemaking for the acquisition of shoes, --that is what
you mean?
And what similar use or power of acquisition has justice in time
of peace?
In contracts, Socrates, justice is of use.
And by contracts you mean partnerships?
But is the just man or the skilful player a more useful and better
partner at a game of draughts?
The skilful player.
And in the laying of bricks and stones is the just man a more useful
or better partner than the builder?
Quite the reverse.
Then in what sort of partnership is the just man a better partner
than the harp-player, as in playing the harp the harp-player is
certainly a better partner than the just man?
In a money partnership.
Yes, Polemarchus, but surely not in the use of money; for you do not
want a just man to be your counsellor the purchase or sale of a horse;
a man who is knowing about horses would be better for that, would he
And when you want to buy a ship, the shipwright or the pilot would
be better?
Then what is that joint use of silver or gold in which the just
man is to be preferred?
When you want a deposit to be kept safely.
You mean when money is not wanted, but allowed to lie?
That is to say, justice is useful when money is useless?
That is the inference.
And when you want to keep a pruning-hook safe, then justice is
useful to the individual and to the state; but when you want to use
it, then the art of the vine-dresser?
And when you want to keep a shield or a lyre, and not to use them,
you would say that justice is useful; but when you want to use them,
then the art of the soldier or of the musician?
And so of all the other things; --justice is useful when they are
useless, and useless when they are useful?
That is the inference.
Then justice is not good for much. But let us consider this
further point: Is not he who can best strike a blow in a boxing
match or in any kind of fighting best able to ward off a blow?
And he who is most skilful in preventing or escaping from a
disease is best able to create one?
And he is the best guard of a camp who is best able to steal a march
upon the enemy?
Then he who is a good keeper of anything is also a good thief?
That, I suppose, is to be inferred.
Then if the just man is good at keeping money, he is good at
stealing it.
That is implied in the argument.
Then after all the just man has turned out to be a thief. And this
is a lesson which I suspect you must have learnt out of Homer; for he,
speaking of Autolycus, the maternal grandfather of Odysseus, who is
a favourite of his, affirms that

He was excellent above all men in theft and perjury.

And so, you and Homer and Simonides are agreed that justice is an
art of theft; to be practised however 'for the good of friends and for
the harm of enemies,' --that was what you were saying?
No, certainly not that, though I do not now know what I did say; but
I still stand by the latter words.
Well, there is another question: By friends and enemies do we mean
those who are so really, or only in seeming?
Surely, he said, a man may be expected to love those whom he
thinks good, and to hate those whom he thinks evil.
Yes, but do not persons often err about good and evil: many who
are not good seem to be so, and conversely?
That is true.
Then to them the good will be enemies and the evil will be their
friends? True.
And in that case they will be right in doing good to the evil and
evil to the good?
But the good are just and would not do an injustice?
Then according to your argument it is just to injure those who do no
Nay, Socrates; the doctrine is immoral.
Then I suppose that we ought to do good to the just and harm to
the unjust?
I like that better.
But see the consequence: --Many a man who is ignorant of human
nature has friends who are bad friends, and in that case he ought to
do harm to them; and he has good enemies whom he ought to benefit;
but, if so, we shall be saying the very opposite of that which we
affirmed to be the meaning of Simonides.
Very true, he said: and I think that we had better correct an
error into which we seem to have fallen in the use of the words
'friend' and 'enemy.'
What was the error, Polemarchus? I asked.
We assumed that he is a friend who seems to be or who is thought
And how is the error to be corrected?
We should rather say that he is a friend who is, as well as seems,
good; and that he who seems only, and is not good, only seems to be
and is not a friend; and of an enemy the same may be said.
You would argue that the good are our friends and the bad our
And instead of saying simply as we did at first, that it is just
to do good to our friends and harm to our enemies, we should further
say: It is just to do good to our friends when they are good and
harm to our enemies when they are evil?
Yes, that appears to me to be the truth.
But ought the just to injure any one at all?
Undoubtedly he ought to injure those who are both wicked and his
When horses are injured, are they improved or deteriorated?
The latter.
Deteriorated, that is to say, in the good qualities of horses, not
of dogs?
Yes, of horses.
And dogs are deteriorated in the good qualities of dogs, and not
of horses?
Of course.
And will not men who are injured be deteriorated in that which is
the proper virtue of man?
And that human virtue is justice?
To be sure.
Then men who are injured are of necessity made unjust?
That is the result.
But can the musician by his art make men unmusical?
Certainly not.
Or the horseman by his art make them bad horsemen?
And can the just by justice make men unjust, or speaking general can
the good by virtue make them bad?
Assuredly not.
Any more than heat can produce cold?
It cannot.
Or drought moisture?
Clearly not.
Nor can the good harm any one?
And the just is the good?
Then to injure a friend or any one else is not the act of a just
man, but of the opposite, who is the unjust?
I think that what you say is quite true, Socrates.
Then if a man says that justice consists in the repayment of
debts, and that good is the debt which a man owes to his friends,
and evil the debt which he owes to his enemies, --to say this is not
wise; for it is not true, if, as has been clearly shown, the
injuring of another can be in no case just.
I agree with you, said Polemarchus.
Then you and I are prepared to take up arms against any one who
attributes such a saying to Simonides or Bias or Pittacus, or any
other wise man or seer?
I am quite ready to do battle at your side, he said.
Shall I tell you whose I believe the saying to be?
I believe that Periander or Perdiccas or Xerxes or Ismenias the
Theban, or some other rich and mighty man, who had a great opinion
of his own power, was the first to say that justice is 'doing good
to your friends and harm to your enemies.'
Most true, he said.
Yes, I said; but if this definition of justice also breaks down,
what other can be offered?
Several times in the course of the discussion Thrasymachus had
made an attempt to get the argument into his own hands, and had been
put down by the rest of the company, who wanted to hear the end. But
when Polemarchus and I had done speaking and there was a pause, he
could no longer hold his peace; and, gathering himself up, he came
at us like a wild beast, seeking to devour us. We were quite
panic-stricken at the sight of him.


He roared out to the whole company: What folly. Socrates, has
taken possession of you all? And why, sillybillies, do you knock under
to one another? I say that if you want really to know what justice is,
you should not only ask but answer, and you should not seek honour
to yourself from the refutation of an opponent, but have your own
answer; for there is many a one who can ask and cannot answer. And now
I will not have you say that justice is duty or advantage or profit or
gain or interest, for this sort of nonsense will not do for me; I must
have clearness and accuracy.
I was panic-stricken at his words, and could not look at him without
trembling. Indeed I believe that if I had not fixed my eye upon him, I
should have been struck dumb: but when I saw his fury rising, I looked
at him first, and was therefore able to reply to him.
Thrasymachus, I said, with a quiver, don't be hard upon us.
Polemarchus and I may have been guilty of a little mistake in the
argument, but I can assure you that the error was not intentional.
If we were seeking for a piece of gold, you would not imagine that
we were 'knocking under to one another,' and so losing our chance of
finding it. And why, when we are seeking for justice, a thing more
precious than many pieces of gold, do you say that we are weakly
yielding to one another and not doing our utmost to get at the
truth? Nay, my good friend, we are most willing and anxious to do
so, but the fact is that we cannot. And if so, you people who know all
things should pity us and not be angry with us.
How characteristic of Socrates! he replied, with a bitter laugh;
--that's your ironical style! Did I not foresee --have I not already
told you, that whatever he was asked he would refuse to answer, and
try irony or any other shuffle, in order that he might avoid
You are a philosopher, Thrasymachus, I replied, and well know that
if you ask a person what numbers make up twelve, taking care to
prohibit him whom you ask from answering twice six, or three times
four, or six times two, or four times three, 'for this sort of
nonsense will not do for me,' --then obviously, that is your way of
putting the question, no one can answer you. But suppose that he
were to retort, 'Thrasymachus, what do you mean? If one of these
numbers which you interdict be the true answer to the question, am I
falsely to say some other number which is not the right one? --is that
your meaning?' -How would you answer him?
Just as if the two cases were at all alike! he said.
Why should they not be? I replied; and even if they are not, but
only appear to be so to the person who is asked, ought he not to say
what he thinks, whether you and I forbid him or not?
I presume then that you are going to make one of the interdicted
I dare say that I may, notwithstanding the danger, if upon
reflection I approve of any of them.
But what if I give you an answer about justice other and better,
he said, than any of these? What do you deserve to have done to you?
Done to me! --as becomes the ignorant, I must learn from the wise
--that is what I deserve to have done to me.
What, and no payment! a pleasant notion!
I will pay when I have the money, I replied.


But you have, Socrates, said Glaucon: and you, Thrasymachus, need be
under no anxiety about money, for we will all make a contribution
for Socrates.
Yes, he replied, and then Socrates will do as he always does
--refuse to answer himself, but take and pull to pieces the answer
of some one else.
Why, my good friend, I said, how can any one answer who knows, and
says that he knows, just nothing; and who, even if he has some faint
notions of his own, is told by a man of authority not to utter them?
The natural thing is, that the speaker should be some one like
yourself who professes to know and can tell what he knows. Will you
then kindly answer, for the edification of the company and of myself ?
Glaucon and the rest of the company joined in my request and
Thrasymachus, as any one might see, was in reality eager to speak; for
he thought that he had an excellent answer, and would distinguish
himself. But at first he to insist on my answering; at length he
consented to begin. Behold, he said, the wisdom of Socrates; he
refuses to teach himself, and goes about learning of others, to whom
he never even says thank you.
That I learn of others, I replied, is quite true; but that I am
ungrateful I wholly deny. Money I have none, and therefore I pay in
praise, which is all I have: and how ready I am to praise any one
who appears to me to speak well you will very soon find out when you
answer; for I expect that you will answer well.
Listen, then, he said; I proclaim that justice is nothing else
than the interest of the stronger. And now why do you not me? But of
course you won't.
Let me first understand you, I replied. justice, as you say, is
the interest of the stronger. What, Thrasymachus, is the meaning of
this? You cannot mean to say that because Polydamas, the
pancratiast, is stronger than we are, and finds the eating of beef
conducive to his bodily strength, that to eat beef is therefore
equally for our good who are weaker than he is, and right and just for
That's abominable of you, Socrates; you take the words in the
sense which is most damaging to the argument.
Not at all, my good sir, I said; I am trying to understand them; and
I wish that you would be a little clearer.
Well, he said, have you never heard that forms of government differ;
there are tyrannies, and there are democracies, and there are
Yes, I know.
And the government is the ruling power in each state?
And the different forms of government make laws democratical,
aristocratical, tyrannical, with a view to their several interests;
and these laws, which are made by them for their own interests, are
the justice which they deliver to their subjects, and him who
transgresses them they punish as a breaker of the law, and unjust. And
that is what I mean when I say that in all states there is the same
principle of justice, which is the interest of the government; and
as the government must be supposed to have power, the only
reasonable conclusion is, that everywhere there is one principle of
justice, which is the interest of the stronger.
Now I understand you, I said; and whether you are right or not I
will try to discover. But let me remark, that in defining justice
you have yourself used the word 'interest' which you forbade me to
use. It is true, however, that in your definition the words 'of the
stronger' are added.
A small addition, you must allow, he said.
Great or small, never mind about that: we must first enquire whether
what you are saying is the truth. Now we are both agreed that
justice is interest of some sort, but you go on to say 'of the
stronger'; about this addition I am not so sure, and must therefore
consider further.
I will; and first tell me, Do you admit that it is just or
subjects to obey their rulers?
I do.
But are the rulers of states absolutely infallible, or are they
sometimes liable to err?
To be sure, he replied, they are liable to err.
Then in making their laws they may sometimes make them rightly,
and sometimes not?
When they make them rightly, they make them agreeably to their
interest; when they are mistaken, contrary to their interest; you
admit that?
And the laws which they make must be obeyed by their subjects, --and
that is what you call justice?
Then justice, according to your argument, is not only obedience to
the interest of the stronger but the reverse?
What is that you are saying? he asked.
I am only repeating what you are saying, I believe. But let us
consider: Have we not admitted that the rulers may be mistaken about
their own interest in what they command, and also that to obey them is
justice? Has not that been admitted?
Then you must also have acknowledged justice not to be for the
interest of the stronger, when the rulers unintentionally command
things to be done which are to their own injury. For if, as you say,
justice is the obedience which the subject renders to their
commands, in that case, O wisest of men, is there any escape from
the conclusion that the weaker are commanded to do, not what is for
the interest, but what is for the injury of the stronger?
Nothing can be clearer, Socrates, said Polemarchus.


Yes, said Cleitophon, interposing, if you are allowed to be his
But there is no need of any witness, said Polemarchus, for
Thrasymachus himself acknowledges that rulers may sometimes command
what is not for their own interest, and that for subjects to obey them
is justice.
Yes, Polemarchus, --Thrasymachus said that for subjects to do what
was commanded by their rulers is just.
Yes, Cleitophon, but he also said that justice is the interest of
the stronger, and, while admitting both these propositions, he further
acknowledged that the stronger may command the weaker who are his
subjects to do what is not for his own interest; whence follows that
justice is the injury quite as much as the interest of the stronger.
But, said Cleitophon, he meant by the interest of the stronger
what the stronger thought to be his interest, --this was what the
weaker had to do; and this was affirmed by him to be justice.
Those were not his words, rejoined Polemarchus.


Never mind, I replied, if he now says that they are, let us accept
his statement. Tell me, Thrasymachus, I said, did you mean by
justice what the stronger thought to be his interest, whether really
so or not?
Certainly not, he said. Do you suppose that I call him who is
mistaken the stronger at the time when he is mistaken?
Yes, I said, my impression was that you did so, when you admitted
that the ruler was not infallible but might be sometimes mistaken.
You argue like an informer, Socrates. Do you mean, for example, that
he who is mistaken about the sick is a physician in that he is
mistaken? or that he who errs in arithmetic or grammar is an
arithmetician or grammarian at the me when he is making the mistake,
in respect of the mistake? True, we say that the physician or
arithmetician or grammarian has made a mistake, but this is only a way
of speaking; for the fact is that neither the grammarian nor any other
person of skill ever makes a mistake in so far as he is what his
name implies; they none of them err unless their skill fails them, and
then they cease to be skilled artists. No artist or sage or ruler errs
at the time when he is what his name implies; though he is commonly
said to err, and I adopted the common mode of speaking. But to be
perfectly accurate, since you are such a lover of accuracy, we
should say that the ruler, in so far as he is the ruler, is
unerring, and, being unerring, always commands that which is for his
own interest; and the subject is required to execute his commands; and
therefore, as I said at first and now repeat, justice is the
interest of the stronger.
Indeed, Thrasymachus, and do I really appear to you to argue like an
Certainly, he replied.
And you suppose that I ask these questions with any design of
injuring you in the argument?
Nay, he replied, 'suppose' is not the word --I know it; but you will
be found out, and by sheer force of argument you will never prevail.
I shall not make the attempt, my dear man; but to avoid any
misunderstanding occurring between us in future, let me ask, in what
sense do you speak of a ruler or stronger whose interest, as you
were saying, he being the superior, it is just that the inferior
should execute --is he a ruler in the popular or in the strict sense
of the term?
In the strictest of all senses, he said. And now cheat and play
the informer if you can; I ask no quarter at your hands. But you never
will be able, never.
And do you imagine, I said, that I am such a madman as to try and
cheat, Thrasymachus? I might as well shave a lion.
Why, he said, you made the attempt a minute ago, and you failed.
Enough, I said, of these civilities. It will be better that I should
ask you a question: Is the physician, taken in that strict sense of
which you are speaking, a healer of the sick or a maker of money?
And remember that I am now speaking of the true physician.
A healer of the sick, he replied.
And the pilot --that is to say, the true pilot --is he a captain
of sailors or a mere sailor?
A captain of sailors.
The circumstance that he sails in the ship is not to be taken into
account; neither is he to be called a sailor; the name pilot by
which he is distinguished has nothing to do with sailing, but is
significant of his skill and of his authority over the sailors.
Very true, he said.
Now, I said, every art has an interest?
For which the art has to consider and provide?
Yes, that is the aim of art.
And the interest of any art is the perfection of it --this and
nothing else?
What do you mean?
I mean what I may illustrate negatively by the example of the
body. Suppose you were to ask me whether the body is self-sufficing or
has wants, I should reply: Certainly the body has wants; for the
body may be ill and require to be cured, and has therefore interests
to which the art of medicine ministers; and this is the origin and
intention of medicine, as you will acknowledge. Am I not right?
Quite right, he replied.
But is the art of medicine or any other art faulty or deficient in
any quality in the same way that the eye may be deficient in sight
or the ear fail of hearing, and therefore requires another art to
provide for the interests of seeing and hearing --has art in itself, I
say, any similar liability to fault or defect, and does every art
require another supplementary art to provide for its interests, and
that another and another without end? Or have the arts to look only
after their own interests? Or have they no need either of themselves
or of another? --having no faults or defects, they have no need to
correct them, either by the exercise of their own art or of any other;
they have only to consider the interest of their subject-matter. For
every art remains pure and faultless while remaining true --that is to
say, while perfect and unimpaired. Take the words in your precise
sense, and tell me whether I am not right."
Yes, clearly.
Then medicine does not consider the interest of medicine, but the
interest of the body?
True, he said.
Nor does the art of horsemanship consider the interests of the art
of horsemanship, but the interests of the horse; neither do any
other arts care for themselves, for they have no needs; they care only
for that which is the subject of their art?
True, he said.
But surely, Thrasymachus, the arts are the superiors and rulers of
their own subjects?
To this he assented with a good deal of reluctance.
Then, I said, no science or art considers or enjoins the interest of
the stronger or superior, but only the interest of the subject and
He made an attempt to contest this proposition also, but finally
Then, I continued, no physician, in so far as he is a physician,
considers his own good in what he prescribes, but the good of his
patient; for the true physician is also a ruler having the human
body as a subject, and is not a mere money-maker; that has been
And the pilot likewise, in the strict sense of the term, is a
ruler of sailors and not a mere sailor?
That has been admitted.
And such a pilot and ruler will provide and prescribe for the
interest of the sailor who is under him, and not for his own or the
ruler's interest?
He gave a reluctant 'Yes.'
Then, I said, Thrasymachus, there is no one in any rule who, in so
far as he is a ruler, considers or enjoins what is for his own
interest, but always what is for the interest of his subject or
suitable to his art; to that he looks, and that alone he considers
in everything which he says and does.
When we had got to this point in the argument, and every one saw
that the definition of justice had been completely upset,
Thrasymachus, instead of replying to me, said: Tell me, Socrates, have
you got a nurse?
Why do you ask such a question, I said, when you ought rather to
be answering?
Because she leaves you to snivel, and never wipes your nose: she has
not even taught you to know the shepherd from the sheep.
What makes you say that? I replied.
Because you fancy that the shepherd or neatherd fattens of tends the
sheep or oxen with a view to their own good and not to the good of
himself or his master; and you further imagine that the rulers of
states, if they are true rulers, never think of their subjects as
sheep, and that they are not studying their own advantage day and
night. Oh, no; and so entirely astray are you in your ideas about
the just and unjust as not even to know that justice and the just
are in reality another's good; that is to say, the interest of the
ruler and stronger, and the loss of the subject and servant; and
injustice the opposite; for the unjust is lord over the truly simple
and just: he is the stronger, and his subjects do what is for his
interest, and minister to his happiness, which is very far from
being their own. Consider further, most foolish Socrates, that the
just is always a loser in comparison with the unjust. First of all, in
private contracts: wherever the unjust is the partner of the just
you will find that, when the partnership is dissolved, the unjust
man has always more and the just less. Secondly, in their dealings
with the State: when there is an income tax, the just man will pay
more and the unjust less on the same amount of income; and when
there is anything to be received the one gains nothing and the other
much. Observe also what happens when they take an office; there is the
just man neglecting his affairs and perhaps suffering other losses,
and getting nothing out of the public, because he is just; moreover he
is hated by his friends and acquaintance for refusing to serve them in
unlawful ways. But all this is reversed in the case of the unjust man.
I am speaking, as before, of injustice on a large scale in which the
advantage of the unjust is more apparent; and my meaning will be
most clearly seen if we turn to that highest form of injustice in
which the criminal is the happiest of men, and the sufferers or
those who refuse to do injustice are the most miserable --that is to
say tyranny, which by fraud and force takes away the property of
others, not little by little but wholesale; comprehending in one,
things sacred as well as profane, private and public; for which acts
of wrong, if he were detected perpetrating any one of them singly,
he would be punished and incur great disgrace --they who do such wrong
in particular cases are called robbers of temples, and man-stealers
and burglars and swindlers and thieves. But when a man besides
taking away the money of the citizens has made slaves of them, then,
instead of these names of reproach, he is termed happy and blessed,
not only by the citizens but by all who hear of his having achieved
the consummation of injustice. For mankind censure injustice,
fearing that they may be the victims of it and not because they shrink
from committing it. And thus, as I have shown, Socrates, injustice,
when on a sufficient scale, has more strength and freedom and
mastery than justice; and, as I said at first, justice is the interest
of the stronger, whereas injustice is a man's own profit and interest.
Thrasymachus, when he had thus spoken, having, like a bathman,
deluged our ears with his words, had a mind to go away. But the
company would not let him; they insisted that he should remain and
defend his position; and I myself added my own humble request that
he would not leave us. Thrasymachus, I said to him, excellent man, how
suggestive are your remarks! And are you going to run away before
you have fairly taught or learned whether they are true or not? Is the
attempt to determine the way of man's life so small a matter in your
eyes --to determine how life may be passed by each one of us to the
greatest advantage?
And do I differ from you, he said, as to the importance of the
You appear rather, I replied, to have no care or thought about us,
Thrasymachus --whether we live better or worse from not knowing what
you say you know, is to you a matter of indifference. Prithee, friend,
do not keep your knowledge to yourself; we are a large party; and
any benefit which you confer upon us will be amply rewarded. For my
own part I openly declare that I am not convinced, and that I do not
believe injustice to be more gainful than justice, even if
uncontrolled and allowed to have free play. For, granting that there
may be an unjust man who is able to commit injustice either by fraud
or force, still this does not convince me of the superior advantage of
injustice, and there may be others who are in the same predicament
with myself. Perhaps we may be wrong; if so, you in your wisdom should
convince us that we are mistaken in preferring justice to injustice.
And how am I to convince you, he said, if you are not already
convinced by what I have just said; what more can I do for you?
Would you have me put the proof bodily into your souls?
Heaven forbid! I said; I would only ask you to be consistent; or, if
you change, change openly and let there be no deception. For I must
remark, Thrasymachus, if you will recall what was previously said,
that although you began by defining the true physician in an exact
sense, you did not observe a like exactness when speaking of the
shepherd; you thought that the shepherd as a shepherd tends the
sheep not with a view to their own good, but like a mere diner or
banqueter with a view to the pleasures of the table; or, again, as a
trader for sale in the market, and not as a shepherd. Yet surely the
art of the shepherd is concerned only with the good of his subjects;
he has only to provide the best for them, since the perfection of
the art is already ensured whenever all the requirements of it are
satisfied. And that was what I was saying just now about the ruler.
I conceived that the art of the ruler, considered as ruler, whether in
a state or in private life, could only regard the good of his flock or
subjects; whereas you seem to think that the rulers in states, that is
to say, the true rulers, like being in authority.
Think! Nay, I am sure of it.
Then why in the case of lesser offices do men never take them
willingly without payment, unless under the idea that they govern
for the advantage not of themselves but of others? Let me ask you a
question: Are not the several arts different, by reason of their
each having a separate function? And, my dear illustrious friend, do
say what you think, that we may make a little progress.
Yes, that is the difference, he replied.
And each art gives us a particular good and not merely a general one
--medicine, for example, gives us health; navigation, safety at sea,
and so on?
Yes, he said.
And the art of payment has the special function of giving pay: but
we do not confuse this with other arts, any more than the art of the
pilot is to be confused with the art of medicine, because the health
of the pilot may be improved by a sea voyage. You would not be
inclined to say, would you, that navigation is the art of medicine, at
least if we are to adopt your exact use of language?
Certainly not.
Or because a man is in good health when he receives pay you would
not say that the art of payment is medicine?
I should say not.
Nor would you say that medicine is the art of receiving pay
because a man takes fees when he is engaged in healing?
Certainly not.
And we have admitted, I said, that the good of each art is specially
confined to the art?
Then, if there be any good which all artists have in common, that is
to be attributed to something of which they all have the common use?
True, he replied.
And when the artist is benefited by receiving pay the advantage is
gained by an additional use of the art of pay, which is not the art
professed by him?
He gave a reluctant assent to this.
Then the pay is not derived by the several artists from their
respective arts. But the truth is, that while the art of medicine
gives health, and the art of the builder builds a house, another art
attends them which is the art of pay. The various arts may be doing
their own business and benefiting that over which they preside, but
would the artist receive any benefit from his art unless he were
paid as well?
I suppose not.
But does he therefore confer no benefit when he works for nothing?
Certainly, he confers a benefit.
Then now, Thrasymachus, there is no longer any doubt that neither
arts nor governments provide for their own interests; but, as we
were before saying, they rule and provide for the interests of their
subjects who are the weaker and not the stronger --to their good
they attend and not to the good of the superior.
And this is the reason, my dear Thrasymachus, why, as I was just now
saying, no one is willing to govern; because no one likes to take in
hand the reformation of evils which are not his concern without
remuneration. For, in the execution of his work, and in giving his
orders to another, the true artist does not regard his own interest,
but always that of his subjects; and therefore in order that rulers
may be willing to rule, they must be paid in one of three modes of
payment: money, or honour, or a penalty for refusing.


What do you mean, Socrates? said Glaucon. The first two modes of
payment are intelligible enough, but what the penalty is I do not
understand, or how a penalty can be a payment.
You mean that you do not understand the nature of this payment which
to the best men is the great inducement to rule? Of course you know
that ambition and avarice are held to be, as indeed they are, a
Very true.
And for this reason, I said, money and honour have no attraction for
them; good men do not wish to be openly demanding payment for
governing and so to get the name of hirelings, nor by secretly helping
themselves out of the public revenues to get the name of thieves.
And not being ambitious they do not care about honour. Wherefore
necessity must be laid upon them, and they must be induced to serve
from the fear of punishment. And this, as I imagine, is the reason why
the forwardness to take office, instead of waiting to be compelled,
has been deemed dishonourable. Now the worst part of the punishment is
that he who refuses to rule is liable to be ruled by one who is
worse than himself. And the fear of this, as I conceive, induces the
good to take office, not because they would, but because they cannot
help --not under the idea that they are going to have any benefit or
enjoyment themselves, but as a necessity, and because they are not
able to commit the task of ruling to any one who is better than
themselves, or indeed as good. For there is reason to think that if
a city were composed entirely of good men, then to avoid office
would be as much an object of contention as to obtain office is at
present; then we should have plain proof that the true ruler is not
meant by nature to regard his own interest, but that of his
subjects; and every one who knew this would choose rather to receive a
benefit from another than to have the trouble of conferring one. So
far am I from agreeing with Thrasymachus that justice is the
interest of the stronger. This latter question need not be further
discussed at present; but when Thrasymachus says that the life of
the unjust is more advantageous than that of the just, his new
statement appears to me to be of a far more serious character. Which
of us has spoken truly? And which sort of life, Glaucon, do you
I for my part deem the life of the just to be the more advantageous,
he answered.
Did you hear all the advantages of the unjust which Thrasymachus was
Yes, I heard him, he replied, but he has not convinced me.
Then shall we try to find some way of convincing him, if we can,
that he is saying what is not true?
Most certainly, he replied.
If, I said, he makes a set speech and we make another recounting all
the advantages of being just, and he answers and we rejoin, there must
be a numbering and measuring of the goods which are claimed on
either side, and in the end we shall want judges to decide; but if
we proceed in our enquiry as we lately did, by making admissions to
one another, we shall unite the offices of judge and advocate in our
own persons.
Very good, he said.
And which method do I understand you to prefer? I said.
That which you propose.
Well, then, Thrasymachus, I said, suppose you begin at the beginning
and answer me. You say that perfect injustice is more gainful than
perfect justice?


Yes, that is what I say, and I have given you my reasons.
And what is your view about them? Would you call one of them
virtue and the other vice?
I suppose that you would call justice virtue and injustice vice?
What a charming notion! So likely too, seeing that I affirm
injustice to be profitable and justice not.
What else then would you say?
The opposite, he replied.
And would you call justice vice?
No, I would rather say sublime simplicity.
Then would you call injustice malignity?
No; I would rather say discretion.
And do the unjust appear to you to be wise and good?
Yes, he said; at any rate those of them who are able to be perfectly
unjust, and who have the power of subduing states and nations; but
perhaps you imagine me to be talking of cutpurses.
Even this profession if undetected has advantages, though they are
not to be compared with those of which I was just now speaking.
I do not think that I misapprehend your meaning, Thrasymachus, I
replied; but still I cannot hear without amazement that you class
injustice with wisdom and virtue, and justice with the opposite.
Certainly I do so class them.
Now, I said, you are on more substantial and almost unanswerable
ground; for if the injustice which you were maintaining to be
profitable had been admitted by you as by others to be vice and
deformity, an answer might have been given to you on received
principles; but now I perceive that you will call injustice honourable
and strong, and to the unjust you will attribute all the qualities
which were attributed by us before to the just, seeing that you do not
hesitate to rank injustice with wisdom and virtue.
You have guessed most infallibly, he replied.
Then I certainly ought not to shrink from going through with the
argument so long as I have reason to think that you, Thrasymachus, are
speaking your real mind; for I do believe that you are now in
earnest and are not amusing yourself at our expense.
I may be in earnest or not, but what is that to you? --to refute the
argument is your business.
Very true, I said; that is what I have to do: But will you be so
good as answer yet one more question? Does the just man try to gain
any advantage over the just?
Far otherwise; if he did would not be the simple, amusing creature
which he is.
And would he try to go beyond just action?
He would not.
And how would he regard the attempt to gain an advantage over the
unjust; would that be considered by him as just or unjust?
He would think it just, and would try to gain the advantage; but
he would not be able.
Whether he would or would not be able, I said, is not to the
point. My question is only whether the just man, while refusing to
have more than another just man, would wish and claim to have more
than the unjust?
Yes, he would.
And what of the unjust --does he claim to have more than the just
man and to do more than is just
Of course, he said, for he claims to have more than all men.
And the unjust man will strive and struggle to obtain more than
the unjust man or action, in order that he may have more than all?
We may put the matter thus, I said --the just does not desire more
than his like but more than his unlike, whereas the unjust desires
more than both his like and his unlike?
Nothing, he said, can be better than that statement.
And the unjust is good and wise, and the just is neither?
Good again, he said.
And is not the unjust like the wise and good and the just unlike
Of course, he said, he who is of a certain nature, is like those who
are of a certain nature; he who is not, not.
Each of them, I said, is such as his like is?
Certainly, he replied.
Very good, Thrasymachus, I said; and now to take the case of the
arts: you would admit that one man is a musician and another not a
And which is wise and which is foolish?
Clearly the musician is wise, and he who is not a musician is
And he is good in as far as he is wise, and bad in as far as he is
And you would say the same sort of thing of the physician?
And do you think, my excellent friend, that a musician when he
adjusts the lyre would desire or claim to exceed or go beyond a
musician in the tightening and loosening the strings?
I do not think that he would.
But he would claim to exceed the non-musician?
Of course.
And what would you say of the physician? In prescribing meats and
drinks would he wish to go beyond another physician or beyond the
practice of medicine?
He would not.
But he would wish to go beyond the non-physician?
And about knowledge and ignorance in general; see whether you
think that any man who has knowledge ever would wish to have the
choice of saying or doing more than another man who has knowledge.
Would he not rather say or do the same as his like in the same case?
That, I suppose, can hardly be denied.
And what of the ignorant? would he not desire to have more than
either the knowing or the ignorant?
I dare say.
And the knowing is wise?
And the wise is good?
Then the wise and good will not desire to gain more than his like,
but more than his unlike and opposite?
I suppose so.
Whereas the bad and ignorant will desire to gain more than both?
But did we not say, Thrasymachus, that the unjust goes beyond both
his like and unlike? Were not these your words? They were.
They were.
And you also said that the lust will not go beyond his like but
his unlike?
Then the just is like the wise and good, and the unjust like the
evil and ignorant?
That is the inference.
And each of them is such as his like is?
That was admitted.
Then the just has turned out to be wise and good and the unjust evil
and ignorant.
Thrasymachus made all these admissions, not fluently, as I repeat
them, but with extreme reluctance; it was a hot summer's day, and
the perspiration poured from him in torrents; and then I saw what I
had never seen before, Thrasymachus blushing. As we were now agreed
that justice was virtue and wisdom, and injustice vice and
ignorance, I proceeded to another point:
Well, I said, Thrasymachus, that matter is now settled; but were
we not also saying that injustice had strength; do you remember?
Yes, I remember, he said, but do not suppose that I approve of
what you are saying or have no answer; if however I were to answer,
you would be quite certain to accuse me of haranguing; therefore
either permit me to have my say out, or if you would rather ask, do
so, and I will answer 'Very good,' as they say to story-telling old
women, and will nod 'Yes' and 'No.'
Certainly not, I said, if contrary to your real opinion.
Yes, he said, I will, to please you, since you will not let me
speak. What else would you have?
Nothing in the world, I said; and if you are so disposed I will
ask and you shall answer.
Then I will repeat the question which I asked before, in order
that our examination of the relative nature of justice and injustice
may be carried on regularly. A statement was made that injustice is
stronger and more powerful than justice, but now justice, having
been identified with wisdom and virtue, is easily shown to be stronger
than injustice, if injustice is ignorance; this can no longer be
questioned by any one. But I want to view the matter, Thrasymachus, in
a different way: You would not deny that a state may be unjust and may
be unjustly attempting to enslave other states, or may have already
enslaved them, and may be holding many of them in subjection?
True, he replied; and I will add the best and perfectly unjust state
will be most likely to do so.
I know, I said, that such was your position; but what I would
further consider is, whether this power which is possessed by the
superior state can exist or be exercised without justice.
If you are right in you view, and justice is wisdom, then only
with justice; but if I am right, then without justice.
I am delighted, Thrasymachus, to see you not only nodding assent and
dissent, but making answers which are quite excellent.
That is out of civility to you, he replied.
You are very kind, I said; and would you have the goodness also to
inform me, whether you think that a state, or an army, or a band of
robbers and thieves, or any other gang of evil-doers could act at
all if they injured one another?
No indeed, he said, they could not.
But if they abstained from injuring one another, then they might act
together better?
And this is because injustice creates divisions and hatreds and
fighting, and justice imparts harmony and friendship; is not that
true, Thrasymachus?
I agree, he said, because I do not wish to quarrel with you.
How good of you, I said; but I should like to know also whether
injustice, having this tendency to arouse hatred, wherever existing,
among slaves or among freemen, will not make them hate one another and
set them at variance and render them incapable of common action?
And even if injustice be found in two only, will they not quarrel
and fight, and become enemies to one another and to the just
They will.
And suppose injustice abiding in a single person, would your
wisdom say that she loses or that she retains her natural power?
Let us assume that she retains her power.
Yet is not the power which injustice exercises of such a nature that
wherever she takes up her abode, whether in a city, in an army, in a
family, or in any other body, that body is, to begin with, rendered
incapable of united action by reason of sedition and distraction;
and does it not become its own enemy and at variance with all that
opposes it, and with the just? Is not this the case?
Yes, certainly.
And is not injustice equally fatal when existing in a single person;
in the first place rendering him incapable of action because he is not
at unity with himself, and in the second place making him an enemy
to himself and the just? Is not that true, Thrasymachus?
And O my friend, I said, surely the gods are just?
Granted that they are.
But if so, the unjust will be the enemy of the gods, and the just
will be their friend?
Feast away in triumph, and take your fill of the argument; I will
not oppose you, lest I should displease the company.
Well then, proceed with your answers, and let me have the
remainder of my repast. For we have already shown that the just are
clearly wiser and better and abler than the unjust, and that the
unjust are incapable of common action; nay ing at more, that to
speak as we did of men who are evil acting at any time vigorously
together, is not strictly true, for if they had been perfectly evil,
they would have laid hands upon one another; but it is evident that
there must have been some remnant of justice in them, which enabled
them to combine; if there had not been they would have injured one
another as well as their victims; they were but half --villains in
their enterprises; for had they been whole villains, and utterly
unjust, they would have been utterly incapable of action. That, as I
believe, is the truth of the matter, and not what you said at first.
But whether the just have a better and happier life than the unjust is
a further question which we also proposed to consider. I think that
they have, and for the reasons which to have given; but still I should
like to examine further, for no light matter is at stake, nothing less
than the rule of human life.
I will proceed by asking a question: Would you not say that a
horse has some end?
I should.
And the end or use of a horse or of anything would be that which
could not be accomplished, or not so well accomplished, by any other
I do not understand, he said.
Let me explain: Can you see, except with the eye?
Certainly not.
Or hear, except with the ear?
These then may be truly said to be the ends of these organs?
They may.
But you can cut off a vine-branch with a dagger or with a chisel,
and in many other ways?
Of course.
And yet not so well as with a pruning-hook made for the purpose?
May we not say that this is the end of a pruning-hook?
We may.
Then now I think you will have no difficulty in understanding my
meaning when I asked the question whether the end of anything would be
that which could not be accomplished, or not so well accomplished,
by any other thing?
I understand your meaning, he said, and assent.
And that to which an end is appointed has also an excellence? Need I
ask again whether the eye has an end?
It has.
And has not the eye an excellence?
And the ear has an end and an excellence also?
And the same is true of all other things; they have each of them
an end and a special excellence?
That is so.
Well, and can the eyes fulfil their end if they are wanting in their
own proper excellence and have a defect instead?
How can they, he said, if they are blind and cannot see?
You mean to say, if they have lost their proper excellence, which is
sight; but I have not arrived at that point yet. I would rather ask
the question more generally, and only enquire whether the things which
fulfil their ends fulfil them by their own proper excellence, and fall
of fulfilling them by their own defect?
Certainly, he replied.
I might say the same of the ears; when deprived of their own
proper excellence they cannot fulfil their end?
And the same observation will apply to all other things?
I agree.
Well; and has not the soul an end which nothing else can fulfil? for
example, to superintend and command and deliberate and the like. Are
not these functions proper to the soul, and can they rightly be
assigned to any other?
To no other.
And is not life to be reckoned among the ends of the soul?
Assuredly, he said.
And has not the soul an excellence also?
And can she or can she not fulfil her own ends when deprived of that
She cannot.
Then an evil soul must necessarily be an evil ruler and
superintendent, and the good soul a good ruler?
Yes, necessarily.
And we have admitted that justice is the excellence of the soul, and
injustice the defect of the soul?
That has been admitted.
Then the just soul and the just man will live well, and the unjust
man will live ill?
That is what your argument proves.
And he who lives well is blessed and happy, and he who lives ill the
reverse of happy?
Then the just is happy, and the unjust miserable?
So be it.
But happiness and not misery is profitable.
Of course.
Then, my blessed Thrasymachus, injustice can never be more
profitable than justice.
Let this, Socrates, he said, be your entertainment at the Bendidea.
For which I am indebted to you, I said, now that you have grown
gentle towards me and have left off scolding. Nevertheless, I have not
been well entertained; but that was my own fault and not yours. As
an epicure snatches a taste of every dish which is successively
brought to table, he not having allowed himself time to enjoy the
one before, so have I gone from one subject to another without
having discovered what I sought at first, the nature of justice. I
left that enquiry and turned away to consider whether justice is
virtue and wisdom or evil and folly; and when there arose a further
question about the comparative advantages of justice and injustice,
I could not refrain from passing on to that. And the result of the
whole discussion has been that I know nothing at all. For I know not
what justice is, and therefore I am not likely to know whether it is
or is not a virtue, nor can I say whether the just man is happy or


WITH these words I was thinking that I had made an end of the
discussion; but the end, in truth, proved to be only a beginning.
For Glaucon, who is always the most pugnacious of men, was
dissatisfied at Thrasymachus' retirement; he wanted to have the battle
out. So he said to me: Socrates, do you wish really to persuade us, or
only to seem to have persuaded us, that to be just is always better
than to be unjust?
I should wish really to persuade you, I replied, if I could.
Then you certainly have not succeeded. Let me ask you now: --How
would you arrange goods --are there not some which we welcome for
their own sakes, and independently of their consequences, as, for
example, harmless pleasures and enjoyments, which delight us at the
time, although nothing follows from them?
I agree in thinking that there is such a class, I replied.
Is there not also a second class of goods, such as knowledge, sight,
health, which are desirable not only in themselves, but also for their
Certainly, I said.
And would you not recognize a third class, such as gymnastic, and
the care of the sick, and the physician's art; also the various ways
of money-making --these do us good but we regard them as disagreeable;
and no one would choose them for their own sakes, but only for the
sake of some reward or result which flows from them?
There is, I said, this third class also. But why do you ask?
Because I want to know in which of the three classes you would place
In the highest class, I replied, --among those goods which he who
would be happy desires both for their own sake and for the sake of
their results.
Then the many are of another mind; they think that justice is to
be reckoned in the troublesome class, among goods which are to be
pursued for the sake of rewards and of reputation, but in themselves
are disagreeable and rather to be avoided.
I know, I said, that this is their manner of thinking, and that this
was the thesis which Thrasymachus was maintaining just now, when he
censured justice and praised injustice. But I am too stupid to be
convinced by him.
I wish, he said, that you would hear me as well as him, and then I
shall see whether you and I agree. For Thrasymachus seems to me,
like a snake, to have been charmed by your voice sooner than he
ought to have been; but to my mind the nature of justice and injustice
have not yet been made clear. Setting aside their rewards and results,
I want to know what they are in themselves, and how they inwardly work
in the soul. If you, please, then, I will revive the argument of
Thrasymachus. And first I will speak of the nature and origin of
justice according to the common view of them. Secondly, I will show
that all men who practise justice do so against their will, of
necessity, but not as a good. And thirdly, I will argue that there
is reason in this view, for the life of the unjust is after all better
far than the life of the just --if what they say is true, Socrates,
since I myself am not of their opinion. But still I acknowledge that I
am perplexed when I hear the voices of Thrasymachus and myriads of
others dinning in my ears; and, on the other hand, I have never yet
heard the superiority of justice to injustice maintained by any one in
a satisfactory way. I want to hear justice praised in respect of
itself; then I shall be satisfied, and you are the person from whom
I think that I am most likely to hear this; and therefore I will
praise the unjust life to the utmost of my power, and my manner of
speaking will indicate the manner in which I desire to hear you too
praising justice and censuring injustice. Will you say whether you
approve of my proposal?
Indeed I do; nor can I imagine any theme about which a man of
sense would oftener wish to converse.
I am delighted, he replied, to hear you say so, and shall begin by
speaking, as I proposed, of the nature and origin of justice.


They say that to do injustice is, by nature, good; to suffer
injustice, evil; but that the evil is greater than the good. And so
when men have both done and suffered injustice and have had experience
of both, not being able to avoid the one and obtain the other, they
think that they had better agree among themselves to have neither;
hence there arise laws and mutual covenants; and that which is
ordained by law is termed by them lawful and just. This they affirm to
be the origin and nature of justice; --it is a mean or compromise,
between the best of all, which is to do injustice and not be punished,
and the worst of all, which is to suffer injustice without the power
of retaliation; and justice, being at a middle point between the
two, is tolerated not as a good, but as the lesser evil, and
honoured by reason of the inability of men to do injustice. For no man
who is worthy to be called a man would ever submit to such an
agreement if he were able to resist; he would be mad if he did. Such
is the received account, Socrates, of the nature and origin of
Now that those who practise justice do so involuntarily and
because they have not the power to be unjust will best appear if we
imagine something of this kind: having given both to the just and
the unjust power to do what they will, let us watch and see whither
desire will lead them; then we shall discover in the very act the just
and unjust man to be proceeding along the same road, following their
interest, which all natures deem to be their good, and are only
diverted into the path of justice by the force of law. The liberty
which we are supposing may be most completely given to them in the
form of such a power as is said to have been possessed by Gyges the
ancestor of Croesus the Lydian. According to the tradition, Gyges
was a shepherd in the service of the king of Lydia; there was a
great storm, and an earthquake made an opening in the earth at the
place where he was feeding his flock. Amazed at the sight, he
descended into the opening, where, among other marvels, he beheld a
hollow brazen horse, having doors, at which he stooping and looking in
saw a dead body of stature, as appeared to him, more than human, and
having nothing on but a gold ring; this he took from the finger of the
dead and reascended. Now the shepherds met together, according to
custom, that they might send their monthly report about the flocks
to the king; into their assembly he came having the ring on his
finger, and as he was sitting among them he chanced to turn the collet
of the ring inside his hand, when instantly he became invisible to the
rest of the company and they began to speak of him as if he were no
longer present. He was astonished at this, and again touching the ring
he turned the collet outwards and reappeared; he made several trials
of the ring, and always with the same result-when he turned the collet
inwards he became invisible, when outwards he reappeared. Whereupon he
contrived to be chosen one of the messengers who were sent to the
court; where as soon as he arrived he seduced the queen, and with
her help conspired against the king and slew him, and took the
kingdom. Suppose now that there were two such magic rings, and the
just put on one of them and the unjust the other;,no man can be
imagined to be of such an iron nature that he would stand fast in
justice. No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when
he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into
houses and lie with any one at his pleasure, or kill or release from
prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a God among men.
Then the actions of the just would be as the actions of the unjust;
they would both come at last to the same point. And this we may
truly affirm to be a great proof that a man is just, not willingly
or because he thinks that justice is any good to him individually, but
of necessity, for wherever any one thinks that he can safely be
unjust, there he is unjust. For all men believe in their hearts that
injustice is far more profitable to the individual than justice, and
he who argues as I have been supposing, will say that they are
right. If you could imagine any one obtaining this power of becoming
invisible, and never doing any wrong or touching what was another's,
he would be thought by the lookers-on to be a most wretched idiot,
although they would praise him to one another's faces, and keep up
appearances with one another from a fear that they too might suffer
injustice. Enough of this.
Now, if we are to form a real judgment of the life of the just and
unjust, we must isolate them; there is no other way; and how is the
isolation to be effected? I answer: Let the unjust man be entirely
unjust, and the just man entirely just; nothing is to be taken away
from either of them, and both are to be perfectly furnished for the
work of their respective lives. First, let the unjust be like other
distinguished masters of craft; like the skilful pilot or physician,
who knows intuitively his own powers and keeps within their limits,
and who, if he fails at any point, is able to recover himself. So
let the unjust make his unjust attempts in the right way, and lie
hidden if he means to be great in his injustice (he who is found out
is nobody): for the highest reach of injustice is: to be deemed just
when you are not. Therefore I say that in the perfectly unjust man
we must assume the most perfect injustice; there is to be no
deduction, but we must allow him, while doing the most unjust acts, to
have acquired the greatest reputation for justice. If he have taken
a false step he must be able to recover himself; he must be one who
can speak with effect, if any of his deeds come to light, and who
can force his way where force is required his courage and strength,
and command of money and friends. And at his side let us place the
just man in his nobleness and simplicity, wishing, as Aeschylus
says, to be and not to seem good. There must be no seeming, for if
he seem to be just he will be honoured and rewarded, and then we shall
not know whether he is just for the sake of justice or for the sake of
honours and rewards; therefore, let him be clothed in justice only,
and have no other covering; and he must be imagined in a state of life
the opposite of the former. Let him be the best of men, and let him be
thought the worst; then he will have been put to the proof; and we
shall see whether he will be affected by the fear of infamy and its
consequences. And let him continue thus to the hour of death; being
just and seeming to be unjust. When both have reached the uttermost
extreme, the one of justice and the other of injustice, let judgment
be given which of them is the happier of the two.


Heavens! my dear Glaucon, I said, how energetically you polish
them up for the decision, first one and then the other, as if they
were two statues.
I do my best, he said. And now that we know what they are like there
is no difficulty in tracing out the sort of life which awaits either
of them. This I will proceed to describe; but as you may think the
description a little too coarse, I ask you to suppose, Socrates,
that the words which follow are not mine. --Let me put them into the
mouths of the eulogists of injustice: They will tell you that the just
man who is thought unjust will be scourged, racked, bound --will
have his eyes burnt out; and, at last, after suffering every kind of
evil, he will be impaled: Then he will understand that he ought to
seem only, and not to be, just; the words of Aeschylus may be more
truly spoken of the unjust than of the just. For the unjust is
pursuing a reality; he does not live with a view to appearances --he
wants to be really unjust and not to seem only:--

His mind has a soil deep and fertile,
Out of which spring his prudent counsels.

In the first place, he is thought just, and therefore bears rule in
the city; he can marry whom he will, and give in marriage to whom he
will; also he can trade and deal where he likes, and always to his own
advantage, because he has no misgivings about injustice and at every
contest, whether in public or private, he gets the better of his
antagonists, and gains at their expense, and is rich, and out of his
gains he can benefit his friends, and harm his enemies; moreover, he
can offer sacrifices, and dedicate gifts to the gods abundantly and
magnificently, and can honour the gods or any man whom he wants to
honour in a far better style than the just, and therefore he is likely
to be dearer than they are to the gods. And thus, Socrates, gods and
men are said to unite in making the life of the unjust better than the
life of the just.


I was going to say something in answer to Glaucon, when
Adeimantus, his brother, interposed: Socrates, he said, you do not
suppose that there is nothing more to be urged?
Why, what else is there? I answered.
The strongest point of all has not been even mentioned, he replied.
Well, then, according to the proverb, 'Let brother help brother'
--if he fails in any part do you assist him; although I must confess
that Glaucon has already said quite enough to lay me in the dust,
and take from me the power of helping justice.


Nonsense, he replied. But let me add something more: There is
another side to Glaucon's argument about the praise and censure of
justice and injustice, which is equally required in order to bring out
what I believe to be his meaning. Parents and tutors are always
telling their sons and their wards that they are to be just; but
why? not for the sake of justice, but for the sake of character and
reputation; in the hope of obtaining for him who is reputed just
some of those offices, marriages, and the like which Glaucon has
enumerated among the advantages accruing to the unjust from the
reputation of justice. More, however, is made of appearances by this
class of persons than by the others; for they throw in the good
opinion of the gods, and will tell you of a shower of benefits which
the heavens, as they say, rain upon the pious; and this accords with
the testimony of the noble Hesiod and Homer, the first of whom says,
that the gods make the oaks of the just--

To hear acorns at their summit, and bees I the middle;
And the sheep the bowed down bowed the with the their fleeces.

and many other blessings of a like kind are provided for them. And
Homer has a very similar strain; for he speaks of one whose fame is--

As the fame of some blameless king who, like a god,
Maintains justice to whom the black earth brings forth
Wheat and barley, whose trees are bowed with fruit,
And his sheep never fail to bear, and the sea gives him fish.

Still grander are the gifts of heaven which Musaeus and his son
vouchsafe to the just; they take them down into the world below, where
they have the saints lying on couches at a feast, everlastingly drunk,
crowned with garlands; their idea seems to be that an immortality of
drunkenness is the highest meed of virtue. Some extend their rewards
yet further; the posterity, as they say, of the faithful and just
shall survive to the third and fourth generation. This is the style in
which they praise justice. But about the wicked there is another
strain; they bury them in a slough in Hades, and make them carry water
in a sieve; also while they are yet living they bring them to
infamy, and inflict upon them the punishments which Glaucon
described as the portion of the just who are reputed to be unjust;
nothing else does their invention supply. Such is their manner of
praising the one and censuring the other.
Once more, Socrates, I will ask you to consider another way of
speaking about justice and injustice, which is not confined to the
poets, but is found in prose writers. The universal voice of mankind
is always declaring that justice and virtue are honourable, but
grievous and toilsome; and that the pleasures of vice and injustice
are easy of attainment, and are only censured by law and opinion. They
say also that honesty is for the most part less profitable than
dishonesty; and they are quite ready to call wicked men happy, and
to honour them both in public and private when they are rich or in any
other way influential, while they despise and overlook those who may
be weak and poor, even though acknowledging them to be better than the
others. But most extraordinary of all is their mode of speaking
about virtue and the gods: they say that the gods apportion calamity
and misery to many good men, and good and happiness to the wicked. And
mendicant prophets go to rich men's doors and persuade them that
they have a power committed to them by the gods of making an atonement
for a man's own or his ancestor's sins by sacrifices or charms, with
rejoicings and feasts; and they promise to harm an enemy, whether just
or unjust, at a small cost; with magic arts and incantations binding
heaven, as they say, to execute their will. And the poets are the
authorities to whom they appeal, now smoothing the path of vice with
the words of Hesiod; --

Vice may be had in abundance without trouble; the way is smooth
and her dwelling-place is near. But before virtue the gods have set

and a tedious and uphill road: then citing Homer as a witness that the
gods may be influenced by men; for he also says:

The gods, too, may he turned from their purpose; and men pray to
them and avert their wrath by sacrifices and soothing entreaties,
and by libations and the odour of fat, when they have sinned and

And they produce a host of books written by Musaeus and Orpheus, who
were children of the Moon and the Muses --that is what they say
--according to which they perform their ritual, and persuade not
only individuals, but whole cities, that expiations and atonements for
sin may be made by sacrifices and amusements which fill a vacant hour,
and are equally at the service of the living and the dead; the
latter sort they call mysteries, and they redeem us from the pains
of hell, but if we neglect them no one knows what awaits us.
He proceeded: And now when the young hear all this said about virtue
and vice, and the way in which gods and men regard them, how are their
minds likely to be affected, my dear Socrates, --those of them, I
mean, who are quickwitted, and, like bees on the wing, light on
every flower, and from all that they hear are prone to draw
conclusions as to what manner of persons they should be and in what
way they should walk if they would make the best of life? Probably the
youth will say to himself in the words of Pindar--

Can I by justice or by crooked ways of deceit ascend a loftier tower
which may he a fortress to me all my days?

For what men say is that, if I am really just and am not also
thought just profit there is none, but the pain and loss on the
other hand are unmistakable. But if, though unjust, I acquire the
reputation of justice, a heavenly life is promised to me. Since
then, as philosophers prove, appearance tyrannizes over truth and is
lord of happiness, to appearance I must devote myself. I will describe
around me a picture and shadow of virtue to be the vestibule and
exterior of my house; behind I will trail the subtle and crafty fox,
as Archilochus, greatest of sages, recommends. But I hear some one
exclaiming that the concealment of wickedness is often difficult; to
which I answer, Nothing great is easy. Nevertheless, the argument
indicates this, if we would be happy, to be the path along which we
should proceed. With a view to concealment we will establish secret
brotherhoods and political clubs. And there are professors of rhetoric
who teach the art of persuading courts and assemblies; and so,
partly by persuasion and partly by force, I shall make unlawful
gains and not be punished. Still I hear a voice saying that the gods
cannot be deceived, neither can they be compelled. But what if there
are no gods? or, suppose them to have no care of human things --why in
either case should we mind about concealment? And even if there are
gods, and they do care about us, yet we know of them only from
tradition and the genealogies of the poets; and these are the very
persons who say that they may be influenced and turned by
'sacrifices and soothing entreaties and by offerings.' Let us be
consistent then, and believe both or neither. If the poets speak
truly, why then we had better be unjust, and offer of the fruits of
injustice; for if we are just, although we may escape the vengeance of
heaven, we shall lose the gains of injustice; but, if we are unjust,
we shall keep the gains, and by our sinning and praying, and praying
and sinning, the gods will be propitiated, and we shall not be
punished. 'But there is a world below in which either we or our
posterity will suffer for our unjust deeds.' Yes, my friend, will be
the reflection, but there are mysteries and atoning deities, and these
have great power. That is what mighty cities declare; and the children
of the gods, who were their poets and prophets, bear a like testimony.
On what principle, then, shall we any longer choose justice rather
than the worst injustice? when, if we only unite the latter with a
deceitful regard to appearances, we shall fare to our mind both with
gods and men, in life and after death, as the most numerous and the
highest authorities tell us. Knowing all this, Socrates, how can a man
who has any superiority of mind or person or rank or wealth, be
willing to honour justice; or indeed to refrain from laughing when
he hears justice praised? And even if there should be some one who
is able to disprove the truth of my words, and who is satisfied that
justice is best, still he is not angry with the unjust, but is very
ready to forgive them, because he also knows that men are not just
of their own free will; unless, peradventure, there be some one whom
the divinity within him may have inspired with a hatred of
injustice, or who has attained knowledge of the truth --but no other
man. He only blames injustice who, owing to cowardice or age or some
weakness, has not the power of being unjust. And this is proved by the
fact that when he obtains the power, he immediately becomes unjust
as far as he can be.
The cause of all this, Socrates, was indicated by us at the
beginning of the argument, when my brother and I told you how
astonished we were to find that of all the professing panegyrists of
justice --beginning with the ancient heroes of whom any memorial has
been preserved to us, and ending with the men of our own time --no one
has ever blamed injustice or praised justice except with a view to the
glories, honours, and benefits which flow from them. No one has ever
adequately described either in verse or prose the true essential
nature of either of them abiding in the soul, and invisible to any
human or divine eye; or shown that of all the things of a man's soul
which he has within him, justice is the greatest good, and injustice
the greatest evil. Had this been the universal strain, had you
sought to persuade us of this from our youth upwards, we should not
have been on the watch to keep one another from doing wrong, but every
one would have been his own watchman, because afraid, if he did wrong,
of harbouring in himself the greatest of evils. I dare say that
Thrasymachus and others would seriously hold the language which I have
been merely repeating, and words even stronger than these about
justice and injustice, grossly, as I conceive, perverting their true
nature. But I speak in this vehement manner, as I must frankly confess
to you, because I want to hear from you the opposite side; and I would
ask you to show not only the superiority which justice has over
injustice, but what effect they have on the possessor of them which
makes the one to be a good and the other an evil to him. And please,
as Glaucon requested of you, to exclude reputations; for unless you
take away from each of them his true reputation and add on the
false, we shall say that you do not praise justice, but the appearance
of it; we shall think that you are only exhorting us to keep injustice
dark, and that you really agree with Thrasymachus in thinking that
justice is another's good and the interest of the stronger, and that
injustice is a man's own profit and interest, though injurious to
the weaker. Now as you have admitted that justice is one of that
highest class of goods which are desired indeed for their results, but
in a far greater degree for their own sakes --like sight or hearing or
knowledge or health, or any other real and natural and not merely
conventional good --I would ask you in your praise of justice to
regard one point only: I mean the essential good and evil which
justice and injustice work in the possessors of them. Let others
praise justice and censure injustice, magnifying the rewards and
honours of the one and abusing the other; that is a manner of
arguing which, coming from them, I am ready to tolerate, but from
you who have spent your whole life in the consideration of this
question, unless I hear the contrary from your own lips, I expect
something better. And therefore, I say, not only prove to us that
justice is better than injustice, but show what they either of them do
to the possessor of them, which makes the one to be a good and the
other an evil, whether seen or unseen by gods and men.


I had always admired the genius of Glaucon and Adeimantus, but on
hearing these words I was quite delighted, and said: Sons of an
illustrious father, that was not a bad beginning of the Elegiac verses
which the admirer of Glaucon made in honour of you after you had
distinguished yourselves at the battle of Megara:--

'Sons of Ariston,' he sang, 'divine offspring of an illustrious

The epithet is very appropriate, for there is something truly divine
in being able to argue as you have done for the superiority of
injustice, and remaining unconvinced by your own arguments. And I do
believe that you are not convinced --this I infer from your general
character, for had I judged only from your speeches I should have
mistrusted you. But now, the greater my confidence in you, the greater
is my difficulty in knowing what to say. For I am in a strait
between two; on the one hand I feel that I am unequal to the task; and
my inability is brought home to me by the fact that you were not
satisfied with the answer which I made to Thrasymachus, proving, as
I thought, the superiority which justice has over injustice. And yet I
cannot refuse to help, while breath and speech remain to me; I am
afraid that there would be an impiety in being present when justice is
evil spoken of and not lifting up a hand in her defence. And therefore
I had best give such help as I can.
Glaucon and the rest entreated me by all means not to let the
question drop, but to proceed in the investigation. They wanted to
arrive at the truth, first, about the nature of justice and injustice,
and secondly, about their relative advantages. I told them, what I
--really thought, that the enquiry would be of a serious nature, and
would require very good eyes. Seeing then, I said, that we are no
great wits, I think that we had better adopt a method which I may
illustrate thus; suppose that a short-sighted person had been asked by
some one to read small letters from a distance; and it occurred to
some one else that they might be found in another place which was
larger and in which the letters were larger --if they were the same
and he could read the larger letters first, and then proceed to the
lesser --this would have been thought a rare piece of good fortune.
Very true, said Adeimantus; but how does the illustration apply to
our enquiry?
I will tell you, I replied; justice, which is the subject of our
enquiry, is, as you know, sometimes spoken of as the virtue of an
individual, and sometimes as the virtue of a State.
True, he replied.
And is not a State larger than an individual?
It is.
Then in the larger the quantity of justice is likely to be larger
and more easily discernible. I propose therefore that we enquire
into the nature of justice and injustice, first as they appear in
the State, and secondly in the individual, proceeding from the greater
to the lesser and comparing them.
That, he said, is an excellent proposal.
And if we imagine the State in process of creation, we shall see the
justice and injustice of the State in process of creation also.
I dare say.
When the State is completed there may be a hope that the object of
our search will be more easily discovered.
Yes, far more easily.
But ought we to attempt to construct one? I said; for to do so, as I
am inclined to think, will be a very serious task. Reflect therefore.
I have reflected, said Adeimantus, and am anxious that you should
A State, I said, arises, as I conceive, out of the needs of mankind;
no one is self-sufficing, but all of us have many wants. Can any other
origin of a State be imagined?
There can I be no other.
Then, as we have many wants, and many persons are needed to supply
them, one takes a helper for one purpose and another for another;
and when these partners and helpers are gathered together in one
habitation the body of inhabitants is termed a State.
True, he said.
And they exchange with one another, and one gives, and another
receives, under the idea that the exchange will be for their good.
Very true.
Then, I said, let us begin and create in idea a State; and yet the
true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention.
Of course, he replied.
Now the first and greatest of necessities is food, which is the
condition of life and existence.
The second is a dwelling, and the third clothing and the like.
And now let us see how our city will be able to supply this great
demand: We may suppose that one man is a husbandman, another a
builder, some one else a weaver --shall we add to them a shoemaker, or
perhaps some other purveyor to our bodily wants?
Quite right.
The barest notion of a State must include four or five men.
And how will they proceed? Will each bring the result of his labours
into a common stock? --the individual husbandman, for example,
producing for four, and labouring four times as long and as much as he
need in the provision of food with which he supplies others as well as
himself; or will he have nothing to do with others and not be at the
trouble of producing for them, but provide for himself alone a
fourth of the food in a fourth of the time, and in the remaining
three-fourths of his time be employed in making a house or a coat or a
pair of shoes, having no partnership with others, but supplying
himself all his own wants?
Adeimantus thought that he should aim at producing food only and not
at producing everything.
Probably, I replied, that would be the better way; and when I hear
you say this, I am myself reminded that we are not all alike; there
are diversities of natures among us which are adapted to different
Very true.
And will you have a work better done when the workman has many
occupations, or when he has only one?
When he has only one.
Further, there can be no doubt that a work is spoilt when not done
at the right time?
No doubt.
For business is not disposed to wait until the doer of the
business is at leisure; but the doer must follow up what he is
doing, and make the business his first object.
He must.
And if so, we must infer that all things are produced more
plentifully and easily and of a better quality when one man does one
thing which is natural to him and does it at the right time, and
leaves other things.
Then more than four citizens will be required; for the husbandman
will not make his own plough or mattock, or other implements of
agriculture, if they are to be good for anything. Neither will the
builder make his tools --and he too needs many; and in like manner the
weaver and shoemaker.
Then carpenters, and smiths, and many other artisans, will be
sharers in our little State, which is already beginning to grow?
Yet even if we add neatherds, shepherds, and other herdsmen, in
order that our husbandmen may have oxen to plough with, and builders
as well as husbandmen may have draught cattle, and curriers and
weavers fleeces and hides, --still our State will not be very large.
That is true; yet neither will it be a very small State which
contains all these.
Then, again, there is the situation of the city --to find a place
where nothing need be imported is well-nigh impossible.
Then there must be another class of citizens who will bring the
required supply from another city?
There must.
But if the trader goes empty-handed, having nothing which they
require who would supply his need, he will come back empty-handed.
That is certain.
And therefore what they produce at home must be not only enough
for themselves, but such both in quantity and quality as to
accommodate those from whom their wants are supplied.
Very true.
Then more husbandmen and more artisans will be required?
They will.
Not to mention the importers and exporters, who are called
Then we shall want merchants?
We shall.
And if merchandise is to be carried over the sea, skilful sailors
will also be needed, and in considerable numbers?
Yes, in considerable numbers.
Then, again, within the city, how will they exchange their
productions? To secure such an exchange was, as you will remember, one
of our principal objects when we formed them into a society and
constituted a State.
Clearly they will buy and sell.
Then they will need a market-place, and a money-token for purposes
of exchange.
Suppose now that a husbandman, or an artisan, brings some production
to market, and he comes at a time when there is no one to exchange
with him, --is he to leave his calling and sit idle in the
Not at all; he will find people there who, seeing the want,
undertake the office of salesmen. In well-ordered States they are
commonly those who are the weakest in bodily strength, and therefore
of little use for any other purpose; their duty is to be in the
market, and to give money in exchange for goods to those who desire to
sell and to take money from those who desire to buy.
This want, then, creates a class of retail-traders in our State.
Is not 'retailer' the term which is applied to those who sit in the
market-place engaged in buying and selling, while those who wander
from one city to another are called merchants?
Yes, he said.
And there is another class of servants, who are intellectually
hardly on the level of companionship; still they have plenty of bodily
strength for labour, which accordingly they sell, and are called, if I
do not mistake, hirelings, hire being the name which is given to the
price of their labour.
Then hirelings will help to make up our population?
And now, Adeimantus, is our State matured and perfected?
I think so.
Where, then, is justice, and where is injustice, and in what part of
the State did they spring up?
Probably in the dealings of these citizens with one another.
cannot imagine that they are more likely to be found anywhere else.
I dare say that you are right in your suggestion, I said; we had
better think the matter out, and not shrink from the enquiry.
Let us then consider, first of all, what will be their way of
life, now that we have thus established them. Will they not produce
corn, and wine, and clothes, and shoes, and build houses for
themselves? And when they are housed, they will work, in summer,
commonly, stripped and barefoot, but in winter substantially clothed
and shod. They will feed on barley-meal and flour of wheat, baking and
kneading them, making noble cakes and loaves; these they will serve up
on a mat of reeds or on clean leaves, themselves reclining the while
upon beds strewn with yew or myrtle. And they and their children
will feast, drinking of the wine which they have made, wearing
garlands on their heads, and hymning the praises of the gods, in happy
converse with one another. And they will take care that their families
do not exceed their means; having an eye to poverty or war.


But, said Glaucon, interposing, you have not given them a relish
to their meal.
True, I replied, I had forgotten; of course they must have a
relish-salt, and olives, and cheese, and they will boil roots and
herbs such as country people prepare; for a dessert we shall give them
figs, and peas, and beans; and they will roast myrtle-berries and
acorns at the fire, drinking in moderation. And with such a diet
they may be expected to live in peace and health to a good old age,
and bequeath a similar life to their children after them.
Yes, Socrates, he said, and if you were providing for a city of
pigs, how else would you feed the beasts?
But what would you have, Glaucon? I replied.
Why, he said, you should give them the ordinary conveniences of
life. People who are to be comfortable are accustomed to lie on sofas,
and dine off tables, and they should have sauces and sweets in the
modern style.
Yes, I said, now I understand: the question which you would have
me consider is, not only how a State, but how a luxurious State is
created; and possibly there is no harm in this, for in such a State we
shall be more likely to see how justice and injustice originate. In my
opinion the true and healthy constitution of the State is the one
which I have described. But if you wish also to see a State at fever
heat, I have no objection. For I suspect that many will not be
satisfied with the simpler way of way They will be for adding sofas,
and tables, and other furniture; also dainties, and perfumes, and
incense, and courtesans, and cakes, all these not of one sort only,
but in every variety; we must go beyond the necessaries of which I was
at first speaking, such as houses, and clothes, and shoes: the arts of
the painter and the embroiderer will have to be set in motion, and
gold and ivory and all sorts of materials must be procured.
True, he said.
Then we must enlarge our borders; for the original healthy State
is no longer sufficient. Now will the city have to fill and swell with
a multitude of callings which are not required by any natural want;
such as the whole tribe of hunters and actors, of whom one large class
have to do with forms and colours; another will be the votaries of
music --poets and their attendant train of rhapsodists, players,
dancers, contractors; also makers of divers kinds of articles,
including women's dresses. And we shall want more servants. Will not
tutors be also in request, and nurses wet and dry, tirewomen and
barbers, as well as confectioners and cooks; and swineherds, too,
who were not needed and therefore had no place in the former edition
of our State, but are needed now? They must not be forgotten: and
there will be animals of many other kinds, if people eat them.
And living in this way we shall have much greater need of physicians
than before?
Much greater.
And the country which was enough to support the original inhabitants
will be too small now, and not enough?
Quite true.
Then a slice of our neighbours' land will be wanted by us for
pasture and tillage, and they will want a slice of ours, if, like
ourselves, they exceed the limit of necessity, and give themselves
up to the unlimited accumulation of wealth?
That, Socrates, will be inevitable.
And so we shall go to war, Glaucon. Shall we not?
Most certainly, he replied.
Then without determining as yet whether war does good or harm,
thus much we may affirm, that now we have discovered war to be derived
from causes which are also the causes of almost all the evils in
States, private as well as public.
And our State must once more enlarge; and this time the will be
nothing short of a whole army, which will have to go out and fight
with the invaders for all that we have, as well as for the things
and persons whom we were describing above.
Why? he said; are they not capable of defending themselves?
No, I said; not if we were right in the principle which was
acknowledged by all of us when we were framing the State: the
principle, as you will remember, was that one man cannot practise many
arts with success.
Very true, he said.
But is not war an art?
And an art requiring as much attention as shoemaking?
Quite true.
And the shoemaker was not allowed by us to be husbandman, or a
weaver, a builder --in order that we might have our shoes well made;
but to him and to every other worker was assigned one work for which
he was by nature fitted, and at that he was to continue working all
his life long and at no other; he was not to let opportunities slip,
and then he would become a good workman. Now nothing can be more
important than that the work of a soldier should be well done. But
is war an art so easily acquired that a man may be a warrior who is
also a husbandman, or shoemaker, or other artisan; although no one
in the world would be a good dice or draught player who merely took up
the game as a recreation, and had not from his earliest years
devoted himself to this and nothing else?
No tools will make a man a skilled workman, or master of defence,
nor be of any use to him who has not learned how to handle them, and
has never bestowed any attention upon them. How then will he who takes
up a shield or other implement of war become a good fighter all in a
day, whether with heavy-armed or any other kind of troops?
Yes, he said, the tools which would teach men their own use would be
beyond price.
And the higher the duties of the guardian, I said, the more time,
and skill, and art, and application will be needed by him?
No doubt, he replied.
Will he not also require natural aptitude for his calling?
Then it will be our duty to select, if we can, natures which are
fitted for the task of guarding the city?
It will.
And the selection will be no easy matter, I said; but we must be
brave and do our best.
We must.
Is not the noble youth very like a well-bred dog in respect of
guarding and watching?
What do you mean?
I mean that both of them ought to be quick to see, and swift to
overtake the enemy when they see him; and strong too if, when they
have caught him, they have to fight with him.
All these qualities, he replied, will certainly be required by them.
Well, and your guardian must be brave if he is to fight well?
And is he likely to be brave who has no spirit, whether horse or dog
or any other animal? Have you never observed how invincible and
unconquerable is spirit and how the presence of it makes the soul of
any creature to be absolutely fearless and indomitable?
I have.
Then now we have a clear notion of the bodily qualities which are
required in the guardian.
And also of the mental ones; his soul is to be full of spirit?
But are not these spirited natures apt to be savage with one
another, and with everybody else?
A difficulty by no means easy to overcome, he replied.
Whereas, I said, they ought to be dangerous to their enemies, and
gentle to their friends; if not, they will destroy themselves
without waiting for their enemies to destroy them.
True, he said.
What is to be done then? I said; how shall we find a gentle nature
which has also a great spirit, for the one is the contradiction of the
He will not be a good guardian who is wanting in either of these two
qualities; and yet the combination of them appears to be impossible;
and hence we must infer that to be a good guardian is impossible.
I am afraid that what you say is true, he replied.
Here feeling perplexed I began to think over what had preceded. My
friend, I said, no wonder that we are in a perplexity; for we have
lost sight of the image which we had before us.
What do you mean? he said.
I mean to say that there do exist natures gifted with those opposite
And where do you find them?
Many animals, I replied, furnish examples of them; our friend the
dog is a very good one: you know that well-bred dogs are perfectly
gentle to their familiars and acquaintances, and the reverse to
Yes, I know.
Then there is nothing impossible or out of the order of nature in
our finding a guardian who has a similar combination of qualities?
Certainly not.
Would not he who is fitted to be a guardian, besides the spirited
nature, need to have the qualities of a philosopher?
I do not apprehend your meaning.
The trait of which I am speaking, I replied, may be also seen in the
dog, and is remarkable in the animal.
What trait?
Why, a dog, whenever he sees a stranger, is angry; when an
acquaintance, he welcomes him, although the one has never done him any
harm, nor the other any good. Did this never strike you as curious?
The matter never struck me before; but I quite recognise the truth
of your remark.
And surely this instinct of the dog is very charming; --your dog
is a true philosopher.
Why, because he distinguishes the face of a friend and of an enemy
only by the criterion of knowing and not knowing. And must not an
animal be a lover of learning who determines what he likes and
dislikes by the test of knowledge and ignorance?
Most assuredly.
And is not the love of learning the love of wisdom, which is
They are the same, he replied.
And may we not say confidently of man also, that he who is likely to
be gentle to his friends and acquaintances, must by nature be a
lover of wisdom and knowledge?
That we may safely affirm.
Then he who is to be a really good and noble guardian of the State
will require to unite in himself philosophy and spirit and swiftness
and strength?
Then we have found the desired natures; and now that we have found
them, how are they to be reared and educated? Is not this enquiry
which may be expected to throw light on the greater enquiry which is
our final end --How do justice and injustice grow up in States? for we
do not want either to omit what is to the point or to draw out the
argument to an inconvenient length.


Adeimantus thought that the enquiry would be of great service to us.
Then, I said, my dear friend, the task must not be given up, even if
somewhat long.
Certainly not.
Come then, and let us pass a leisure hour in story-telling, and
our story shall be the education of our heroes.
By all means.
And what shall be their education? Can we find a better than the
traditional sort? --and this has two divisions, gymnastic for the
body, and music for the soul.
Shall we begin education with music, and go on to gymnastic
By all means.
And when you speak of music, do you include literature or not?
I do.
And literature may be either true or false?
And the young should be trained in both kinds, and we begin with the
I do not understand your meaning, he said.
You know, I said, that we begin by telling children stories which,
though not wholly destitute of truth, are in the main fictitious;
and these stories are told them when they are not of an age to learn
Very true.
That was my meaning when I said that we must teach music before
Quite right, he said.
You know also that the beginning is the most important part of any
work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that
is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired
impression is more readily taken.
Quite true.
And shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales
which may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their
minds ideas for the most part the very opposite of those which we
should wish them to have when they are grown up?
We cannot.
Then the first thing will be to establish a censorship of the
writers of fiction, and let the censors receive any tale of fiction
which is good, and reject the bad; and we will desire mothers and
nurses to tell their children the authorised ones only. Let them
fashion the mind with such tales, even more fondly than they mould the
body with their hands; but most of those which are now in use must
be discarded.
Of what tales are you speaking? he said.
You may find a model of the lesser in the greater, I said; for
they are necessarily of the same type, and there is the same spirit in
both of them.
Very likely, he replied; but I do not as yet know what you would
term the greater.
Those, I said, which are narrated by Homer and Hesiod, and the
rest of the poets, who have ever been the great story-tellers of
But which stories do you mean, he said; and what fault do you find
with them?
A fault which is most serious, I said; the fault of telling a lie,
and, what is more, a bad lie.
But when is this fault committed?
Whenever an erroneous representation is made of the nature of gods
and heroes, --as when a painter paints a portrait not having the
shadow of a likeness to the original.
Yes, he said, that sort of thing is certainly very blamable; but
what are the stories which you mean?
First of all, I said, there was that greatest of all lies, in high
places, which the poet told about Uranus, and which was a bad lie too,
--I mean what Hesiod says that Uranus did, and how Cronus retaliated
on him. The doings of Cronus, and the sufferings which in turn his son
inflicted upon him, even if they were true, ought certainly not to
be lightly told to young and thoughtless persons; if possible, they
had better be buried in silence. But if there is an absolute necessity
for their mention, a chosen few might hear them in a mystery, and they
should sacrifice not a common [Eleusinian] pig, but some huge and
unprocurable victim; and then the number of the hearers will be very
few indeed.
Why, yes, said he, those stories are extremely objectionable.
Yes, Adeimantus, they are stories not to be repeated in our State;
the young man should not be told that in committing the worst of
crimes he is far from doing anything outrageous; and that even if he
chastises his father when does wrong, in whatever manner, he will only
be following the example of the first and greatest among the gods.
I entirely agree with you, he said; in my opinion those stories
are quite unfit to be repeated.
Neither, if we mean our future guardians to regard the habit of
quarrelling among themselves as of all things the basest, should any
word be said to them of the wars in heaven, and of the plots and
fightings of the gods against one another, for they are not true.
No, we shall never mention the battles of the giants, or let them be
embroidered on garments; and we shall be silent about the
innumerable other quarrels of gods and heroes with their friends and
relatives. If they would only believe us we would tell them that
quarrelling is unholy, and that never up to this time has there been
any, quarrel between citizens; this is what old men and old women
should begin by telling children; and when they grow up, the poets
also should be told to compose for them in a similar spirit. But the
narrative of Hephaestus binding Here his mother, or how on another
occasion Zeus sent him flying for taking her part when she was being
beaten, and all the battles of the gods in Homer --these tales must
not be admitted into our State, whether they are supposed to have an
allegorical meaning or not. For a young person cannot judge what is
allegorical and what is literal; anything that he receives into his
mind at that age is likely to become indelible and unalterable; and
therefore it is most important that the tales which the young first
hear should be models of virtuous thoughts.
There you are right, he replied; but if any one asks where are
such models to be found and of what tales are you speaking --how shall
we answer him?
I said to him, You and I, Adeimantus, at this moment are not
poets, but founders of a State: now the founders of a State ought to
know the general forms in which poets should cast their tales, and the
limits which must be observed by them, but to make the tales is not
their business.
Very true, he said; but what are these forms of theology which you
Something of this kind, I replied: --God is always to be represented
as he truly is, whatever be the sort of poetry, epic, lyric or tragic,
in which the representation is given.
And is he not truly good? and must he not be represented as such?
And no good thing is hurtful?
No, indeed.
And that which is not hurtful hurts not?
Certainly not.
And that which hurts not does no evil?
And can that which does no evil be a cause of evil?
And the good is advantageous?
And therefore the cause of well-being?
It follows therefore that the good is not the cause of all things,
but of the good only?
Then God, if he be good, is not the author of all things, as the
many assert, but he is the cause of a few things only, and not of most
things that occur to men. For few are the goods of human life, and
many are the evils, and the good is to be attributed to God alone;
of the evils the causes are to be sought elsewhere, and not in him.
That appears to me to be most true, he said.
Then we must not listen to Homer or to any other poet who is
guilty of the folly of saying that two casks

Lie at the threshold of Zeus, full of lots, one of good, the other
of evil lots,

and that he to whom Zeus gives a mixture of the two

Sometimes meets with evil fortune, at other times with good;

but that he to whom is given the cup of unmingled ill,

Him wild hunger drives o'er the beauteous earth.

And again

Zeus, who is the dispenser of good and evil to us.

And if any one asserts that the violation of oaths and treaties, which
was really the work of Pandarus, was brought about by Athene and Zeus,
or that the strife and contention of the gods was instigated by Themis
and Zeus, he shall not have our approval; neither will we allow our
young men to hear the words of Aeschylus, that

God plants guilt among men when he desires utterly to destroy a house.

And if a poet writes of the sufferings of Niobe --the subject of the
tragedy in which these iambic verses occur --or of the house of
Pelops, or of the Trojan war or on any similar theme, either we must
not permit him to say that these are the works of God, or if they
are of God, he must devise some explanation of them such as we are
seeking; he must say that God did what was just and right, and they
were the better for being punished; but that those who are punished
are miserable, and that God is the author of their misery --the poet
is not to be permitted to say; though he may say that the wicked are
miserable because they require to be punished, and are benefited by
receiving punishment from God; but that God being good is the author
of evil to any one is to be strenuously denied, and not to be said
or sung or heard in verse or prose by any one whether old or young
in any well-ordered commonwealth. Such a fiction is suicidal, ruinous,
I agree with you, he replied, and am ready to give my assent to
the law.
Let this then be one of our rules and principles concerning the
gods, to which our poets and reciters will be expected to conform
--that God is not the author of all things, but of good only.
That will do, he said.
And what do you think of a second principle? Shall I ask you whether
God is a magician, and of a nature to appear insidiously now in one
shape, and now in another --sometimes himself changing and passing
into many forms, sometimes deceiving us with the semblance of such
transformations; or is he one and the same immutably fixed in his
own proper image?
I cannot answer you, he said, without more thought.
Well, I said; but if we suppose a change in anything, that change
must be effected either by the thing itself, or by some other thing?
Most certainly.
And things which are at their best are also least liable to be
altered or discomposed; for example, when healthiest and strongest,
the human frame is least liable to be affected by meats and drinks,
and the plant which is in the fullest vigour also suffers least from
winds or the heat of the sun or any similar causes.
Of course.
And will not the bravest and wisest soul be least confused or
deranged by any external influence?
And the same principle, as I should suppose, applies to all
composite things --furniture, houses, garments; when good and well
made, they are least altered by time and circumstances.
Very true.
Then everything which is good, whether made by art or nature, or
both, is least liable to suffer change from without?
But surely God and the things of God are in every way perfect?
Of course they are.
Then he can hardly be compelled by external influence to take many
He cannot.
But may he not change and transform himself?
Clearly, he said, that must be the case if he is changed at all.
And will he then change himself for the better and fairer, or for
the worse and more unsightly?
If he change at all he can only change for the worse, for we
cannot suppose him to be deficient either in virtue or beauty.
Very true, Adeimantus; but then, would any one, whether God or
man, desire to make himself worse?
Then it is impossible that God should ever be willing to change;
being, as is supposed, the fairest and best that is conceivable, every
god remains absolutely and for ever in his own form.
That necessarily follows, he said, in my judgment.
Then, I said, my dear friend, let none of the poets tell us that

The gods, taking the disguise of strangers from other lands, walk up
and down cities in all sorts of forms;

and let no one slander Proteus and Thetis, neither let any one, either
in tragedy or in any other kind of poetry, introduce Here disguised in
the likeness of a priestess asking an alms

For the life-giving daughters of Inachus the river of Argos;

--let us have no more lies of that sort. Neither must we have
mothers under the influence of the poets scaring their children with a
bad version of these myths --telling how certain gods, as they say,
'Go about by night in the likeness of so many strangers and in
divers forms'; but let them take heed lest they make cowards of
their children, and at the same time speak blasphemy against the gods.
Heaven forbid, he said.
But although the gods are themselves unchangeable, still by
witchcraft and deception they may make us think that they appear in
various forms?
Perhaps, he replied.
Well, but can you imagine that God will be willing to lie, whether
in word or deed, or to put forth a phantom of himself?
I cannot say, he replied.
Do you not know, I said, that the true lie, if such an expression
may be allowed, is hated of gods and men?
What do you mean? he said.
I mean that no one is willingly deceived in that which is the truest
and highest part of himself, or about the truest and highest
matters; there, above all, he is most afraid of a lie having
possession of him.
Still, he said, I do not comprehend you.
The reason is, I replied, that you attribute some profound meaning
to my words; but I am only saying that deception, or being deceived or
uninformed about the highest realities in the highest part of
themselves, which is the soul, and in that part of them to have and to
hold the lie, is what mankind least like; --that, I say, is what
they utterly detest.
There is nothing more hateful to them.
And, as I was just now remarking, this ignorance in the soul of
him who is deceived may be called the true lie; for the lie in words
is only a kind of imitation and shadowy image of a previous
affection of the soul, not pure unadulterated falsehood. Am I not
Perfectly right.
The true lie is hated not only by the gods, but also by men?
Whereas the lie in words is in certain cases useful and not hateful;
in dealing with enemies --that would be an instance; or again, when
those whom we call our friends in a fit of madness or illusion are
going to do some harm, then it is useful and is a sort of medicine
or preventive; also in the tales of mythology, of which we were just
now speaking --because we do not know the truth about ancient times,
we make falsehood as much like truth as we can, and so turn it to
Very true, he said.
But can any of these reasons apply to God? Can we suppose that he is
ignorant of antiquity, and therefore has recourse to invention?
That would be ridiculous, he said.
Then the lying poet has no place in our idea of God?
I should say not.
Or perhaps he may tell a lie because he is afraid of enemies?
That is inconceivable.
But he may have friends who are senseless or mad?
But no mad or senseless person can be a friend of God.
Then no motive can be imagined why God should lie?
None whatever.
Then the superhuman and divine is absolutely incapable of falsehood?
Then is God perfectly simple and true both in word and deed; he
changes not; he deceives not, either by sign or word, by dream or
waking vision.
Your thoughts, he said, are the reflection of my own.
You agree with me then, I said, that this is the second type or form
in which we should write and speak about divine things. The gods are
not magicians who transform themselves, neither do they deceive
mankind in any way.
I grant that.
Then, although we are admirers of Homer, we do not admire the
lying dream which Zeus sends to Agamemnon; neither will we praise
the verses of Aeschylus in which Thetis says that Apollo at her

Was celebrating in song her fair progeny whose days were to he long,
and to know no sickness. And when he had spoken of my lot as in all
things blessed of heaven he raised a note of triumph and cheered my
soul. And I thought that the word of Phoebus being divine and full
of prophecy, would not fail. And now he himself who uttered the
strain, he who was present at the banquet, and who said this --he it
is who has slain my son.

These are the kind of sentiments about the gods which will arouse
our anger; and he who utters them shall be refused a chorus; neither
shall we allow teachers to make use of them in the instruction of
the young, meaning, as we do, that our guardians, as far as men can
be, should be true worshippers of the gods and like them.
I entirely agree, be said, in these principles, and promise to
make them my laws.


SUCH then, I said, are our principles of theology --some tales are
to be told, and others are not to be told to our disciples from
their youth upwards, if we mean them to honour the gods and their
parents, and to value friendship with one another.
Yes; and I think that our principles are right, he said.
But if they are to be courageous, must they not learn other
lessons besides these, and lessons of such a kind as will take away
the fear of death? Can any man be courageous who has the fear of death
in him?
Certainly not, he said.
And can he be fearless of death, or will he choose death in battle
rather than defeat and slavery, who believes the world below to be
real and terrible?
Then we must assume a control over the narrators of this class of
tales as well as over the others, and beg them not simply to but
rather to commend the world below, intimating to them that their
descriptions are untrue, and will do harm to our future warriors.
That will be our duty, he said.
Then, I said, we shall have to obliterate many obnoxious passages,
beginning with the verses,

I would rather he a serf on the land of a poor and portionless man
than rule over all the dead who have come to nought.

We must also expunge the verse, which tells us how Pluto feared,

Lest the mansions grim and squalid which the gods abhor should he
seen both of mortals and immortals.

And again:

O heavens! verily in the house of Hades there is soul and ghostly
form but no mind at all!

Again of Tiresias: --

[To him even after death did Persephone grant mind,] that he alone
should be wise; but the other souls are flitting shades.

Again: --

The soul flying from the limbs had gone to Hades, lamentng her fate,
leaving manhood and youth.

Again: --

And the soul, with shrilling cry, passed like smoke beneath the

And, --

As bats in hollow of mystic cavern, whenever any of the has
dropped out of the string and falls from the rock, fly shrilling and
cling to one another, so did they with shrilling cry hold together
as they moved.

And we must beg Homer and the other poets not to be angry if we strike
out these and similar passages, not because they are unpoetical, or
unattractive to the popular ear, but because the greater the
poetical charm of them, the less are they meet for the ears of boys
and men who are meant to be free, and who should fear slavery more
than death.
Also we shall have to reject all the terrible and appalling names
describe the world below --Cocytus and Styx, ghosts under the earth,
and sapless shades, and any similar words of which the very mention
causes a shudder to pass through the inmost soul of him who hears
them. I do not say that these horrible stories may not have a use of
some kind; but there is a danger that the nerves of our guardians
may be rendered too excitable and effeminate by them.
There is a real danger, he said.
Then we must have no more of them.
Another and a nobler strain must be composed and sung by us.
And shall we proceed to get rid of the weepings and wailings of
famous men?
They will go with the rest.
But shall we be right in getting rid of them? Reflect: our principle
is that the good man will not consider death terrible to any other
good man who is his comrade.
Yes; that is our principle.
And therefore he will not sorrow for his departed friend as though
he had suffered anything terrible?
He will not.
Such an one, as we further maintain, is sufficient for himself and
his own happiness, and therefore is least in need of other men.
True, he said.
And for this reason the loss of a son or brother, or the deprivation
of fortune, is to him of all men least terrible.
And therefore he will be least likely to lament, and will bear
with the greatest equanimity any misfortune of this sort which may
befall him.
Yes, he will feel such a misfortune far less than another.
Then we shall be right in getting rid of the lamentations of
famous men, and making them over to women (and not even to women who
are good for anything), or to men of a baser sort, that those who
are being educated by us to be the defenders of their country may
scorn to do the like.
That will be very right.
Then we will once more entreat Homer and the other poets not to
depict Achilles, who is the son of a goddess, first lying on his side,
then on his back, and then on his face; then starting up and sailing
in a frenzy along the shores of the barren sea; now taking the sooty
ashes in both his hands and pouring them over his head, or weeping and
wailing in the various modes which Homer has delineated. Nor should he
describe Priam the kinsman of the gods as praying and beseeching,

Rolling in the dirt, calling each man loudly by his name.

Still more earnestly will we beg of him at all events not to introduce
the gods lamenting and saying,

Alas! my misery! Alas! that I bore the harvest to my sorrow.

But if he must introduce the gods, at any rate let him not dare so
completely to misrepresent the greatest of the gods, as to make him
say --

O heavens! with my eyes verily I behold a dear friend of mine chased
round and round the city, and my heart is sorrowful.

Or again: --

Woe is me that I am fated to have Sarpedon, dearest of men to me,
subdued at the hands of Patroclus the son of Menoetius.

For if, my sweet Adeimantus, our youth seriously listen to such
unworthy representations of the gods, instead of laughing at them as
they ought, hardly will any of them deem that he himself, being but
a man, can be dishonoured by similar actions; neither will he rebuke
any inclination which may arise in his mind to say and do the like.
And instead of having any shame or self-control, he will be always
whining and lamenting on slight occasions.
Yes, he said, that is most true.
Yes, I replied; but that surely is what ought not to be, as the
argument has just proved to us; and by that proof we must abide
until it is disproved by a better.
It ought not to be.
Neither ought our guardians to be given to laughter. For a fit of
laughter which has been indulged to excess almost always produces a
violent reaction.
So I believe.
Then persons of worth, even if only mortal men, must not be
represented as overcome by laughter, and still less must such a
representation of the gods be allowed.
Still less of the gods, as you say, he replied.
Then we shall not suffer such an expression to be used about the
gods as that of Homer when he describes how

Inextinguishable laughter arose among the blessed gods, when they
saw Hephaestus bustling about the mansion.

On your views, we must not admit them.
On my views, if you like to father them on me; that we must not
admit them is certain.
Again, truth should be highly valued; if, as we were saying, a lie
is useless to the gods, and useful only as a medicine to men, then the
use of such medicines should be restricted to physicians; private
individuals have no business with them.
Clearly not, he said.
Then if any one at all is to have the privilege of lying, the rulers
of the State should be the persons; and they, in their dealings either
with enemies or with their own citizens, may be allowed to lie for the
public good. But nobody else should meddle with anything of the
kind; and although the rulers have this privilege, for a private man
to lie to them in return is to be deemed a more heinous fault than for
the patient or the pupil of a gymnasium not to speak the truth about
his own bodily illnesses to the physician or to the trainer, or for
a sailor not to tell the captain what is happening about the ship
and the rest of the crew, and how things are going with himself or his
fellow sailors.
Most true, he said.
If, then, the ruler catches anybody beside himself lying in the

Any of the craftsmen, whether he priest or physician or carpenter.

he will punish him for introducing a practice which is equally
subversive and destructive of ship or State.
Most certainly, he said, if our idea of the State is ever carried
In the next place our youth must be temperate?
Are not the chief elements of temperance, speaking generally,
obedience to commanders and self-control in sensual pleasures?
Then we shall approve such language as that of Diomede in Homer,

Friend, sit still and obey my word,

and the verses which follow,

The Greeks marched breathing prowess, silent awe of their leaders,

and other sentiments of the same kind.
We shall.
What of this line,

O heavy with wine, who hast the eyes of a dog and the heart of a

and of the words which follow? Would you say that these, or any
similar impertinences which private individuals are supposed to
address to their rulers, whether in verse or prose, are well or ill
They are ill spoken.
They may very possibly afford some amusement, but they do not
conduce to temperance. And therefore they are likely to do harm to our
young men --you would agree with me there?
And then, again, to make the wisest of men say that nothing in his
opinion is more glorious than

When the tables are full of bread and meat, and the cup-bearer
carries round wine which he draws from the bowl and pours into the

is it fit or conducive to temperance for a young man to hear such
words? Or the verse

The saddest of fates is to die and meet destiny from hunger?

What would you say again to the tale of Zeus, who, while other gods
and men were asleep and he the only person awake, lay devising
plans, but forgot them all in a moment through his lust, and was so
completely overcome at the sight of Here that he would not even go
into the hut, but wanted to lie with her on the ground, declaring that
he had never been in such a state of rapture before, even when they
first met one another

Without the knowledge of their parents;

or that other tale of how Hephaestus, because of similar goings on,
cast a chain around Ares and Aphrodite?
Indeed, he said, I am strongly of opinion that they ought not to
hear that sort of thing.
But any deeds of endurance which are done or told by famous men,
these they ought to see and hear; as, for example, what is said in the

He smote his breast, and thus reproached his heart,
Endure, my heart; far worse hast thou endured!

Certainly, he said.
In the next place, we must not let them be receivers of gifts or
lovers of money.
Certainly not.
Neither must we sing to them of

Gifts persuading gods, and persuading reverend kings.

Neither is Phoenix, the tutor of Achilles, to be approved or deemed to
have given his pupil good counsel when he told him that he should take
the gifts of the Greeks and assist them; but that without a gift he
should not lay aside his anger. Neither will we believe or acknowledge
Achilles himself to have been such a lover of money that he took
Agamemnon's or that when he had received payment he restored the
dead body of Hector, but that without payment he was unwilling to do
Undoubtedly, he said, these are not sentiments which can be
Loving Homer as I do, I hardly like to say that in attributing these
feelings to Achilles, or in believing that they are truly to him, he
is guilty of downright impiety. As little can I believe the
narrative of his insolence to Apollo, where he says,

Thou hast wronged me, O far-darter, most abominable of deities.
Verily I would he even with thee, if I had only the power,

or his insubordination to the river-god, on whose divinity he is ready
to lay hands; or his offering to the dead Patroclus of his own hair,
which had been previously dedicated to the other river-god Spercheius,
and that he actually performed this vow; or that he dragged Hector
round the tomb of Patroclus, and slaughtered the captives at the pyre;
of all this I cannot believe that he was guilty, any more than I can
allow our citizens to believe that he, the wise Cheiron's pupil, the
son of a goddess and of Peleus who was the gentlest of men and third
in descent from Zeus, was so disordered in his wits as to be at one
time the slave of two seemingly inconsistent passions, meanness, not
untainted by avarice, combined with overweening contempt of gods and
You are quite right, he replied.
And let us equally refuse to believe, or allow to be repeated, the
tale of Theseus son of Poseidon, or of Peirithous son of Zeus, going
forth as they did to perpetrate a horrid rape; or of any other hero or
son of a god daring to do such impious and dreadful things as they
falsely ascribe to them in our day: and let us further compel the
poets to declare either that these acts were not done by them, or that
they were not the sons of gods; --both in the same breath they shall
not be permitted to affirm. We will not have them trying to persuade
our youth that the gods are the authors of evil, and that heroes are
no better than men-sentiments which, as we were saying, are neither
pious nor true, for we have already proved that evil cannot come
from the gods.
Assuredly not.
And further they are likely to have a bad effect on those who hear
them; for everybody will begin to excuse his own vices when he is
convinced that similar wickednesses are always being perpetrated by --

The kindred of the gods, the relatives of Zeus, whose ancestral
altar, the attar of Zeus, is aloft in air on the peak of Ida,

and who have

the blood of deities yet flowing in their veins.

And therefore let us put an end to such tales, lest they engender
laxity of morals among the young.
By all means, he replied.
But now that we are determining what classes of subjects are or
are not to be spoken of, let us see whether any have been omitted by
us. The manner in which gods and demigods and heroes and the world
below should be treated has been already laid down.
Very true.
And what shall we say about men? That is clearly the remaining
portion of our subject.
Clearly so.
But we are not in a condition to answer this question at present, my
Why not?
Because, if I am not mistaken, we shall have to say that about men
poets and story-tellers are guilty of making the gravest misstatements
when they tell us that wicked men are often happy, and the good
miserable; and that injustice is profitable when undetected, but
that justice is a man's own loss and another's gain --these things
we shall forbid them to utter, and command them to sing and say the
To be sure we shall, he replied.
But if you admit that I am right in this, then I shall maintain that
you have implied the principle for which we have been all along
I grant the truth of your inference.
That such things are or are not to be said about men is a question
which we cannot determine until we have discovered what justice is,
and how naturally advantageous to the possessor, whether he seems to
be just or not.
Most true, he said.
Enough of the subjects of poetry: let us now speak of the style; and
when this has been considered, both matter and manner will have been
completely treated.
I do not understand what you mean, said Adeimantus.
Then I must make you understand; and perhaps I may be more
intelligible if I put the matter in this way. You are aware, I
suppose, that all mythology and poetry is a narration of events,
either past, present, or to come?
Certainly, he replied.
And narration may be either simple narration, or imitation, or a
union of the two?
That again, he said, I do not quite understand.
I fear that I must be a ridiculous teacher when I have so much
difficulty in making myself apprehended. Like a bad speaker,
therefore, I will not take the whole of the subject, but will break
a piece off in illustration of my meaning. You know the first lines of
the Iliad, in which the poet says that Chryses prayed Agamemnon to
release his daughter, and that Agamemnon flew into a passion with him;
whereupon Chryses, failing of his object, invoked the anger of the God
against the Achaeans. Now as far as these lines,

And he prayed all the Greeks, but especially the two sons of Atreus,
the chiefs of the people,

the poet is speaking in his own person; he never leads us to suppose
that he is any one else. But in what follows he takes the person of
Chryses, and then he does all that he can to make us believe that
the speaker is not Homer, but the aged priest himself. And in this
double form he has cast the entire narrative of the events which
occurred at Troy and in Ithaca and throughout the Odyssey.
And a narrative it remains both in the speeches which the poet
recites from time to time and in the intermediate passages?
Quite true.
But when the poet speaks in the person of another, may we not say
that he assimilates his style to that of the person who, as he informs
you, is going to speak?
And this assimilation of himself to another, either by the use of
voice or gesture, is the imitation of the person whose character he
Of course.
Then in this case the narrative of the poet may be said to proceed
by way of imitation?
Very true.
Or, if the poet everywhere appears and never conceals himself,
then again the imitation is dropped, and his poetry becomes simple
narration. However, in order that I may make my meaning quite clear,
and that you may no more say, I don't understand,' I will show how the
change might be effected. If Homer had said, 'The priest came,
having his daughter's ransom in his hands, supplicating the
Achaeans, and above all the kings;' and then if, instead of speaking
in the person of Chryses, he had continued in his own person, the
words would have been, not imitation, but simple narration. The
passage would have run as follows (I am no poet, and therefore I
drop the metre), 'The priest came and prayed the gods on behalf of the
Greeks that they might capture Troy and return safely home, but begged
that they would give him back his daughter, and take the ransom
which he brought, and respect the God. Thus he spoke, and the other
Greeks revered the priest and assented. But Agamemnon was wroth, and
bade him depart and not come again, lest the staff and chaplets of the
God should be of no avail to him --the daughter of Chryses should
not be released, he said --she should grow old with him in Argos.
And then he told him to go away and not to provoke him, if he intended
to get home unscathed. And the old man went away in fear and
silence, and, when he had left the camp, he called upon Apollo by
his many names, reminding him of everything which he had done pleasing
to him, whether in building his temples, or in offering sacrifice, and
praying that his good deeds might be returned to him, and that the
Achaeans might expiate his tears by the arrows of the god,' --and so
on. In this way the whole becomes simple narrative.
I understand, he said.
Or you may suppose the opposite case --that the intermediate
passages are omitted, and the dialogue only left.
That also, he said, I understand; you mean, for example, as in
You have conceived my meaning perfectly; and if I mistake not,
what you failed to apprehend before is now made clear to you, that
poetry and mythology are, in some cases, wholly imitative
--instances of this are supplied by tragedy and comedy; there is
likewise the opposite style, in which the my poet is the only
speaker --of this the dithyramb affords the best example; and the
combination of both is found in epic, and in several other styles of
poetry. Do I take you with me?
Yes, he said; I see now what you meant.
I will ask you to remember also what I began by saying, that we
had done with the subject and might proceed to the style.
Yes, I remember.
In saying this, I intended to imply that we must come to an
understanding about the mimetic art, --whether the poets, in narrating
their stories, are to be allowed by us to imitate, and if so,
whether in whole or in part, and if the latter, in what parts; or
should all imitation be prohibited?
You mean, I suspect, to ask whether tragedy and comedy shall be
admitted into our State?
Yes, I said; but there may be more than this in question: I really
do not know as yet, but whither the argument may blow, thither we go.
And go we will, he said.
Then, Adeimantus, let me ask you whether our guardians ought to be
imitators; or rather, has not this question been decided by the rule
already laid down that one man can only do one thing well, and not
many; and that if he attempt many, he will altogether fall of
gaining much reputation in any?
And this is equally true of imitation; no one man can imitate many
things as well as he would imitate a single one?
He cannot.
Then the same person will hardly be able to play a serious part in
life, and at the same time to be an imitator and imitate many other
parts as well; for even when two species of imitation are nearly
allied, the same persons cannot succeed in both, as, for example,
the writers of tragedy and comedy --did you not just now call them
Yes, I did; and you are right in thinking that the same persons
cannot succeed in both.
Any more than they can be rhapsodists and actors at once?
Neither are comic and tragic actors the same; yet all these things
are but imitations.
They are so.
And human nature, Adeimantus, appears to have been coined into yet
smaller pieces, and to be as incapable of imitating many things
well, as of performing well the actions of which the imitations are
Quite true, he replied.
If then we adhere to our original notion and bear in mind that our
guardians, setting aside every other business, are to dedicate
themselves wholly to the maintenance of freedom in the State, making
this their craft, and engaging in no work which does not bear on
this end, they ought not to practise or imitate anything else; if they
imitate at all, they should imitate from youth upward only those
characters which are suitable to their profession --the courageous,
temperate, holy, free, and the like; but they should not depict or
be skilful at imitating any kind of illiberality or baseness, lest
from imitation they should come to be what they imitate. Did you never
observe how imitations, beginning in early youth and continuing far
into life, at length grow into habits and become a second nature,
affecting body, voice, and mind?
Yes, certainly, he said.
Then, I said, we will not allow those for whom we profess a care and
of whom we say that they ought to be good men, to imitate a woman,
whether young or old, quarrelling with her husband, or striving and
vaunting against the gods in conceit of her happiness, or when she
is in affliction, or sorrow, or weeping; and certainly not one who
is in sickness, love, or labour.
Very right, he said.
Neither must they represent slaves, male or female, performing the
offices of slaves?
They must not.
And surely not bad men, whether cowards or any others, who do the
reverse of what we have just been prescribing, who scold or mock or
revile one another in drink or out of in drink or, or who in any other
manner sin against themselves and their neighbours in word or deed, as
the manner of such is. Neither should they be trained to imitate the
action or speech of men or women who are mad or bad; for madness, like
vice, is to be known but not to be practised or imitated.
Very true, he replied.
Neither may they imitate smiths or other artificers, or oarsmen,
or boatswains, or the like?
How can they, he said, when they are not allowed to apply their
minds to the callings of any of these?
Nor may they imitate the neighing of horses, the bellowing of bulls,
the murmur of rivers and roll of the ocean, thunder, and all that sort
of thing?
Nay, he said, if madness be forbidden, neither may they copy the
behaviour of madmen.
You mean, I said, if I understand you aright, that there is one sort
of narrative style which may be employed by a truly good man when he
has anything to say, and that another sort will be used by a man of an
opposite character and education.
And which are these two sorts? he asked.
Suppose, I answered, that a just and good man in the course of a
narration comes on some saying or action of another good man, --I
should imagine that he will like to personate him, and will not be
ashamed of this sort of imitation: he will be most ready to play the
part of the good man when he is acting firmly and wisely; in a less
degree when he is overtaken by illness or love or drink, or has met
with any other disaster. But when he comes to a character which is
unworthy of him, he will not make a study of that; he will disdain
such a person, and will assume his likeness, if at all, for a moment
only when he is performing some good action; at other times he will be
ashamed to play a part which he has never practised, nor will he
like to fashion and frame himself after the baser models; he feels the
employment of such an art, unless in jest, to be beneath him, and
his mind revolts at it.
So I should expect, he replied.
Then he will adopt a mode of narration such as we have illustrated
out of Homer, that is to say, his style will be both imitative and
narrative; but there will be very little of the former, and a great
deal of the latter. Do you agree?
Certainly, he said; that is the model which such a speaker must
necessarily take.
But there is another sort of character who will narrate anything,
and, the worse lie is, the more unscrupulous he will be; nothing
will be too bad for him: and he will be ready to imitate anything, not
as a joke, but in right good earnest, and before a large company. As I
was just now saying, he will attempt to represent the roll of thunder,
the noise of wind and hall, or the creaking of wheels, and pulleys,
and the various sounds of flutes; pipes, trumpets, and all sorts of
instruments: he will bark like a dog, bleat like a sheep, or crow like
a cock; his entire art will consist in imitation of voice and gesture,
and there will be very little narration.
That, he said, will be his mode of speaking.
These, then, are the two kinds of style?
And you would agree with me in saying that one of them is simple and
has but slight changes; and if the harmony and rhythm are also
chosen for their simplicity, the result is that the speaker, if hc
speaks correctly, is always pretty much the same in style, and he will
keep within the limits of a single harmony (for the changes are not
great), and in like manner he will make use of nearly the same rhythm?
That is quite true, he said.
Whereas the other requires all sorts of harmonies and all sorts of
rhythms, if the music and the style are to correspond, because the
style has all sorts of changes.
That is also perfectly true, he replied.
And do not the two styles, or the mixture of the two, comprehend all
poetry, and every form of expression in words? No one can say anything
except in one or other of them or in both together.
They include all, he said.
And shall we receive into our State all the three styles, or one
only of the two unmixed styles? or would you include the mixed?
I should prefer only to admit the pure imitator of virtue.
Yes, I said, Adeimantus, but the mixed style is also very
charming: and indeed the pantomimic, which is the opposite of the
one chosen by you, is the most popular style with children and their
attendants, and with the world in general.
I do not deny it.
But I suppose you would argue that such a style is unsuitable to our
State, in which human nature is not twofold or manifold, for one man
plays one part only?
Yes; quite unsuitable.
And this is the reason why in our State, and in our State only, we
shall find a shoemaker to be a shoemaker and not a pilot also, and a
husbandman to be a husbandman and not a dicast also, and a soldier a
soldier and not a trader also, and the same throughout?
True, he said.
And therefore when any one of these pantomimic gentlemen, who are so
clever that they can imitate anything, comes to us, and makes a
proposal to exhibit himself and his poetry, we will fall down and
worship him as a sweet and holy and wonderful being; but we must
also inform him that in our State such as he are not permitted to
exist; the law will not allow them. And so when we have anointed him
with myrrh, and set a garland of wool upon his head, we shall send him
away to another city. For we mean to employ for our souls' health
the rougher and severer poet or story-teller, who will imitate the
style of the virtuous only, and will follow those models which we
prescribed at first when we began the education of our soldiers.
We certainly will, he said, if we have the power.
Then now, my friend, I said, that part of music or literary
education which relates to the story or myth may be considered to be
finished; for the matter and manner have both been discussed.
I think so too, he said.
Next in order will follow melody and song.
That is obvious.
Every one can see already what we ought to say about them, if we are
to be consistent with ourselves.


I fear, said Glaucon, laughing, that the words 'every one' hardly
includes me, for I cannot at the moment say what they should be;
though I may guess.
At any rate you can tell that a song or ode has three parts --the
words, the melody, and the rhythm; that degree of knowledge I may
Yes, he said; so much as that you may.
And as for the words, there surely be no difference words between
words which are and which are not set to music; both will conform to
the same laws, and these have been already determined by us?
And the melody and rhythm will depend upon the words?
We were saying, when we spoke of the subject-matter, that we had
no need of lamentations and strains of sorrow?
And which are the harmonies expressive of sorrow? You are musical,
and can tell me.
The harmonies which you mean are the mixed or tenor Lydian, and
the full-toned or bass Lydian, and such like.
These then, I said, must be banished; even to women who have a
character to maintain they are of no use, and much less to men.
In the next place, drunkenness and softness and indolence are
utterly unbecoming the character of our guardians.
Utterly unbecoming.
And which are the soft or drinking harmonies?
The Ionian, he replied, and the Lydian; they are termed 'relaxed.'
Well, and are these of any military use?
Quite the reverse, he replied; and if so the Dorian and the Phrygian
are the only ones which you have left.
I answered: Of the harmonies I know nothing, but I want to have
one warlike, to sound the note or accent which a brave man utters in
the hour of danger and stern resolve, or when his cause is failing,
and he is going to wounds or death or is overtaken by some other evil,
and at every such crisis meets the blows of fortune with firm step and
a determination to endure; and another to be used by him in times of
peace and freedom of action, when there is no pressure of necessity,
and he is seeking to persuade God by prayer, or man by instruction and
admonition, or on the other hand, when he is expressing his
willingness to yield to persuasion or entreaty or admonition, and
which represents him when by prudent conduct he has attained his
end, not carried away by his success, but acting moderately and wisely
under the circumstances, and acquiescing in the event. These two
harmonies I ask you to leave; the strain of necessity and the strain
of freedom, the strain of the unfortunate and the strain of the
fortunate, the strain of courage, and the strain of temperance; these,
I say, leave.
And these, he replied, are the Dorian and Phrygian harmonies of
which I was just now speaking.
Then, I said, if these and these only are to be used in our songs
and melodies, we shall not want multiplicity of notes or a panharmonic
I suppose not.
Then we shall not maintain the artificers of lyres with three
corners and complex scales, or the makers of any other many-stringed
curiously-harmonised instruments?
Certainly not.
But what do you say to flute-makers and flute-players? Would you
admit them into our State when you reflect that in this composite
use of harmony the flute is worse than all the stringed instruments
put together; even the panharmonic music is only an imitation of the
Clearly not.
There remain then only the lyre and the harp for use in the city,
and the shepherds may have a pipe in the country.
That is surely the conclusion to be drawn from the argument.
The preferring of Apollo and his instruments to Marsyas and his
instruments is not at all strange, I said.
Not at all, he replied.
And so, by the dog of Egypt, we have been unconsciously purging
the State, which not long ago we termed luxurious.
And we have done wisely, he replied.
Then let us now finish the purgation, I said. Next in order to
harmonies, rhythms will naturally follow, and they should be subject
to the same rules, for we ought not to seek out complex systems of
metre, or metres of every kind, but rather to discover what rhythms
are the expressions of a courageous and harmonious life; and when we
have found them, we shall adapt the foot and the melody to words
having a like spirit, not the words to the foot and melody. To say
what these rhythms are will be your duty --you must teach me them,
as you have already taught me the harmonies.
But, indeed, he replied, I cannot tell you. I only know that there
are some three principles of rhythm out of which metrical systems
are framed, just as in sounds there are four notes out of which all
the harmonies are composed; that is an observation which I have
made. But of what sort of lives they are severally the imitations I am
unable to say.
Then, I said, we must take Damon into our counsels; and he will tell
us what rhythms are expressive of meanness, or insolence, or fury,
or other unworthiness, and what are to be reserved for the
expression of opposite feelings. And I think that I have an indistinct
recollection of his mentioning a complex Cretic rhythm; also a
dactylic or heroic, and he arranged them in some manner which I do not
quite understand, making the rhythms equal in the rise and fall of the
foot, long and short alternating; and, unless I am mistaken, he
spoke of an iambic as well as of a trochaic rhythm, and assigned to
them short and long quantities. Also in some cases he appeared to
praise or censure the movement of the foot quite as much as the
rhythm; or perhaps a combination of the two; for I am not certain what
he meant. These matters, however, as I was saying, had better be
referred to Damon himself, for the analysis of the subject would be
difficult, you know.
Rather so, I should say.
But there is no difficulty in seeing that grace or the absence of
grace is an effect of good or bad rhythm.
None at all.
And also that good and bad rhythm naturally assimilate to a good and
bad style; and that harmony and discord in like manner follow style;
for our principle is that rhythm and harmony are regulated by the
words, and not the words by them.
Just so, he said, they should follow the words.
And will not the words and the character of the style depend on
the temper of the soul?
And everything else on the style?
Then beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on
simplicity, --I mean the true simplicity of a rightly and nobly
ordered mind and character, not that other simplicity which is only an
euphemism for folly?
Very true, he replied.
And if our youth are to do their work in life, must they not make
these graces and harmonies their perpetual aim?
They must.
And surely the art of the painter and every other creative and
constructive art are full of them, --weaving, embroidery,
architecture, and every kind of manufacture; also nature, animal and
vegetable, --in all of them there is grace or the absence of grace.
And ugliness and discord and inharmonious motion are nearly allied
to ill words and ill nature, as grace and harmony are the twin sisters
of goodness and virtue and bear their likeness.
That is quite true, he said.
But shall our superintendence go no further, and are the poets
only to be required by us to express the image of the good in their
works, on pain, if they do anything else, of expulsion from our State?
Or is the same control to be extended to other artists, and are they
also to be prohibited from exhibiting the opposite forms of vice and
intemperance and meanness and indecency in sculpture and building
and the other creative arts; and is he who cannot conform to this rule
of ours to be prevented from practising his art in our State, lest the
taste of our citizens be corrupted by him? We would not have our
guardians grow up amid images of moral deformity, as in some noxious
pasture, and there browse and feed upon many a baneful herb and flower
day by day, little by little, until they silently gather a festering
mass of corruption in their own soul. Let our artists rather be
those who are gifted to discern the true nature of the beautiful and
graceful; then will our youth dwell in a land of health, amid fair
sights and sounds, and receive the good in everything; and beauty, the
effluence of fair works, shall flow into the eye and ear, like a
health-giving breeze from a purer region, and insensibly draw the soul
from earliest years into likeness and sympathy with the beauty of
There can be no nobler training than that, he replied.
And therefore, I said, Glaucon, musical training is a more potent
instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way
into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten,
imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated
graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful; and also because
he who has received this true education of the inner being will most
shrewdly perceive omissions or faults in art and nature, and with a
true taste, while he praises and rejoices over and receives into his
soul the good, and becomes noble and good, he will justly blame and
hate the bad, now in the days of his youth, even before he is able
to know the reason why; and when reason comes he will recognise and
salute the friend with whom his education has made him long familiar.
Yes, he said, I quite agree with you in thinking that our youth
should be trained in music and on the grounds which you mention.
Just as in learning to read, I said, we were satisfied when we
knew the letters of the alphabet, which are very few, in all their
recurring sizes and combinations; not slighting them as unimportant
whether they occupy a space large or small, but everywhere eager to
make them out; and not thinking ourselves perfect in the art of
reading until we recognise them wherever they are found:
True --
Or, as we recognise the reflection of letters in the water, or in
a mirror, only when we know the letters themselves; the same art and
study giving us the knowledge of both:
Exactly --
Even so, as I maintain, neither we nor our guardians, whom we have
to educate, can ever become musical until we and they know the
essential forms, in all their combinations, and can recognise them and
their images wherever they are found, not slighting them either in
small things or great, but believing them all to be within the
sphere of one art and study.
Most assuredly.
And when a beautiful soul harmonises with a beautiful form, and
the two are cast in one mould, that will be the fairest of sights to
him who has an eye to see it?
The fairest indeed.
And the fairest is also the loveliest?
That may be assumed.
And the man who has the spirit of harmony will be most in love
with the loveliest; but he will not love him who is of an inharmonious
That is true, he replied, if the deficiency be in his soul; but if
there be any merely bodily defect in another he will be patient of it,
and will love all the same.
I perceive, I said, that you have or have had experiences of this
sort, and I agree. But let me ask you another question: Has excess
of pleasure any affinity to temperance?
How can that be? he replied; pleasure deprives a man of the use of
his faculties quite as much as pain.
Or any affinity to virtue in general?
None whatever.
Any affinity to wantonness and intemperance?
Yes, the greatest.
And is there any greater or keener pleasure than that of sensual
No, nor a madder.
Whereas true love is a love of beauty and order --temperate and
Quite true, he said.
Then no intemperance or madness should be allowed to approach true
Certainly not.
Then mad or intemperate pleasure must never be allowed to come
near the lover and his beloved; neither of them can have any part in
it if their love is of the right sort?
No, indeed, Socrates, it must never come near them.
Then I suppose that in the city which we are founding you would make
a law to the effect that a friend should use no other familiarity to
his love than a father would use to his son, and then only for a noble
purpose, and he must first have the other's consent; and this rule
is to limit him in all his intercourse, and he is never to be seen
going further, or, if he exceeds, he is to be deemed guilty of
coarseness and bad taste.
I quite agree, he said.
Thus much of music, which makes a fair ending; for what should be
the end of music if not the love of beauty?
I agree, he said.
After music comes gymnastic, in which our youth are next to be
Gymnastic as well as music should begin in early years; the training
in it should be careful and should continue through life. Now my
belief is, --and this is a matter upon which I should like to have
your opinion in confirmation of my own, but my own belief is, --not
that the good body by any bodily excellence improves the soul, but, on
the contrary, that the good soul, by her own excellence, improves
the body as far as this may be possible. What do you say?
Yes, I agree.
Then, to the mind when adequately trained, we shall be right in
handing over the more particular care of the body; and in order to
avoid prolixity we will now only give the general outlines of the
Very good.
That they must abstain from intoxication has been already remarked
by us; for of all persons a guardian should be the last to get drunk
and not know where in the world he is.
Yes, he said; that a guardian should require another guardian to
take care of him is ridiculous indeed.
But next, what shall we say of their food; for the men are in
training for the great contest of all --are they not?
Yes, he said.
And will the habit of body of our ordinary athletes be suited to
Why not?
I am afraid, I said, that a habit of body such as they have is but a
sleepy sort of thing, and rather perilous to health. Do you not
observe that these athletes sleep away their lives, and are liable
to most dangerous illnesses if they depart, in ever so slight a
degree, from their customary regimen?
Yes, I do.
Then, I said, a finer sort of training will be required for our
warrior athletes, who are to be like wakeful dogs, and to see and hear
with the utmost keenness; amid the many changes of water and also of
food, of summer heat and winter cold, which they will have to endure
when on a campaign, they must not be liable to break down in health.
That is my view.
The really excellent gymnastic is twin sister of that simple music
which we were just now describing.
How so?
Why, I conceive that there is a gymnastic which, like our music,
is simple and good; and especially the military gymnastic.
What do you mean?
My meaning may be learned from Homer; he, you know, feeds his heroes
at their feasts, when they are campaigning, on soldiers' fare; they
have no fish, although they are on the shores of the Hellespont, and
they are not allowed boiled meats but only roast, which is the food
most convenient for soldiers, requiring only that they should light
a fire, and not involving the trouble of carrying about pots and pans.
And I can hardly be mistaken in saying that sweet sauces are nowhere
mentioned in Homer. In proscribing them, however, he is not
singular; all professional athletes are well aware that a man who is
to be in good condition should take nothing of the kind.
Yes, he said; and knowing this, they are quite right in not taking
Then you would not approve of Syracusan dinners, and the refinements
of Sicilian cookery?
I think not.
Nor, if a man is to be in condition, would you allow him to have a
Corinthian girl as his fair friend?
Certainly not.
Neither would you approve of the delicacies, as they are thought, of
Athenian confectionery?
Certainly not.
All such feeding and living may be rightly compared by us to
melody and song composed in the panharmonic style, and in all the
rhythms. Exactly.
There complexity engendered license, and here disease; whereas
simplicity in music was the parent of temperance in the soul; and
simplicity in gymnastic of health in the body.
Most true, he said.
But when intemperance and disease multiply in a State, halls of
justice and medicine are always being opened; and the arts of the
doctor and the lawyer give themselves airs, finding how keen is the
interest which not only the slaves but the freemen of a city take
about them.
Of course.
And yet what greater proof can there be of a bad and disgraceful
state of education than this, that not only artisans and the meaner
sort of people need the skill of first-rate physicians and judges, but
also those who would profess to have had a liberal education? Is it
not disgraceful, and a great sign of want of good-breeding, that a man
should have to go abroad for his law and physic because he has none of
his own at home, and must therefore surrender himself into the hands
of other men whom he makes lords and judges over him?
Of all things, he said, the most disgraceful.
Would you say 'most,' I replied, when you consider that there is a
further stage of the evil in which a man is not only a life-long
litigant, passing all his days in the courts, either as plaintiff or
defendant, but is actually led by his bad taste to pride himself on
his litigiousness; he imagines that he is a master in dishonesty; able
to take every crooked turn, and wriggle into and out of every hole,
bending like a withy and getting out of the way of justice: and all
for what? --in order to gain small points not worth mentioning, he not
knowing that so to order his life as to be able to do without a
napping judge is a far higher and nobler sort of thing. Is not that
still more disgraceful?
Yes, he said, that is still more disgraceful.
Well, I said, and to require the help of medicine, not when a
wound has to be cured, or on occasion of an epidemic, but just
because, by indolence and a habit of life such as we have been
describing, men fill themselves with waters and winds, as if their
bodies were a marsh, compelling the ingenious sons of Asclepius to
find more names for diseases, such as flatulence and catarrh; is not
this, too, a disgrace?
Yes, he said, they do certainly give very strange and newfangled
names to diseases.
Yes, I said, and I do not believe that there were any such
diseases in the days of Asclepius; and this I infer from the
circumstance that the hero Eurypylus, after he has been wounded in
Homer, drinks a posset of Pramnian wine well besprinkled with
barley-meal and grated cheese, which are certainly inflammatory, and
yet the sons of Asclepius who were at the Trojan war do not blame
the damsel who gives him the drink, or rebuke Patroclus, who is
treating his case.
Well, he said, that was surely an extraordinary drink to be given to
a person in his condition.
Not so extraordinary, I replied, if you bear in mind that in
former days, as is commonly said, before the time of Herodicus, the
guild of Asclepius did not practise our present system of medicine,
which may be said to educate diseases. But Herodicus, being a trainer,
and himself of a sickly constitution, by a combination of training and
doctoring found out a way of torturing first and chiefly himself,
and secondly the rest of the world.
How was that? he said.
By the invention of lingering death; for he had a mortal disease
which he perpetually tended, and as recovery was out of the
question, he passed his entire life as a valetudinarian; he could do
nothing but attend upon himself, and he was in constant torment
whenever he departed in anything from his usual regimen, and so
dying hard, by the help of science he struggled on to old age.
A rare reward of his skill!
Yes, I said; a reward which a man might fairly expect who never
understood that, if Asclepius did not instruct his descendants in
valetudinarian arts, the omission arose, not from ignorance or
inexperience of such a branch of medicine, but because he knew that in
all well-ordered states every individual has an occupation to which he
must attend, and has therefore no leisure to spend in continually
being ill. This we remark in the case of the artisan, but, ludicrously
enough, do not apply the same rule to people of the richer sort.
How do you mean? he said.
I mean this: When a carpenter is ill he asks the physician for a
rough and ready cure; an emetic or a purge or a cautery or the
knife, --these are his remedies. And if some one prescribes for him
a course of dietetics, and tells him that he must swathe and swaddle
his head, and all that sort of thing, he replies at once that he has
no time to be ill, and that he sees no good in a life which is spent
in nursing his disease to the neglect of his customary employment; and
therefore bidding good-bye to this sort of physician, he resumes his
ordinary habits, and either gets well and lives and does his business,
or, if his constitution falls, he dies and has no more trouble.
Yes, he said, and a man in his condition of life ought to use the
art of medicine thus far only.
Has he not, I said, an occupation; and what profit would there be in
his life if he were deprived of his occupation?
Quite true, he said.
But with the rich man this is otherwise; of him we do not say that
he has any specially appointed work which he must perform, if he would
He is generally supposed to have nothing to do.
Then you never heard of the saying of Phocylides, that as soon as
a man has a livelihood he should practise virtue?
Nay, he said, I think that he had better begin somewhat sooner.
Let us not have a dispute with him about this, I said; but rather
ask ourselves: Is the practice of virtue obligatory on the rich man,
or can he live without it? And if obligatory on him, then let us raise
a further question, whether this dieting of disorders which is an
impediment to the application of the mind t in carpentering and the
mechanical arts, does not equally stand in the way of the sentiment of
Of that, he replied, there can be no doubt; such excessive care of
the body, when carried beyond the rules of gymnastic, is most inimical
to the practice of virtue.
Yes, indeed, I replied, and equally incompatible with the management
of a house, an army, or an office of state; and, what is most
important of all, irreconcilable with any kind of study or thought
or self-reflection --there is a constant suspicion that headache and
giddiness are to be ascribed to philosophy, and hence all practising
or making trial of virtue in the higher sense is absolutely stopped;
for a man is always fancying that he is being made ill, and is in
constant anxiety about the state of his body.
Yes, likely enough.
And therefore our politic Asclepius may be supposed to have
exhibited the power of his art only to persons who, being generally of
healthy constitution and habits of life, had a definite ailment;
such as these he cured by purges and operations, and bade them live as
usual, herein consulting the interests of the State; but bodies
which disease had penetrated through and through he would not have
attempted to cure by gradual processes of evacuation and infusion:
he did not want to lengthen out good-for-nothing lives, or to have
weak fathers begetting weaker sons; --if a man was not able to live in
the ordinary way he had no business to cure him; for such a cure would
have been of no use either to himself, or to the State.
Then, he said, you regard Asclepius as a statesman.
Clearly; and his character is further illustrated by his sons.
Note that they were heroes in the days of old and practised the
medicines of which I am speaking at the siege of Troy: You will
remember how, when Pandarus wounded Menelaus, they

Sucked the blood out of the wound, and sprinkled soothing remedies,

but they never prescribed what the patient was afterwards to eat or
drink in the case of Menelaus, any more than in the case of Eurypylus;
the remedies, as they conceived, were enough to heal any man who
before he was wounded was healthy and regular in habits; and even
though he did happen to drink a posset of Pramnian wine, he might
get well all the same. But they would have nothing to do with
unhealthy and intemperate subjects, whose lives were of no use
either to themselves or others; the art of medicine was not designed
for their good, and though they were as rich as Midas, the sons of
Asclepius would have declined to attend them.
They were very acute persons, those sons of Asclepius.
Naturally so, I replied. Nevertheless, the tragedians and Pindar
disobeying our behests, although they acknowledge that Asclepius was
the son of Apollo, say also that he was bribed into healing a rich man
who was at the point of death, and for this reason he was struck by
lightning. But we, in accordance with the principle already affirmed
by us, will not believe them when they tell us both; --if he was the
son of a god, we maintain that hd was not avaricious; or, if he was
avaricious he was not the son of a god.
All that, Socrates, is excellent; but I should like to put a
question to you: Ought there not to be good physicians in a State, and
are not the best those who have treated the greatest number of
constitutions good and bad? and are not the best judges in like manner
those who are acquainted with all sorts of moral natures?
Yes, I said, I too would have good judges and good physicians. But
do you know whom I think good?
Will you tell me?
I will, if I can. Let me however note that in the same question
you join two things which are not the same.
How so? he asked.
Why, I said, you join physicians and judges. Now the most skilful
physicians are those who, from their youth upwards, have combined with
the knowledge of their art the greatest experience of disease; they
had better not be robust in health, and should have had all manner
of diseases in their own persons. For the body, as I conceive, is
not the instrument with which they cure the body; in that case we
could not allow them ever to be or to have been sickly; but they
cure the body with the mind, and the mind which has become and is sick
can cure nothing.
That is very true, he said.
But with the judge it is otherwise; since he governs mind by mind;
he ought not therefore to have been trained among vicious minds, and
to have associated with them from youth upwards, and to have gone
through the whole calendar of crime, only in order that he may quickly
infer the crimes of others as he might their bodily diseases from
his own self-consciousness; the honourable mind which is to form a
healthy judgment should have had no experience or contamination of
evil habits when young. And this is the reason why in youth good men
often appear to be simple, and are easily practised upon by the
dishonest, because they have no examples of what evil is in their
own souls.
Yes, he said, they are far too apt to be deceived.
Therefore, I said, the judge should not be young; he should have
learned to know evil, not from his own soul, but from late and long
observation of the nature of evil in others: knowledge should be his
guide, not personal experience.
Yes, he said, that is the ideal of a judge.
Yes, I replied, and he will be a good man (which is my answer to
your question); for he is good who has a good soul. But the cunning
and suspicious nature of which we spoke, --he who has committed many
crimes, and fancies himself to be a master in wickedness, when he is
amongst his fellows, is wonderful in the precautions which he takes,
because he judges of them by himself: but when he gets into the
company of men of virtue, who have the experience of age, he appears
to be a fool again, owing to his unseasonable suspicions; he cannot
recognise an honest man, because he has no pattern of honesty in
himself; at the same time, as the bad are more numerous than the good,
and he meets with them oftener, he thinks himself, and is by others
thought to be, rather wise than foolish.
Most true, he said.
Then the good and wise judge whom we are seeking is not this man,
but the other; for vice cannot know virtue too, but a virtuous nature,
educated by time, will acquire a knowledge both of virtue and vice:
the virtuous, and not the vicious, man has wisdom --in my opinion.
And in mine also.
This is the sort of medicine, and this is the sort of law, which you
sanction in your State. They will minister to better natures, giving
health both of soul and of body; but those who are diseased in their
bodies they will leave to die, and the corrupt and incurable souls
they will put an end to themselves.
That is clearly the best thing both for the patients and for the
And thus our youth, having been educated only in that simple music
which, as we said, inspires temperance, will be reluctant to go to
And the musician, who, keeping to the same track, is content to
practise the simple gymnastic, will have nothing to do with medicine
unless in some extreme case.
That I quite believe.
The very exercises and tolls which he undergoes are intended to
stimulate the spirited element of his nature, and not to increase
his strength; he will not, like common athletes, use exercise and
regimen to develop his muscles.
Very right, he said.
Neither are the two arts of music and gymnastic really designed,
as is often supposed, the one for the training of the soul, the
other fir the training of the body.
What then is the real object of them?
I believe, I said, that the teachers of both have in view chiefly
the improvement of the soul.
How can that be? he asked.
Did you never observe, I said, the effect on the mind itself of
exclusive devotion to gymnastic, or the opposite effect of an
exclusive devotion to music?
In what way shown? he said.
The one producing a temper of hardness and ferocity, the other of
softness and effeminacy, I replied.
Yes, he said, I am quite aware that the mere athlete becomes too
much of a savage, and that the mere musician is melted and softened
beyond what is good for him.
Yet surely, I said, this ferocity only comes from spirit, which,
if rightly educated, would give courage, but, if too much intensified,
is liable to become hard and brutal.
That I quite think.
On the other hand the philosopher will have the quality of
gentleness. And this also, when too much indulged, will turn to
softness, but, if educated rightly, will be gentle and moderate.
And in our opinion the guardians ought to have both these qualities?
And both should be in harmony?
Beyond question.
And the harmonious soul is both temperate and courageous?
And the inharmonious is cowardly and boorish?
Very true.
And, when a man allows music to play upon him and to pour into his
soul through the funnel of his ears those sweet and soft and
melancholy airs of which we were just now speaking, and his whole life
is passed in warbling and the delights of song; in the first stage
of the process the passion or spirit which is in him is tempered
like iron, and made useful, instead of brittle and useless. But, if he
carries on the softening and soothing process, in the next stage he
begins to melt and waste, until he has wasted away his spirit and
cut out the sinews of his soul; and he becomes a feeble warrior.
Very true.
If the element of spirit is naturally weak in him the change is
speedily accomplished, but if he have a good deal, then the power of
music weakening the spirit renders him excitable; --on the least
provocation he flames up at once, and is speedily extinguished;
instead of having spirit he grows irritable and passionate and is
quite impracticable.
And so in gymnastics, if a man takes violent exercise and is a great
feeder, and the reverse of a great student of music and philosophy, at
first the high condition of his body fills him with pride and
spirit, and lie becomes twice the man that he was.
And what happens? if he do nothing else, and holds no con-a verse
with the Muses, does not even that intelligence which there may be
in him, having no taste of any sort of learning or enquiry or
thought or culture, grow feeble and dull and blind, his mind never
waking up or receiving nourishment, and his senses not being purged of
their mists?
True, he said.
And he ends by becoming a hater of philosophy, uncivilized, never
using the weapon of persuasion, --he is like a wild beast, all
violence and fierceness, and knows no other way of dealing; and he
lives in all ignorance and evil conditions, and has no sense of
propriety and grace.
That is quite true, he said.
And as there are two principles of human nature, one the spirited
and the other the philosophical, some God, as I should say, has
given mankind two arts answering to them (and only indirectly to the
soul and body), in order that these two principles (like the strings
of an instrument) may be relaxed or drawn tighter until they are
duly harmonised.
That appears to be the intention.
And he who mingles music with gymnastic in the fairest
proportions, and best attempers them to the soul, may be rightly
called the true musician and harmonist in a far higher sense than
the tuner of the strings.
You are quite right, Socrates.
And such a presiding genius will be always required in our State
if the government is to last.
Yes, he will be absolutely necessary.
Such, then, are our principles of nurture and education: Where would
be the use of going into further details about the dances of our
citizens, or about their hunting and coursing, their gymnastic and
equestrian contests? For these all follow the general principle, and
having found that, we shall have no difficulty in discovering them.
I dare say that there will be no difficulty.
Very good, I said; then what is the next question? Must we not ask
who are to be rulers and who subjects?
There can be no doubt that the elder must rule the younger.
And that the best of these must rule.
That is also clear.
Now, are not the best husbandmen those who are most devoted to
And as we are to have the best of guardians for our city, must
they not be those who have most the character of guardians?
And to this end they ought to be wise and efficient, and to have a
special care of the State?
And a man will be most likely to care about that which he loves?
To be sure.
And he will be most likely to love that which he regards as having
the same interests with himself, and that of which the good or evil
fortune is supposed by him at any time most to affect his own?
Very true, he replied.
Then there must be a selection. Let us note among the guardians
those who in their whole life show the greatest eagerness to do what
is for the good of their country, and the greatest repugnance to do
what is against her interests.
Those are the right men.
And they will have to be watched at every age, in order that we
may see whether they preserve their resolution, and never, under the
influence either of force or enchantment, forget or cast off their
sense of duty to the State.
How cast off? he said.
I will explain to you, I replied. A resolution may go out of a man's
mind either with his will or against his will; with his will when he
gets rid of a falsehood and learns better, against his will whenever
he is deprived of a truth.
I understand, he said, the willing loss of a resolution; the meaning
of the unwilling I have yet to learn.
Why, I said, do you not see that men are unwillingly deprived of
good, and willingly of evil? Is not to have lost the truth an evil,
and to possess the truth a good? and you would agree that to
conceive things as they are is to possess the truth?
Yes, he replied; I agree with you in thinking that mankind are
deprived of truth against their will.
And is not this involuntary deprivation caused either by theft, or
force, or enchantment?
Still, he replied, I do not understand you.
I fear that I must have been talking darkly, like the tragedians.
I only mean that some men are changed by persuasion and that others
forget; argument steals away the hearts of one class, and time of
the other; and this I call theft. Now you understand me?
Those again who are forced are those whom the violence of some
pain or grief compels to change their opinion.
I understand, he said, and you are quite right.
And you would also acknowledge that the enchanted are those who
change their minds either under the softer influence of pleasure, or
the sterner influence of fear?
Yes, he said; everything that deceives may be said to enchant.
Therefore, as I was just now saying, we must enquire who are the
best guardians of their own conviction that what they think the
interest of the State is to be the rule of their lives. We must
watch them from their youth upwards, and make them perform actions
in which they are most likely to forget or to be deceived, and he
who remembers and is not deceived is to be selected, and he who
falls in the trial is to be rejected. That will be the way?
And there should also be toils and pains and conflicts prescribed
for them, in which they will be made to give further proof of the same
Very right, he replied.
And then, I said, we must try them with enchantments that is the
third sort of test --and see what will be their behaviour: like
those who take colts amid noise and tumult to see if they are of a
timid nature, so must we take our youth amid terrors of some kind, and
again pass them into pleasures, and prove them more thoroughly than
gold is proved in the furnace, that we may discover whether they are
armed against all enchantments, and of a noble bearing always, good
guardians of themselves and of the music which they have learned,
and retaining under all circumstances a rhythmical and harmonious
nature, such as will be most serviceable to the individual and to
the State. And he who at every age, as boy and youth and in mature
life, has come out of the trial victorious and pure, shall be
appointed a ruler and guardian of the State; he shall be honoured in
life and death, and shall receive sepulture and other memorials of
honour, the greatest that we have to give. But him who fails, we
must reject. I am inclined to think that this is the sort of way in
which our rulers and guardians should be chosen and appointed. I speak
generally, and not with any pretension to exactness.
And, speaking generally, I agree with you, he said.
And perhaps the word 'guardian' in the fullest sense ought to be
applied to this higher class only who preserve us against foreign
enemies and maintain peace among our citizens at home, that the one
may not have the will, or the others the power, to harm us. The
young men whom we before called guardians may be more properly
designated auxiliaries and supporters of the principles of the rulers.
I agree with you, he said.
How then may we devise one of those needful falsehoods of which we
lately spoke --just one royal lie which may deceive the rulers, if
that be possible, and at any rate the rest of the city?
What sort of lie? he said.
Nothing new, I replied; only an old Phoenician tale of what has
often occurred before now in other places, (as the poets say, and have
made the world believe,) though not in our time, and I do not know
whether such an event could ever happen again, or could now even be
made probable, if it did.
How your words seem to hesitate on your lips!
You will not wonder, I replied, at my hesitation when you have
Speak, he said, and fear not.
Well then, I will speak, although I really know not how to look
you in the face, or in what words to utter the audacious fiction,
which I propose to communicate gradually, first to the rulers, then to
the soldiers, and lastly to the people. They are to be told that their
youth was a dream, and the education and training which they
received from us, an appearance only; in reality during all that
time they were being formed and fed in the womb of the earth, where
they themselves and their arms and appurtenances were manufactured;
when they were completed, the earth, their mother, sent them up; and
so, their country being their mother and also their nurse, they are
bound to advise for her good, and to defend her against attacks, and
her citizens they are to regard as children of the earth and their own
You had good reason, he said, to be ashamed of the lie which you
were going to tell.
True, I replied, but there is more coming; I have only told you
half. Citizens, we shall say to them in our tale, you are brothers,
yet God has framed you differently. Some of you have the power of
command, and in the composition of these he has mingled gold,
wherefore also they have the greatest honour; others he has made of
silver, to be auxillaries; others again who are to be husbandmen and
craftsmen he has composed of brass and iron; and the species will
generally be preserved in the children. But as all are of the same
original stock, a golden parent will sometimes have a silver son, or a
silver parent a golden son. And God proclaims as a first principle
to the rulers, and above all else, that there is nothing which
should so anxiously guard, or of which they are to be such good
guardians, as of the purity of the race. They should observe what
elements mingle in their off spring; for if the son of a golden or
silver parent has an admixture of brass and iron, then nature orders a
transposition of ranks, and the eye of the ruler must not be pitiful
towards the child because he has to descend in the scale and become
a husbandman or artisan, just as there may be sons of artisans who
having an admixture of gold or silver in them are raised to honour,
and become guardians or auxiliaries. For an oracle says that when a
man of brass or iron guards the State, it will be destroyed. Such is
the tale; is there any possibility of making our citizens believe in
Not in the present generation, he replied; there is no way of
accomplishing this; but their sons may be made to believe in the tale,
and their sons' sons, and posterity after them.
I see the difficulty, I replied; yet the fostering of such a
belief will make them care more for the city and for one another.
Enough, however, of the fiction, which may now fly abroad upon the
wings of rumour, while we arm our earth-born heroes, and lead them
forth under the command of their rulers. Let them look round and
select a spot whence they can best suppress insurrection, if any prove
refractory within, and also defend themselves against enemies, who
like wolves may come down on the fold from without; there let them
encamp, and when they have encamped, let them sacrifice to the
proper Gods and prepare their dwellings.
Just so, he said.
And their dwellings must be such as will shield them against the
cold of winter and the heat of summer.
I suppose that you mean houses, he replied.
Yes, I said; but they must be the houses of soldiers, and not of
What is the difference? he said.
That I will endeavour to explain, I replied. To keep watchdogs, who,
from want of discipline or hunger, or some evil habit, or evil habit
or other, would turn upon the sheep and worry them, and behave not
like dogs but wolves, would be a foul and monstrous thing in a
Truly monstrous, he said.
And therefore every care must be taken that our auxiliaries, being
stronger than our citizens, may not grow to be too much for them and
become savage tyrants instead of friends and allies?
Yes, great care should be taken.
And would not a really good education furnish the best safeguard?
But they are well-educated already, he replied.
I cannot be so confident, my dear Glaucon, I said; I am much certain
that they ought to be, and that true education, whatever that may
be, will have the greatest tendency to civilize and humanize them in
their relations to one another, and to those who are under their
Very true, he replied.
And not only their education, but their habitations, and all that
belongs to them, should be such as will neither impair their virtue as
guardians, nor tempt them to prey upon the other citizens. Any man
of sense must acknowledge that.
He must.
Then let us consider what will be their way of life, if they are
to realize our idea of them. In the first place, none of them should
have any property of his own beyond what is absolutely necessary;
neither should they have a private house or store closed against any
one who has a mind to enter; their provisions should be only such as
are required by trained warriors, who are men of temperance and
courage; they should agree to receive from the citizens a fixed rate
of pay, enough to meet the expenses of the year and no more; and
they will go and live together like soldiers in a camp. Gold and
silver we will tell them that they have from God; the diviner metal is
within them, and they have therefore no need of the dross which is
current among men, and ought not to pollute the divine by any such
earthly admixture; for that commoner metal has been the source of many
unholy deeds, but their own is undefiled. And they alone of all the
citizens may not touch or handle silver or gold, or be under the
same roof with them, or wear them, or drink from them. And this will
be their salvation, and they will be the saviours of the State. But
should they ever acquire homes or lands or moneys of their own, they
will become housekeepers and husbandmen instead of guardians,
enemies and tyrants instead of allies of the other citizens; hating
and being hated, plotting and being plotted against, they will pass
their whole life in much greater terror of internal than of external
enemies, and the hour of ruin, both to themselves and to the rest of
the State, will be at hand. For all which reasons may we not say
that thus shall our State be ordered, and that these shall be the
regulations appointed by us for guardians concerning their houses
and all other matters? other
Yes, said Glaucon.


HERE Adeimantus interposed a question: How would you answer,
Socrates, said he, if a person were to say that you are making these
people miserable, and that they are the cause of their own
unhappiness; the city in fact belongs to them, but they are none the
better for it; whereas other men acquire lands, and build large and
handsome houses, and have everything handsome about them, offering
sacrifices to the gods on their own account, and practising
hospitality; moreover, as you were saying just now, they have gold and
silver, and all that is usual among the favourites of fortune; but our
poor citizens are no better than mercenaries who are quartered in
the city and are always mounting guard?
Yes, I said; and you may add that they are only fed, and not paid in
addition to their food, like other men; and therefore they cannot,
if they would, take a journey of pleasure; they have no money to spend
on a mistress or any other luxurious fancy, which, as the world
goes, is thought to be happiness; and many other accusations of the
same nature might be added.
But, said he, let us suppose all this to be included in the charge.
You mean to ask, I said, what will be our answer?
If we proceed along the old path, my belief, I said, is that we
shall find the answer. And our answer will be that, even as they
are, our guardians may very likely be the happiest of men; but that
our aim in founding the State was not the disproportionate happiness
of any one class, but the greatest happiness of the whole; we
thought that in a State which is ordered with a view to the good of
the whole we should be most likely to find Justice, and in the
ill-ordered State injustice: and, having found them, we might then
decide which of the two is the happier. At present, I take it, we
are fashioning the happy State, not piecemeal, or with a view of
making a few happy citizens, but as a whole; and by-and-by we will
proceed to view the opposite kind of State. Suppose that we were
painting a statue, and some one came up to us and said, Why do you not
put the most beautiful colours on the most beautiful parts of the body
--the eyes ought to be purple, but you have made them black --to him
we might fairly answer, Sir, you would not surely have us beautify the
eyes to such a degree that they are no longer eyes; consider rather
whether, by giving this and the other features their due proportion,
we make the whole beautiful. And so I say to you, do not compel us
to assign to the guardians a sort of happiness which will make them
anything but guardians; for we too can clothe our husbandmen in
royal apparel, and set crowns of gold on their heads, and bid them
till the ground as much as they like, and no more. Our potters also
might be allowed to repose on couches, and feast by the fireside,
passing round the winecup, while their wheel is conveniently at
hand, and working at pottery only as much as they like; in this way we
might make every class happy-and then, as you imagine, the whole State
would be happy. But do not put this idea into our heads; for, if we
listen to you, the husbandman will be no longer a husbandman, the
potter will cease to be a potter, and no one will have the character
of any distinct class in the State. Now this is not of much
consequence where the corruption of society, and pretension to be what
you are not, is confined to cobblers; but when the guardians of the
laws and of the government are only seemingly and not real
guardians, then see how they turn the State upside down; and on the
other hand they alone have the power of giving order and happiness
to the State. We mean our guardians to be true saviours and not the
destroyers of the State, whereas our opponent is thinking of
peasants at a festival, who are enjoying a life of revelry, not of
citizens who are doing their duty to the State. But, if so, we mean
different things, and he is speaking of something which is not a
State. And therefore we must consider whether in appointing our
guardians we would look to their greatest happiness individually, or
whether this principle of happiness does not rather reside in the
State as a whole. But the latter be the truth, then the guardians
and auxillaries, and all others equally with them, must be compelled
or induced to do their own work in the best way. And thus the whole
State will grow up in a noble order, and the several classes will
receive the proportion of happiness which nature assigns to them.
I think that you are quite right.
I wonder whether you will agree with another remark which occurs
to me.
What may that be?
There seem to be two causes of the deterioration of the arts.
What are they?
Wealth, I said, and poverty.
How do they act?
The process is as follows: When a potter becomes rich, will he,
think you, any longer take the same pains with his art?
Certainly not.
He will grow more and more indolent and careless?
Very true.
And the result will be that he becomes a worse potter?
Yes; he greatly deteriorates.
But, on the other hand, if he has no money, and cannot provide
himself tools or instruments, he will not work equally well himself,
nor will he teach his sons or apprentices to work equally well.
Certainly not.
Then, under the influence either of poverty or of wealth, workmen
and their work are equally liable to degenerate?
That is evident.
Here, then, is a discovery of new evils, I said, against which the
guardians will have to watch, or they will creep into the city
What evils?
Wealth, I said, and poverty; the one is the parent of luxury and
indolence, and the other of meanness and viciousness, and both of
That is very true, he replied; but still I should like to know,
Socrates, how our city will be able to go to war, especially against
an enemy who is rich and powerful, if deprived of the sinews of war.
There would certainly be a difficulty, I replied, in going to war
with one such enemy; but there is no difficulty where there are two of
How so? he asked.
In the first place, I said, if we have to fight, our side will be
trained warriors fighting against an army of rich men.
That is true, he said.
And do you not suppose, Adeimantus, that a single boxer who was
perfect in his art would easily be a match for two stout and
well-to-do gentlemen who were not boxers?
Hardly, if they came upon him at once.
What, not, I said, if he were able to run away and then turn and
strike at the one who first came up? And supposing he were to do
this several times under the heat of a scorching sun, might he not,
being an expert, overturn more than one stout personage?
Certainly, he said, there would be nothing wonderful in that.
And yet rich men probably have a greater superiority in the
science and practice of boxing than they have in military qualities.
Likely enough.
Then we may assume that our athletes will be able to fight with
two or three times their own number?
I agree with you, for I think you right.
And suppose that, before engaging, our citizens send an embassy to
one of the two cities, telling them what is the truth: Silver and gold
we neither have nor are permitted to have, but you may; do you
therefore come and help us in war, of and take the spoils of the other
city: Who, on hearing these words, would choose to fight against
lean wiry dogs, rather th than, with the dogs on their side, against
fat and tender sheep?
That is not likely; and yet there might be a danger to the poor
State if the wealth of many States were to be gathered into one.
But how simple of you to use the term State at all of any but our
Why so?
You ought to speak of other States in the plural number; not one
of them is a city, but many cities, as they say in the game. For
indeed any city, however small, is in fact divided into two, one the
city of the poor, the other of the rich; these are at war with one
another; and in either there are many smaller divisions, and you would
be altogether beside the mark if you treated them all as a single
State. But if you deal with them as many, and give the wealth or power
or persons of the one to the others, you will always have a great many
friends and not many enemies. And your State, while the wise order
which has now been prescribed continues to prevail in her, will be the
greatest of States, I do not mean to say in reputation or
appearance, but in deed and truth, though she number not more than a
thousand defenders. A single State which is her equal you will
hardly find, either among Hellenes or barbarians, though many that
appear to be as great and many times greater.
That is most true, he said.
And what, I said, will be the best limit for our rulers to fix
when they are considering the size of the State and the amount of
territory which they are to include, and beyond which they will not
What limit would you propose?
I would allow the State to increase so far as is consistent with
unity; that, I think, is the proper limit.
Very good, he said.
Here then, I said, is another order which will have to be conveyed
to our guardians: Let our city be accounted neither large nor small,
but one and self-sufficing.
And surely, said he, this is not a very severe order which we impose
upon them.
And the other, said I, of which we were speaking before is lighter
still, -I mean the duty of degrading the offspring of the guardians
when inferior, and of elevating into the rank of guardians the
offspring of the lower classes, when naturally superior. The intention
was, that, in the case of the citizens generally, each individual
should be put to the use for which nature which nature intended him,
one to one work, and then every man would do his own business, and
be one and not many; and so the whole city would be one and not many.
Yes, he said; that is not so difficult.
The regulations which we are prescribing, my good Adeimantus, are
not, as might be supposed, a number of great principles, but trifles
all, if care be taken, as the saying is, of the one great thing, --a
thing, however, which I would rather call, not great, but sufficient
for our purpose.
What may that be? he asked.
Education, I said, and nurture: If our citizens are well educated,
and grow into sensible men, they will easily see their way through all
these, as well as other matters which I omit; such, for example, as
marriage, the possession of women and the procreation of children,
which will all follow the general principle that friends have all
things in common, as the proverb says.
That will be the best way of settling them.
Also, I said, the State, if once started well, moves with
accumulating force like a wheel. For good nurture and education
implant good constitutions, and these good constitutions taking root
in a good education improve more and more, and this improvement
affects the breed in man as in other animals.
Very possibly, he said.
Then to sum up: This is the point to which, above all, the attention
of our rulers should be directed, --that music and gymnastic be
preserved in their original form, and no innovation made. They must do
their utmost to maintain them intact. And when any one says that
mankind most regard

The newest song which the singers have,

they will be afraid that he may be praising, not new songs, but a
new kind of song; and this ought not to be praised, or conceived to be
the meaning of the poet; for any musical innovation is full of
danger to the whole State, and ought to be prohibited. So Damon
tells me, and I can quite believe him;-he says that when modes of
music change, of the State always change with them.
Yes, said Adeimantus; and you may add my suffrage to Damon's and
your own.
Then, I said, our guardians must lay the foundations of their
fortress in music?
Yes, he said; the lawlessness of which you speak too easily steals
Yes, I replied, in the form of amusement; and at first sight it
appears harmless.
Why, yes, he said, and there is no harm; were it not that little
by little this spirit of licence, finding a home, imperceptibly
penetrates into manners and customs; whence, issuing with greater
force, it invades contracts between man and man, and from contracts
goes on to laws and constitutions, in utter recklessness, ending at
last, Socrates, by an overthrow of all rights, private as well as
Is that true? I said.
That is my belief, he replied.
Then, as I was saying, our youth should be trained from the first in
a stricter system, for if amusements become lawless, and the youths
themselves become lawless, they can never grow up into
well-conducted and virtuous citizens.
Very true, he said.
And when they have made a good beginning in play, and by the help of
music have gained the habit of good order, then this habit of order,
in a manner how unlike the lawless play of the others! will
accompany them in all their actions and be a principle of growth to
them, and if there be any fallen places a principle in the State
will raise them up again.
Very true, he said.
Thus educated, they will invent for themselves any lesser rules
which their predecessors have altogether neglected.
What do you mean?
I mean such things as these: --when the young are to be silent
before their elders; how they are to show respect to them by
standing and making them sit; what honour is due to parents; what
garments or shoes are to be worn; the mode of dressing the hair;
deportment and manners in general. You would agree with me?
But there is, I think, small wisdom in legislating about such
matters, --I doubt if it is ever done; nor are any precise written
enactments about them likely to be lasting.
It would seem, Adeimantus, that the direction in which education
starts a man, will determine his future life. Does not like always
attract like?
To be sure.
Until some one rare and grand result is reached which may be good,
and may be the reverse of good?
That is not to be denied.
And for this reason, I said, I shall not attempt to legislate
further about them.
Naturally enough, he replied.
Well, and about the business of the agora, dealings and the ordinary
dealings between man and man, or again about agreements with the
commencement with artisans; about insult and injury, of the
commencement of actions, and the appointment of juries, what would you
say? there may also arise questions about any impositions and
extractions of market and harbour dues which may be required, and in
general about the regulations of markets, police, harbours, and the
like. But, oh heavens! shall we condescend to legislate on any of
these particulars?
I think, he said, that there is no need to impose laws about them on
good men; what regulations are necessary they will find out soon
enough for themselves.
Yes, I said, my friend, if God will only preserve to them the laws
which we have given them.
And without divine help, said Adeimantus, they will go on for ever
making and mending their laws and their lives in the hope of attaining
You would compare them, I said, to those invalids who, having no
self-restraint, will not leave off their habits of intemperance?
Yes, I said; and what a delightful life they lead! they are always
doctoring and increasing and complicating their disorders, and
always fancying that they will be cured by any nostrum which anybody
advises them to try.
Such cases are very common, he said, with invalids of this sort.
Yes, I replied; and the charming thing is that they deem him their
worst enemy who tells them the truth, which is simply that, unless
they give up eating and drinking and wenching and idling, neither drug
nor cautery nor spell nor amulet nor any other remedy will avail.
Charming! he replied. I see nothing charming in going into a passion
with a man who tells you what is right.
These gentlemen, I said, do not seem to be in your good graces.
Assuredly not.
Nor would you praise the behaviour of States which act like the
men whom I was just now describing. For are there not ill-ordered
States in which the citizens are forbidden under pain of death to
alter the constitution; and yet he who most sweetly courts those who
live under this regime and indulges them and fawns upon them and is
skilful in anticipating and gratifying their humours is held to be a
great and good statesman --do not these States resemble the persons
whom I was describing?
Yes, he said; the States are as bad as the men; and I am very far
from praising them.
But do you not admire, I said, the coolness and dexterity of these
ready ministers of political corruption?
Yes, he said, I do; but not of all of them, for there are some
whom the applause of the multitude has deluded into the belief that
they are really statesmen, and these are not much to be admired.
What do you mean? I said; you should have more feeling for them.
When a man cannot measure, and a great many others who cannot
measure declare that he is four cubits high, can he help believing
what they say?
Nay, he said, certainly not in that case.
Well, then, do not be angry with them; for are they not as good as a
play, trying their hand at paltry reforms such as I was describing;
they are always fancying that by legislation they will make an end
of frauds in contracts, and the other rascalities which I was
mentioning, not knowing that they are in reality cutting off the heads
of a hydra?
Yes, he said; that is just what they are doing.
I conceive, I said, that the true legislator will not trouble
himself with this class of enactments whether concerning laws or the
constitution either in an ill-ordered or in a well-ordered State;
for in the former they are quite useless, and in the latter there will
be no difficulty in devising them; and many of them will naturally
flow out of our previous regulations.
What, then, he said, is still remaining to us of the work of
Nothing to us, I replied; but to Apollo, the God of Delphi, there
remains the ordering of the greatest and noblest and chiefest things
of all.
Which are they? he said.
The institution of temples and sacrifices, and the entire service of
gods, demigods, and heroes; also the ordering of the repositories of
the dead, and the rites which have to be observed by him who would
propitiate the inhabitants of the world below. These are matters of
which we are ignorant ourselves, and as founders of a city we should
be unwise in trusting them to any interpreter but our ancestral deity.
He is the god who sits in the center, on the navel of the earth, and
he is the interpreter of religion to all mankind.
You are right, and we will do as you propose.
But where, amid all this, is justice? son of Ariston, tell me where.
Now that our city has been made habitable, light a candle and
search, and get your brother and Polemarchus and the rest of our
friends to help, and let us see where in it we can discover justice
and where injustice, and in what they differ from one another, and
which of them the man who would be happy should have for his
portion, whether seen or unseen by gods and men.


Nonsense, said Glaucon: did you not promise to search yourself,
saying that for you not to help justice in her need would be an
I do not deny that I said so, and as you remind me, I will be as
good as my word; but you must join.
We will, he replied.
Well, then, I hope to make the discovery in this way: I mean to
begin with the assumption that our State, if rightly ordered, is
That is most certain.
And being perfect, is therefore wise and valiant and temperate and
That is likewise clear.
And whichever of these qualities we find in the State, the one which
is not found will be the residue?
Very good.
If there were four things, and we were searching for one of them,
wherever it might be, the one sought for might be known to us from the
first, and there would be no further trouble; or we might know the
other three first, and then the fourth would clearly be the one left.
Very true, he said.
And is not a similar method to be pursued about the virtues, which
are also four in number?
First among the virtues found in the State, wisdom comes into
view, and in this I detect a certain peculiarity.
What is that?
The State which we have been describing is said to be wise as
being good in counsel?
Very true.
And good counsel is clearly a kind of knowledge, for not by
ignorance, but by knowledge, do men counsel well?
And the kinds of knowledge in a State are many and diverse?
Of course.
There is the knowledge of the carpenter; but is that the sort of
knowledge which gives a city the title of wise and good in counsel?
Certainly not; that would only give a city the reputation of skill
in carpentering.
Then a city is not to be called wise because possessing a
knowledge which counsels for the best about wooden implements?
Certainly not.
Nor by reason of a knowledge which advises about brazen pots, I
said, nor as possessing any other similar knowledge?
Not by reason of any of them, he said.
Nor yet by reason of a knowledge which cultivates the earth; that
would give the city the name of agricultural?
Well, I said, and is there any knowledge in our recently founded
State among any of the citizens which advises, not about any
particular thing in the State, but about the whole, and considers
how a State can best deal with itself and with other States?
There certainly is.
And what is knowledge, and among whom is it found? I asked.
It is the knowledge of the guardians, he replied, and found among
those whom we were just now describing as perfect guardians.
And what is the name which the city derives from the possession of
this sort of knowledge?
The name of good in counsel and truly wise.
And will there be in our city more of these true guardians or more
The smiths, he replied, will be far more numerous.
Will not the guardians be the smallest of all the classes who
receive a name from the profession of some kind of knowledge?
Much the smallest.
And so by reason of the smallest part or class, and of the knowledge
which resides in this presiding and ruling part of itself, the whole
State, being thus constituted according to nature, will be wise; and
this, which has the only knowledge worthy to be called wisdom, has
been ordained by nature to be of all classes the least.
Most true.
Thus, then, I said, the nature and place in the State of one of
the four virtues has somehow or other been discovered.
And, in my humble opinion, very satisfactorily discovered, he
Again, I said, there is no difficulty in seeing the nature of
courage; and in what part that quality resides which gives the name of
courageous to the State.
How do you mean?
Why, I said, every one who calls any State courageous or cowardly,
will be thinking of the part which fights and goes out to war on the
State's behalf.
No one, he replied, would ever think of any other.
Certainly not.
The rest of the citizens may be courageous or may be cowardly but
their courage or cowardice will not, as I conceive, have the effect of
making the city either the one or the other.
The city will be courageous in virtue of a portion of herself
which preserves under all circumstances that opinion about the
nature of things to be feared and not to be feared in which our
legislator educated them; and this is what you term courage.
I should like to hear what you are saying once more, for I do not
think that I perfectly understand you.
I mean that courage is a kind of salvation.
Salvation of what?
Of the opinion respecting things to be feared, what they are and
of what nature, which the law implants through education; and I mean
by the words 'under all circumstances' to intimate that in pleasure or
in pain, or under the influence of desire or fear, a man preserves,
and does not lose this opinion. Shall I give you an illustration?
If you please.
You know, I said, that dyers, when they want to dye wool for
making the true sea-purple, begin by selecting their white colour
first; this they prepare and dress with much care and pains, in
order that the white ground may take the purple hue in full
perfection. The dyeing then proceeds; and whatever is dyed in this
manner becomes a fast colour, and no washing either with lyes or
without them can take away the bloom. But, when the ground has not
been duly prepared, you will have noticed how poor is the look
either of purple or of any other colour.
Yes, he said; I know that they have a washed-out and ridiculous
Then now, I said, you will understand what our object was in
selecting our soldiers, and educating them in music and gymnastic;
we were contriving influences which would prepare them to take the dye
of the laws in perfection, and the colour of their opinion about
dangers and of every other opinion was to be indelibly fixed by
their nurture and training, not to be washed away by such potent
lyes as pleasure --mightier agent far in washing the soul than any
soda or lye; or by sorrow, fear, and desire, the mightiest of all
other solvents. And this sort of universal saving power of true
opinion in conformity with law about real and false dangers I call and
maintain to be courage, unless you disagree.
But I agree, he replied; for I suppose that you mean to exclude mere
uninstructed courage, such as that of a wild beast or of a slave
--this, in your opinion, is not the courage which the law ordains, and
ought to have another name.
Most certainly.
Then I may infer courage to be such as you describe?
Why, yes, said I, you may, and if you add the words 'of a
citizen,' you will not be far wrong; --hereafter, if you like, we will
carry the examination further, but at present we are we w seeking
not for courage but justice; and for the purpose of our enquiry we
have said enough.
You are right, he replied.
Two virtues remain to be discovered in the State-first temperance,
and then justice which is the end of our search.
Very true.
Now, can we find justice without troubling ourselves about
I do not know how that can be accomplished, he said, nor do I desire
that justice should be brought to light and temperance lost sight
of; and therefore I wish that you would do me the favour of
considering temperance first.
Certainly, I replied, I should not be justified in refusing your
Then consider, he said.
Yes, I replied; I will; and as far as I can at present see, the
virtue of temperance has more of the nature of harmony and symphony
than the preceding.
How so? he asked.
Temperance, I replied, is the ordering or controlling of certain
pleasures and desires; this is curiously enough implied in the
saying of 'a man being his own master' and other traces of the same
notion may be found in language.
No doubt, he said.
There is something ridiculous in the expression 'master of himself';
for the master is also the servant and the servant the master; and
in all these modes of speaking the same person is denoted.
The meaning is, I believe, that in the human soul there is a
better and also a worse principle; and when the better has the worse
under control, then a man is said to be master of himself; and this is
a term of praise: but when, owing to evil education or association,
the better principle, which is also the smaller, is overwhelmed by the
greater mass of the worse --in this case he is blamed and is called
the slave of self and unprincipled.
Yes, there is reason in that.
And now, I said, look at our newly created State, and there you will
find one of these two conditions realised; for the State, as you
will acknowledge, may be justly called master of itself, if the
words 'temperance' and 'self-mastery' truly express the rule of the
better part over the worse.
Yes, he said, I see that what you say is true.
Let me further note that the manifold and complex pleasures and
desires and pains are generally found in children and women and
servants, and in the freemen so called who are of the lowest and
more numerous class.
Certainly, he said.
Whereas the simple and moderate desires which follow reason, and are
under the guidance of mind and true opinion, are to be found only in a
few, and those the best born and best educated.
Very true. These two, as you may perceive, have a place in our
State; and the meaner desires of the are held down by the virtuous
desires and wisdom of the few.
That I perceive, he said.
Then if there be any city which may be described as master of its
own pleasures and desires, and master of itself, ours may claim such a
Certainly, he replied.
It may also be called temperate, and for the same reasons?
And if there be any State in which rulers and subjects will be
agreed as to the question who are to rule, that again will be our
And the citizens being thus agreed among themselves, in which
class will temperance be found --in the rulers or in the subjects?
In both, as I should imagine, he replied.
Do you observe that we were not far wrong in our guess that
temperance was a sort of harmony?
Why so?
Why, because temperance is unlike courage and wisdom, each of
which resides in a part only, the one making the State wise and the
other valiant; not so temperance, which extends to the whole, and runs
through all the notes of the scale, and produces a harmony of the
weaker and the stronger and the middle class, whether you suppose them
to be stronger or weaker in wisdom or power or numbers or wealth, or
anything else. Most truly then may we deem temperance to be the
agreement of the naturally superior and inferior, as to the right to
rule of either, both in states and individuals.
I entirely agree with you.
And so, I said, we may consider three out of the four virtues to
have been discovered in our State. The last of those qualities which
make a state virtuous must be justice, if we only knew what that was.
The inference is obvious.
The time then has arrived, Glaucon, when, like huntsmen, we should
surround the cover, and look sharp that justice does not steal away,
and pass out of sight and escape us; for beyond a doubt she is
somewhere in this country: watch therefore and strive to catch a sight
of her, and if you see her first, let me know.
Would that I could! but you should regard me rather as a follower
who has just eyes enough to, see what you show him --that is about
as much as I am good for.
Offer up a prayer with me and follow.
I will, but you must show me the way.
Here is no path, I said, and the wood is dark and perplexing;
still we must push on.
Let us push on.
Here I saw something: Halloo! I said, I begin to perceive a track,
and I believe that the quarry will not escape.
Good news, he said.
Truly, I said, we are stupid fellows.
Why so?
Why, my good sir, at the beginning of our enquiry, ages ago, there
was justice tumbling out at our feet, and we never saw her; nothing
could be more ridiculous. Like people who go about looking for what
they have in their hands --that was the way with us --we looked not at
what we were seeking, but at what was far off in the distance; and
therefore, I suppose, we missed her.
What do you mean?
I mean to say that in reality for a long time past we have been
talking of justice, and have failed to recognise her.
I grow impatient at the length of your exordium.
Well then, tell me, I said, whether I am right or not: You
remember the original principle which we were always laying down at
the foundation of the State, that one man should practise one thing
only, the thing to which his nature was best adapted; --now justice is
this principle or a part of it.
Yes, we often said that one man should do one thing only.
Further, we affirmed that justice was doing one's own business,
and not being a busybody; we said so again and again, and many
others have said the same to us.
Yes, we said so.
Then to do one's own business in a certain way may be assumed to
be justice. Can you tell me whence I derive this inference?
I cannot, but I should like to be told.
Because I think that this is the only virtue which remains in the
State when the other virtues of temperance and courage and wisdom
are abstracted; and, that this is the ultimate cause and condition
of the existence of all of them, and while remaining in them is also
their preservative; and we were saying that if the three were
discovered by us, justice would be the fourth or remaining one.
That follows of necessity.
If we are asked to determine which of these four qualities by its
presence contributes most to the excellence of the State, whether
the agreement of rulers and subjects, or the preservation in the
soldiers of the opinion which the law ordains about the true nature of
dangers, or wisdom and watchfulness in the rulers, or whether this
other which I am mentioning, and which is found in children and women,
slave and freeman, artisan, ruler, subject, --the quality, I mean,
of every one doing his own work, and not being a busybody, would claim
the palm --the question is not so easily answered.
Certainly, he replied, there would be a difficulty in saying which.
Then the power of each individual in the State to do his own work
appears to compete with the other political virtues, wisdom,
temperance, courage.
Yes, he said.
And the virtue which enters into this competition is justice?
Let us look at the question from another point of view: Are not
the rulers in a State those to whom you would entrust the office of
determining suits at law?
And are suits decided on any other ground but that a man may neither
take what is another's, nor be deprived of what is his own?
Yes; that is their principle.
Which is a just principle?
Then on this view also justice will be admitted to be the having and
doing what is a man's own, and belongs to him?
Very true.
Think, now, and say whether you agree with me or not. Suppose a
carpenter to be doing the business of a cobbler, or a cobbler of a
carpenter; and suppose them to exchange their implements or their
duties, or the same person to be doing the work of both, or whatever
be the change; do you think that any great harm would result to the
Not much.
But when the cobbler or any other man whom nature designed to be a
trader, having his heart lifted up by wealth or strength or the number
of his followers, or any like advantage, attempts to force his way
into the class of warriors, or a warrior into that of legislators
and guardians, for which he is unfitted, and either to take the
implements or the duties of the other; or when one man is trader,
legislator, and warrior all in one, then I think you will agree with
me in saying that this interchange and this meddling of one with
another is the ruin of the State.
Most true.
Seeing then, I said, that there are three distinct classes, any
meddling of one with another, or the change of one into another, is
the greatest harm to the State, and may be most justly termed
And the greatest degree of evil-doing to one's own city would be
termed by you injustice?
This then is injustice; and on the other hand when the trader, the
auxiliary, and the guardian each do their own business, that is
justice, and will make the city just.
I agree with you.
We will not, I said, be over-positive as yet; but if, on trial, this
conception of justice be verified in the individual as well as in
the State, there will be no longer any room for doubt; if it be not
verified, we must have a fresh enquiry. First let us complete the
old investigation, which we began, as you remember, under the
impression that, if we could previously examine justice on the
larger scale, there would be less difficulty in discerning her in
the individual. That larger example appeared to be the State, and
accordingly we constructed as good a one as we could, knowing well
that in the good State justice would be found. Let the discovery which
we made be now applied to the individual --if they agree, we shall
be satisfied; or, if there be a difference in the individual, we
will come back to the State and have another trial of the theory.
The friction of the two when rubbed together may possibly strike a
light in which justice will shine forth, and the vision which is
then revealed we will fix in our souls.
That will be in regular course; let us do as you say.
I proceeded to ask: When two things, a greater and less, are
called by the same name, are they like or unlike in so far as they are
called the same?
Like, he replied.
The just man then, if we regard the idea of justice only, will be
like the just State?
He will.
And a State was thought by us to be just when the three classes in
the State severally did their own business; and also thought to be
temperate and valiant and wise by reason of certain other affections
and qualities of these same classes?
True, he said.
And so of the individual; we may assume that he has the same three
principles in his own soul which are found in the State; and he may be
rightly described in the same terms, because he is affected in the
same manner?
Certainly, he said.
Once more then, O my friend, we have alighted upon an easy
question --whether the soul has these three principles or not?
An easy question! Nay, rather, Socrates, the proverb holds that hard
is the good.
Very true, I said; and I do not think that the method which we are
employing is at all adequate to the accurate solution of this
question; the true method is another and a longer one. Still we may
arrive at a solution not below the level of the previous enquiry.
May we not be satisfied with that? he said; --under the
circumstances, I am quite content.
I too, I replied, shall be extremely well satisfied.
Then faint not in pursuing the speculation, he said.
Must we not acknowledge, I said, that in each of us there are the
same principles and habits which there are in the State; and that from
the individual they pass into the State? --how else can they come
there? Take the quality of passion or spirit; --it would be ridiculous
to imagine that this quality, when found in States, is not derived
from the individuals who are supposed to possess it, e.g. the
Thracians, Scythians, and in general the northern nations; and the
same may be said of the love of knowledge, which is the special
characteristic of our part of the world, or of the love of money,
which may, with equal truth, be attributed to the Phoenicians and
Exactly so, he said.
There is no difficulty in understanding this.
None whatever.
But the question is not quite so easy when we proceed to ask whether
these principles are three or one; whether, that is to say, we learn
with one part of our nature, are angry with another, and with a
third part desire the satisfaction of our natural appetites; or
whether the whole soul comes into play in each sort of action --to
determine that is the difficulty.
Yes, he said; there lies the difficulty.
Then let us now try and determine whether they are the same or
How can we? he asked.
I replied as follows: The same thing clearly cannot act or be
acted upon in the same part or in relation to the same thing at the
same time, in contrary ways; and therefore whenever this contradiction
occurs in things apparently the same, we know that they are really not
the same, but different.
For example, I said, can the same thing be at rest and in motion
at the same time in the same part?
Still, I said, let us have a more precise statement of terms, lest
we should hereafter fall out by the way. Imagine the case of a man who
is standing and also moving his hands and his head, and suppose a
person to say that one and the same person is in motion and at rest at
the same moment-to such a mode of speech we should object, and
should rather say that one part of him is in motion while another is
at rest.
Very true.
And suppose the objector to refine still further, and to draw the
nice distinction that not only parts of tops, but whole tops, when
they spin round with their pegs fixed on the spot, are at rest and
in motion at the same time (and he may say the same of anything
which revolves in the same spot), his objection would not be
admitted by us, because in such cases things are not at rest and in
motion in the same parts of themselves; we should rather say that they
have both an axis and a circumference, and that the axis stands still,
for there is no deviation from the perpendicular; and that the
circumference goes round. But if, while revolving, the axis inclines
either to the right or left, forwards or backwards, then in no point
of view can they be at rest.
That is the correct mode of describing them, he replied.
Then none of these objections will confuse us, or incline us to
believe that the same thing at the same time, in the same part or in
relation to the same thing, can act or be acted upon in contrary ways.
Certainly not, according to my way of thinking.
Yet, I said, that we may not be compelled to examine all such
objections, and prove at length that they are untrue, let us assume
their absurdity, and go forward on the understanding that hereafter,
if this assumption turn out to be untrue, all the consequences which
follow shall be withdrawn.
Yes, he said, that will be the best way.
Well, I said, would you not allow that assent and dissent, desire
and aversion, attraction and repulsion, are all of them opposites,
whether they are regarded as active or passive (for that makes no
difference in the fact of their opposition)?
Yes, he said, they are opposites.
Well, I said, and hunger and thirst, and the desires in general, and
again willing and wishing, --all these you would refer to the
classes already mentioned. You would say --would you not? --that the
soul of him who desires is seeking after the object of his desires; or
that he is drawing to himself the thing which he wishes to possess: or
again, when a person wants anything to be given him, his mind, longing
for the realisation of his desires, intimates his wish to have it by a
nod of assent, as if he had been asked a question?
Very true.
And what would you say of unwillingness and dislike and the
absence of desire; should not these be referred to the opposite
class of repulsion and rejection?
Admitting this to be true of desire generally, let us suppose a
particular class of desires, and out of these we will select hunger
and thirst, as they are termed, which are the most obvious of them?
Let us take that class, he said.
The object of one is food, and of the other drink?
And here comes the point: is not thirst the desire which the soul
has of drink, and of drink only; not of drink qualified by anything
else; for example, warm or cold, or much or little, or, in a word,
drink of any particular sort: but if the thirst be accompanied by
heat, then the desire is of cold drink; or, if accompanied by cold,
then of warm drink; or, if the thirst be excessive, then the drink
which is desired will be excessive; or, if not great, the quantity
of drink will also be small: but thirst pure and simple will desire
drink pure and simple, which is the natural satisfaction of thirst, as
food is of hunger?
Yes, he said; the simple desire is, as you say, in every case of the
simple object, and the qualified desire of the qualified object.
But here a confusion may arise; and I should wish to guard against
an opponent starting up and saying that no man desires drink only, but
good drink, or food only, but good food; for good is the universal
object of desire, and thirst being a desire, will necessarily be
thirst after good drink; and the same is true of every other desire.
Yes, he replied, the opponent might have something to say.
Nevertheless I should still maintain, that of relatives some have
a quality attached to either term of the relation; others are simple
and have their correlatives simple.
I do not know what you mean.
Well, you know of course that the greater is relative to the less?
And the much greater to the much less?
And the sometime greater to the sometime less, and the greater
that is to be to the less that is to be?
Certainly, he said.
And so of more and less, and of other correlative terms, such as the
double and the half, or again, the heavier and the lighter, the
swifter and the slower; and of hot and cold, and of any other
relatives; --is not this true of all of them?
And does not the same principle hold in the sciences? The object
of science is knowledge (assuming that to be the true definition), but
the object of a particular science is a particular kind of
knowledge; I mean, for example, that the science of house-building
is a kind of knowledge which is defined and distinguished from other
kinds and is therefore termed architecture.
Because it has a particular quality which no other has?
And it has this particular quality because it has an object of a
particular kind; and this is true of the other arts and sciences?
Now, then, if I have made myself clear, you will understand my
original meaning in what I said about relatives. My meaning was,
that if one term of a relation is taken alone, the other is taken
alone; if one term is qualified, the other is also qualified. I do not
mean to say that relatives may not be disparate, or that the science
of health is healthy, or of disease necessarily diseased, or that
the sciences of good and evil are therefore good and evil; but only
that, when the term science is no longer used absolutely, but has a
qualified object which in this case is the nature of health and
disease, it becomes defined, and is hence called not merely science,
but the science of medicine.
I quite understand, and I think as you do.
Would you not say that thirst is one of these essentially relative
terms, having clearly a relation --
Yes, thirst is relative to drink.
And a certain kind of thirst is relative to a certain kind of drink;
but thirst taken alone is neither of much nor little, nor of good
nor bad, nor of any particular kind of drink, but of drink only?
Then the soul of the thirsty one, in so far as he is thirsty,
desires only drink; for this he yearns and tries to obtain it?
That is plain.
And if you suppose something which pulls a thirsty soul away from
drink, that must be different from the thirsty principle which draws
him like a beast to drink; for, as we were saying, the same thing
cannot at the same time with the same part of itself act in contrary
ways about the same.
No more than you can say that the hands of the archer push and
pull the bow at the same time, but what you say is that one hand
pushes and the other pulls.
Exactly so, he replied.
And might a man be thirsty, and yet unwilling to drink?
Yes, he said, it constantly happens.
And in such a case what is one to say? Would you not say that
there was something in the soul bidding a man to drink, and
something else forbidding him, which is other and stronger than the
principle which bids him?
I should say so.
And the forbidding principle is derived from reason, and that
which bids and attracts proceeds from passion and disease?
Then we may fairly assume that they are two, and that they differ
from one another; the one with which man reasons, we may call the
rational principle of the soul, the other, with which he loves and
hungers and thirsts and feels the flutterings of any other desire, may
be termed the irrational or appetitive, the ally of sundry pleasures
and satisfactions?
Yes, he said, we may fairly assume them to be different.
Then let us finally determine that there are two principles existing
in the soul. And what of passion, or spirit? Is it a third, or akin to
one of the preceding?
I should be inclined to say --akin to desire.
Well, I said, there is a story which I remember to have heard, and
in which I put faith. The story is, that Leontius, the son of Aglaion,
coming up one day from the Piraeus, under the north wall on the
outside, observed some dead bodies lying on the ground at the place of
execution. He felt a desire to see them, and also a dread and
abhorrence of them; for a time he struggled and covered his eyes,
but at length the desire got the better of him; and forcing them open,
he ran up to the dead bodies, saying, Look, ye wretches, take your
fill of the fair sight.
I have heard the story myself, he said.
The moral of the tale is, that anger at times goes to war with
desire, as though they were two distinct things.
Yes; that is the meaning, he said.
And are there not many other cases in which we observe that when a
man's desires violently prevail over his reason, he reviles himself,
and is angry at the violence within him, and that in this struggle,
which is like the struggle of factions in a State, his spirit is on
the side of his reason; --but for the passionate or spirited element
to take part with the desires when reason that she should not be
opposed, is a sort of thing which thing which I believe that you never
observed occurring in yourself, nor, as I should imagine, in any one
Certainly not.
Suppose that a man thinks he has done a wrong to another, the nobler
he is the less able is he to feel indignant at any suffering, such
as hunger, or cold, or any other pain which the injured person may
inflict upon him --these he deems to be just, and, as I say, his anger
refuses to be excited by them.
True, he said.
But when he thinks that he is the sufferer of the wrong, then he
boils and chafes, and is on the side of what he believes to be
justice; and because he suffers hunger or cold or other pain he is
only the more determined to persevere and conquer. His noble spirit
will not be quelled until he either slays or is slain; or until he
hears the voice of the shepherd, that is, reason, bidding his dog bark
no more.
The illustration is perfect, he replied; and in our State, as we
were saying, the auxiliaries were to be dogs, and to hear the voice of
the rulers, who are their shepherds.
I perceive, I said, that you quite understand me; there is, however,
a further point which I wish you to consider.
What point?
You remember that passion or spirit appeared at first sight to be
a kind of desire, but now we should say quite the contrary; for in the
conflict of the soul spirit is arrayed on the side of the rational
Most assuredly.
But a further question arises: Is passion different from reason
also, or only a kind of reason; in which latter case, instead of three
principles in the soul, there will only be two, the rational and the
concupiscent; or rather, as the State was composed of three classes,
traders, auxiliaries, counsellors, so may there not be in the
individual soul a third element which is passion or spirit, and when
not corrupted by bad education is the natural auxiliary of reason
Yes, he said, there must be a third.
Yes, I replied, if passion, which has already been shown to be
different from desire, turn out also to be different from reason.
But that is easily proved: --We may observe even in young children
that they are full of spirit almost as soon as they are born,
whereas some of them never seem to attain to the use of reason, and
most of them late enough.
Excellent, I said, and you may see passion equally in brute animals,
which is a further proof of the truth of what you are saying. And we
may once more appeal to the words of Homer, which have been already
quoted by us,

He smote his breast, and thus rebuked his soul,

for in this verse Homer has clearly supposed the power which reasons
about the better and worse to be different from the unreasoning
anger which is rebuked by it.
Very true, he said.
And so, after much tossing, we have reached land, and are fairly
agreed that the same principles which exist in the State exist also in
the individual, and that they are three in number.
Must we not then infer that the individual is wise in the same
way, and in virtue of the same quality which makes the State wise?
Also that the same quality which constitutes courage in the State
constitutes courage in the individual, and that both the State and the
individual bear the same relation to all the other virtues?
And the individual will be acknowledged by us to be just in the same
way in which the State is just?
That follows, of course.
We cannot but remember that the justice of the State consisted in
each of the three classes doing the work of its own class?
We are not very likely to have forgotten, he said.
We must recollect that the individual in whom the several
qualities of his nature do their own work will be just, and will do
his own work?
Yes, he said, we must remember that too.
And ought not the rational principle, which is wise, and has the
care of the whole soul, to rule, and the passionate or spirited
principle to be the subject and ally?
And, as we were saying, the united influence of music and
gymnastic will bring them into accord, nerving and sustaining the
reason with noble words and lessons, and moderating and soothing and
civilizing the wildness of passion by harmony and rhythm?
Quite true, he said.
And these two, thus nurtured and educated, and having learned
truly to know their own functions, will rule over the concupiscent,
which in each of us is the largest part of the soul and by nature most
insatiable of gain; over this they will keep guard, lest, waxing great
and strong with the fulness of bodily pleasures, as they are termed,
the concupiscent soul, no longer confined to her own sphere, should
attempt to enslave and rule those who are not her natural-born
subjects, and overturn the whole life of man?
Very true, he said.
Both together will they not be the best defenders of the whole
soul and the whole body against attacks from without; the one
counselling, and the other fighting under his leader, and courageously
executing his commands and counsels?
And he is to be deemed courageous whose spirit retains in pleasure
and in pain the commands of reason about what he ought or ought not to
Right, he replied.
And him we call wise who has in him that little part which rules,
and which proclaims these commands; that part too being supposed to
have a knowledge of what is for the interest of each of the three
parts and of the whole?
And would you not say that he is temperate who has these same
elements in friendly harmony, in whom the one ruling principle of
reason, and the two subject ones of spirit and desire are equally
agreed that reason ought to rule, and do not rebel?
Certainly, he said, that is the true account of temperance whether
in the State or individual.
And surely, I said, we have explained again and again how and by
virtue of what quality a man will be just.
That is very certain.
And is justice dimmer in the individual, and is her form
different, or is she the same which we found her to be in the State?
There is no difference in my opinion, he said.
Because, if any doubt is still lingering in our minds, a few
commonplace instances will satisfy us of the truth of what I am
What sort of instances do you mean?
If the case is put to us, must we not admit that the just State,
or the man who is trained in the principles of such a State, will be
less likely than the unjust to make away with a deposit of gold or
silver? Would any one deny this?
No one, he replied.
Will the just man or citizen ever be guilty of sacrilege or theft,
or treachery either to his friends or to his country?
Neither will he ever break faith where there have been oaths or
No one will be less likely to commit adultery, or to dishonour his
father and mother, or to fall in his religious duties?
No one.
And the reason is that each part of him is doing its own business,
whether in ruling or being ruled?
Exactly so.
Are you satisfied then that the quality which makes such men and
such states is justice, or do you hope to discover some other?
Not I, indeed.
Then our dream has been realised; and the suspicion which we
entertained at the beginning of our work of construction, that some
divine power must have conducted us to a primary form of justice,
has now been verified?
Yes, certainly.
And the division of labour which required the carpenter and the
shoemaker and the rest of the citizens to be doing each his own
business, and not another's, was a shadow of justice, and for that
reason it was of use?
But in reality justice was such as we were describing, being
concerned however, not with the outward man, but with the inward,
which is the true self and concernment of man: for the just man does
not permit the several elements within him to interfere with one
another, or any of them to do the work of others, --he sets in order
his own inner life, and is his own master and his own law, and at
peace with himself; and when he has bound together the three
principles within him, which may be compared to the higher, lower, and
middle notes of the scale, and the intermediate intervals --when he
has bound all these together, and is no longer many, but has become
one entirely temperate and perfectly adjusted nature, then he proceeds
to act, if he has to act, whether in a matter of property, or in the
treatment of the body, or in some affair of politics or private
business; always thinking and calling that which preserves and
co-operates with this harmonious condition, just and good action,
and the knowledge which presides over it, wisdom, and that which at
any time impairs this condition, he will call unjust action, and the
opinion which presides over it ignorance.
You have said the exact truth, Socrates.
Very good; and if we were to affirm that we had discovered the
just man and the just State, and the nature of justice in each of
them, we should not be telling a falsehood?
Most certainly not.
May we say so, then?
Let us say so.
And now, I said, injustice has to be considered.
Must not injustice be a strife which arises among the three
principles --a meddlesomeness, and interference, and rising up of a
part of the soul against the whole, an assertion of unlawful
authority, which is made by a rebellious subject against a true
prince, of whom he is the natural vassal, --what is all this confusion
and delusion but injustice, and intemperance and cowardice and
ignorance, and every form of vice?
Exactly so.
And if the nature of justice and injustice be known, then the
meaning of acting unjustly and being unjust, or, again, of acting
justly, will also be perfectly clear?
What do you mean? he said.
Why, I said, they are like disease and health; being in the soul
just what disease and health are in the body.
How so? he said.
Why, I said, that which is healthy causes health, and that which
is unhealthy causes disease.
And just actions cause justice, and unjust actions cause injustice?
That is certain.
And the creation of health is the institution of a natural order and
government of one by another in the parts of the body; and the
creation of disease is the production of a state of things at variance
with this natural order?
And is not the creation of justice the institution of a natural
order and government of one by another in the parts of the soul, and
the creation of injustice the production of a state of things at
variance with the natural order?
Exactly so, he said.
Then virtue is the health and beauty and well-being of the soul, and
vice the disease and weakness and deformity of the same?
And do not good practices lead to virtue, and evil practices to
Still our old question of the comparative advantage of justice and
injustice has not been answered: Which is the more profitable, to be
just and act justly and practise virtue, whether seen or unseen of
gods and men, or to be unjust and act unjustly, if only unpunished and
In my judgment, Socrates, the question has now become ridiculous. We
know that, when the bodily constitution is gone, life is no longer
endurable, though pampered with all kinds of meats and drinks, and
having all wealth and all power; and shall we be told that when the
very essence of the vital principle is undermined and corrupted,
life is still worth having to a man, if only he be allowed to do
whatever he likes with the single exception that he is not to
acquire justice and virtue, or to escape from injustice and vice;
assuming them both to be such as we have described?
Yes, I said, the question is, as you say, ridiculous. Still, as we
are near the spot at which we may see the truth in the clearest manner
with our own eyes, let us not faint by the way.
Certainly not, he replied.
Come up hither, I said, and behold the various forms of vice,
those of them, I mean, which are worth looking at.
I am following you, he replied: proceed.
I said, The argument seems to have reached a height from which, as
from some tower of speculation, a man may look down and see that
virtue is one, but that the forms of vice are innumerable; there being
four special ones which are deserving of note.
What do you mean? he said.
I mean, I replied, that there appear to be as many forms of the soul
as there are distinct forms of the State.
How many?
There are five of the State, and five of the soul, I said.
What are they?
The first, I said, is that which we have been describing, and
which may be said to have two names, monarchy and aristocracy,
accordingly as rule is exercised by one distinguished man or by many.
True, he replied.
But I regard the two names as describing one form only; for
whether the government is in the hands of one or many, if the
governors have been trained in the manner which we have supposed,
the fundamental laws of the State will be maintained.
That is true, he replied.


SUCH is the good and true City or State, and the good and man is
of the same pattern; and if this is right every other is wrong; and
the evil is one which affects not only the ordering of the State,
but also the regulation of the individual soul, and is exhibited in
four forms.
What are they? he said.
I was proceeding to tell the order in which the four evil forms
appeared to me to succeed one another, when Pole marchus, who was
sitting a little way off, just beyond Adeimantus, began to whisper
to him: stretching forth his hand, he took hold of the upper part of
his coat by the shoulder, and drew him towards him, leaning forward
himself so as to be quite close and saying something in his ear, of
which I only caught the words, 'Shall we let him off, or what shall we
Certainly not, said Adeimantus, raising his voice.
Who is it, I said, whom you are refusing to let off?
You, he said.
I repeated, Why am I especially not to be let off?
Why, he said, we think that you are lazy, and mean to cheat us out
of a whole chapter which is a very important part of the story; and
you fancy that we shall not notice your airy way of proceeding; as
if it were self-evident to everybody, that in the matter of women
and children 'friends have all things in common.'
And was I not right, Adeimantus?
Yes, he said; but what is right in this particular case, like
everything else, requires to be explained; for community may be of
many kinds. Please, therefore, to say what sort of community you mean.
We have been long expecting that you would tell us something about the
family life of your citizens --how they will bring children into the
world, and rear them when they have arrived, and, in general, what
is the nature of this community of women and children-for we are of
opinion that the right or wrong management of such matters will have a
great and paramount influence on the State for good or for evil. And
now, since the question is still undetermined, and you are taking in
hand another State, we have resolved, as you heard, not to let you
go until you give an account of all this.
To that resolution, said Glaucon, you may regard me as saying


And without more ado, said Thrasymachus, you may consider us all
to be equally agreed.
I said, You know not what you are doing in thus assailing me: What
an argument are you raising about the State! Just as I thought that
I had finished, and was only too glad that I had laid this question to
sleep, and was reflecting how fortunate I was in your acceptance of
what I then said, you ask me to begin again at the very foundation,
ignorant of what a hornet's nest of words you are stirring. Now I
foresaw this gathering trouble, and avoided it.
For what purpose do you conceive that we have come here, said
Thrasymachus, --to look for gold, or to hear discourse?
Yes, but discourse should have a limit.
Yes, Socrates, said Glaucon, and the whole of life is the only limit
which wise men assign to the hearing of such discourses. But never
mind about us; take heart yourself and answer the question in your own
way: What sort of community of women and children is this which is
to prevail among our guardians? and how shall we manage the period
between birth and education, which seems to require the greatest care?
Tell us how these things will be.
Yes, my simple friend, but the answer is the reverse of easy; many
more doubts arise about this than about our previous conclusions.
For the practicability of what is said may be doubted; and looked at
in another point of view, whether the scheme, if ever so
practicable, would be for the best, is also doubtful. Hence I feel a
reluctance to approach the subject, lest our aspiration, my dear
friend, should turn out to be a dream only.
Fear not, he replied, for your audience will not be hard upon you;
they are not sceptical or hostile.
I said: My good friend, I suppose that you mean to encourage me by
these words.
Yes, he said.
Then let me tell you that you are doing just the reverse; the
encouragement which you offer would have been all very well had I
myself believed that I knew what I was talking about: to declare the
truth about matters of high interest which a man honours and loves
among wise men who love him need occasion no fear or faltering in
his mind; but to carry on an argument when you are yourself only a
hesitating enquirer, which is my condition, is a dangerous and
slippery thing; and the danger is not that I shall be laughed at (of
which the fear would be childish), but that I shall miss the truth
where I have most need to be sure of my footing, and drag my friends
after me in my fall. And I pray Nemesis not to visit upon me the words
which I am going to utter. For I do indeed believe that to be an
involuntary homicide is a less crime than to be a deceiver about
beauty or goodness or justice in the matter of laws. And that is a
risk which I would rather run among enemies than among friends, and
therefore you do well to encourage me.
Glaucon laughed and said: Well then, Socrates, in case you and
your argument do us any serious injury you shall be acquitted
beforehand of the and shall not be held to be a deceiver; take courage
then and speak.
Well, I said, the law says that when a man is acquitted he is free
from guilt, and what holds at law may hold in argument.
Then why should you mind?
Well, I replied, I suppose that I must retrace my steps and say what
I perhaps ought to have said before in the proper place. The part of
the men has been played out, and now properly enough comes the turn of
the women. Of them I will proceed to speak, and the more readily since
I am invited by you.
For men born and educated like our citizens, the only way, in my
opinion, of arriving at a right conclusion about the possession and
use of women and children is to follow the path on which we originally
started, when we said that the men were to be the guardians and
watchdogs of the herd.
Let us further suppose the birth and education of our women to be
subject to similar or nearly similar regulations; then we shall see
whether the result accords with our design.
What do you mean?
What I mean may be put into the form of a question, I said: Are dogs
divided into hes and shes, or do they both share equally in hunting
and in keeping watch and in the other duties of dogs? or do we entrust
to the males the entire and exclusive care of the flocks, while we
leave the females at home, under the idea that the bearing and
suckling their puppies is labour enough for them?
No, he said, they share alike; the only difference between them is
that the males are stronger and the females weaker.
But can you use different animals for the same purpose, unless
they are bred and fed in the same way?
You cannot.
Then, if women are to have the same duties as men, they must have
the same nurture and education?
The education which was assigned to the men was music and gymnastic.
Then women must be taught music and gymnastic and also the art of
war, which they must practise like the men?
That is the inference, I suppose.
I should rather expect, I said, that several of our proposals, if
they are carried out, being unusual, may appear ridiculous.
No doubt of it.
Yes, and the most ridiculous thing of all will be the sight of women
naked in the palaestra, exercising with the men, especially when
they are no longer young; they certainly will not be a vision of
beauty, any more than the enthusiastic old men who in spite of
wrinkles and ugliness continue to frequent the gymnasia.
Yes, indeed, he said: according to present notions the proposal
would be thought ridiculous.
But then, I said, as we have determined to speak our minds, we
must not fear the jests of the wits which will be directed against
this sort of innovation; how they will talk of women's attainments
both in music and gymnastic, and above all about their wearing
armour and riding upon horseback!
Very true, he replied.
Yet having begun we must go forward to the rough places of the
law; at the same time begging of these gentlemen for once in their
life to be serious. Not long ago, as we shall remind them, the
Hellenes were of the opinion, which is still generally received
among the barbarians, that the sight of a naked man was ridiculous and
improper; and when first the Cretans and then the Lacedaemonians
introduced the custom, the wits of that day might equally have
ridiculed the innovation.
No doubt.
But when experience showed that to let all things be uncovered was
far better than to cover them up, and the ludicrous effect to the
outward eye vanished before the better principle which reason
asserted, then the man was perceived to be a fool who directs the
shafts of his ridicule at any other sight but that of folly and
vice, or seriously inclines to weigh the beautiful by any other
standard but that of the good.
Very true, he replied.
First, then, whether the question is to be put in jest or in
earnest, let us come to an understanding about the nature of woman: Is
she capable of sharing either wholly or partially in the actions of
men, or not at all? And is the art of war one of those arts in which
she can or can not share? That will be the best way of commencing
the enquiry, and will probably lead to the fairest conclusion.
That will be much the best way.
Shall we take the other side first and begin by arguing against
ourselves; in this manner the adversary's position will not be
Why not? he said.
Then let us put a speech into the mouths of our opponents. They will
say: 'Socrates and Glaucon, no adversary need convict you, for you
yourselves, at the first foundation of the State, admitted the
principle that everybody was to do the one work suited to his own
nature.' And certainly, if I am not mistaken, such an admission was
made by us. 'And do not the natures of men and women differ very
much indeed?' And we shall reply: Of course they do. Then we shall
be asked, 'Whether the tasks assigned to men and to women should not
be different, and such as are agreeable to their different natures?'
Certainly they should. 'But if so, have you not fallen into a
serious inconsistency in saying that men and women, whose natures
are so entirely different, ought to perform the same actions?'
--What defence will you make for us, my good Sir, against any one
who offers these objections?
That is not an easy question to answer when asked suddenly; and I
shall and I do beg of you to draw out the case on our side.
These are the objections, Glaucon, and there are many others of a
like kind, which I foresaw long ago; they made me afraid and reluctant
to take in hand any law about the possession and nurture of women
and children.
By Zeus, he said, the problem to be solved is anything but easy.
Why yes, I said, but the fact is that when a man is out of his
depth, whether he has fallen into a little swimming bath or into
mid-ocean, he has to swim all the same.
Very true.
And must not we swim and try to reach the shore: we will hope that
Arion's dolphin or some other miraculous help may save us?
I suppose so, he said.
Well then, let us see if any way of escape can be found. We
acknowledged --did we not? that different natures ought to have
different pursuits, and that men's and women's natures are
different. And now what are we saying? --that different natures
ought to have the same pursuits, --this is the inconsistency which
is charged upon us.
Verily, Glaucon, I said, glorious is the power of the art of
Why do you say so?
Because I think that many a man falls into the practice against
his will. When he thinks that he is reasoning he is really
disputing, just because he cannot define and divide, and so know
that of which he is speaking; and he will pursue a merely verbal
opposition in the spirit of contention and not of fair discussion.
Yes, he replied, such is very often the case; but what has that to
do with us and our argument?
A great deal; for there is certainly a danger of our getting
unintentionally into a verbal opposition.
In what way?
Why, we valiantly and pugnaciously insist upon the verbal truth,
that different natures ought to have different pursuits, but we
never considered at all what was the meaning of sameness or difference
of nature, or why we distinguished them when we assigned different
pursuits to different natures and the same to the same natures.
Why, no, he said, that was never considered by us.
I said: Suppose that by way of illustration we were to ask the
question whether there is not an opposition in nature between bald men
and hairy men; and if this is admitted by us, then, if bald men are
cobblers, we should forbid the hairy men to be cobblers, and
That would be a jest, he said.
Yes, I said, a jest; and why? because we never meant when we
constructed the State, that the opposition of natures should extend to
every difference, but only to those differences which affected the
pursuit in which the individual is engaged; we should have argued, for
example, that a physician and one who is in mind a physician may be
said to have the same nature.
Whereas the physician and the carpenter have different natures?
And if, I said, the male and female sex appear to differ in their
fitness for any art or pursuit, we should say that such pursuit or art
ought to be assigned to one or the other of them; but if the
difference consists only in women bearing and men begetting
children, this does not amount to a proof that a woman differs from
a man in respect of the sort of education she should receive; and we
shall therefore continue to maintain that our guardians and their
wives ought to have the same pursuits.
Very true, he said.
Next, we shall ask our opponent how, in reference to any of the
pursuits or arts of civic life, the nature of a woman differs from
that of a man?
That will be quite fair.
And perhaps he, like yourself, will reply that to give a
sufficient answer on the instant is not easy; but after a little
reflection there is no difficulty.
Yes, perhaps.
Suppose then that we invite him to accompany us in the argument, and
then we may hope to show him that there is nothing peculiar in the
constitution of women which would affect them in the administration of
the State.
By all means.
Let us say to him: Come now, and we will ask you a question:
--when you spoke of a nature gifted or not gifted in any respect,
did you mean to say that one man will acquire a thing easily,
another with difficulty; a little learning will lead the one to
discover a great deal; whereas the other, after much study and
application, no sooner learns than he forgets; or again, did you mean,
that the one has a body which is a good servant to his mind, while the
body of the other is a hindrance to him?-would not these be the sort
of differences which distinguish the man gifted by nature from the one
who is ungifted?
No one will deny that.
And can you mention any pursuit of mankind in which the male sex has
not all these gifts and qualities in a higher degree than the
female? Need I waste time in speaking of the art of weaving, and the
management of pancakes and preserves, in which womankind does really
appear to be great, and in which for her to be beaten by a man is of
all things the most absurd?
You are quite right, he replied, in maintaining the general
inferiority of the female sex: although many women are in many
things superior to many men, yet on the whole what you say is true.
And if so, my friend, I said, there is no special faculty of
administration in a state which a woman has because she is a woman, or
which a man has by virtue of his sex, but the gifts of nature are
alike diffused in both; all the pursuits of men are the pursuits of
women also, but in all of them a woman is inferior to a man.
Very true.
Then are we to impose all our enactments on men and none of them
on women?
That will never do.
One woman has a gift of healing, another not; one is a musician, and
another has no music in her nature?
Very true.
And one woman has a turn for gymnastic and military exercises, and
another is unwarlike and hates gymnastics?
And one woman is a philosopher, and another is an enemy of
philosophy; one has spirit, and another is without spirit?
That is also true.
Then one woman will have the temper of a guardian, and another
not. Was not the selection of the male guardians determined by
differences of this sort?
Men and women alike possess the qualities which make a guardian;
they differ only in their comparative strength or weakness.
And those women who have such qualities are to be selected as the
companions and colleagues of men who have similar qualities and whom
they resemble in capacity and in character?
Very true.
And ought not the same natures to have the same pursuits?
They ought.
Then, as we were saying before, there is nothing unnatural in
assigning music and gymnastic to the wives of the guardians --to
that point we come round again.
Certainly not.
The law which we then enacted was agreeable to nature, and therefore
not an impossibility or mere aspiration; and the contrary practice,
which prevails at present, is in reality a violation of nature.
That appears to be true.
We had to consider, first, whether our proposals were possible,
and secondly whether they were the most beneficial?
And the possibility has been acknowledged?
The very great benefit has next to be established?
Quite so.
You will admit that the same education which makes a man a good
guardian will make a woman a good guardian; for their original
nature is the same?
I should like to ask you a question.
What is it?
Would you say that all men are equal in excellence, or is one man
better than another?
The latter.
And in the commonwealth which we were founding do you conceive the
guardians who have been brought up on our model system to be more
perfect men, or the cobblers whose education has been cobbling?
What a ridiculous question!
You have answered me, I replied: Well, and may we not further say
that our guardians are the best of our citizens?
By far the best.
And will not their wives be the best women?
Yes, by far the best.
And can there be anything better for the interests of the State than
that the men and women of a State should be as good as possible?
There can be nothing better.
And this is what the arts of music and gymnastic, when present in
such manner as we have described, will accomplish?
Then we have made an enactment not only possible but in the
highest degree beneficial to the State?
Then let the wives of our guardians strip, for their virtue will
be their robe, and let them share in the toils of war and the
defence of their country; only in the distribution of labours the
lighter are to be assigned to the women, who are the weaker natures,
but in other respects their duties are to be the same. And as for
the man who laughs at naked women exercising their bodies from the
best of motives, in his laughter he is plucking

A fruit of unripe wisdom,

and he himself is ignorant of what he is laughing at, or what he is
about; --for that is, and ever will be, the best of sayings, That
the useful is the noble and the hurtful is the base.
Very true.
Here, then, is one difficulty in our law about women, which we may
say that we have now escaped; the wave has not swallowed us up alive
for enacting that the guardians of either sex should have all their
pursuits in common; to the utility and also to the possibility of this
arrangement the consistency of the argument with itself bears witness.
Yes, that was a mighty wave which you have escaped.
Yes, I said, but a greater is coming; you will of this when you
see the next.
Go on; let me see.
The law, I said, which is the sequel of this and of all that has
preceded, is to the following effect, --'that the wives of our
guardians are to be common, and their children are to be common, and
no parent is to know his own child, nor any child his parent.'
Yes, he said, that is a much greater wave than the other; and the
possibility as well as the utility of such a law are far more
I do not think, I said, that there can be any dispute about the very
great utility of having wives and children in common; the
possibility is quite another matter, and will be very much disputed.
I think that a good many doubts may be raised about both.
You imply that the two questions must be combined, I replied. Now
I meant that you should admit the utility; and in this way, as I
thought; I should escape from one of them, and then there would remain
only the possibility.
But that little attempt is detected, and therefore you will please
to give a defence of both.
Well, I said, I submit to my fate. Yet grant me a little favour: let
me feast my mind with the dream as day dreamers are in the habit of
feasting themselves when they are walking alone; for before they
have discovered any means of effecting their wishes --that is a matter
which never troubles them --they would rather not tire themselves by
thinking about possibilities; but assuming that what they desire is
already granted to them, they proceed with their plan, and delight
in detailing what they mean to do when their wish has come true --that
is a way which they have of not doing much good to a capacity which
was never good for much. Now I myself am beginning to lose heart,
and I should like, with your permission, to pass over the question
of possibility at present. Assuming therefore the possibility of the
proposal, I shall now proceed to enquire how the rulers will carry out
these arrangements, and I shall demonstrate that our plan, if
executed, will be of the greatest benefit to the State and to the
guardians. First of all, then, if you have no objection, I will
endeavour with your help to consider the advantages of the measure;
and hereafter the question of possibility.
I have no objection; proceed.
First, I think that if our rulers and their auxiliaries are to be
worthy of the name which they bear, there must be willingness to
obey in the one and the power of command in the other; the guardians
must themselves obey the laws, and they must also imitate the spirit
of them in any details which are entrusted to their care.
That is right, he said.
You, I said, who are their legislator, having selected the men, will
now select the women and give them to them; --they must be as far as
possible of like natures with them; and they must live in common
houses and meet at common meals, None of them will have anything
specially his or her own; they will be together, and will be brought
up together, and will associate at gymnastic exercises. And so they
will be drawn by a necessity of their natures to have intercourse with
each other --necessity is not too strong a word, I think?
Yes, he said; --necessity, not geometrical, but another sort of
necessity which lovers know, and which is far more convincing and
constraining to the mass of mankind.
True, I said; and this, Glaucon, like all the rest, must proceed
after an orderly fashion; in a city of the blessed, licentiousness
is an unholy thing which the rulers will forbid.
Yes, he said, and it ought not to be permitted.
Then clearly the next thing will be to make matrimony sacred in
the highest degree, and what is most beneficial will be deemed sacred?
And how can marriages be made most beneficial? --that is a
question which I put to you, because I see in your house dogs for
hunting, and of the nobler sort of birds not a few. Now, I beseech
you, do tell me, have you ever attended to their pairing and breeding?
In what particulars?
Why, in the first place, although they are all of a good sort, are
not some better than others?
And do you breed from them all indifferently, or do you take care to
breed from the best only?
From the best.
And do you take the oldest or the youngest, or only those of ripe
I choose only those of ripe age.
And if care was not taken in the breeding, your dogs and birds would
greatly deteriorate?
And the same of horses and animals in general?
Good heavens! my dear friend, I said, what consummate skill will our
rulers need if the same principle holds of the human species!
Certainly, the same principle holds; but why does this involve any
particular skill?
Because, I said, our rulers will often have to practise upon the
body corporate with medicines. Now you know that when patients do
not require medicines, but have only to be put under a regimen, the
inferior sort of practitioner is deemed to be good enough; but when
medicine has to be given, then the doctor should be more of a man.
That is quite true, he said; but to what are you alluding?
I mean, I replied, that our rulers will find a considerable dose
of falsehood and deceit necessary for the good of their subjects: we
were saying that the use of all these things regarded as medicines
might be of advantage.
And we were very right.
And this lawful use of them seems likely to be often needed in the
regulations of marriages and births.
How so?
Why, I said, the principle has been already laid down that the
best of either sex should be united with the best as often, and the
inferior with the inferior, as seldom as possible; and that they
should rear the offspring of the one sort of union, but not of the
other, if the flock is to be maintained in first-rate condition. Now
these goings on must be a secret which the rulers only know, or
there will be a further danger of our herd, as the guardians may be
termed, breaking out into rebellion.
Very true.
Had we not better appoint certain festivals at which we will bring
together the brides and bridegrooms, and sacrifices will be offered
and suitable hymeneal songs composed by our poets: the number of
weddings is a matter which must be left to the discretion of the
rulers, whose aim will be to preserve the average of population? There
are many other things which they will have to consider, such as the
effects of wars and diseases and any similar agencies, in order as far
as this is possible to prevent the State from becoming either too
large or too small.
Certainly, he replied.
We shall have to invent some ingenious kind of lots which the less
worthy may draw on each occasion of our bringing them together, and
then they will accuse their own ill-luck and not the rulers.
To be sure, he said.
And I think that our braver and better youth, besides their other
honours and rewards, might have greater facilities of intercourse with
women given them; their bravery will be a reason, and such fathers
ought to have as many sons as possible.
And the proper officers, whether male or female or both, for offices
are to be held by women as well as by men --
Yes --
The proper officers will take the offspring of the good parents to
the pen or fold, and there they will deposit them with certain
nurses who dwell in a separate quarter; but the offspring of the
inferior, or of the better when they chance to be deformed, will be
put away in some mysterious, unknown place, as they should be.
Yes, he said, that must be done if the breed of the guardians is
to be kept pure.
They will provide for their nurture, and will bring the mothers to
the fold when they are full of milk, taking the greatest possible care
that no mother recognizes her own child; and other wet-nurses may be
engaged if more are required. Care will also be taken that the process
of suckling shall not be protracted too long; and the mothers will
have no getting up at night or other trouble, but will hand over all
this sort of thing to the nurses and attendants.
You suppose the wives of our guardians to have a fine easy time of
it when they are having children.
Why, said I, and so they ought. Let us, however, proceed with our
scheme. We were saying that the parents should be in the prime of
Very true.
And what is the prime of life? May it not be defined as a period
of about twenty years in a woman's life, and thirty in a man's?
Which years do you mean to include?
A woman, I said, at twenty years of age may begin to bear children
to the State, and continue to bear them until forty; a man may begin
at five-and-twenty, when he has passed the point at which the pulse of
life beats quickest, and continue to beget children until he be
Certainly, he said, both in men and women those years are the
prime of physical as well as of intellectual vigour.
Any one above or below the prescribed ages who takes part in the
public hymeneals shall be said to have done an unholy and
unrighteous thing; the child of which he is the father, if it steals
into life, will have been conceived under auspices very unlike the
sacrifices and prayers, which at each hymeneal priestesses and
priest and the whole city will offer, that the new generation may be
better and more useful than their good and useful parents, whereas his
child will be the offspring of darkness and strange lust.
Very true, he replied.
And the same law will apply to any one of those within the
prescribed age who forms a connection with any woman in the prime of
life without the sanction of the rulers; for we shall say that he is
raising up a bastard to the State, uncertified and unconsecrated.
Very true, he replied.
This applies, however, only to those who are within the specified
age: after that we allow them to range at will, except that a man
may not marry his daughter or his daughter's daughter, or his mother
or his mother's mother; and women, on the other hand, are prohibited
from marrying their sons or fathers, or son's son or father's
father, and so on in either direction. And we grant all this,
accompanying the permission with strict orders to prevent any embryo
which may come into being from seeing the light; and if any force a
way to the birth, the parents must understand that the offspring of
such an union cannot be maintained, and arrange accordingly.
That also, he said, is a reasonable proposition. But how will they
know who are fathers and daughters, and so on?
They will never know. The way will be this: --dating from the day of
the hymeneal, the bridegroom who was then married will call all the
male children who are born in the seventh and tenth month afterwards
his sons, and the female children his daughters, and they will call
him father, and he will call their children his grandchildren, and
they will call the elder generation grandfathers and grandmothers. All
who were begotten at the time when their fathers and mothers came
together will be called their brothers and sisters, and these, as I
was saying, will be forbidden to inter-marry. This, however, is not to
be understood as an absolute prohibition of the marriage of brothers
and sisters; if the lot favours them, and they receive the sanction of
the Pythian oracle, the law will allow them.
Quite right, he replied.
Such is the scheme, Glaucon, according to which the guardians of our
State are to have their wives and families in common. And now you
would have the argument show that this community is consistent with
the rest of our polity, and also that nothing can be better --would
you not?
Yes, certainly.
Shall we try to find a common basis by asking of ourselves what
ought to be the chief aim of the legislator in making laws and in
the organization of a State, --what is the greatest I good, and what
is the greatest evil, and then consider whether our previous
description has the stamp of the good or of the evil?
By all means.
Can there be any greater evil than discord and distraction and
plurality where unity ought to reign? or any greater good than the
bond of unity?
There cannot.
And there is unity where there is community of pleasures and pains
--where all the citizens are glad or grieved on the same occasions
of joy and sorrow?
No doubt.
Yes; and where there is no common but only private feeling a State
is disorganized --when you have one half of the world triumphing and
the other plunged in grief at the same events happening to the city or
the citizens?
Such differences commonly originate in a disagreement about the
use of the terms 'mine' and 'not mine,' 'his' and 'not his.'
Exactly so.
And is not that the best-ordered State in which the greatest
number of persons apply the terms 'mine' and 'not mine' in the same
way to the same thing?
Quite true.
Or that again which most nearly approaches to the condition of the
individual --as in the body, when but a finger of one of us is hurt,
the whole frame, drawn towards the soul as a center and forming one
kingdom under the ruling power therein, feels the hurt and sympathizes
all together with the part affected, and we say that the man has a
pain in his finger; and the same expression is used about any other
part of the body, which has a sensation of pain at suffering or of
pleasure at the alleviation of suffering.
Very true, he replied; and I agree with you that in the best-ordered
State there is the nearest approach to this common feeling which you
Then when any one of the citizens experiences any good or evil,
the whole State will make his case their own, and will either
rejoice or sorrow with him?
Yes, he said, that is what will happen in a well-ordered State.
It will now be time, I said, for us to return to our State and see
whether this or some other form is most in accordance with these
fundamental principles.
Very good.
Our State like every other has rulers and subjects?
All of whom will call one another citizens?
Of course.
But is there not another name which people give to their rulers in
other States?
Generally they call them masters, but in democratic States they
simply call them rulers.
And in our State what other name besides that of citizens do the
people give the rulers?
They are called saviours and helpers, he replied.
And what do the rulers call the people?
Their maintainers and foster-fathers.
And what do they call them in other States?
And what do the rulers call one another in other States?
And what in ours?
Did you ever know an example in any other State of a ruler who would
speak of one of his colleagues as his friend and of another as not
being his friend?
Yes, very often.
And the friend he regards and describes as one in whom he has an
interest, and the other as a stranger in whom he has no interest?
But would any of your guardians think or speak of any other guardian
as a stranger?
Certainly he would not; for every one whom they meet will be
regarded by them either as a brother or sister, or father or mother,
or son or daughter, or as the child or parent of those who are thus
connected with him.
Capital, I said; but let me ask you once more: Shall they be a
family in name only; or shall they in all their actions be true to the
name? For example, in the use of the word 'father,' would the care
of a father be implied and the filial reverence and duty and obedience
to him which the law commands; and is the violator of these duties
to be regarded as an impious and unrighteous person who is not
likely to receive much good either at the hands of God or of man?
Are these to be or not to be the strains which the children will
hear repeated in their ears by all the citizens about those who are
intimated to them to be their parents and the rest of their kinsfolk?
These, he said, and none other; for what can be more ridiculous than
for them to utter the names of family ties with the lips only and
not to act in the spirit of them?
Then in our city the language of harmony and concord will be more
often beard than in any other. As I was describing before, when any
one is well or ill, the universal word will be with me it is well'
or 'it is ill.'
Most true.
And agreeably to this mode of thinking and speaking, were we not
saying that they will have their pleasures and pains in common?
Yes, and so they will.
And they will have a common interest in the same thing which they
will alike call 'my own,' and having this common interest they will
have a common feeling of pleasure and pain?
Yes, far more so than in other States.
And the reason of this, over and above the general constitution of
the State, will be that the guardians will have a community of women
and children?
That will be the chief reason.
And this unity of feeling we admitted to be the greatest good, as
was implied in our own comparison of a well-ordered State to the
relation of the body and the members, when affected by pleasure or
That we acknowledged, and very rightly.
Then the community of wives and children among our citizens is
clearly the source of the greatest good to the State?
And this agrees with the other principle which we were affirming,
--that the guardians were not to have houses or lands or any other
property; their pay was to be their food, which they were to receive
from the other citizens, and they were to have no private expenses;
for we intended them to preserve their true character of guardians.
Right, he replied.
Both the community of property and the community of families, as I
am saying, tend to make them more truly guardians; they will not
tear the city in pieces by differing about 'mine' and 'not mine;' each
man dragging any acquisition which he has made into a separate house
of his own, where he has a separate wife and children and private
pleasures and pains; but all will be affected as far as may be by
the same pleasures and pains because they are all of one opinion about
what is near and dear to them, and therefore they all tend towards a
common end.
Certainly, he replied.
And as they have nothing but their persons which they can call their
own, suits and complaints will have no existence among them; they will
be delivered from all those quarrels of which money or children or
relations are the occasion.
Of course they will.
Neither will trials for assault or insult ever be likely to occur
among them. For that equals should defend themselves against equals we
shall maintain to be honourable and right; we shall make the
protection of the person a matter of necessity.
That is good, he said.
Yes; and there is a further good in the law; viz. that if a man
has a quarrel with another he will satisfy his resentment then and
there, and not proceed to more dangerous lengths.
To the elder shall be assigned the duty of ruling and chastising the
Nor can there be a doubt that the younger will not strike or do
any other violence to an elder, unless the magistrates command him;
nor will he slight him in any way. For there are two guardians,
shame and fear, mighty to prevent him: shame, which makes men
refrain from laying hands on those who are to them in the relation
of parents; fear, that the injured one will be succoured by the others
who are his brothers, sons, one wi fathers.
That is true, he replied.
Then in every way the laws will help the citizens to keep the
peace with one another?
Yes, there will be no want of peace.
And as the guardians will never quarrel among themselves there
will be no danger of the rest of the city being divided either against
them or against one another.
None whatever.
I hardly like even to mention the little meannesses of which they
will be rid, for they are beneath notice: such, for example, as the
flattery of the rich by the poor, and all the pains and pangs which
men experience in bringing up a family, and in finding money to buy
necessaries for their household, borrowing and then repudiating,
getting how they can, and giving the money into the hands of women and
slaves to keep --the many evils of so many kinds which people suffer
in this way are mean enough and obvious enough, and not worth speaking
Yes, he said, a man has no need of eyes in order to perceive that.
And from all these evils they will be delivered, and their life will
be blessed as the life of Olympic victors and yet more blessed.
How so?
The Olympic victor, I said, is deemed happy in receiving a part only
of the blessedness which is secured to our citizens, who have won a
more glorious victory and have a more complete maintenance at the
public cost. For the victory which they have won is the salvation of
the whole State; and the crown with which they and their children
are crowned is the fulness of all that life needs; they receive
rewards from the hands of their country while living, and after
death have an honourable burial.
Yes, he said, and glorious rewards they are.
Do you remember, I said, how in the course of the previous
discussion some one who shall be nameless accused us of making our
guardians unhappy --they had nothing and might have possessed all
things-to whom we replied that, if an occasion offered, we might
perhaps hereafter consider this question, but that, as at present
advised, we would make our guardians truly guardians, and that we were
fashioning the State with a view to the greatest happiness, not of any
particular class, but of the whole?
Yes, I remember.
And what do you say, now that the life of our protectors is made out
to be far better and nobler than that of Olympic victors --is the life
of shoemakers, or any other artisans, or of husbandmen, to be compared
with it?
Certainly not.
At the same time I ought here to repeat what I have said
elsewhere, that if any of our guardians shall try to be happy in
such a manner that he will cease to be a guardian, and is not
content with this safe and harmonious life, which, in our judgment, is
of all lives the best, but infatuated by some youthful conceit of
happiness which gets up into his head shall seek to appropriate the
whole State to himself, then he will have to learn how wisely Hesiod
spoke, when he said, 'half is more than the whole.'
If he were to consult me, I should say to him: Stay where you are,
when you have the offer of such a life.
You agree then, I said, that men and women are to have a common
way of life such as we have described --common education, common
children; and they are to watch over the citizens in common whether
abiding in the city or going out to war; they are to keep watch
together, and to hunt together like dogs; and always and in all
things, as far as they are able, women are to share with the men?
And in so doing they will do what is best, and will not violate, but
preserve the natural relation of the sexes.
I agree with you, he replied.
The enquiry, I said, has yet to be made, whether such a community be
found possible --as among other animals, so also among men --and if
possible, in what way possible?
You have anticipated the question which I was about to suggest.
There is no difficulty, I said, in seeing how war will be carried on
by them.
Why, of course they will go on expeditions together; and will take
with them any of their children who are strong enough, that, after the
manner of the artisan's child, they may look on at the work which they
will have to do when they are grown up; and besides looking on they
will have to help and be of use in war, and to wait upon their fathers
and mothers. Did you never observe in the arts how the potters' boys
look on and help, long before they touch the wheel?
Yes, I have.
And shall potters be more careful in educating their children and in
giving them the opportunity of seeing and practising their duties than
our guardians will be?
The idea is ridiculous, he said.
There is also the effect on the parents, with whom, as with other
animals, the presence of their young ones will be the greatest
incentive to valour.
That is quite true, Socrates; and yet if they are defeated, which
may often happen in war, how great the danger is! the children will be
lost as well as their parents, and the State will never recover.
True, I said; but would you never allow them to run any risk?
I am far from saying that.
Well, but if they are ever to run a risk should they not do so on
some occasion when, if they escape disaster, they will be the better
for it?
Whether the future soldiers do or do not see war in the days of
their youth is a very important matter, for the sake of which some
risk may fairly be incurred.
Yes, very important.
This then must be our first step, --to make our children
spectators of war; but we must also contrive that they shall be
secured against danger; then all will be well.
Their parents may be supposed not to be blind to the risks of war,
but to know, as far as human foresight can, what expeditions are
safe and what dangerous?
That may be assumed.
And they will take them on the safe expeditions and be cautious
about the dangerous ones?
And they will place them under the command of experienced veterans
who will be their leaders and teachers?
Very properly.
Still, the dangers of war cannot be always foreseen; there is a good
deal of chance about them?
Then against such chances the children must be at once furnished
with wings, in order that in the hour of need they may fly away and
What do you mean? he said.
I mean that we must mount them on horses in their earliest youth,
and when they have learnt to ride, take them on horseback to see
war: the horses must be spirited and warlike, but the most tractable
and yet the swiftest that can be had. In this way they will get an
excellent view of what is hereafter to be their own business; and if
there is danger they have only to follow their elder leaders and
I believe that you are right, he said.
Next, as to war; what are to be the relations of your soldiers to
one another and to their enemies? I should be inclined to propose that
the soldier who leaves his rank or throws away his arms, or is
guilty of any other act of cowardice, should be degraded into the rank
of a husbandman or artisan. What do you think?
By all means, I should say.
And he who allows himself to be taken prisoner may as well be made a
present of to his enemies; he is their lawful prey, and let them do
what they like with him.
But the hero who has distinguished himself, what shall be done to
him? In the first place, he shall receive honour in the army from
his youthful comrades; every one of them in succession shall crown
him. What do you say?
I approve.
And what do you say to his receiving the right hand of fellowship?
To that too, I agree.
But you will hardly agree to my next proposal.
What is your proposal?
That he should kiss and be kissed by them.
Most certainly, and I should be disposed to go further, and say: Let
no one whom he has a mind to kiss refuse to be kissed by him while the
expedition lasts. So that if there be a lover in the army, whether his
love be youth or maiden, he may be more eager to win the prize of
Capital, I said. That the brave man is to have more wives than
others has been already determined: and he is to have first choices in
such matters more than others, in order that he may have as many
children as possible?
Again, there is another manner in which, according to Homer, brave
youths should be honoured; for he tells how Ajax, after he had
distinguished himself in battle, was rewarded with long chines,
which seems to be a compliment appropriate to a hero in the flower
of his age, being not only a tribute of honour but also a very
strengthening thing.
Most true, he said.
Then in this, I said, Homer shall be our teacher; and we too, at
sacrifices and on the like occasions, will honour the brave
according to the measure of their valour, whether men or women, with
hymns and those other distinctions which we were mentioning; also with

seats of precedence, and meats and full cups;

and in honouring them, we shall be at the same time training them.
That, he replied, is excellent.
Yes, I said; and when a man dies gloriously in war shall we not say,
in the first place, that he is of the golden race?
To be sure.
Nay, have we not the authority of Hesiod for affirming that when
they are dead

They are holy angels upon the earth, authors of good, averters of
evil, the guardians of speech-gifted men?

Yes; and we accept his authority.
We must learn of the god how we are to order the sepulture of divine
and heroic personages, and what is to be their special distinction and
we must do as he bids?
By all means.
And in ages to come we will reverence them and knee. before their
sepulchres as at the graves of heroes. And not only they but any who
are deemed pre-eminently good, whether they die from age, or in any
other way, shall be admitted to the same honours.
That is very right, he said.
Next, how shall our soldiers treat their enemies? What about this?
In what respect do you mean?
First of all, in regard to slavery? Do you think it right that
Hellenes should enslave Hellenic States, or allow others to enslave
them, if they can help? Should not their custom be to spare them,
considering the danger which there is that the whole race may one
day fall under the yoke of the barbarians?
To spare them is infinitely better.
Then no Hellene should be owned by them as a slave; that is a rule
which they will observe and advise the other Hellenes to observe.
Certainly, he said; they will in this way be united against the
barbarians and will keep their hands off one another.
Next as to the slain; ought the conquerors, I said, to take anything
but their armour? Does not the practice of despoiling an enemy
afford an excuse for not facing the battle? Cowards skulk about the
dead, pretending that they are fulfilling a duty, and many an army
before now has been lost from this love of plunder.
Very true.
And is there not illiberality and avarice in robbing a corpse, and
also a degree of meanness and womanishness in making an enemy of the
dead body when the real enemy has flown away and left only his
fighting gear behind him, --is not this rather like a dog who cannot
get at his assailant, quarrelling with the stones which strike him
Very like a dog, he said.
Then we must abstain from spoiling the dead or hindering their
Yes, he replied, we most certainly must.
Neither shall we offer up arms at the temples of the gods, least
of all the arms of Hellenes, if we care to maintain good feeling
with other Hellenes; and, indeed, we have reason to fear that the
offering of spoils taken from kinsmen may be a pollution unless
commanded by the god himself?
Very true.
Again, as to the devastation of Hellenic territory or the burning of
houses, what is to be the practice?
May I have the pleasure, he said, of hearing your opinion?
Both should be forbidden, in my judgment; I would take the annual
produce and no more. Shall I tell you why?
Pray do.
Why, you see, there is a difference in the names 'discord' and
'war,' and I imagine that there is also a difference in their natures;
the one is expressive of what is internal and domestic, the other of
what is external and foreign; and the first of the two is termed
discord, and only the second, war.
That is a very proper distinction, he replied.
And may I not observe with equal propriety that the Hellenic race is
all united together by ties of blood and friendship, and alien and
strange to the barbarians?
Very good, he said.
And therefore when Hellenes fight with barbarians and barbarians
with Hellenes, they will be described by us as being at war when
they fight, and by nature enemies, and this kind of antagonism
should be called war; but when Hellenes fight with one another we
shall say that Hellas is then in a state of disorder and discord, they
being by nature friends and such enmity is to be called discord.
I agree.
Consider then, I said, when that which we have acknowledged to be
discord occurs, and a city is divided, if both parties destroy the
lands and burn the houses of one another, how wicked does the strife
appear! No true lover of his country would bring himself to tear in
pieces his own nurse and mother: There might be reason in the
conqueror depriving the conquered of their harvest, but still they
would have the idea of peace in their hearts and would not mean to
go on fighting for ever.
Yes, he said, that is a better temper than the other.
And will not the city, which you are founding, be an Hellenic city?
It ought to be, he replied.
Then will not the citizens be good and civilized?
Yes, very civilized.
And will they not be lovers of Hellas, and think of Hellas as
their own land, and share in the common temples?
Most certainly.
And any difference which arises among them will be regarded by
them as discord only --a quarrel among friends, which is not to be
called a war?
Certainly not.
Then they will quarrel as those who intend some day to be
reconciled? Certainly.
They will use friendly correction, but will not enslave or destroy
their opponents; they will be correctors, not enemies?
Just so.
And as they are Hellenes themselves they will not devastate
Hellas, nor will they burn houses, not even suppose that the whole
population of a city --men, women, and children --are equally their
enemies, for they know that the guilt of war is always confined to a
few persons and that the many are their friends. And for all these
reasons they will be unwilling to waste their lands and raze their
houses; their enmity to them will only last until the many innocent
sufferers have compelled the guilty few to give satisfaction?
I agree, he said, that our citizens should thus deal with their
Hellenic enemies; and with barbarians as the Hellenes now deal with
one another.
Then let us enact this law also for our guardians:-that they are
neither to devastate the lands of Hellenes nor to burn their houses.
Agreed; and we may agree also in thinking that these, all our
previous enactments, are very good.
But still I must say, Socrates, that if you are allowed to go on
in this way you will entirely forget the other question which at the
commencement of this discussion you thrust aside: --Is such an order
of things possible, and how, if at all? For I am quite ready to
acknowledge that the plan which you propose, if only feasible, would
do all sorts of good to the State. I will add, what you have
omitted, that your citizens will be the bravest of warriors, and
will never leave their ranks, for they will all know one another,
and each will call the other father, brother, son; and if you
suppose the women to join their armies, whether in the same rank or in
the rear, either as a terror to the enemy, or as auxiliaries in case
of need, I know that they will then be absolutely invincible; and
there are many domestic tic advantages which might also be mentioned
and which I also fully acknowledge: but, as I admit all these
advantages and as many more as you please, if only this State of yours
were to come into existence, we need say no more about them;
assuming then the existence of the State, let us now turn to the
question of possibility and ways and means --the rest may be left.
If I loiter for a moment, you instantly make a raid upon me, I said,
and have no mercy; I have hardly escaped the first and second waves,
and you seem not to be aware that you are now bringing upon me the
third, which is the greatest and heaviest. When you have seen and
heard the third wave, I think you be more considerate and will
acknowledge that some fear and hesitation was natural respecting a
proposal so extraordinary as that which I have now to state and
The more appeals of this sort which you make, he said, the more
determined are we that you shall tell us how such a State is possible:
speak out and at once.
Let me begin by reminding you that we found our way hither in the
search after justice and injustice.
True, he replied; but what of that?
I was only going to ask whether, if we have discovered them, we
are to require that the just man should in nothing fail of absolute
justice; or may we be satisfied with an approximation, and the
attainment in him of a higher degree of justice than is to be found in
other men?
The approximation will be enough.
We are enquiring into the nature of absolute justice and into the
character of the perfectly just, and into injustice and the
perfectly unjust, that we might have an ideal. We were to look at
these in order that we might judge of our own happiness and
unhappiness according to the standard which they exhibited and the
degree in which we resembled them, but not with any view of showing
that they could exist in fact.
True, he said.
Would a painter be any the worse because, after having delineated
with consummate art an ideal of a perfectly beautiful man, he was
unable to show that any such man could ever have existed?
He would be none the worse.
Well, and were we not creating an ideal of a perfect State?
To be sure.
And is our theory a worse theory because we are unable to prove
the possibility of a city being ordered in the manner described?
Surely not, he replied.
That is the truth, I said. But if, at your request, I am to try
and show how and under what conditions the possibility is highest, I
must ask you, having this in view, to repeat your former admissions.
What admissions?
I want to know whether ideals are ever fully realised in language?
Does not the word express more than the fact, and must not the actual,
whatever a man may think, always, in the nature of things, fall
short of the truth? What do you say?
I agree.
Then you must not insist on my proving that the actual State will in
every respect coincide with the ideal: if we are only able to discover
how a city may be governed nearly as we proposed, you will admit
that we have discovered the possibility which you demand; and will
be contented. I am sure that I should be contented --will not you?
Yes, I will.
Let me next endeavour to show what is that fault in States which
is the cause of their present maladministration, and what is the least
change which will enable a State to pass into the truer form; and
let the change, if possible, be of one thing only, or if not, of
two; at any rate, let the changes be as few and slight as possible.
Certainly, he replied.
I think, I said, that there might be a reform of the State if only
one change were made, which is not a slight or easy though still a
possible one.
What is it? he said.
Now then, I said, I go to meet that which I liken to the greatest of
the waves; yet shall the word be spoken, even though the wave break
and drown me in laughter and dishonour; and do you mark my words.
I said: Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of
this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political
greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who
pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand
aside, cities will never have rest from their evils, --nor the human
race, as I believe, --and then only will this our State have a
possibility of life and behold the light of day. Such was the thought,
my dear Glaucon, which I would fain have uttered if it had not
seemed too extravagant; for to be convinced that in no other State can
there be happiness private or public is indeed a hard thing.
Socrates, what do you mean? I would have you consider that the
word which you have uttered is one at which numerous persons, and very
respectable persons too, in a figure pulling off their coats all in
a moment, and seizing any weapon that comes to hand, will run at you
might and main, before you know where you are, intending to do
heaven knows what; and if you don't prepare an answer, and put
yourself in motion, you will be prepared by their fine wits,' and no
You got me into the scrape, I said.
And I was quite right; however, I will do all I can to get you out
of it; but I can only give you good-will and good advice, and,
perhaps, I may be able to fit answers to your questions better than
another --that is all. And now, having such an auxiliary, you must
do your best to show the unbelievers that you are right.
I ought to try, I said, since you offer me such invaluable
assistance. And I think that, if there is to be a chance of our
escaping, we must explain to them whom we mean when we say that
philosophers are to rule in the State; then we shall be able to defend
ourselves: There will be discovered to be some natures who ought to
study philosophy and to be leaders in the State; and others who are
not born to be philosophers, and are meant to be followers rather than
Then now for a definition, he said.
Follow me, I said, and I hope that I may in some way or other be
able to give you a satisfactory explanation.
I dare say that you remember, and therefore I need not remind you,
that a lover, if lie is worthy of the name, ought to show his love,
not to some one part of that which he loves, but to the whole.
I really do not understand, and therefore beg of you to assist my
Another person, I said, might fairly reply as you do; but a man of
pleasure like yourself ought to know that all who are in the flower of
youth do somehow or other raise a pang or emotion in a lover's breast,
and are thought by him to be worthy of his affectionate regards. Is
not this a way which you have with the fair: one has a snub nose,
and you praise his charming face; the hook-nose of another has, you
say, a royal look; while he who is neither snub nor hooked has the
grace of regularity: the dark visage is manly, the fair are children
of the gods; and as to the sweet 'honey pale,' as they are called,
what is the very name but the invention of a lover who talks in
diminutives, and is not adverse to paleness if appearing on the
cheek of youth? In a word, there is no excuse which you will not make,
and nothing which you will not say, in order not to lose a single
flower that blooms in the spring-time of youth.
If you make me an authority in matters of love, for the sake of
the argument, I assent.
And what do you say of lovers of wine? Do you not see them doing the
same? They are glad of any pretext of drinking any wine.
Very good.
And the same is true of ambitious men; if they cannot command an
army, they are willing to command a file; and if they cannot be
honoured by really great and important persons, they are glad to be
honoured by lesser and meaner people, but honour of some kind they
must have.
Once more let me ask: Does he who desires any class of goods, desire
the whole class or a part only?
The whole.
And may we not say of the philosopher that he is a lover, not of a
part of wisdom only, but of the whole?
Yes, of the whole.
And he who dislikes learnings, especially in youth, when he has no
power of judging what is good and what is not, such an one we maintain
not to be a philosopher or a lover of knowledge, just as he who
refuses his food is not hungry, and may be said to have a bad appetite
and not a good one?
Very true, he said.
Whereas he who has a taste for every sort of knowledge and who is
curious to learn and is never satisfied, may be justly termed a
philosopher? Am I not right?
Glaucon said: If curiosity makes a philosopher, you will find many a
strange being will have a title to the name. All the lovers of
sights have a delight in learning, and must therefore be included.
Musical amateurs, too, are a folk strangely out of place among
philosophers, for they are the last persons in the world who would
come to anything like a philosophical discussion, if they could
help, while they run about at the Dionysiac festivals as if they had
let out their ears to hear every chorus; whether the performance is in
town or country --that makes no difference --they are there. Now are
we to maintain that all these and any who have similar tastes, as well
as the professors of quite minor arts, are philosophers?
Certainly not, I replied; they are only an imitation.
He said: Who then are the true philosophers?
Those, I said, who are lovers of the vision of truth.
That is also good, he said; but I should like to know what you mean?
To another, I replied, I might have a difficulty in explaining;
but I am sure that you will admit a proposition which I am about to
What is the proposition?
That since beauty is the opposite of ugliness, they are two?
And inasmuch as they are two, each of them is one?
True again.
And of just and unjust, good and evil, and of every other class, the
same remark holds: taken singly, each of them one; but from the
various combinations of them with actions and things and with one
another, they are seen in all sorts of lights and appear many? Very
And this is the distinction which I draw between the sight-loving,
art-loving, practical class and those of whom I am speaking, and who
are alone worthy of the name of philosophers.
How do you distinguish them? he said.
The lovers of sounds and sights, I replied, are, as I conceive, fond
of fine tones and colours and forms and all the artificial products
that are made out of them, but their mind is incapable of seeing or
loving absolute beauty.
True, he replied.
Few are they who are able to attain to the sight of this.
Very true.
And he who, having a sense of beautiful things has no sense of
absolute beauty, or who, if another lead him to a knowledge of that
beauty is unable to follow --of such an one I ask, Is he awake or in a
dream only? Reflect: is not the dreamer, sleeping or waking, one who
likens dissimilar things, who puts the copy in the place of the real
I should certainly say that such an one was dreaming.
But take the case of the other, who recognises the existence of
absolute beauty and is able to distinguish the idea from the objects
which participate in the idea, neither putting the objects in the
place of the idea nor the idea in the place of the objects --is he a
dreamer, or is he awake?
He is wide awake.
And may we not say that the mind of the one who knows has knowledge,
and that the mind of the other, who opines only, has opinion
But suppose that the latter should quarrel with us and dispute our
statement, can we administer any soothing cordial or advice to him,
without revealing to him that there is sad disorder in his wits?
We must certainly offer him some good advice, he replied.
Come, then, and let us think of something to say to him. Shall we
begin by assuring him that he is welcome to any knowledge which he may
have, and that we are rejoiced at his having it? But we should like to
ask him a question: Does he who has knowledge know something or
nothing? (You must answer for him.)
I answer that he knows something.
Something that is or is not?
Something that is; for how can that which is not ever be known?
And are we assured, after looking at the matter from many points
of view, that absolute being is or may be absolutely known, but that
the utterly non-existent is utterly unknown?
Nothing can be more certain.
Good. But if there be anything which is of such a nature as to be
and not to be, that will have a place intermediate between pure
being and the absolute negation of being?
Yes, between them.
And, as knowledge corresponded to being and ignorance of necessity
to not-being, for that intermediate between being and not-being
there has to be discovered a corresponding intermediate between
ignorance and knowledge, if there be such?
Do we admit the existence of opinion?
As being the same with knowledge, or another faculty?
Another faculty.
Then opinion and knowledge have to do with different kinds of matter
corresponding to this difference of faculties?
And knowledge is relative to being and knows being. But before I
proceed further I will make a division.
What division?
I will begin by placing faculties in a class by themselves: they are
powers in us, and in all other things, by which we do as we do.
Sight and hearing, for example, I should call faculties. Have I
clearly explained the class which I mean?
Yes, I quite understand.
Then let me tell you my view about them. I do not see them, and
therefore the distinctions of fire, colour, and the like, which enable
me to discern the differences of some things, do not apply to them. In
speaking of a faculty I think only of its sphere and its result; and
that which has the same sphere and the same result I call the same
faculty, but that which has another sphere and another result I call
different. Would that be your way of speaking?
And will you be so very good as to answer one more question? Would
you say that knowledge is a faculty, or in what class would you
place it?
Certainly knowledge is a faculty, and the mightiest of all
And is opinion also a faculty?
Certainly, he said; for opinion is that with which we are able to
form an opinion.
And yet you were acknowledging a little while ago that knowledge
is not the same as opinion?
Why, yes, he said: how can any reasonable being ever identify that
which is infallible with that which errs?
An excellent answer, proving, I said, that we are quite conscious of
a distinction between them.
Then knowledge and opinion having distinct powers have also distinct
spheres or subject-matters?
That is certain.
Being is the sphere or subject-matter of knowledge, and knowledge is
to know the nature of being?
And opinion is to have an opinion?
And do we know what we opine? or is the subject-matter of opinion
the same as the subject-matter of knowledge?
Nay, he replied, that has been already disproven; if difference in
faculty implies difference in the sphere or subject matter, and if, as
we were saying, opinion and knowledge are distinct faculties, then the
sphere of knowledge and of opinion cannot be the same.
Then if being is the subject-matter of knowledge, something else
must be the subject-matter of opinion?
Yes, something else.
Well then, is not-being the subject-matter of opinion? or, rather,
how can there be an opinion at all about not-being? Reflect: when a
man has an opinion, has he not an opinion about something? Can he have
an opinion which is an opinion about nothing?
He who has an opinion has an opinion about some one thing?
And not-being is not one thing but, properly speaking, nothing?
Of not-being, ignorance was assumed to be the necessary correlative;
of being, knowledge?
True, he said.
Then opinion is not concerned either with being or with not-being?
Not with either.
And can therefore neither be ignorance nor knowledge?
That seems to be true.
But is opinion to be sought without and beyond either of them, in
a greater clearness than knowledge, or in a greater darkness than
In neither.
Then I suppose that opinion appears to you to be darker than
knowledge, but lighter than ignorance?
Both; and in no small degree.
And also to be within and between them?
Then you would infer that opinion is intermediate?
No question.
But were we not saying before, that if anything appeared to be of
a sort which is and is not at the same time, that sort of thing
would appear also to lie in the interval between pure being and
absolute not-being; and that the corresponding faculty is neither
knowledge nor ignorance, but will be found in the interval between
And in that interval there has now been discovered something which
we call opinion?
There has.
Then what remains to be discovered is the object which partakes
equally of the nature of being and not-being, and cannot rightly be
termed either, pure and simple; this unknown term, when discovered, we
may truly call the subject of opinion, and assign each to its proper
faculty, -the extremes to the faculties of the extremes and the mean
to the faculty of the mean.
This being premised, I would ask the gentleman who is of opinion
that there is no absolute or unchangeable idea of beauty --in whose
opinion the beautiful is the manifold --he, I say, your lover of
beautiful sights, who cannot bear to be told that the beautiful is
one, and the just is one, or that anything is one --to him I would
appeal, saying, Will you be so very kind, sir, as to tell us
whether, of all these beautiful things, there is one which will not be
found ugly; or of the just, which will not be found unjust; or of
the holy, which will not also be unholy?
No, he replied; the beautiful will in some point of view be found
ugly; and the same is true of the rest.
And may not the many which are doubles be also halves? --doubles,
that is, of one thing, and halves of another?
Quite true.
And things great and small, heavy and light, as they are termed,
will not be denoted by these any more than by the opposite names?
True; both these and the opposite names will always attach to all of
And can any one of those many things which are called by
particular names be said to be this rather than not to be this?
He replied: They are like the punning riddles which are asked at
feasts or the children's puzzle about the eunuch aiming at the bat,
with what he hit him, as they say in the puzzle, and upon what the bat
was sitting. The individual objects of which I am speaking are also
a riddle, and have a double sense: nor can you fix them in your
mind, either as being or not-being, or both, or neither.
Then what will you do with them? I said. Can they have a better
place than between being and not-being? For they are clearly not in
greater darkness or negation than not-being, or more full of light and
existence than being.
That is quite true, he said.
Thus then we seem to have discovered that the many ideas which the
multitude entertain about the beautiful and about all other things are
tossing about in some region which is halfway between pure being and
pure not-being?
We have.
Yes; and we had before agreed that anything of this kind which we
might find was to be described as matter of opinion, and not as matter
of knowledge; being the intermediate flux which is caught and detained
by the intermediate faculty.
Quite true.
Then those who see the many beautiful, and who yet neither see
absolute beauty, nor can follow any guide who points the way
thither; who see the many just, and not absolute justice, and the
like, --such persons may be said to have opinion but not knowledge?
That is certain.
But those who see the absolute and eternal and immutable may be said
to know, and not to have opinion only?
Neither can that be denied.
The one loves and embraces the subjects of knowledge, the other
those of opinion? The latter are the same, as I dare say will
remember, who listened to sweet sounds and gazed upon fair colours,
but would not tolerate the existence of absolute beauty.
Yes, I remember.
Shall we then be guilty of any impropriety in calling them lovers of
opinion rather than lovers of wisdom, and will they be very angry with
us for thus describing them?
I shall tell them not to be angry; no man should be angry at what is
But those who love the truth in each thing are to be called lovers
of wisdom and not lovers of opinion.


AND thus, Glaucon, after the argument has gone a weary way, the true
and the false philosophers have at length appeared in view.
I do not think, he said, that the way could have been shortened.
I suppose not, I said; and yet I believe that we might have had a
better view of both of them if the discussion could have been confined
to this one subject and if there were not many other questions
awaiting us, which he who desires to see in what respect the life of
the just differs from that of the unjust must consider.
And what is the next question? he asked.
Surely, I said, the one which follows next in order. Inasmuch as
philosophers only are able to grasp the eternal and unchangeable,
and those who wander in the region of the many and variable are not
philosophers, I must ask you which of the two classes should be the
rulers of our State?
And how can we rightly answer that question?
Whichever of the two are best able to guard the laws and
institutions of our State --let them be our guardians.
Very good.
Neither, I said, can there be any question that the guardian who
is to keep anything should have eyes rather than no eyes?
There can be no question of that.
And are not those who are verily and indeed wanting in the knowledge
of the true being of each thing, and who have in their souls no
clear pattern, and are unable as with a painter's eye to look at the
absolute truth and to that original to repair, and having perfect
vision of the other world to order the laws about beauty, goodness,
justice in this, if not already ordered, and to guard and preserve the
order of them --are not such persons, I ask, simply blind?
Truly, he replied, they are much in that condition.
And shall they be our guardians when there are others who, besides
being their equals in experience and falling short of them in no
particular of virtue, also know the very truth of each thing?
There can be no reason, he said, for rejecting those who have this
greatest of all great qualities; they must always have the first place
unless they fail in some other respect.
Suppose then, I said, that we determine how far they can unite
this and the other excellences.
By all means.
In the first place, as we began by observing, the nature of the
philosopher has to be ascertained. We must come to an understanding
about him, and, when we have done so, then, if I am not mistaken, we
shall also acknowledge that such an union of qualities is possible,
and that those in whom they are united, and those only, should be
rulers in the State.
What do you mean?
Let us suppose that philosophical minds always love knowledge of a
sort which shows them the eternal nature not varying from generation
and corruption.
And further, I said, let us agree that they are lovers of all true
being; there is no part whether greater or less, or more or less
honourable, which they are willing to renounce; as we said before of
the lover and the man of ambition.
And if they are to be what we were describing, is there not
another quality which they should also possess?
What quality?
Truthfulness: they will never intentionally receive into their
mind falsehood, which is their detestation, and they will love the
Yes, that may be safely affirmed of them.
'May be,' my friend, I replied, is not the word; say rather 'must be
affirmed:' for he whose nature is amorous of anything cannot help
loving all that belongs or is akin to the object of his affections.
Right, he said.
And is there anything more akin to wisdom than truth?
How can there be?
Can the same nature be a lover of wisdom and a lover of falsehood?
The true lover of learning then must from his earliest youth, as far
as in him lies, desire all truth?
But then again, as we know by experience, he whose desires are
strong in one direction will have them weaker in others; they will
be like a stream which has been drawn off into another channel.
He whose desires are drawn towards knowledge in every form will be
absorbed in the pleasures of the soul, and will hardly feel bodily
pleasure --I mean, if he be a true philosopher and not a sham one.
That is most certain.
Such an one is sure to be temperate and the reverse of covetous; for
the motives which make another man desirous of having and spending,
have no place in his character.
Very true.
Another criterion of the philosophical nature has also to be
What is that?
There should be no secret corner of illiberality; nothing can more
antagonistic than meanness to a soul which is ever longing after the
whole of things both divine and human.
Most true, he replied.
Then how can he who has magnificence of mind and is the spectator of
all time and all existence, think much of human life?
He cannot.
Or can such an one account death fearful?
No indeed.
Then the cowardly and mean nature has no part in true philosophy?
Certainly not.
Or again: can he who is harmoniously constituted, who is not
covetous or mean, or a boaster, or a coward-can he, I say, ever be
unjust or hard in his dealings?
Then you will soon observe whether a man is just and gentle, or rude
and unsociable; these are the signs which distinguish even in youth
the philosophical nature from the unphilosophical.
There is another point which should be remarked.
What point?
Whether he has or has not a pleasure in learning; for no one will
love that which gives him pain, and in which after much toil he
makes little progress.
Certainly not.
And again, if he is forgetful and retains nothing of what he learns,
will he not be an empty vessel?
That is certain.
Labouring in vain, he must end in hating himself and his fruitless
occupation? Yes.
Then a soul which forgets cannot be ranked among genuine philosophic
natures; we must insist that the philosopher should have a good
And once more, the inharmonious and unseemly nature can only tend to
And do you consider truth to be akin to proportion or to
To proportion.
Then, besides other qualities, we must try to find a naturally
well-proportioned and gracious mind, which will move spontaneously
towards the true being of everything.
Well, and do not all these qualities, which we have been
enumerating, go together, and are they not, in a manner, necessary
to a soul, which is to have a full and perfect participation of being?
They are absolutely necessary, he replied.
And must not that be a blameless study which he only can pursue
who has the gift of a good memory, and is quick to learn, --noble,
gracious, the friend of truth, justice, courage, temperance, who are
his kindred?
The god of jealousy himself, he said, could find no fault with
such a study.
And to men like him, I said, when perfected by years and
education, and to these only you will entrust the State.


Here Adeimantus interposed and said: To these statements,
Socrates, no one can offer a reply; but when you talk in this way, a
strange feeling passes over the minds of your hearers: They fancy that
they are led astray a little at each step in the argument, owing to
their own want of skill in asking and answering questions; these
littles accumulate, and at the end of the discussion they are found to
have sustained a mighty overthrow and all their former notions
appear to be turned upside down. And as unskilful players of
draughts are at last shut up by their more skilful adversaries and
have no piece to move, so they too find themselves shut up at last;
for they have nothing to say in this new game of which words are the
counters; and yet all the time they are in the right. The
observation is suggested to me by what is now occurring. For any one
of us might say, that although in words he is not able to meet you
at each step of the argument, he sees as a fact that the votaries of
philosophy, when they carry on the study, not only in youth as a
part of education, but as the pursuit of their maturer years, most
of them become strange monsters, not to say utter rogues, and that
those who may be considered the best of them are made useless to the
world by the very study which you extol.
Well, and do you think that those who say so are wrong?
I cannot tell, he replied; but I should like to know what is your
Hear my answer; I am of opinion that they are quite right.
Then how can you be justified in saying that cities will not cease
from evil until philosophers rule in them, when philosophers are
acknowledged by us to be of no use to them?
You ask a question, I said, to which a reply can only be given in
a parable.
Yes, Socrates; and that is a way of speaking to which you are not at
all accustomed, I suppose.
I perceive, I said, that you are vastly amused at having plunged
me into such a hopeless discussion; but now hear the parable, and then
you will be still more amused at the meagreness of my imagination: for
the manner in which the best men are treated in their own States is so
grievous that no single thing on earth is comparable to it; and
therefore, if I am to plead their cause, I must have recourse to
fiction, and put together a figure made up of many things, like the
fabulous unions of goats and stags which are found in pictures.
Imagine then a fleet or a ship in which there is a captain who is
taller and stronger than any of the crew, but he is a little deaf
and has a similar infirmity in sight, and his knowledge of
navigation is not much better. The sailors are quarrelling with one
another about the steering --every one is of opinion that he has a
right to steer, though he has never learned the art of navigation
and cannot tell who taught him or when he learned, and will further
assert that it cannot be taught, and they are ready to cut in pieces
any one who says the contrary. They throng about the captain,
begging and praying him to commit the helm to them; and if at any time
they do not prevail, but others are preferred to them, they kill the
others or throw them overboard, and having first chained up the
noble captain's senses with drink or some narcotic drug, they mutiny
and take possession of the ship and make free with the stores; thus,
eating and drinking, they proceed on their voyage in such a manner
as might be expected of them. Him who is their partisan and cleverly
aids them in their plot for getting the ship out of the captain's
hands into their own whether by force or persuasion, they compliment
with the name of sailor, pilot, able seaman, and abuse the other
sort of man, whom they call a good-for-nothing; but that the true
pilot must pay attention to the year and seasons and sky and stars and
winds, and whatever else belongs to his art, if he intends to be
really qualified for the command of a ship, and that he must and
will be the steerer, whether other people like or not-the
possibility of this union of authority with the steerer's art has
never seriously entered into their thoughts or been made part of their
calling. Now in vessels which are in a state of mutiny and by
sailors who are mutineers, how will the true pilot be regarded? Will
he not be called by them a prater, a star-gazer, a good-for-nothing?
Of course, said Adeimantus.
Then you will hardly need, I said, to hear the interpretation of the
figure, which describes the true philosopher in his relation to the
State; for you understand already.
Then suppose you now take this parable to the gentleman who is
surprised at finding that philosophers have no honour in their cities;
explain it to him and try to convince him that their having honour
would be far more extraordinary.
I will.
Say to him, that, in deeming the best votaries of philosophy to be
useless to the rest of the world, he is right; but also tell him to
attribute their uselessness to the fault of those who will not use
them, and not to themselves. The pilot should not humbly beg the
sailors to be commanded by him --that is not the order of nature;
neither are 'the wise to go to the doors of the rich' --the
ingenious author of this saying told a lie --but the truth is, that,
when a man is ill, whether he be rich or poor, to the physician he
must go, and he who wants to be governed, to him who is able to
govern. The ruler who is good for anything ought not to beg his
subjects to be ruled by him; although the present governors of mankind
are of a different stamp; they may be justly compared to the
mutinous sailors, and the true helmsmen to those who are called by
them good-for-nothings and star-gazers.
Precisely so, he said.
For these reasons, and among men like these, philosophy, the noblest
pursuit of all, is not likely to be much esteemed by those of the
opposite faction; not that the greatest and most lasting injury is
done to her by her opponents, but by her own professing followers, the
same of whom you suppose the accuser to say, that the greater number
of them are arrant rogues, and the best are useless; in which
opinion I agreed.
And the reason why the good are useless has now been explained?
Then shall we proceed to show that the corruption of the majority is
also unavoidable, and that this is not to be laid to the charge of
philosophy any more than the other?
By all means.
And let us ask and answer in turn, first going back to the
description of the gentle and noble nature. Truth, as you will
remember, was his leader, whom he followed always and in all things;
failing in this, he was an impostor, and had no part or lot in true
Yes, that was said.
Well, and is not this one quality, to mention no others, greatly
at variance with present notions of him?
Certainly, he said.
And have we not a right to say in his defence, that the true lover
of knowledge is always striving after being --that is his nature; he
will not rest in the multiplicity of individuals which is an
appearance only, but will go on --the keen edge will not be blunted,
nor the force of his desire abate until he have attained the knowledge
of the true nature of every essence by a sympathetic and kindred power
in the soul, and by that power drawing near and mingling and
becoming incorporate with very being, having begotten mind and
truth, he will have knowledge and will live and grow truly, and
then, and not till then, will he cease from his travail.
Nothing, he said, can be more just than such a description of him.
And will the love of a lie be any part of a philosopher's nature?
Will he not utterly hate a lie?
He will.
And when truth is the captain, we cannot suspect any evil of the
band which he leads?
Justice and health of mind will be of the company, and temperance
will follow after?
True, he replied.
Neither is there any reason why I should again set in array the
philosopher's virtues, as you will doubtless remember that courage,
magnificence, apprehension, memory, were his natural gifts. And you
objected that, although no one could deny what I then said, still,
if you leave words and look at facts, the persons who are thus
described are some of them manifestly useless, and the greater
number utterly depraved; we were then led to enquire into the
grounds of these accusations, and have now arrived at the point of
asking why are the majority bad, which question of necessity brought
us back to the examination and definition of the true philosopher.
And we have next to consider the of the philosophic nature, why so
many are spoiled and so few escape spoiling --I am speaking of those
who were said to be useless but not wicked --and, when we have done
with them, we will speak of the imitators of philosophy, what manner
of men are they who aspire after a profession which is above them
and of which they are unworthy, and then, by their manifold
inconsistencies, bring upon philosophy, and upon all philosophers,
that universal reprobation of which we speak.
What are these corruptions? he said.
I will see if I can explain them to you. Every one will admit that a
nature having in perfection all the qualities which we required in a
philosopher, is a rare plant which is seldom seen among men.
Rare indeed.
And what numberless and powerful causes tend to destroy these rare
What causes?
In the first place there are their own virtues, their courage,
temperance, and the rest of them, every one of which praise worthy
qualities (and this is a most singular circumstance) destroys and
distracts from philosophy the soul which is the possessor of them.
That is very singular, he replied.
Then there are all the ordinary goods of life --beauty, wealth,
strength, rank, and great connections in the State --you understand
the sort of things --these also have a corrupting and distracting
I understand; but I should like to know more precisely what you mean
about them.
Grasp the truth as a whole, I said, and in the right way; you will
then have no difficulty in apprehending the preceding remarks, and
they will no longer appear strange to you.
And how am I to do so? he asked.
Why, I said, we know that all germs or seeds, whether vegetable or
animal, when they fail to meet with proper nutriment or climate or
soil, in proportion to their vigour, are all the more sensitive to the
want of a suitable environment, for evil is a greater enemy to what is
good than what is not.
Very true.
There is reason in supposing that the finest natures, when under
alien conditions, receive more injury than the inferior, because the
contrast is greater.
And may we not say, Adeimantus, that the most gifted minds, when
they are ill-educated, become pre-eminently bad? Do not great crimes
and the spirit of pure evil spring out of a fulness of nature ruined
by education rather than from any inferiority, whereas weak natures
are scarcely capable of any very great good or very great evil?
There I think that you are right.
And our philosopher follows the same analogy-he is like a plant
which, having proper nurture, must necessarily grow and mature into
all virtue, but, if sown and planted in an alien soil, becomes the
most noxious of all weeds, unless he be preserved by some divine
power. Do you really think, as people so often say, that our youth are
corrupted by Sophists, or that private teachers of the art corrupt
them in any degree worth speaking of? Are not the public who say these
things the greatest of all Sophists? And do they not educate to
perfection young and old, men and women alike, and fashion them
after their own hearts?
When is this accomplished? he said.
When they meet together, and the world sits down at an assembly,
or in a court of law, or a theatre, or a camp, or in any other popular
resort, and there is a great uproar, and they praise some things which
are being said or done, and blame other things, equally exaggerating
both, shouting and clapping their hands, and the echo of the rocks and
the place in which they are assembled redoubles the sound of the
praise or blame --at such a time will not a young man's heart, as they
say, leap within him? Will any private training enable him to stand
firm against the overwhelming flood of popular opinion? or will he
be carried away by the stream? Will he not have the notions of good
and evil which the public in general have --he will do as they do, and
as they are, such will he be?
Yes, Socrates; necessity will compel him.
And yet, I said, there is a still greater necessity, which has not
been mentioned.
What is that?
The gentle force of attainder or confiscation or death which, as you
are aware, these new Sophists and educators who are the public,
apply when their words are powerless.
Indeed they do; and in right good earnest.
Now what opinion of any other Sophist, or of any private person, can
be expected to overcome in such an unequal contest?
None, he replied.
No, indeed, I said, even to make the attempt is a great piece of
folly; there neither is, nor has been, nor is ever likely to be, any
different type of character which has had no other training in
virtue but that which is supplied by public opinion --I speak, my
friend, of human virtue only; what is more than human, as the
proverb says, is not included: for I would not have you ignorant that,
in the present evil state of governments, whatever is saved and
comes to good is saved by the power of God, as we may truly say.
I quite assent, he replied.
Then let me crave your assent also to a further observation.
What are you going to say?
Why, that all those mercenary individuals, whom the many call
Sophists and whom they deem to be their adversaries, do, in fact,
teach nothing but the opinion of the many, that is to say, the
opinions of their assemblies; and this is their wisdom. I might
compare them to a man who should study the tempers and desires of a
mighty strong beast who is fed by him-he would learn how to approach
and handle him, also at what times and from what causes he is
dangerous or the reverse, and what is the meaning of his several
cries, and by what sounds, when another utters them, he is soothed
or infuriated; and you may suppose further, that when, by
continually attending upon him, he has become perfect in all this,
he calls his knowledge wisdom, and makes of it a system or art,
which he proceeds to teach, although he has no real notion of what
he means by the principles or passions of which he is speaking, but
calls this honourable and that dishonourable, or good or evil, or just
or unjust, all in accordance with the tastes and tempers of the
great brute. Good he pronounces to be that in which the beast delights
and evil to be that which he dislikes; and he can give no other
account of them except that the just and noble are the necessary,
having never himself seen, and having no power of explaining to others
the nature of either, or the difference between them, which is
immense. By heaven, would not such an one be a rare educator?
Indeed, he would.
And in what way does he who thinks that wisdom is the discernment of
the tempers and tastes of the motley multitude, whether in painting or
music, or, finally, in politics, differ from him whom I have been
describing For when a man consorts with the many, and exhibits to them
his poem or other work of art or the service which he has done the
State, making them his judges when he is not obliged, the so-called
necessity of Diomede will oblige him to produce whatever they
praise. And yet the reasons are utterly ludicrous which they give in
confirmation of their own notions about the honourable and good. Did
you ever hear any of them which were not?
No, nor am I likely to hear.
You recognise the truth of what I have been saying? Then let me
ask you to consider further whether the world will ever be induced
to believe in the existence of absolute beauty rather than of the many
beautiful, or of the absolute in each kind rather than of the many
in each kind?
Certainly not.
Then the world cannot possibly be a philosopher?
And therefore philosophers must inevitably fall under the censure of
the world?
They must.
And of individuals who consort with the mob and seek to please them?
That is evident.
Then, do you see any way in which the philosopher can be preserved
in his calling to the end? and remember what we were saying of him,
that he was to have quickness and memory and courage and
magnificence --these were admitted by us to be the true
philosopher's gifts.
Will not such an one from his early childhood be in all things first
among all, especially if his bodily endowments are like his mental
Certainly, he said.
And his friends and fellow-citizens will want to use him as he
gets older for their own purposes?
No question.
Falling at his feet, they will make requests to him and do him
honour and flatter him, because they want to get into their hands now,
the power which he will one day possess.
That often happens, he said.
And what will a man such as he be likely to do under such
circumstances, especially if he be a citizen of a great city, rich and
noble, and a tall proper youth? Will he not be full of boundless
aspirations, and fancy himself able to manage the affairs of
Hellenes and of barbarians, and having got such notions into his
head will he not dilate and elevate himself in the fulness of vain
pomp and senseless pride?
To be sure he will.
Now, when he is in this state of mind, if some one gently comes to
him and tells him that he is a fool and must get understanding,
which can only be got by slaving for it, do you think that, under such
adverse circumstances, he will be easily induced to listen?
Far otherwise.
And even if there be some one who through inherent goodness or
natural reasonableness has had his eyes opened a little and is humbled
and taken captive by philosophy, how will his friends behave when they
think that they are likely to lose the advantage which they were
hoping to reap from his companionship? Will they not do and say
anything to prevent him from yielding to his better nature and to
render his teacher powerless, using to this end private intrigues as
well as public prosecutions?
There can be no doubt of it.
And how can one who is thus circumstanced ever become a philosopher?
Then were we not right in saying that even the very qualities
which make a man a philosopher may, if he be ill-educated, divert
him from philosophy, no less than riches and their accompaniments
and the other so-called goods of life?
We were quite right.
Thus, my excellent friend, is brought about all that ruin and
failure which I have been describing of the natures best adapted to
the best of all pursuits; they are natures which we maintain to be
rare at any time; this being the class out of which come the men who
are the authors of the greatest evil to States and individuals; and
also of the greatest good when the tide carries them in that
direction; but a small man never was the doer of any great thing
either to individuals or to States.
That is most true, he said.
And so philosophy is left desolate, with her marriage rite
incomplete: for her own have fallen away and forsaken her, and while
they are leading a false and unbecoming life, other unworthy
persons, seeing that she has no kinsmen to be her protectors, enter in
and dishonour her; and fasten upon her the reproaches which, as you
say, her reprovers utter, who affirm of her votaries that some are
good for nothing, and that the greater number deserve the severest
That is certainly what people say.
Yes; and what else would you expect, I said, when you think of the
puny creatures who, seeing this land open to them --a land well
stocked with fair names and showy titles --like prisoners running
out of prison into a sanctuary, take a leap out of their trades into
philosophy; those who do so being probably the cleverest hands at
their own miserable crafts? For, although philosophy be in this evil
case, still there remains a dignity about her which is not to be found
in the arts. And many are thus attracted by her whose natures are
imperfect and whose souls are maimed and disfigured by their
meannesses, as their bodies are by their trades and crafts. Is not
this unavoidable?
Are they not exactly like a bald little tinker who has just got
out of durance and come into a fortune; he takes a bath and puts on
a new coat, and is decked out as a bridegroom going to marry his
master's daughter, who is left poor and desolate?
A most exact parallel.
What will be the issue of such marriages? Will they not be vile
and bastard?
There can be no question of it.
And when persons who are unworthy of education approach philosophy
and make an alliance with her who is a rank above them what sort of
ideas and opinions are likely to be generated? Will they not be
sophisms captivating to the ear, having nothing in them genuine, or
worthy of or akin to true wisdom?
No doubt, he said.
Then, Adeimantus, I said, the worthy disciples of philosophy will be
but a small remnant: perchance some noble and well-educated person,
detained by exile in her service, who in the absence of corrupting
influences remains devoted to her; or some lofty soul born in a mean
city, the politics of which he contemns and neglects; and there may be
a gifted few who leave the arts, which they justly despise, and come
to her; --or peradventure there are some who are restrained by our
friend Theages' bridle; for everything in the life of Theages
conspired to divert him from philosophy; but ill-health kept him
away from politics. My own case of the internal sign is hardly worth
mentioning, for rarely, if ever, has such a monitor been given to
any other man. Those who belong to this small class have tasted how
sweet and blessed a possession philosophy is, and have also seen
enough of the madness of the multitude; and they know that no
politician is honest, nor is there any champion of justice at whose
side they may fight and be saved. Such an one may be compared to a man
who has fallen among wild beasts --he will not join in the
wickedness of his fellows, but neither is he able singly to resist all
their fierce natures, and therefore seeing that he would be of no
use to the State or to his friends, and reflecting that he would
have to throw away his life without doing any good either to himself
or others, he holds his peace, and goes his own way. He is like one
who, in the storm of dust and sleet which the driving wind hurries
along, retires under the shelter of a wall; and seeing the rest of
mankind full of wickedness, he is content, if only he can live his own
life and be pure from evil or unrighteousness, and depart in peace and
good-will, with bright hopes.
Yes, he said, and he will have done a great work before he departs.
A great work --yes; but not the greatest, unless he find a State
suitable to him; for in a State which is suitable to him, he will have
a larger growth and be the saviour of his country, as well as of
The causes why philosophy is in such an evil name have now been
sufficiently explained: the injustice of the charges against her has
been shown-is there anything more which you wish to say?
Nothing more on that subject, he replied; but I should like to
know which of the governments now existing is in your opinion the
one adapted to her.
Not any of them, I said; and that is precisely the accusation
which I bring against them --not one of them is worthy of the
philosophic nature, and hence that nature is warped and estranged;
--as the exotic seed which is sown in a foreign land becomes
denaturalized, and is wont to be overpowered and to lose itself in the
new soil, even so this growth of philosophy, instead of persisting,
degenerates and receives another character. But if philosophy ever
finds in the State that perfection which she herself is, then will
be seen that she is in truth divine, and that all other things,
whether natures of men or institutions, are but human; --and now, I
know that you are going to ask, what that State is.
No, he said; there you are wrong, for I was going to ask another
question --whether it is the State of which. we are the founders and
inventors, or some other?
Yes, I replied, ours in most respects; but you may remember my
saying before, that some living authority would always be required
in the State having the same idea of the constitution which guided you
when as legislator you were laying down the laws.
That was said, he replied.
Yes, but not in a satisfactory manner; you frightened us by
interposing objections, which certainly showed that the discussion
would be long and difficult; and what still remains is the reverse
of easy.
What is there remaining?
The question how the study of philosophy may be so ordered as not to
be the ruin of the State: All great attempts are attended with risk;
'hard is the good,' as men say.
Still, he said, let the point be cleared up, and the enquiry will
then be complete.
I shall not be hindered, I said, by any want of will, but, if at
all, by a want of power: my zeal you may see for yourselves; and
please to remark in what I am about to say how boldly and
unhesitatingly I declare that States should pursue philosophy, not
as they do now, but in a different spirit.
In what manner?
At present, I said, the students of philosophy are quite young;
beginning when they are hardly past childhood, they devote only the
time saved from moneymaking and housekeeping to such pursuits; and
even those of them who are reputed to have most of the philosophic
spirit, when they come within sight of the great difficulty of the
subject, I mean dialectic, take themselves off. In after life when
invited by some one else, they may, perhaps, go and hear a lecture,
and about this they make much ado, for philosophy is not considered by
them to be their proper business: at last, when they grow old, in most
cases they are extinguished more truly than Heracleitus' sun, inasmuch
as they never light up again.
But what ought to be their course?
Just the opposite. In childhood and youth their study, and what
philosophy they learn, should be suited to their tender years:
during this period while they are growing up towards manhood, the
chief and special care should be given to their bodies that they may
have them to use in the service of philosophy; as life advances and
the intellect begins to mature, let them increase the gymnastics of
the soul; but when the strength of our citizens fails and is past
civil and military duties, then let them range at will and engage in
no serious labour, as we intend them to live happily here, and to
crown this life with a similar happiness in another.
How truly in earnest you are, Socrates! he said; I am sure of
that; and yet most of your hearers, if I am not mistaken, are likely
to be still more earnest in their opposition to you, and will never be
convinced; Thrasymachus least of all.
Do not make a quarrel, I said, between Thrasymachus and me, who have
recently become friends, although, indeed, we were never enemies;
for I shall go on striving to the utmost until I either convert him
and other men, or do something which may profit them against the day
when they live again, and hold the like discourse in another state
of existence.
You are speaking of a time which is not very near.
Rather, I replied, of a time which is as nothing in comparison
with eternity. Nevertheless, I do not wonder that the many refuse to
believe; for they have never seen that of which we are now speaking
realised; they have seen only a conventional imitation of
philosophy, consisting of words artificially brought together, not
like these of ours having a natural unity. But a human being who in
word and work is perfectly moulded, as far as he can be, into the
proportion and likeness of virtue --such a man ruling in a city
which bears the same image, they have never yet seen, neither one
nor many of them --do you think that they ever did?
No indeed.
No, my friend, and they have seldom, if ever, heard free and noble
sentiments; such as men utter when they are earnestly and by every
means in their power seeking after truth for the sake of knowledge,
while they look coldly on the subtleties of controversy, of which
the end is opinion and strife, whether they meet with them in the
courts of law or in society.
They are strangers, he said, to the words of which you speak.
And this was what we foresaw, and this was the reason why truth
forced us to admit, not without fear and hesitation, that neither
cities nor States nor individuals will ever attain perfection until
the small class of philosophers whom we termed useless but not corrupt
are providentially compelled, whether they will or not, to take care
of the State, and until a like necessity be laid on the State to
obey them; or until kings, or if not kings, the sons of kings or
princes, are divinely inspired ' d with a true love of true
philosophy. That either or both of these alternatives are
impossible, I see no reason to affirm: if they were so, we might
indeed be justly ridiculed as dreamers and visionaries. Am I not
Quite right.
If then, in the countless ages of the past, or at the present hour
in some foreign clime which is far away and beyond our ken, the
perfected philosopher is or has been or hereafter shall be compelled
by a superior power to have the charge of the State, we are ready to
assert to the death, that this our constitution has been, and is
--yea, and will be whenever the Muse of Philosophy is queen. There
is no impossibility in all this; that there is a difficulty, we
acknowledge ourselves.
My opinion agrees with yours, he said.
But do you mean to say that this is not the opinion of the
I should imagine not, he replied.
O my friend, I said, do not attack the multitude: they will change
their minds, if, not in an aggressive spirit, but gently and with
the view of soothing them and removing their dislike of
over-education, you show them your philosophers as they really are and
describe as you were just now doing their character and profession,
and then mankind will see that he of whom you are speaking is not such
as they supposed --if they view him in this new light, they will
surely change their notion of him, and answer in another strain. Who
can be at enmity with one who loves them, who that is himself gentle
and free from envy will be jealous of one in whom there is no
jealousy? Nay, let me answer for you, that in a few this harsh
temper may be found but not in the majority of mankind.
I quite agree with you, he said.
And do you not also think, as I do, that the harsh feeling which the
many entertain towards philosophy originates in the pretenders, who
rush in uninvited, and are always abusing them, and finding fault with
them, who make persons instead of things the theme of their
conversation? and nothing can be more unbecoming in philosophers
than this.
It is most unbecoming.
For he, Adeimantus, whose mind is fixed upon true being, has
surely no time to look down upon the affairs of earth, or to be filled
with malice and envy, contending against men; his eye is ever directed
towards things fixed and immutable, which he sees neither injuring nor
injured by one another, but all in order moving according to reason;
these he imitates, and to these he will, as far as he can, conform
himself. Can a man help imitating that with which he holds reverential
And the philosopher holding converse with the divine order,
becomes orderly and divine, as far as the nature of man allows; but
like every one else, he will suffer from detraction.
Of course.
And if a necessity be laid upon him of fashioning, not only himself,
but human nature generally, whether in States or individuals, into
that which he beholds elsewhere, will he, think you, be an unskilful
artificer of justice, temperance, and every civil virtue?
Anything but unskilful.
And if the world perceives that what we are saying about him is
the truth, will they be angry with philosophy? Will they disbelieve
us, when we tell them that no State can be happy which is not designed
by artists who imitate the heavenly pattern?
They will not be angry if they understand, he said. But how will
they draw out the plan of which you are speaking?
They will begin by taking the State and the manners of men, from
which, as from a tablet, they will rub out the picture, and leave a
clean surface. This is no easy task. But whether easy or not, herein
will lie the difference between them and every other legislator,
--they will have nothing to do either with individual or State, and
will inscribe no laws, until they have either found, or themselves
made, a clean surface.
They will be very right, he said.
Having effected this, they will proceed to trace an outline of the
No doubt.
And when they are filling in the work, as I conceive, they will
often turn their eyes upwards and downwards: I mean that they will
first look at absolute justice and beauty and temperance, and again at
the human copy; and will mingle and temper the various elements of
life into the image of a man; and thus they will conceive according to
that other image, which, when existing among men, Homer calls the form
and likeness of God.
Very true, he said.
And one feature they will erase, and another they will put in,
they have made the ways of men, as far as possible, agreeable to the
ways of God?
Indeed, he said, in no way could they make a fairer picture.
And now, I said, are we beginning to persuade those whom you
described as rushing at us with might and main, that the painter of
constitutions is such an one as we are praising; at whom they were
so very indignant because to his hands we committed the State; and are
they growing a little calmer at what they have just heard?
Much calmer, if there is any sense in them.
Why, where can they still find any ground for objection? Will they
doubt that the philosopher is a lover of truth and being?
They would not be so unreasonable.
Or that his nature, being such as we have delineated, is akin to the
highest good?
Neither can they doubt this.
But again, will they tell us that such a nature, placed under
favourable circumstances, will not be perfectly good and wise if any
ever was? Or will they prefer those whom we have rejected?
Surely not.
Then will they still be angry at our saying, that, until
philosophers bear rule, States and individuals will have no rest
from evil, nor will this our imaginary State ever be realised?
I think that they will be less angry.
Shall we assume that they are not only less angry but quite
gentle, and that they have been converted and for very shame, if for
no other reason, cannot refuse to come to terms?
By all means, he said.
Then let us suppose that the reconciliation has been effected.
Will any one deny the other point, that there may be sons of kings
or princes who are by nature philosophers?
Surely no man, he said.
And when they have come into being will any one say that they must
of necessity be destroyed; that they can hardly be saved is not denied
even by us; but that in the whole course of ages no single one of them
can escape --who will venture to affirm this?
Who indeed!
But, said I, one is enough; let there be one man who has a city
obedient to his will, and he might bring into existence the ideal
polity about which the world is so incredulous.
Yes, one is enough.
The ruler may impose the laws and institutions which we have been
describing, and the citizens may possibly be willing to obey them?
And that others should approve of what we approve, is no miracle
or impossibility?
I think not.
But we have sufficiently shown, in what has preceded, that all this,
if only possible, is assuredly for the best.
We have.
And now we say not only that our laws, if they could be enacted,
would be for the best, but also that the enactment of them, though
difficult, is not impossible.
Very good.
And so with pain and toil we have reached the end of one subject,
but more remains to be discussed; --how and by what studies and
pursuits will the saviours of the constitution be created, and at what
ages are they to apply themselves to their several studies?
I omitted the troublesome business of the possession of women, and
the procreation of children, and the appointment of the rulers,
because I knew that the perfect State would be eyed with jealousy
and was difficult of attainment; but that piece of cleverness was
not of much service to me, for I had to discuss them all the same. The
women and children are now disposed of, but the other question of
the rulers must be investigated from the very beginning. We were
saying, as you will remember, that they were to be lovers of their
country, tried by the test of pleasures and pains, and neither in
hardships, nor in dangers, nor at any other critical moment were to
lose their patriotism --he was to be rejected who failed, but he who
always came forth pure, like gold tried in the refiner's fire, was
to be made a ruler, and to receive honours and rewards in life and
after death. This was the sort of thing which was being said, and then
the argument turned aside and veiled her face; not liking to stir
the question which has now arisen.
I perfectly remember, he said.
Yes, my friend, I said, and I then shrank from hazarding the bold
word; but now let me dare to say --that the perfect guardian must be a
Yes, he said, let that be affirmed.
And do not suppose that there will be many of them; for the gifts
which were deemed by us to be essential rarely grow together; they are
mostly found in shreds and patches.
What do you mean? he said.
You are aware, I replied, that quick intelligence, memory, sagacity,
cleverness, and similar qualities, do not often grow together, and
that persons who possess them and are at the same time high-spirited
and magnanimous are not so constituted by nature as to live orderly
and in a peaceful and settled manner; they are driven any way by their
impulses, and all solid principle goes out of them.
Very true, he said.
On the other hand, those steadfast natures which can better be
depended upon, which in a battle are impregnable to fear and
immovable, are equally immovable when there is anything to be learned;
they are always in a torpid state, and are apt to yawn and go to sleep
over any intellectual toil.
Quite true.
And yet we were saying that both qualities were necessary in those
to whom the higher education is to be imparted, and who are to share
in any office or command.
Certainly, he said.
And will they be a class which is rarely found?
Yes, indeed.
Then the aspirant must not only be tested in those labours and
dangers and pleasures which we mentioned before, but there is
another kind of probation which we did not mention --he must be
exercised also in many kinds of knowledge, to see whether the soul
will be able to endure the highest of all, will faint under them, as
in any other studies and exercises.
Yes, he said, you are quite right in testing him. But what do you
mean by the highest of all knowledge?
You may remember, I said, that we divided the soul into three parts;
and distinguished the several natures of justice, temperance, courage,
and wisdom?
Indeed, he said, if I had forgotten, I should not deserve to hear
And do you remember the word of caution which preceded the
discussion of them?
To what do you refer?
We were saying, if I am not mistaken, that he who wanted to see them
in their perfect beauty must take a longer and more circuitous way, at
the end of which they would appear; but that we could add on a popular
exposition of them on a level with the discussion which had
preceded. And you replied that such an exposition would be enough
for you, and so the enquiry was continued in what to me seemed to be a
very inaccurate manner; whether you were satisfied or not, it is for
you to say.
Yes, he said, I thought and the others thought that you gave us a
fair measure of truth.
But, my friend, I said, a measure of such things Which in any degree
falls short of the whole truth is not fair measure; for nothing
imperfect is the measure of anything, although persons are too apt
to be contented and think that they need search no further.
Not an uncommon case when people are indolent.
Yes, I said; and there cannot be any worse fault in a guardian of
the State and of the laws.
The guardian then, I said, must be required to take the longer
circuit, and toll at learning as well as at gymnastics, or he will
never reach the highest knowledge of all which, as we were just now
saying, is his proper calling.
What, he said, is there a knowledge still higher than this
--higher than justice and the other virtues?
Yes, I said, there is. And of the virtues too we must behold not the
outline merely, as at present --nothing short of the most finished
picture should satisfy us. When little things are elaborated with an
infinity of pains, in order that they may appear in their full
beauty and utmost clearness, how ridiculous that we should not think
the highest truths worthy of attaining the highest accuracy!
A right noble thought; but do you suppose that we shall refrain from
asking you what is this highest knowledge?
Nay, I said, ask if you will; but I am certain that you have heard
the answer many times, and now you either do not understand me or,
as I rather think, you are disposed to be troublesome; for you have of
been told that the idea of good is the highest knowledge, and that all
other things become useful and advantageous only by their use of this.
You can hardly be ignorant that of this I was about to speak,
concerning which, as you have often heard me say, we know so little;
and, without which, any other knowledge or possession of any kind will
profit us nothing. Do you think that the possession of all other
things is of any value if we do not possess the good? or the knowledge
of all other things if we have no knowledge of beauty and goodness?
Assuredly not.
You are further aware that most people affirm pleasure to be the
good, but the finer sort of wits say it is knowledge
And you are aware too that the latter cannot explain what they
mean by knowledge, but are obliged after all to say knowledge of the
How ridiculous!
Yes, I said, that they should begin by reproaching us with our
ignorance of the good, and then presume our knowledge of it --for
the good they define to be knowledge of the good, just as if we
understood them when they use the term 'good' --this is of course
Most true, he said.
And those who make pleasure their good are in equal perplexity;
for they are compelled to admit that there are bad pleasures as well
as good.
And therefore to acknowledge that bad and good are the same?
There can be no doubt about the numerous difficulties in which
this question is involved.
There can be none.
Further, do we not see that many are willing to do or to have or
to seem to be what is just and honourable without the reality; but
no one is satisfied with the appearance of good --the reality is
what they seek; in the case of the good, appearance is despised by
every one.
Very true, he said.
Of this then, which every soul of man pursues and makes the end of
all his actions, having a presentiment that there is such an end,
and yet hesitating because neither knowing the nature nor having the
same assurance of this as of other things, and therefore losing
whatever good there is in other things, --of a principle such and so
great as this ought the best men in our State, to whom everything is
entrusted, to be in the darkness of ignorance?
Certainly not, he said.
I am sure, I said, that he who does not know now the beautiful and
the just are likewise good will be but a sorry guardian of them; and I
suspect that no one who is ignorant of the good will have a true
knowledge of them.
That, he said, is a shrewd suspicion of yours.
And if we only have a guardian who has this knowledge our State will
be perfectly ordered?
Of course, he replied; but I wish that you would tell me whether you
conceive this supreme principle of the good to be knowledge or
pleasure, or different from either.
Aye, I said, I knew all along that a fastidious gentleman like you
would not be contented with the thoughts of other people about these
True, Socrates; but I must say that one who like you has passed a
lifetime in the study of philosophy should not be always repeating the
opinions of others, and never telling his own.
Well, but has any one a right to say positively what he does not
Not, he said, with the assurance of positive certainty; he has no
right to do that: but he may say what he thinks, as a matter of
And do you not know, I said, that all mere opinions are bad, and the
best of them blind? You would not deny that those who have any true
notion without intelligence are only like blind men who feel their way
along the road?
Very true.
And do you wish to behold what is blind and crooked and base, when
others will tell you of brightness and beauty?


Still, I must implore you, Socrates, said Glaucon, not to turn
away just as you are reaching the goal; if you will only give such
an explanation of the good as you have already given of justice and
temperance and the other virtues, we shall be satisfied.
Yes, my friend, and I shall be at least equally satisfied, but I
cannot help fearing that I shall fall, and that my indiscreet zeal
will bring ridicule upon me. No, sweet sirs, let us not at present ask
what is the actual nature of the good, for to reach what is now in
my thoughts would be an effort too great for me. But of the child of
the good who is likest him, I would fain speak, if I could be sure
that you wished to hear --otherwise, not.
By all means, he said, tell us about the child, and you shall remain
in our debt for the account of the parent.
I do indeed wish, I replied, that I could pay, and you receive,
the account of the parent, and not, as now, of the offspring only;
take, however, this latter by way of interest, and at the same time
have a care that i do not render a false account, although I have no
intention of deceiving you.
Yes, we will take all the care that we can: proceed.
Yes, I said, but I must first come to an understanding with you, and
remind you of what I have mentioned in the course of this
discussion, and at many other times.
The old story, that there is a many beautiful and a many good, and
so of other things which we describe and define; to all of them 'many'
is applied.
True, he said.
And there is an absolute beauty and an absolute good, and of other
things to which the term 'many' is applied there is an absolute; for
they may be brought under a single idea, which is called the essence
of each.
Very true.
The many, as we say, are seen but not known, and the ideas are known
but not seen.
And what is the organ with which we see the visible things?
The sight, he said.
And with the hearing, I said, we hear, and with the other senses
perceive the other objects of sense?
But have you remarked that sight is by far the most costly and
complex piece of workmanship which the artificer of the senses ever
No, I never have, he said.
Then reflect; has the ear or voice need of any third or additional
nature in order that the one may be able to hear and the other to be
Nothing of the sort.
No, indeed, I replied; and the same is true of most, if not all, the
other senses --you would not say that any of them requires such an
Certainly not.
But you see that without the addition of some other nature there
is no seeing or being seen?
How do you mean?
Sight being, as I conceive, in the eyes, and he who has eyes wanting
to see; colour being also present in them, still unless there be a
third nature specially adapted to the purpose, the owner of the eyes
will see nothing and the colours will be invisible.
Of what nature are you speaking?
Of that which you term light, I replied.
True, he said.
Noble, then, is the bond which links together sight and
visibility, and great beyond other bonds by no small difference of
nature; for light is their bond, and light is no ignoble thing?
Nay, he said, the reverse of ignoble.
And which, I said, of the gods in heaven would you say was the
lord of this element? Whose is that light which makes the eye to see
perfectly and the visible to appear?
You mean the sun, as you and all mankind say.
May not the relation of sight to this deity be described as follows?
Neither sight nor the eye in which sight resides is the sun?
Yet of all the organs of sense the eye is the most like the sun?
By far the most like.
And the power which the eye possesses is a sort of effluence which
is dispensed from the sun?
Then the sun is not sight, but the author of sight who is recognised
by sight.
True, he said.
And this is he whom I call the child of the good, whom the good
begat in his own likeness, to be in the visible world, in relation
to sight and the things of sight, what the good is in the intellectual
world in relation to mind and the things of mind.
Will you be a little more explicit? he said.
Why, you know, I said, that the eyes, when a person directs them
towards objects on which the light of day is no longer shining, but
the moon and stars only, see dimly, and are nearly blind; they seem to
have no clearness of vision in them?
Very true.
But when they are directed towards objects on which the sun
shines, they see clearly and there is sight in them?
And the soul is like the eye: when resting upon that on which
truth and being shine, the soul perceives and understands and is
radiant with intelligence; but when turned towards the twilight of
becoming and perishing, then she has opinion only, and goes blinking
about, and is first of one opinion and then of another, and seems to
have no intelligence?
Just so.
Now, that which imparts truth to the known and the power of
knowing to the knower is what I would have you term the idea of
good, and this you will deem to be the cause of science, and of
truth in so far as the latter becomes the subject of knowledge;
beautiful too, as are both truth and knowledge, you will be right in
esteeming this other nature as more beautiful than either; and, as
in the previous instance, light and sight may be truly said to be like
the sun, and yet not to be the sun, so in this other sphere, science
and truth may be deemed to be like the good, but not the good; the
good has a place of honour yet higher.
What a wonder of beauty that must be, he said, which is the author
of science and truth, and yet surpasses them in beauty; for you surely
cannot mean to say that pleasure is the good?
God forbid, I replied; but may I ask you to consider the image in
another point of view?
In what point of view?
You would say, would you not, that the sun is only the author of
visibility in all visible things, but of generation and nourishment
and growth, though he himself is not generation?
In like manner the good may be said to be not only the author of
knowledge to all things known, but of their being and essence, and yet
the good is not essence, but far exceeds essence in dignity and power.
Glaucon said, with a ludicrous earnestness: By the light of
heaven, how amazing!
Yes, I said, and the exaggeration may be set down to you; for you
made me utter my fancies.
And pray continue to utter them; at any rate let us hear if there is
anything more to be said about the similitude of the sun.
Yes, I said, there is a great deal more.
Then omit nothing, however slight.
I will do my best, I said; but I should think that a great deal will
have to be omitted.
You have to imagine, then, that there are two ruling powers, and
that one of them is set over the intellectual world, the other over
the visible. I do not say heaven, lest you should fancy that I am
playing upon the name ('ourhanoz, orhatoz'). May I suppose that you
have this distinction of the visible and intelligible fixed in your
I have.
Now take a line which has been cut into two unequal parts, and
divide each of them again in the same proportion, and suppose the
two main divisions to answer, one to the visible and the other to
the intelligible, and then compare the subdivisions in respect of
their clearness and want of clearness, and you will find that the
first section in the sphere of the visible consists of images. And
by images I mean, in the first place, shadows, and in the second
place, reflections in water and in solid, smooth and polished bodies
and the like: Do you understand?
Yes, I understand.
Imagine, now, the other section, of which this is only the
resemblance, to include the animals which we see, and everything
that grows or is made.
Very good.
Would you not admit that both the sections of this division have
different degrees of truth, and that the copy is to the original as
the sphere of opinion is to the sphere of knowledge?
Most undoubtedly.
Next proceed to consider the manner in which the sphere of the
intellectual is to be divided.
In what manner?
Thus: --There are two subdivisions, in the lower or which the soul
uses the figures given by the former division as images; the enquiry
can only be hypothetical, and instead of going upwards to a
principle descends to the other end; in the higher of the two, the
soul passes out of hypotheses, and goes up to a principle which is
above hypotheses, making no use of images as in the former case, but
proceeding only in and through the ideas themselves.
I do not quite understand your meaning, he said.
Then I will try again; you will understand me better when I have
made some preliminary remarks. You are aware that students of
geometry, arithmetic, and the kindred sciences assume the odd and
the even and the figures and three kinds of angles and the like in
their several branches of science; these are their hypotheses, which
they and everybody are supposed to know, and therefore they do not
deign to give any account of them either to themselves or others;
but they begin with them, and go on until they arrive at last, and
in a consistent manner, at their conclusion?
Yes, he said, I know.
And do you not know also that although they make use of the
visible forms and reason about them, they are thinking not of these,
but of the ideals which they resemble; not of the figures which they
draw, but of the absolute square and the absolute diameter, and so
on --the forms which they draw or make, and which have shadows and
reflections in water of their own, are converted by them into
images, but they are really seeking to behold the things themselves,
which can only be seen with the eye of the mind?
That is true.
And of this kind I spoke as the intelligible, although in the search
after it the soul is compelled to use hypotheses; not ascending to a
first principle, because she is unable to rise above the region of
hypothesis, but employing the objects of which the shadows below are
resemblances in their turn as images, they having in relation to the
shadows and reflections of them a greater distinctness, and
therefore a higher value.
I understand, he said, that you are speaking of the province of
geometry and the sister arts.
And when I speak of the other division of the intelligible, you will
understand me to speak of that other sort of knowledge which reason
herself attains by the power of dialectic, using the hypotheses not as
first principles, but only as hypotheses --that is to say, as steps
and points of departure into a world which is above hypotheses, in
order that she may soar beyond them to the first principle of the
whole; and clinging to this and then to that which depends on this, by
successive steps she descends again without the aid of any sensible
object, from ideas, through ideas, and in ideas she ends.
I understand you, he replied; not perfectly, for you seem to me to
be describing a task which is really tremendous; but, at any rate, I
understand you to say that knowledge and being, which the science of
dialectic contemplates, are clearer than the notions of the arts, as
they are termed, which proceed from hypotheses only: these are also
contemplated by the understanding, and not by the senses: yet, because
they start from hypotheses and do not ascend to a principle, those who
contemplate them appear to you not to exercise the higher reason
upon them, although when a first principle is added to them they are
cognizable by the higher reason. And the habit which is concerned with
geometry and the cognate sciences I suppose that you would term
understanding and not reason, as being intermediate between opinion
and reason.
You have quite conceived my meaning, I said; and now,
corresponding to these four divisions, let there be four faculties
in the soul-reason answering to the highest, understanding to the
second, faith (or conviction) to the third, and perception of
shadows to the last-and let there be a scale of them, and let us
suppose that the several faculties have clearness in the same degree
that their objects have truth.
I understand, he replied, and give my assent, and accept your


AND now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is
enlightened or unenlightened: --Behold! human beings living in a
underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching
all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and
have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can
only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round
their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance,
and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and
you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the
screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they
show the puppets.
I see.
And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all
sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood
and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of
them are talking, others silent.
You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.
Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or
the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall
of the cave?
True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they
were never allowed to move their heads?
And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would
only see the shadows?
Yes, he said.
And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not
suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?
Very true.
And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from
the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the
passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing
No question, he replied.
To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the
shadows of the images.
That is certain.
And now look again, and see what will naturally follow it' the
prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when
any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn
his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer
sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see
the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows;
and then conceive some one saying to him, that what he saw before
was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to
being and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a
clearer vision, -what will be his reply? And you may further imagine
that his instructor is pointing to the objects as they pass and
requiring him to name them, -will he not be perplexed? Will he not
fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the
objects which are now shown to him?
Far truer.
And if he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not
have a pain in his eyes which will make him turn away to take and take
in the objects of vision which he can see, and which he will
conceive to be in reality clearer than the things which are now
being shown to him?
True, he now
And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and
rugged ascent, and held fast until he 's forced into the presence of
the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When
he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be
able to see anything at all of what are now called realities.
Not all in a moment, he said.
He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper
world. And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of
men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves;
then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the
spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better
than the sun or the light of the sun by day?
Last of he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections
of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place,
and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is.
He will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the season
and the years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible
world, and in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his
fellows have been accustomed to behold?
Clearly, he said, he would first see the sun and then reason about
And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the den
and his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that he would
felicitate himself on the change, and pity them?
Certainly, he would.
And if they were in the habit of conferring honours among themselves
on those who were quickest to observe the passing shadows and to
remark which of them went before, and which followed after, and
which were together; and who were therefore best able to draw
conclusions as to the future, do you think that he would care for such
honours and glories, or envy the possessors of them? Would he not
say with Homer,

Better to be the poor servant of a poor master,

and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live after
their manner?
Yes, he said, I think that he would rather suffer anything than
entertain these false notions and live in this miserable manner.
Imagine once more, I said, such an one coming suddenly out of the
sun to be replaced in his old situation; would he not be certain to
have his eyes full of darkness?
To be sure, he said.
And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring
the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out of the den,
while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become
steady (and the time which would be needed to acquire this new habit
of sight might be very considerable) would he not be ridiculous? Men
would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes;
and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any
one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only
catch the offender, and they would put him to death.
No question, he said.
This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to
the previous argument; the prison-house is the world of sight, the
light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if
you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into
the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your
desire, I have expressed whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But,
whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge
the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort;
and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all
things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light
in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in
the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would
act rationally, either in public or private life must have his eye
I agree, he said, as far as I am able to understand you.
Moreover, I said, you must not wonder that those who attain to
this beatific vision are unwilling to descend to human affairs; for
their souls are ever hastening into the upper world where they
desire to dwell; which desire of theirs is very natural, if our
allegory may be trusted.
Yes, very natural.
And is there anything surprising in one who passes from divine
contemplations to the evil state of man, misbehaving himself in a
ridiculous manner; if, while his eyes are blinking and before he has
become accustomed to the surrounding darkness, he is compelled to
fight in courts of law, or in other places, about the images or the
shadows of images of justice, and is endeavouring to meet the
conceptions of those who have never yet seen absolute justice?
Anything but surprising, he replied.
Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of
the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from
coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of
the mind's eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye; and he who
remembers this when he sees any one whose vision is perplexed and
weak, will not be too ready to laugh; he will first ask whether that
soul of man has come out of the brighter light, and is unable to see
because unaccustomed to the dark, or having turned from darkness to
the day is dazzled by excess of light. And he will count the one happy
in his condition and state of being, and he will pity the other; or,
if he have a mind to laugh at the soul which comes from below into the
light, there will be more reason in this than in the laugh which
greets him who returns from above out of the light into the den.
That, he said, is a very just distinction.
But then, if I am right, certain professors of education must be
wrong when they say that they can put a knowledge into the soul
which was not there before, like sight into blind eyes.
They undoubtedly say this, he replied.
Whereas, our argument shows that the power and capacity of
learning exists in the soul already; and that just as the eye was
unable to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too
the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul
be turned from the world of becoming into that of being, and learn
by degrees to endure the sight of being, and of the brightest and best
of being, or in other words, of the good.
Very true.
And must there not be some art which will effect conversion in the
easiest and quickest manner; not implanting the faculty of sight,
for that exists already, but has been turned in the wrong direction,
and is looking away from the truth?
Yes, he said, such an art may be presumed.
And whereas the other so-called virtues of the soul seem to be
akin to bodily qualities, for even when they are not originally innate
they can be implanted later by habit and exercise, the of wisdom
more than anything else contains a divine element which always
remains, and by this conversion is rendered useful and profitable; or,
on the other hand, hurtful and useless. Did you never observe the
narrow intelligence flashing from the keen eye of a clever rogue --how
eager he is, how clearly his paltry soul sees the way to his end; he
is the reverse of blind, but his keen eyesight is forced into the
service of evil, and he is mischievous in proportion to his
Very true, he said.
But what if there had been a circumcision of such natures in the
days of their youth; and they had been severed from those sensual
pleasures, such as eating and drinking, which, like leaden weights,
were attached to them at their birth, and which drag them down and
turn the vision of their souls upon the things that are below --if,
I say, they had been released from these impediments and turned in the
opposite direction, the very same faculty in them would have seen
the truth as keenly as they see what their eyes are turned to now.
Very likely.
Yes, I said; and there is another thing which is likely. or rather a
necessary inference from what has preceded, that neither the
uneducated and uninformed of the truth, nor yet those who never make
an end of their education, will be able ministers of State; not the
former, because they have no single aim of duty which is the rule of
all their actions, private as well as public; nor the latter,
because they will not act at all except upon compulsion, fancying that
they are already dwelling apart in the islands of the blest.
Very true, he replied.
Then, I said, the business of us who are the founders of the State
will be to compel the best minds to attain that knowledge which we
have already shown to be the greatest of all-they must continue to
ascend until they arrive at the good; but when they have ascended
and seen enough we must not allow them to do as they do now.
What do you mean?
I mean that they remain in the upper world: but this must not be
allowed; they must be made to descend again among the prisoners in the
den, and partake of their labours and honours, whether they are
worth having or not.
But is not this unjust? he said; ought we to give them a worse life,
when they might have a better?
You have again forgotten, my friend, I said, the intention of the
legislator, who did not aim at making any one class in the State happy
above the rest; the happiness was to be in the whole State, and he
held the citizens together by persuasion and necessity, making them
benefactors of the State, and therefore benefactors of one another; to
this end he created them, not to please themselves, but to be his
instruments in binding up the State.
True, he said, I had forgotten.
Observe, Glaucon, that there will be no injustice in compelling
our philosophers to have a care and providence of others; we shall
explain to them that in other States, men of their class are not
obliged to share in the toils of politics: and this is reasonable, for
they grow up at their own sweet will, and the government would
rather not have them. Being self-taught, they cannot be expected to
show any gratitude for a culture which they have never received. But
we have brought you into the world to be rulers of the hive, kings
of yourselves and of the other citizens, and have educated you far
better and more perfectly than they have been educated, and you are
better able to share in the double duty. Wherefore each of you, when
his turn comes, must go down to the general underground abode, and get
the habit of seeing in the dark. When you have acquired the habit, you
will see ten thousand times better than the inhabitants of the den,
and you will know what the several images are, and what they
represent, because you have seen the beautiful and just and good in
their truth. And thus our State which is also yours will be a reality,
and not a dream only, and will be administered in a spirit unlike that
of other States, in which men fight with one another about shadows
only and are distracted in the struggle for power, which in their eyes
is a great good. Whereas the truth is that the State in which the
rulers are most reluctant to govern is always the best and most
quietly governed, and the State in which they are most eager, the
Quite true, he replied.
And will our pupils, when they hear this, refuse to take their
turn at the toils of State, when they are allowed to spend the greater
part of their time with one another in the heavenly light?
Impossible, he answered; for they are just men, and the commands
which we impose upon them are just; there can be no doubt that every
one of them will take office as a stern necessity, and not after the
fashion of our present rulers of State.
Yes, my friend, I said; and there lies the point. You must
contrive for your future rulers another and a better life than that of
a ruler, and then you may have a well-ordered State; for only in the
State which offers this, will they rule who are truly rich, not in
silver and gold, but in virtue and wisdom, which are the true
blessings of life. Whereas if they go to the administration of
public affairs, poor and hungering after the' own private advantage,
thinking that hence they are to snatch the chief good, order there can
never be; for they will be fighting about office, and the civil and
domestic broils which thus arise will be the ruin of the rulers
themselves and of the whole State.
Most true, he replied.
And the only life which looks down upon the life of political
ambition is that of true philosophy. Do you know of any other?
Indeed, I do not, he said.
And those who govern ought not to be lovers of the task? For, if
they are, there will be rival lovers, and they will fight.
No question.
Who then are those whom we shall compel to be guardians? Surely they
will be the men who are wisest about affairs of State, and by whom the
State is best administered, and who at the same time have other
honours and another and a better life than that of politics?
They are the men, and I will choose them, he replied.
And now shall we consider in what way such guardians will be
produced, and how they are to be brought from darkness to light,
--as some are said to have ascended from the world below to the gods?
By all means, he replied.
The process, I said, is not the turning over of an oyster-shell, but
the turning round of a soul passing from a day which is little
better than night to the true day of being, that is, the ascent from
below, which we affirm to be true philosophy?
Quite so.
And should we not enquire what sort of knowledge has the power of
effecting such a change?
What sort of knowledge is there which would draw the soul from
becoming to being? And another consideration has just occurred to
me: You will remember that our young men are to be warrior athletes
Yes, that was said.
Then this new kind of knowledge must have an additional quality?
What quality?
Usefulness in war.
Yes, if possible.
There were two parts in our former scheme of education, were there
Just so.
There was gymnastic which presided over the growth and decay of
the body, and may therefore be regarded as having to do with
generation and corruption?
Then that is not the knowledge which we are seeking to discover? No.
But what do you say of music, which also entered to a certain extent
into our former scheme?
Music, he said, as you will remember, was the counterpart of
gymnastic, and trained the guardians by the influences of habit, by
harmony making them harmonious, by rhythm rhythmical, but not giving
them science; and the words, whether fabulous or possibly true, had
kindred elements of rhythm and harmony in them. But in music there was
nothing which tended to that good which you are now seeking.
You are most accurate, I said, in your recollection; in music
there certainly was nothing of the kind. But what branch of
knowledge is there, my dear Glaucon, which is of the desired nature;
since all the useful arts were reckoned mean by us?
Undoubtedly; and yet if music and gymnastic are excluded, and the
arts are also excluded, what remains?
Well, I said, there may be nothing left of our special subjects; and
then we shall have to take something which is not special, but of
universal application.
What may that be?
A something which all arts and sciences and intelligences use in
common, and which every one first has to learn among the elements of
What is that?
The little matter of distinguishing one, two, and three --in a word,
number and calculation: --do not all arts and sciences necessarily
partake of them?
Then the art of war partakes of them?
To the sure.
Then Palamedes, whenever he appears in tragedy, proves Agamemnon
ridiculously unfit to be a general. Did you never remark how he
declares that he had invented number, and had numbered the ships and
set in array the ranks of the army at Troy; which implies that they
had never been numbered before, and Agamemnon must be supposed
literally to have been incapable of counting his own feet --how
could he if he was ignorant of number? And if that is true, what
sort of general must he have been?
I should say a very strange one, if this was as you say.
Can we deny that a warrior should have a knowledge of arithmetic?
Certainly he should, if he is to have the smallest understanding
of military tactics, or indeed, I should rather say, if he is to be
a man at all.
I should like to know whether you have the same notion which I
have of this study?
What is your notion?
It appears to me to be a study of the kind which we are seeking, and
which leads naturally to reflection, but never to have been rightly
used; for the true use of it is simply to draw the soul towards being.
Will you explain your meaning? he said.
I will try, I said; and I wish you would share the enquiry with
me, and say 'yes' or 'no' when I attempt to distinguish in my own mind
what branches of knowledge have this attracting power, in order that
we may have clearer proof that arithmetic is, as I suspect, one of
Explain, he said.
I mean to say that objects of sense are of two kinds; some of them
do not invite thought because the sense is an adequate judge of
them; while in the case of other objects sense is so untrustworthy
that further enquiry is imperatively demanded.
You are clearly referring, he said, to the manner in which the
senses are imposed upon by distance, and by painting in light and
No, I said, that is not at all my meaning.
Then what is your meaning?
When speaking of uninviting objects, I mean those which do not
pass from one sensation to the opposite; inviting objects are those
which do; in this latter case the sense coming upon the object,
whether at a distance or near, gives no more vivid idea of anything in
particular than of its opposite. An illustration will make my
meaning clearer: --here are three fingers --a little finger, a
second finger, and a middle finger.
Very good.
You may suppose that they are seen quite close: And here comes the
What is it?
Each of them equally appears a finger, whether seen in the middle or
at the extremity, whether white or black, or thick or thin --it
makes no difference; a finger is a finger all the same. In these cases
a man is not compelled to ask of thought the question, what is a
finger? for the sight never intimates to the mind that a finger is
other than a finger.
And therefore, I said, as we might expect, there is nothing here
which invites or excites intelligence.
There is not, he said.
But is this equally true of the greatness and smallness of the
fingers? Can sight adequately perceive them? and is no difference made
by the circumstance that one of the fingers is in the middle and
another at the extremity? And in like manner does the touch adequately
perceive the qualities of thickness or thinness, or softness or
hardness? And so of the other senses; do they give perfect intimations
of such matters? Is not their mode of operation on this wise --the
sense which is concerned with the quality of hardness is necessarily
concerned also with the quality of softness, and only intimates to the
soul that the same thing is felt to be both hard and soft?
You are quite right, he said.
And must not the soul be perplexed at this intimation which the
sense gives of a hard which is also soft? What, again, is the
meaning of light and heavy, if that which is light is also heavy,
and that which is heavy, light?
Yes, he said, these intimations which the soul receives are very
curious and require to be explained.
Yes, I said, and in these perplexities the soul naturally summons to
her aid calculation and intelligence, that she may see whether the
several objects announced to her are one or two.
And if they turn out to be two, is not each of them one and
And if each is one, and both are two, she will conceive the two as
in a state of division, for if there were undivided they could only be
conceived of as one?
The eye certainly did see both small and great, but only in a
confused manner; they were not distinguished.
Whereas the thinking mind, intending to light up the chaos, was
compelled to reverse the process, and look at small and great as
separate and not confused.
Very true.
Was not this the beginning of the enquiry 'What is great?' and 'What
is small?'
Exactly so.
And thus arose the distinction of the visible and the intelligible.
Most true.
This was what I meant when I spoke of impressions which invited
the intellect, or the reverse --those which are simultaneous with
opposite impressions, invite thought; those which are not simultaneous
do not.
I understand, he said, and agree with you.
And to which class do unity and number belong?
I do not know, he replied.
Think a little and you will see that what has preceded will supply
the answer; for if simple unity could be adequately perceived by the
sight or by any other sense, then, as we were saying in the case of
the finger, there would be nothing to attract towards being; but
when there is some contradiction always present, and one is the
reverse of one and involves the conception of plurality, then
thought begins to be aroused within us, and the soul perplexed and
wanting to arrive at a decision asks 'What is absolute unity?' This is
the way in which the study of the one has a power of drawing and
converting the mind to the contemplation of true being.
And surely, he said, this occurs notably in the case of one; for
we see the same thing to be both one and infinite in multitude?
Yes, I said; and this being true of one must be equally true of
all number?
And all arithmetic and calculation have to do with number?
And they appear to lead the mind towards truth?
Yes, in a very remarkable manner.
Then this is knowledge of the kind for which we are seeking,
having a double use, military and philosophical; for the man of war
must learn the art of number or he will not know how to array his
troops, and the philosopher also, because he has to rise out of the
sea of change and lay hold of true being, and therefore he must be
an arithmetician.
That is true.
And our guardian is both warrior and philosopher?
Then this is a kind of knowledge which legislation may fitly
prescribe; and we must endeavour to persuade those who are prescribe
to be the principal men of our State to go and learn arithmetic, not
as amateurs, but they must carry on the study until they see the
nature of numbers with the mind only; nor again, like merchants or
retail-traders, with a view to buying or selling, but for the sake
of their military use, and of the soul herself; and because this
will be the easiest way for her to pass from becoming to truth and
That is excellent, he said.
Yes, I said, and now having spoken of it, I must add how charming
the science is! and in how many ways it conduces to our desired end,
if pursued in the spirit of a philosopher, and not of a shopkeeper!
How do you mean?
I mean, as I was saying, that arithmetic has a very great and
elevating effect, compelling the soul to reason about abstract number,
and rebelling against the introduction of visible or tangible
objects into the argument. You know how steadily the masters of the
art repel and ridicule any one who attempts to divide absolute unity
when he is calculating, and if you divide, they multiply, taking
care that one shall continue one and not become lost in fractions.
That is very true.
Now, suppose a person were to say to them: O my friends, what are
these wonderful numbers about which you are reasoning, in which, as
you say, there is a unity such as you demand, and each unit is
equal, invariable, indivisible, --what would they answer?
They would answer, as I should conceive, that they were speaking
of those numbers which can only be realised in thought.
Then you see that this knowledge may be truly called necessary,
necessitating as it clearly does the use of the pure intelligence in
the attainment of pure truth?
Yes; that is a marked characteristic of it.
And have you further observed, that those who have a natural
talent for calculation are generally quick at every other kind of
knowledge; and even the dull if they have had an arithmetical
training, although they may derive no other advantage from it,
always become much quicker than they would otherwise have been.
Very true, he said.
And indeed, you will not easily find a more difficult study, and not
many as difficult.
You will not.
And, for all these reasons, arithmetic is a kind of knowledge in
which the best natures should be trained, and which must not be
given up.
I agree.
Let this then be made one of our subjects of education. And next,
shall we enquire whether the kindred science also concerns us?
You mean geometry?
Exactly so.
Clearly, he said, we are concerned with that part of geometry
which relates to war; for in pitching a camp, or taking up a position,
or closing or extending the lines of an army, or any other military
manoeuvre, whether in actual battle or on a march, it will make all
the difference whether a general is or is not a geometrician.
Yes, I said, but for that purpose a very little of either geometry
or calculation will be enough; the question relates rather to the
greater and more advanced part of geometry --whether that tends in any
degree to make more easy the vision of the idea of good; and
thither, as I was saying, all things tend which compel the soul to
turn her gaze towards that place, where is the full perfection of
being, which she ought, by all means, to behold.
True, he said.
Then if geometry compels us to view being, it concerns us; if
becoming only, it does not concern us?
Yes, that is what we assert.
Yet anybody who has the least acquaintance with geometry will not
deny that such a conception of the science is in flat contradiction to
the ordinary language of geometricians.
How so?
They have in view practice only, and are always speaking? in a
narrow and ridiculous manner, of squaring and extending and applying
and the like --they confuse the necessities of geometry with those
of daily life; whereas knowledge is the real object of the whole
Certainly, he said.
Then must not a further admission be made?
What admission?
That the knowledge at which geometry aims is knowledge of the
eternal, and not of aught perishing and transient.
That, he replied, may be readily allowed, and is true.
Then, my noble friend, geometry will draw the soul towards truth,
and create the spirit of philosophy, and raise up that which is now
unhappily allowed to fall down.
Nothing will be more likely to have such an effect.
Then nothing should be more sternly laid down than that the
inhabitants of your fair city should by all means learn geometry.
Moreover the science has indirect effects, which are not small.
Of what kind? he said.
There are the military advantages of which you spoke, I said; and in
all departments of knowledge, as experience proves, any one who has
studied geometry is infinitely quicker of apprehension than one who
has not.
Yes indeed, he said, there is an infinite difference between them.
Then shall we propose this as a second branch of knowledge which our
youth will study?
Let us do so, he replied.
And suppose we make astronomy the third --what do you say?
I am strongly inclined to it, he said; the observation of the
seasons and of months and years is as essential to the general as it
is to the farmer or sailor.
I am amused, I said, at your fear of the world, which makes you
guard against the appearance of insisting upon useless studies; and
I quite admit the difficulty of believing that in every man there is
an eye of the soul which, when by other pursuits lost and dimmed, is
by these purified and re-illumined; and is more precious far than
ten thousand bodily eyes, for by it alone is truth seen. Now there are
two classes of persons: one class of those who will agree with you and
will take your words as a revelation; another class to whom they
will be utterly unmeaning, and who will naturally deem them to be idle
tales, for they see no sort of profit which is to be obtained from
them. And therefore you had better decide at once with which of the
two you are proposing to argue. You will very likely say with neither,
and that your chief aim in carrying on the argument is your own
improvement; at the same time you do not grudge to others any
benefit which they may receive.
I think that I should prefer to carry on the argument mainly on my
own behalf.
Then take a step backward, for we have gone wrong in the order of
the sciences.
What was the mistake? he said.
After plane geometry, I said, we proceeded at once to solids in
revolution, instead of taking solids in themselves; whereas after
the second dimension the third, which is concerned with cubes and
dimensions of depth, ought to have followed.
That is true, Socrates; but so little seems to be known as yet about
these subjects.
Why, yes, I said, and for two reasons: --in the first place, no
government patronises them; this leads to a want of energy in the
pursuit of them, and they are difficult; in the second place, students
cannot learn them unless they have a director. But then a director can
hardly be found, and even if he could, as matters now stand, the
students, who are very conceited, would not attend to him. That,
however, would be otherwise if the whole State became the director
of these studies and gave honour to them; then disciples would want to
come, and there would be continuous and earnest search, and
discoveries would be made; since even now, disregarded as they are
by the world, and maimed of their fair proportions, and although
none of their votaries can tell the use of them, still these studies
force their way by their natural charm, and very likely, if they had
the help of the State, they would some day emerge into light.
Yes, he said, there is a remarkable charm in them. But I do not
clearly understand the change in the order. First you began with a
geometry of plane surfaces?
Yes, I said.
And you placed astronomy next, and then you made a step backward?
Yes, and I have delayed you by my hurry; the ludicrous state of
solid geometry, which, in natural order, should have followed, made me
pass over this branch and go on to astronomy, or motion of solids.
True, he said.
Then assuming that the science now omitted would come into existence
if encouraged by the State, let us go on to astronomy, which will be
The right order, he replied. And now, Socrates, as you rebuked the
vulgar manner in which I praised astronomy before, my praise shall
be given in your own spirit. For every one, as I think, must see
that astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this
world to another.
Every one but myself, I said; to every one else this may be clear,
but not to me.
And what then would you say?
I should rather say that those who elevate astronomy into philosophy
appear to me to make us look downwards and not upwards.
What do you mean? he asked.
You, I replied, have in your mind a truly sublime conception of
our knowledge of the things above. And I dare say that if a person
were to throw his head back and study the fretted ceiling, you would
still think that his mind was the percipient, and not his eyes. And
you are very likely right, and I may be a simpleton: but, in my
opinion, that knowledge only which is of being and of the unseen can
make the soul look upwards, and whether a man gapes at the heavens
or blinks on the ground, seeking to learn some particular of sense,
I would deny that he can learn, for nothing of that sort is matter
of science; his soul is looking downwards, not upwards, whether his
way to knowledge is by water or by land, whether he floats, or only
lies on his back.
I acknowledge, he said, the justice of your rebuke. Still, I
should like to ascertain how astronomy can be learned in any manner
more conducive to that knowledge of which we are speaking?
I will tell you, I said: The starry heaven which we behold is
wrought upon a visible ground, and therefore, although the fairest and
most perfect of visible things, must necessarily be deemed inferior
far to the true motions of absolute swiftness and absolute slowness,
which are relative to each other, and carry with them that which is
contained in them, in the true number and in every true figure. Now,
these are to be apprehended by reason and intelligence, but not by
True, he replied.
The spangled heavens should be used as a pattern and with a view
to that higher knowledge; their beauty is like the beauty of figures
or pictures excellently wrought by the hand of Daedalus, or some other
great artist, which we may chance to behold; any geometrician who
saw them would appreciate the exquisiteness of their workmanship,
but he would never dream of thinking that in them he could find the
true equal or the true double, or the truth of any other proportion.
No, he replied, such an idea would be ridiculous.
And will not a true astronomer have the same feeling when he looks
at the movements of the stars? Will he not think that heaven and the
things in heaven are framed by the Creator of them in the most perfect
manner? But he will never imagine that the proportions of night and
day, or of both to the month, or of the month to the year, or of the
stars to these and to one another, and any other things that are
material and visible can also be eternal and subject to no deviation
--that would be absurd; and it is equally absurd to take so much pains
in investigating their exact truth.
I quite agree, though I never thought of this before.
Then, I said, in astronomy, as in geometry, we should employ
problems, and let the heavens alone if we would approach the subject
in the right way and so make the natural gift of reason to be of any
real use.
That, he said, is a work infinitely beyond our present astronomers.
Yes, I said; and there are many other things which must also have
a similar extension given to them, if our legislation is to be of
any value. But can you tell me of any other suitable study?
No, he said, not without thinking.
Motion, I said, has many forms, and not one only; two of them are
obvious enough even to wits no better than ours; and there are others,
as I imagine, which may be left to wiser persons.
But where are the two?
There is a second, I said, which is the counterpart of the one
already named.
And what may that be?
The second, I said, would seem relatively to the ears to be what the
first is to the eyes; for I conceive that as the eyes are designed
to look up at the stars, so are the ears to hear harmonious motions;
and these are sister sciences --as the Pythagoreans say, and we,
Glaucon, agree with them?
Yes, he replied.
But this, I said, is a laborious study, and therefore we had
better go and learn of them; and they will tell us whether there are
any other applications of these sciences. At the same time, we must
not lose sight of our own higher object.
What is that?
There is a perfection which all knowledge ought to reach, and
which our pupils ought also to attain, and not to fall short of, as
I was saying that they did in astronomy. For in the science of
harmony, as you probably know, the same thing happens. The teachers of
harmony compare the sounds and consonances which are heard only, and
their labour, like that of the astronomers, is in vain.
Yes, by heaven! he said; and 'tis as good as a play to hear them
talking about their condensed notes, as they call them; they put their
ears close alongside of the strings like persons catching a sound from
their neighbour's wall --one set of them declaring that they
distinguish an intermediate note and have found the least interval
which should be the unit of measurement; the others insisting that the
two sounds have passed into the same --either party setting their ears
before their understanding.
You mean, I said, those gentlemen who tease and torture the
strings and rack them on the pegs of the instrument: might carry on
the metaphor and speak after their manner of the blows which the
plectrum gives, and make accusations against the strings, both of
backwardness and forwardness to sound; but this would be tedious,
and therefore I will only say that these are not the men, and that I
am referring to the Pythagoreans, of whom I was just now proposing
to enquire about harmony. For they too are in error, like the
astronomers; they investigate the numbers of the harmonies which are
heard, but they never attain to problems-that is to say, they never
reach the natural harmonies of number, or reflect why some numbers are
harmonious and others not.
That, he said, is a thing of more than mortal knowledge.
A thing, I replied, which I would rather call useful; that is, if
sought after with a view to the beautiful and good; but if pursued
in any other spirit, useless. Very true, he said.
Now, when all these studies reach the point of inter-communion and
connection with one another, and come to be considered in their mutual
affinities, then, I think, but not till then, will the pursuit of them
have a value for our objects; otherwise there is no profit in them.
I suspect so; but you are speaking, Socrates, of a vast work.
What do you mean? I said; the prelude or what? Do you not know
that all this is but the prelude to the actual strain which we have to
learn? For you surely would not regard the skilled mathematician as
a dialectician?
Assuredly not, he said; I have hardly ever known a mathematician who
was capable of reasoning.
But do you imagine that men who are unable to give and take a reason
will have the knowledge which we require of them?
Neither can this be supposed.
And so, Glaucon, I said, we have at last arrived at the hymn of
dialectic. This is that strain which is of the intellect only, but
which the faculty of sight will nevertheless be found to imitate;
for sight, as you may remember, was imagined by us after a while to
behold the real animals and stars, and last of all the sun himself.
And so with dialectic; when a person starts on the discovery of the
absolute by the light of reason only, and without any assistance of
sense, and perseveres until by pure intelligence he arrives at the
perception of the absolute good, he at last finds himself at the end
of the intellectual world, as in the case of sight at the end of the
Exactly, he said.
Then this is the progress which you call dialectic?
But the release of the prisoners from chains, and their
translation from the shadows to the images and to the light, and the
ascent from the underground den to the sun, while in his presence they
are vainly trying to look on animals and plants and the light of the
sun, but are able to perceive even with their weak eyes the images
in the water (which are divine), and are the shadows of true existence
(not shadows of images cast by a light of fire, which compared with
the sun is only an image) --this power of elevating the highest
principle in the soul to the contemplation of that which is best in
existence, with which we may compare the raising of that faculty which
is the very light of the body to the sight of that which is
brightest in the material and visible world --this power is given,
as I was saying, by all that study and pursuit of the arts which has
been described.
I agree in what you are saying, he replied, which may be hard to
believe, yet, from another point of view, is harder still to deny.
This, however, is not a theme to be treated of in passing only, but
will have to be discussed again and again. And so, whether our
conclusion be true or false, let us assume all this, and proceed at
once from the prelude or preamble to the chief strain, and describe
that in like manner. Say, then, what is the nature and what are the
divisions of dialectic, and what are the paths which lead thither; for
these paths will also lead to our final rest?
Dear Glaucon, I said, you will not be able to follow me here, though
I would do my best, and you should behold not an image only but the
absolute truth, according to my notion. Whether what I told you
would or would not have been a reality I cannot venture to say; but
you would have seen something like reality; of that I am confident.
Doubtless, he replied.
But I must also remind you, that the power of dialectic alone can
reveal this, and only to one who is a disciple of the previous
Of that assertion you may be as confident as of the last.
And assuredly no one will argue that there is any other method of
comprehending by any regular process all true existence or of
ascertaining what each thing is in its own nature; for the arts in
general are concerned with the desires or opinions of men, or are
cultivated with a view to production and construction, or for the
preservation of such productions and constructions; and as to the
mathematical sciences which, as we were saying, have some apprehension
of true being --geometry and the like --they only dream about being,
but never can they behold the waking reality so long as they leave the
hypotheses which they use unexamined, and are unable to give an
account of them. For when a man knows not his own first principle, and
when the conclusion and intermediate steps are also constructed out of
he knows not what, how can he imagine that such a fabric of convention
can ever become science?
Impossible, he said.
Then dialectic, and dialectic alone, goes directly to the first
principle and is the only science which does away with hypotheses in
order to make her ground secure; the eye of the soul, which is
literally buried in an outlandish slough, is by her gentle aid
lifted upwards; and she uses as handmaids and helpers in the work of
conversion, the sciences which we have been discussing. Custom terms
them sciences, but they ought to have some other name, implying
greater clearness than opinion and less clearness than science: and
this, in our previous sketch, was called understanding. But why should
we dispute about names when we have realities of such importance to
Why indeed, he said, when any name will do which expresses the
thought of the mind with clearness?
At any rate, we are satisfied, as before, to have four divisions;
two for intellect and two for opinion, and to call the first
division science, the second understanding, the third belief, and
the fourth perception of shadows, opinion being concerned with
becoming, and intellect with being; and so to make a proportion: --

As being is to becoming, so is pure intellect to opinion.
And as intellect is to opinion, so is science to belief, and
understanding to the perception of shadows.

But let us defer the further correlation and subdivision of the
subjects of opinion and of intellect, for it will be a long enquiry,
many times longer than this has been.
As far as I understand, he said, I agree.
And do you also agree, I said, in describing the dialectician as one
who attains a conception of the essence of each thing? And he who does
not possess and is therefore unable to impart this conception, in
whatever degree he fails, may in that degree also be said to fail in
intelligence? Will you admit so much?
Yes, he said; how can I deny it?
And you would say the same of the conception of the good?
Until the person is able to abstract and define rationally the
idea of good, and unless he can run the gauntlet of all objections,
and is ready to disprove them, not by appeals to opinion, but to
absolute truth, never faltering at any step of the argument --unless
he can do all this, you would say that he knows neither the idea of
good nor any other good; he apprehends only a shadow, if anything at
all, which is given by opinion and not by science; --dreaming and
slumbering in this life, before he is well awake here, he arrives at
the world below, and has his final quietus.
In all that I should most certainly agree with you.
And surely you would not have the children of your ideal State, whom
you are nurturing and educating --if the ideal ever becomes a
reality --you would not allow the future rulers to be like posts,
having no reason in them, and yet to be set in authority over the
highest matters?
Certainly not.
Then you will make a law that they shall have such an education as
will enable them to attain the greatest skill in asking and
answering questions?
Yes, he said, you and I together will make it.
Dialectic, then, as you will agree, is the coping-stone of the
sciences, and is set over them; no other science can be placed
higher --the nature of knowledge can no further go?
I agree, he said.
But to whom we are to assign these studies, and in what way they are
to be assigned, are questions which remain to be considered?
Yes, clearly.
You remember, I said, how the rulers were chosen before?
Certainly, he said.
The same natures must still be chosen, and the preference again
given to the surest and the bravest, and, if possible, to the fairest;
and, having noble and generous tempers, they should also have the
natural gifts which will facilitate their education.
And what are these?
Such gifts as keenness and ready powers of acquisition; for the mind
more often faints from the severity of study than from the severity of
gymnastics: the toil is more entirely the mind's own, and is not
shared with the body.
Very true, he replied.
Further, he of whom we are in search should have a good memory,
and be an unwearied solid man who is a lover of labour in any line; or
he will never be able to endure the great amount of bodily exercise
and to go through all the intellectual discipline and study which we
require of him.
Certainly, he said; he must have natural gifts.
The mistake at present is, that those who study philosophy have no
vocation, and this, as I was before saying, is the reason why she
has fallen into disrepute: her true sons should take her by the hand
and not bastards.
What do you mean?
In the first place, her votary should not have a lame or halting
industry --I mean, that he should not be half industrious and half
idle: as, for example, when a man is a lover of gymnastic and hunting,
and all other bodily exercises, but a hater rather than a lover of the
labour of learning or listening or enquiring. Or the occupation to
which he devotes himself may be of an opposite kind, and he may have
the other sort of lameness.
Certainly, he said.
And as to truth, I said, is not a soul equally to be deemed halt and
lame which hates voluntary falsehood and is extremely indignant at
herself and others when they tell lies, but is patient of
involuntary falsehood, and does not mind wallowing like a swinish
beast in the mire of ignorance, and has no shame at being detected?
To be sure.
And, again, in respect of temperance, courage, magnificence, and
every other virtue, should we not carefully distinguish between the
true son and the bastard? for where there is no discernment of such
qualities States and individuals unconsciously err and the State makes
a ruler, and the individual a friend, of one who, being defective in
some part of virtue, is in a figure lame or a bastard.
That is very true, he said.
All these things, then, will have to be carefully considered by
us; and if only those whom we introduce to this vast system of
education and training are sound in body and mind, justice herself
will have nothing to say against us, and we shall be the saviours of
the constitution and of the State; but, if our pupils are men of
another stamp, the reverse will happen, and we shall pour a still
greater flood of ridicule on philosophy than she has to endure at
That would not be creditable.
Certainly not, I said; and yet perhaps, in thus turning jest into
earnest I am equally ridiculous.
In what respect?
I had forgotten, I said, that we were not serious, and spoke with
too much excitement. For when I saw philosophy so undeservedly
trampled under foot of men I could not help feeling a sort of
indignation at the authors of her disgrace: and my anger made me too
Indeed! I was listening, and did not think so.
But I, who am the speaker, felt that I was. And now let me remind
you that, although in our former selection we chose old men, we must
not do so in this. Solon was under a delusion when he said that a
man when he grows old may learn many things --for he can no more learn
much than he can run much; youth is the time for any extraordinary
Of course.
And, therefore, calculation and geometry and all the other
elements of instruction, which are a preparation for dialectic, should
be presented to the mind in childhood; not, however, under any
notion of forcing our system of education.
Why not?
Because a freeman ought not to be a slave in the acquisition of
knowledge of any kind. Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no
harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion
obtains no hold on the mind.
Very true.
Then, my good friend, I said, do not use compulsion, but let early
education be a sort of amusement; you will then be better able to find
out the natural bent.
That is a very rational notion, he said.
Do you remember that the children, too, were to be taken to see
the battle on horseback; and that if there were no danger they were to
be brought close up and, like young hounds, have a taste of blood
given them?
Yes, I remember.
The same practice may be followed, I said, in all these things
--labours, lessons, dangers --and he who is most at home in all of
them ought to be enrolled in a select number.
At what age?
At the age when the necessary gymnastics are over: the period
whether of two or three years which passes in this sort of training is
useless for any other purpose; for sleep and exercise are unpropitious
to learning; and the trial of who is first in gymnastic exercises is
one of the most important tests to which our youth are subjected.
Certainly, he replied.
After that time those who are selected from the class of twenty
years old will be promoted to higher honour, and the sciences which
they learned without any order in their early education will now be
brought together, and they will be able to see the natural
relationship of them to one another and to true being.
Yes, he said, that is the only kind of knowledge which takes lasting
Yes, I said; and the capacity for such knowledge is the great
criterion of dialectical talent: the comprehensive mind is always
the dialectical.
I agree with you, he said.
These, I said, are the points which you must consider; and those who
have most of this comprehension, and who are more steadfast in their
learning, and in their military and other appointed duties, when
they have arrived at the age of thirty have to be chosen by you out of
the select class, and elevated to higher honour; and you will have
to prove them by the help of dialectic, in order to learn which of
them is able to give up the use of sight and the other senses, and
in company with truth to attain absolute being: And here, my friend,
great caution is required.
Why great caution?
Do you not remark, I said, how great is the evil which dialectic has
What evil? he said.
The students of the art are filled with lawlessness.
Quite true, he said.
Do you think that there is anything so very unnatural or inexcusable
in their case? or will you make allowance for them?
In what way make allowance?
I want you, I said, by way of parallel, to imagine a
supposititious son who is brought up in great wealth; he is one of a
great and numerous family, and has many flatterers. When he grows up
to manhood, he learns that his alleged are not his real parents; but
who the real are he is unable to discover. Can you guess how he will
be likely to behave towards his flatterers and his supposed parents,
first of all during the period when he is ignorant of the false
relation, and then again when he knows? Or shall I guess for you?
If you please.
Then I should say, that while he is ignorant of the truth he will be
likely to honour his father and his mother and his supposed
relations more than the flatterers; he will be less inclined to
neglect them when in need, or to do or say anything against them;
and he will be less willing to disobey them in any important matter.
He will.
But when he has made the discovery, I should imagine that he would
diminish his honour and regard for them, and would become more devoted
to the flatterers; their influence over him would greatly increase; he
would now live after their ways, and openly associate with them,
and, unless he were of an unusually good disposition, he would trouble
himself no more about his supposed parents or other relations.
Well, all that is very probable. But how is the image applicable
to the disciples of philosophy?
In this way: you know that there are certain principles about
justice and honour, which were taught us in childhood, and under their
parental authority we have been brought up, obeying and honouring
That is true.
There are also opposite maxims and habits of pleasure which
flatter and attract the soul, but do not influence those of us who
have any sense of right, and they continue to obey and honour the
maxims of their fathers.
Now, when a man is in this state, and the questioning spirit asks
what is fair or honourable, and he answers as the legislator has
taught him, and then arguments many and diverse refute his words,
until he is driven into believing that nothing is honourable any
more than dishonourable, or just and good any more than the reverse,
and so of all the notions which he most valued, do you think that he
will still honour and obey them as before?
And when he ceases to think them honourable and natural as
heretofore, and he fails to discover the true, can he be expected to
pursue any life other than that which flatters his desires?
He cannot.
And from being a keeper of the law he is converted into a breaker of
Now all this is very natural in students of philosophy such as I
have described, and also, as I was just now saying, most excusable.
Yes, he said; and, I may add, pitiable.
Therefore, that your feelings may not be moved to pity about our
citizens who are now thirty years of age, every care must be taken
in introducing them to dialectic.
There is a danger lest they should taste the dear delight too early;
for youngsters, as you may have observed, when they first get the
taste in their mouths, argue for amusement, and are always
contradicting and refuting others in imitation of those who refute
them; like puppy-dogs, they rejoice in pulling and tearing at all
who come near them.
Yes, he said, there is nothing which they like better.
And when they have made many conquests and received defeats at the
hands of many, they violently and speedily get into a way of not
believing anything which they believed before, and hence, not only
they, but philosophy and all that relates to it is apt to have a bad
name with the rest of the world.
Too true, he said.
But when a man begins to get older, he will no longer be guilty of
such insanity; he will imitate the dialectician who is seeking for
truth, and not the eristic, who is contradicting for the sake of
amusement; and the greater moderation of his character will increase
instead of diminishing the honour of the pursuit.
Very true, he said.
And did we not make special provision for this, when we said that
the disciples of philosophy were to be orderly and steadfast, not,
as now, any chance aspirant or intruder?
Very true.
Suppose, I said, the study of philosophy to take the place of
gymnastics and to be continued diligently and earnestly and
exclusively for twice the number of years which were passed in
bodily exercise --will that be enough?
Would you say six or four years? he asked.
Say five years, I replied; at the end of the time they must be
sent down again into the den and compelled to hold any military or
other office which young men are qualified to hold: in this way they
will get their experience of life, and there will be an opportunity of
trying whether, when they are drawn all manner of ways by
temptation, they will stand firm or flinch.
And how long is this stage of their lives to last?
Fifteen years, I answered; and when they have reached fifty years of
age, then let those who still survive and have distinguished
themselves in every action of their lives and in every branch of
knowledge come at last to their consummation; the time has now arrived
at which they must raise the eye of the soul to the universal light
which lightens all things, and behold the absolute good; for that is
the, pattern according to which they are to order the State and the
lives of individuals, and the remainder of their own lives also;
making philosophy their chief pursuit, but, when their turn comes,
toiling also at politics and ruling for the public good, not as though
they were performing some heroic action, but simply as a matter of
duty; and when they have brought up in each generation others like
themselves and left them in their place to be governors of the
State, then they will depart to the Islands of the Blest and dwell
there; and the city will give them public memorials and sacrifices and
honour them, if the Pythian oracle consent, as demi-gods, but if
not, as in any case blessed and divine.
You are a sculptor, Socrates, and have made statues of our governors
faultless in beauty.
Yes, I said, Glaucon, and of our governesses too; for you must not
suppose that what I have been saying applies to men only and not to
women as far as their natures can go.
There you are right, he said, since we have made them to share in
all things like the men.
Well, I said, and you would agree (would you not?) that what has
been said about the State and the government is not a mere dream,
and although difficult not impossible, but only possible in the way
which has been supposed; that is to say, when the true philosopher
kings are born in a State, one or more of them, despising the
honours of this present world which they deem mean and worthless,
esteeming above all things right and the honour that springs from
right, and regarding justice as the greatest and most necessary of all
things, whose ministers they are, and whose principles will be exalted
by them when they set in order their own city?
How will they proceed?
They will begin by sending out into the country all the
inhabitants of the city who are more than ten years old, and will take
possession of their children, who will be unaffected by the habits
of their parents; these they will train in their own habits and
laws, I mean in the laws which we have given them: and in this way the
State and constitution of which we were speaking will soonest and most
easily attain happiness, and the nation which has such a
constitution will gain most.
Yes, that will be the best way. And I think, Socrates, that you have
very well described how, if ever, such a constitution might come
into being.
Enough then of the perfect State, and of the man who bears its image
--there is no difficulty in seeing how we shall describe him.
There is no difficulty, he replied; and I agree with you in thinking
that nothing more need be said.


AND so, Glaucon, we have arrived at the conclusion that in the
perfect State wives and children are to be in common; and that all
education and the pursuits of war and peace are also to be common, and
the best philosophers and the bravest warriors are to be their kings?
That, replied Glaucon, has been acknowledged.
Yes, I said; and we have further acknowledged that the governors,
when appointed themselves, will take their soldiers and place them
in houses such as we were describing, which are common to all, and
contain nothing private, or individual; and about their property,
you remember what we agreed?
Yes, I remember that no one was to have any of the ordinary
possessions of mankind; they were to be warrior athletes and
guardians, receiving from the other citizens, in lieu of annual
payment, only their maintenance, and they were to take care of
themselves and of the whole State.
True, I said; and now that this division of our task is concluded,
let us find the point at which we digressed, that we may return into
the old path.
There is no difficulty in returning; you implied, then as now,
that you had finished the description of the State: you said that such
a State was good, and that the man was good who answered to it,
although, as now appears, you had more excellent things to relate both
of State and man. And you said further, that if this was the true
form, then the others were false; and of the false forms, you said, as
I remember, that there were four principal ones, and that their
defects, and the defects of the individuals corresponding to them,
were worth examining. When we had seen all the individuals, and
finally agreed as to who was the best and who was the worst of them,
we were to consider whether the best was not also the happiest, and
the worst the most miserable. I asked you what were the four forms
of government of which you spoke, and then Polemarchus and
Adeimantus put in their word; and you began again, and have found your
way to the point at which we have now arrived.
Your recollection, I said, is most exact.
Then, like a wrestler, he replied, you must put yourself again in
the same position; and let me ask the same questions, and do you
give me the same answer which you were about to give me then.
Yes, if I can, I will, I said.
I shall particularly wish to hear what were the four constitutions
of which you were speaking.
That question, I said, is easily answered: the four governments of
which I spoke, so far as they have distinct names, are, first, those
of Crete and Sparta, which are generally applauded; what is termed
oligarchy comes next; this is not equally approved, and is a form of
government which teems with evils: thirdly, democracy, which naturally
follows oligarchy, although very different: and lastly comes
tyranny, great and famous, which differs from them all, and is the
fourth and worst disorder of a State. I do not know, do you? of any
other constitution which can be said to have a distinct character.
There are lordships and principalities which are bought and sold,
and some other intermediate forms of government. But these are
nondescripts and may be found equally among Hellenes and among
Yes, he replied, we certainly hear of many curious forms of
government which exist among them.
Do you know, I said, that governments vary as the dispositions of
men vary, and that there must be as many of the one as there are of
the other? For we cannot suppose that States are made of 'oak and
rock,' and not out of the human natures which are in them, and which
in a figure turn the scale and draw other things after them?
Yes, he said, the States are as the men are; they grow out of
human characters.
Then if the constitutions of States are five, the dispositions of
individual minds will also be five?
Him who answers to aristocracy, and whom we rightly call just and
good, we have already described.
We have.
Then let us now proceed to describe the inferior sort of natures,
being the contentious and ambitious, who answer to the Spartan polity;
also the oligarchical, democratical, and tyrannical. Let us place
the most just by the side of the most unjust, and when we see them
we shall be able to compare the relative happiness or unhappiness of
him who leads a life of pure justice or pure injustice. The enquiry
will then be completed. And we shall know whether we ought to pursue
injustice, as Thrasymachus advises, or in accordance with the
conclusions of the argument to prefer justice.
Certainly, he replied, we must do as you say.
Shall we follow our old plan, which we adopted with a view to
clearness, of taking the State first and then proceeding to the
individual, and begin with the government of honour? --I know of no
name for such a government other than timocracy, or perhaps
timarchy. We will compare with this the like character in the
individual; and, after that, consider oligarchical man; and then again
we will turn our attention to democracy and the democratical man;
and lastly, we will go and view the city of tyranny, and once more
take a look into the tyrant's soul, and try to arrive at a
satisfactory decision.
That way of viewing and judging of the matter will be very suitable.
First, then, I said, let us enquire how timocracy (the government of
honour) arises out of aristocracy (the government of the best).
Clearly, all political changes originate in divisions of the actual
governing power; a government which is united, however small, cannot
be moved.
Very true, he said.
In what way, then, will our city be moved, and in what manner the
two classes of auxiliaries and rulers disagree among themselves or
with one another? Shall we, after the manner of Homer, pray the
Muses to tell us 'how discord first arose'? Shall we imagine them in
solemn mockery, to play and jest with us as if we were children, and
to address us in a lofty tragic vein, making believe to be in earnest?
How would they address us?
After this manner: --A city which is thus constituted can hardly
be shaken; but, seeing that everything which has a beginning has
also an end, even a constitution such as yours will not last for ever,
but will in time be dissolved. And this is the dissolution: --In
plants that grow in the earth, as well as in animals that move on
the earth's surface, fertility and sterility of soul and body occur
when the circumferences of the circles of each are completed, which in
short-lived existences pass over a short space, and in long-lived ones
over a long space. But to the knowledge of human fecundity and
sterility all the wisdom and education of your rulers will not attain;
the laws which regulate them will not be discovered by an intelligence
which is alloyed with sense, but will escape them, and they will bring
children into the world when they ought not. Now that which is of
divine birth has a period which is contained in a perfect number,
but the period of human birth is comprehended in a number in which
first increments by involution and evolution (or squared and cubed)
obtaining three intervals and four terms of like and unlike, waxing
and waning numbers, make all the terms commensurable and agreeable
to one another. The base of these (3) with a third added (4) when
combined with five (20) and raised to the third power furnishes two
harmonies; the first a square which is a hundred times as great (400 =
4 X 100), and the other a figure having one side equal to the
former, but oblong, consisting of a hundred numbers squared upon
rational diameters of a square (i. e. omitting fractions), the side of
which is five (7 X 7 = 49 X 100 = 4900), each of them being less by
one (than the perfect square which includes the fractions, sc. 50)
or less by two perfect squares of irrational diameters (of a square
the side of which is five = 50 + 50 = 100); and a hundred cubes of
three (27 X 100 = 2700 + 4900 + 400 = 8000). Now this number
represents a geometrical figure which has control over the good and
evil of births. For when your guardians are ignorant of the law of
births, and unite bride and bridegroom out of season, the children
will not be goodly or fortunate. And though only the best of them will
be appointed by their predecessors, still they will be unworthy to
hold their fathers' places, and when they come into power as
guardians, they will soon be found to fall in taking care of us, the
Muses, first by under-valuing music; which neglect will soon extend to
gymnastic; and hence the young men of your State will be less
cultivated. In the succeeding generation rulers will be appointed
who have lost the guardian power of testing the metal of your
different races, which, like Hesiod's, are of gold and silver and
brass and iron. And so iron will be mingled with silver, and brass
with gold, and hence there will arise dissimilarity and inequality and
irregularity, which always and in all places are causes of hatred
and war. This the Muses affirm to be the stock from which discord
has sprung, wherever arising; and this is their answer to us.
Yes, and we may assume that they answer truly.
Why, yes, I said, of course they answer truly; how can the Muses
speak falsely?
And what do the Muses say next?
When discord arose, then the two races were drawn different ways:
the iron and brass fell to acquiring money and land and houses and
gold and silver; but the gold and silver races, not wanting money
but having the true riches in their own nature, inclined towards
virtue and the ancient order of things. There was a battle between
them, and at last they agreed to distribute their land and houses
among individual owners; and they enslaved their friends and
maintainers, whom they had formerly protected in the condition of
freemen, and made of them subjects and servants; and they themselves
were engaged in war and in keeping a watch against them.
I believe that you have rightly conceived the origin of the change.
And the new government which thus arises will be of a form
intermediate between oligarchy and aristocracy?
Very true.
Such will be the change, and after the change has been made, how
will they proceed? Clearly, the new State, being in a mean between
oligarchy and the perfect State, will partly follow one and partly the
other, and will also have some peculiarities.
True, he said.
In the honour given to rulers, in the abstinence of the warrior
class from agriculture, handicrafts, and trade in general, in the
institution of common meals, and in the attention paid to gymnastics
and military training --in all these respects this State will resemble
the former.
But in the fear of admitting philosophers to power, because they are
no longer to be had simple and earnest, but are made up of mixed
elements; and in turning from them to passionate and less complex
characters, who are by nature fitted for war rather than peace; and in
the value set by them upon military stratagems and contrivances, and
in the waging of everlasting wars --this State will be for the most
part peculiar.
Yes, I said; and men of this stamp will be covetous of money, like
those who live in oligarchies; they will have, a fierce secret longing
after gold and silver, which they will hoard in dark places, having
magazines and treasuries of their own for the deposit and
concealment of them; also castles which are just nests for their eggs,
and in which they will spend large sums on their wives, or on any
others whom they please.
That is most true, he said.
And they are miserly because they have no means of openly
acquiring the money which they prize; they will spend that which is
another man's on the gratification of their desires, stealing their
pleasures and running away like children from the law, their father:
they have been schooled not by gentle influences but by force, for
they have neglected her who is the true Muse, the companion of
reason and philosophy, and have honoured gymnastic more than music.
Undoubtedly, he said, the form of government which you describe is a
mixture of good and evil.
Why, there is a mixture, I said; but one thing, and one thing
only, is predominantly seen, --the spirit of contention and
ambition; and these are due to the prevalence of the passionate or
spirited element.
Assuredly, he said.
Such is the origin and such the character of this State, which has
been described in outline only; the more perfect execution was not
required, for a sketch is enough to show the type of the most
perfectly just and most perfectly unjust; and to go through all the
States and all the characters of men, omitting none of them, would
be an interminable labour.
Very true, he replied.
Now what man answers to this form of government-how did he come into
being, and what is he like?


I think, said Adeimantus, that in the spirit of contention which
characterises him, he is not unlike our friend Glaucon.
Perhaps, I said, he may be like him in that one point; but there are
other respects in which he is very different.
In what respects?
He should have more of self-assertion and be less cultivated, and
yet a friend of culture; and he should be a good listener, but no
speaker. Such a person is apt to be rough with slaves, unlike the
educated man, who is too proud for that; and he will also be courteous
to freemen, and remarkably obedient to authority; he is a lover of
power and a lover of honour; claiming to be a ruler, not because he is
eloquent, or on any ground of that sort, but because he is a soldier
and has performed feats of arms; he is also a lover of gymnastic
exercises and of the chase.
Yes, that is the type of character which answers to timocracy.
Such an one will despise riches only when he is young; but as he
gets older he will be more and more attracted to them, because he
has a piece of the avaricious nature in him, and is not singleminded
towards virtue, having lost his best guardian.
Who was that? said Adeimantus.
Philosophy, I said, tempered with music, who comes and takes her
abode in a man, and is the only saviour of his virtue throughout life.
Good, he said.
Such, I said, is the timocratical youth, and he is like the
timocratical State.
His origin is as follows: --He is often the young son of a grave
father, who dwells in an ill-governed city, of which he declines the
honours and offices, and will not go to law, or exert himself in any
way, but is ready to waive his rights in order that he may escape
And how does the son come into being?
The character of the son begins to develop when he hears his
mother complaining that her husband has no place in the government, of
which the consequence is that she has no precedence among other women.
Further, when she sees her husband not very eager about money, and
instead of battling and railing in the law courts or assembly,
taking whatever happens to him quietly; and when she observes that his
thoughts always centre in himself, while he treats her with very
considerable indifference, she is annoyed, and says to her son that
his father is only half a man and far too easy-going: adding all the
other complaints about her own ill-treatment which women are so fond
of rehearsing.
Yes, said Adeimantus, they give us plenty of them, and their
complaints are so like themselves.
And you know, I said, that the old servants also, who are supposed
to be attached to the family, from time to time talk privately in
the same strain to the son; and if they see any one who owes money
to his father, or is wronging him in any way, and he falls to
prosecute them, they tell the youth that when he grows up he must
retaliate upon people of this sort, and be more of a man than his
father. He has only to walk abroad and he hears and sees the same sort
of thing: those who do their own business in the city are called
simpletons, and held in no esteem, while the busy-bodies are
honoured and applauded. The result is that the young man, hearing
and seeing all these thing --hearing too, the words of his father, and
having a nearer view of his way of life, and making comparisons of him
and others --is drawn opposite ways: while his father is watering
and nourishing the rational principle in his soul, the others are
encouraging the passionate and appetitive; and he being not originally
of a bad nature, but having kept bad company, is at last brought by
their joint influence to a middle point, and gives up the kingdom
which is within him to the middle principle of contentiousness and
passion, and becomes arrogant and ambitious.
You seem to me to have described his origin perfectly.
Then we have now, I said, the second form of government and the
second type of character?
We have.
Next, let us look at another man who, as Aeschylus says,

Is set over against another State;

or rather, as our plan requires, begin with the State.
By all means.
I believe that oligarchy follows next in order.
And what manner of government do you term oligarchy?
A government resting on a valuation of property, in which the rich
have power and the poor man is deprived of it.
I understand, he replied.
Ought I not to begin by describing how the change from timocracy
to oligarchy arises?
Well, I said, no eyes are required in order to see how the one
passes into the other.
The accumulation of gold in the treasury of private individuals is
ruin the of timocracy; they invent illegal modes of expenditure; for
what do they or their wives care about the law?
Yes, indeed.
And then one, seeing another grow rich, seeks to rival him, and thus
the great mass of the citizens become lovers of money.
Likely enough.
And so they grow richer and richer, and the more they think of
making a fortune the less they think of virtue; for when riches and
virtue are placed together in the scales of the balance, the one
always rises as the other falls.
And in proportion as riches and rich men are honoured in the
State, virtue and the virtuous are dishonoured.
And what is honoured is cultivated, and that which has no honour
is neglected.
That is obvious.
And so at last, instead of loving contention and glory, men become
lovers of trade and money; they honour and look up to the rich man,
and make a ruler of him, and dishonour the poor man.
They do so.
They next proceed to make a law which fixes a sum of money as the
qualification of citizenship; the sum is higher in one place and lower
in another, as the oligarchy is more or less exclusive; and they allow
no one whose property falls below the amount fixed to have any share
in the government. These changes in the constitution they effect by
force of arms, if intimidation has not already done their work.
Very true.
And this, speaking generally, is the way in which oligarchy is
Yes, he said; but what are the characteristics of this form of
government, and what are the defects of which we were speaking?
First of all, I said, consider the nature of the qualification
just think what would happen if pilots were to be chosen according
to their property, and a poor man were refused permission to steer,
even though he were a better pilot?
You mean that they would shipwreck?
Yes; and is not this true of the government of anything?
I should imagine so.
Except a city? --or would you include a city?
Nay, he said, the case of a city is the strongest of all, inasmuch
as the rule of a city is the greatest and most difficult of all.
This, then, will be the first great defect of oligarchy?
And here is another defect which is quite as bad.
What defect?
The inevitable division: such a State is not one, but two States,
the one of poor, the other of rich men; and they are living on the
same spot and always conspiring against one another.
That, surely, is at least as bad.
Another discreditable feature is, that, for a like reason, they
are incapable of carrying on any war. Either they arm the multitude,
and then they are more afraid of them than of the enemy; or, if they
do not call them out in the hour of battle, they are oligarchs indeed,
few to fight as they are few to rule. And at the same time their
fondness for money makes them unwilling to pay taxes.
How discreditable!
And, as we said before, under such a constitution the same persons
have too many callings --they are husbandmen, tradesmen, warriors, all
in one. Does that look well?
Anything but well.
There is another evil which is, perhaps, the greatest of all, and to
which this State first begins to be liable.
What evil?
A man may sell all that he has, and another may acquire his
property; yet after the sale he may dwell in the city of which he is
no longer a part, being neither trader, nor artisan, nor horseman, nor
hoplite, but only a poor, helpless creature.
Yes, that is an evil which also first begins in this State.
The evil is certainly not prevented there; for oligarchies have both
the extremes of great wealth and utter poverty.
But think again: In his wealthy days, while he was spending his
money, was a man of this sort a whit more good to the State for the
purposes of citizenship? Or did he only seem to be a member of the
ruling body, although in truth he was neither ruler nor subject, but
just a spendthrift?
As you say, he seemed to be a ruler, but was only a spendthrift.
May we not say that this is the drone in the house who is like the
drone in the honeycomb, and that the one is the plague of the city
as the other is of the hive?
Just so, Socrates.
And God has made the flying drones, Adeimantus, all without
stings, whereas of the walking drones he has made some without
stings but others have dreadful stings; of the stingless class are
those who in their old age end as paupers; of the stingers come all
the criminal class, as they are termed.
Most true, he said.
Clearly then, whenever you see paupers in a State, somewhere in that
neighborhood there are hidden away thieves, and cutpurses and
robbers of temples, and all sorts of malefactors.
Well, I said, and in oligarchical States do you not find paupers?
Yes, he said; nearly everybody is a pauper who is not a ruler.
And may we be so bold as to affirm that there are also many
criminals to be found in them, rogues who have stings, and whom the
authorities are careful to restrain by force?
Certainly, we may be so bold.
The existence of such persons is to be attributed to want of
education, ill-training, and an evil constitution of the State?
Such, then, is the form and such are the evils of oligarchy; and
there may be many other evils.
Very likely.
Then oligarchy, or the form of government in which the rulers are
elected for their wealth, may now be dismissed. Let us next proceed to
consider the nature and origin of the individual who answers to this
By all means.
Does not the timocratical man change into the oligarchical on this
A time arrives when the representative of timocracy has a son: at
first he begins by emulating his father and walking in his
footsteps, but presently he sees him of a sudden foundering against
the State as upon a sunken reef, and he and all that he has is lost;
he may have been a general or some other high officer who is brought
to trial under a prejudice raised by informers, and either put to
death, or exiled, or deprived of the privileges of a citizen, and
all his property taken from him.
Nothing more likely.
And the son has seen and known all this --he is a ruined man, and
his fear has taught him to knock ambition and passion head-foremost
from his bosom's throne; humbled by poverty he takes to money-making
and by mean and miserly savings and hard work gets a fortune together.
Is not such an one likely to seat the concupiscent and covetous
element on the vacant throne and to suffer it to play the great king
within him, girt with tiara and chain and scimitar?
Most true, he replied.
And when he has made reason and spirit sit down on the ground
obediently on either side of their sovereign, and taught them to
know their place, he compels the one to think only of how lesser
sums may be turned into larger ones, and will not allow the other to
worship and admire anything but riches and rich men, or to be
ambitious of anything so much as the acquisition of wealth and the
means of acquiring it.
Of all changes, he said, there is none so speedy or so sure as the
conversion of the ambitious youth into the avaricious one.
And the avaricious, I said, is the oligarchical youth?
Yes, he said; at any rate the individual out of whom he came is like
the State out of which oligarchy came.
Let us then consider whether there is any likeness between them.
Very good.
First, then, they resemble one another in the value which they set
upon wealth?
Also in their penurious, laborious character; the individual only
satisfies his necessary appetites, and confines his expenditure to
them; his other desires he subdues, under the idea that they are
He is a shabby fellow, who saves something out of everything and
makes a purse for himself; and this is the sort of man whom the vulgar
applaud. Is he not a true image of the State which he represents?
He appears to me to be so; at any rate money is highly valued by him
as well as by the State.
You see that he is not a man of cultivation, I said.
I imagine not, he said; had he been educated he would never have
made a blind god director of his chorus, or given him chief honour.
Excellent! I said. Yet consider: Must we not further admit that
owing to this want of cultivation there will be found in him dronelike
desires as of pauper and rogue, which are forcibly kept down by his
general habit of life?
Do you know where you will have to look if you want to discover
his rogueries?
Where must I look?
You should see him where he has some great opportunity of acting
dishonestly, as in the guardianship of an orphan.
It will be clear enough then that in his ordinary dealings which
give him a reputation for honesty he coerces his bad passions by an
enforced virtue; not making them see that they are wrong, or taming
them by reason, but by necessity and fear constraining them, and
because he trembles for his possessions.
To be sure.
Yes, indeed, my dear friend, but you will find that the natural
desires of the drone commonly exist in him all the same whenever he
has to spend what is not his own.
Yes, and they will be strong in him too.
The man, then, will be at war with himself; he will be two men,
and not one; but, in general, his better desires will be found to
prevail over his inferior ones.
For these reasons such an one will be more respectable than most
people; yet the true virtue of a unanimous and harmonious soul will
flee far away and never come near him.
I should expect so.
And surely, the miser individually will be an ignoble competitor
in a State for any prize of victory, or other object of honourable
ambition; he will not spend his money in the contest for glory; so
afraid is he of awakening his expensive appetites and inviting them to
help and join in the struggle; in true oligarchical fashion he
fights with a small part only of his resources, and the result
commonly is that he loses the prize and saves his money.
Very true.
Can we any longer doubt, then, that the miser and money-maker
answers to the oligarchical State?
There can be no doubt.
Next comes democracy; of this the origin and nature have still to be
considered by us; and then we will enquire into the ways of the
democratic man, and bring him up for judgement.
That, he said, is our method.
Well, I said, and how does the change from oligarchy into
democracy arise? Is it not on this wise? --The good at which such a
State alms is to become as rich as possible, a desire which is
What then?
The rulers, being aware that their power rests upon their wealth,
refuse to curtail by law the extravagance of the spendthrift youth
because they gain by their ruin; they take interest from them and
buy up their estates and thus increase their own wealth and
To be sure.
There can be no doubt that the love of wealth and the spirit of
moderation cannot exist together in citizens of the same State to
any considerable extent; one or the other will be disregarded.
That is tolerably clear.
And in oligarchical States, from the general spread of
carelessness and extravagance, men of good family have often been
reduced to beggary?
Yes, often.
And still they remain in the city; there they are, ready to sting
and fully armed, and some of them owe money, some have forfeited their
citizenship; a third class are in both predicaments; and they hate and
conspire against those who have got their property, and against
everybody else, and are eager for revolution.
That is true.
On the other hand, the men of business, stooping as they walk, and
pretending not even to see those whom they have already ruined, insert
their sting --that is, their money --into some one else who is not
on his guard against them, and recover the parent sum many times
over multiplied into a family of children: and so they make drone
and pauper to abound in the State.
Yes, he said, there are plenty of them --that is certain.
The evil blazes up like a fire; and they will not extinguish it,
either by restricting a man's use of his own property, or by another
What other?
One which is the next best, and has the advantage of compelling
the citizens to look to their characters: --Let there be a general
rule that every one shall enter into voluntary contracts at his own
risk, and there will be less of this scandalous money-making, and
the evils of which we were speaking will be greatly lessened in the
Yes, they will be greatly lessened.
At present the governors, induced by the motives which I have named,
treat their subjects badly; while they and their adherents, especially
the young men of the governing class, are habituated to lead a life of
luxury and idleness both of body and mind; they do nothing, and are
incapable of resisting either pleasure or pain.
Very true.
They themselves care only for making money, and are as indifferent
as the pauper to the cultivation of virtue.
Yes, quite as indifferent.
Such is the state of affairs which prevails among them. And often
rulers and their subjects may come in one another's way, whether on
a pilgrimage or a march, as fellow-soldiers or fellow-sailors; aye,
and they may observe the behaviour of each other in the very moment of
danger --for where danger is, there is no fear that the poor will be
despised by the rich --and very likely the wiry sunburnt poor man
may be placed in battle at the side of a wealthy one who has never
spoilt his complexion and has plenty of superfluous flesh --when he
sees such an one puffing and at his wit's end, how can he avoid
drawing the conclusion that men like him are only rich because no
one has the courage to despoil them? And when they meet in private
will not people be saying to one another 'Our warriors are not good
for much'?
Yes, he said, I am quite aware that this is their way of talking.
And, as in a body which is diseased the addition of a touch from
without may bring on illness, and sometimes even when there is no
external provocation a commotion may arise within-in the same way
wherever there is weakness in the State there is also likely to be
illness, of which the occasions may be very slight, the one party
introducing from without their oligarchical, the other their
democratical allies, and then the State falls sick, and is at war with
herself; and may be at times distracted, even when there is no
external cause.
Yes, surely.
And then democracy comes into being after the poor have conquered
their opponents, slaughtering some and banishing some, while to the
remainder they give an equal share of freedom and power; and this is
the form of government in which the magistrates are commonly elected
by lot.
Yes, he said, that is the nature of democracy, whether the
revolution has been effected by arms, or whether fear has caused the
opposite party to withdraw.
And now what is their manner of life, and what sort of a
government have they? for as the government is, such will be the man.
Clearly, he said.
In the first place, are they not free; and is not the city full of
freedom and frankness --a man may say and do what he likes?
'Tis said so, he replied.
And where freedom is, the individual is clearly able to order for
himself his own life as he pleases?
Then in this kind of State there will be the greatest variety of
human natures?
There will.
This, then, seems likely to be the fairest of States, being an
embroidered robe which is spangled with every sort of flower. And just
as women and children think a variety of colours to be of all things
most charming, so there are many men to whom this State, which is
spangled with the manners and characters of mankind, will appear to be
the fairest of States.
Yes, my good Sir, and there will be no better in which to look for a
Because of the liberty which reigns there --they have a complete
assortment of constitutions; and he who has a mind to establish a
State, as we have been doing, must go to a democracy as he would to
a bazaar at which they sell them, and pick out the one that suits him;
then, when he has made his choice, he may found his State.
He will be sure to have patterns enough.
And there being no necessity, I said, for you to govern in this
State, even if you have the capacity, or to be governed, unless you
like, or go to war when the rest go to war, or to be at peace when
others are at peace, unless you are so disposed --there being no
necessity also, because some law forbids you to hold office or be a
dicast, that you should not hold office or be a dicast, if you have
a fancy --is not this a way of life which for the moment is
supremely delightful
For the moment, yes.
And is not their humanity to the condemned in some cases quite
charming? Have you not observed how, in a democracy, many persons,
although they have been sentenced to death or exile, just stay where
they are and walk about the world --the gentleman parades like a hero,
and nobody sees or cares?
Yes, he replied, many and many a one.
See too, I said, the forgiving spirit of democracy, and the 'don't
care' about trifles, and the disregard which she shows of all the fine
principles which we solemnly laid down at the foundation of the city
--as when we said that, except in the case of some rarely gifted
nature, there never will be a good man who has not from his
childhood been used to play amid things of beauty and make of them a
joy and a study --how grandly does she trample all these fine
notions of ours under her feet, never giving a thought to the pursuits
which make a statesman, and promoting to honour any one who
professes to be the people's friend.
Yes, she is of a noble spirit.
These and other kindred characteristics are proper to democracy,
which is a charming form of government, full of variety and
disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals
We know her well.
Consider now, I said, what manner of man the individual is, or
rather consider, as in the case of the State, how he comes into being.
Very good, he said.
Is not this the way --he is the son of the miserly and
oligarchical father who has trained him in his own habits?
And, like his father, he keeps under by force the pleasures which
are of the spending and not of the getting sort, being those which are
called unnecessary?
Would you like, for the sake of clearness, to distinguish which
are the necessary and which are the unnecessary pleasures?
I should.
Are not necessary pleasures those of which we cannot get rid, and of
which the satisfaction is a benefit to us? And they are rightly so,
because we are framed by nature to desire both what is beneficial
and what is necessary, and cannot help it.
We are not wrong therefore in calling them necessary?
We are not.
And the desires of which a man may get rid, if he takes pains from
his youth upwards --of which the presence, moreover, does no good, and
in some cases the reverse of good --shall we not be right in saying
that all these are unnecessary?
Yes, certainly.
Suppose we select an example of either kind, in order that we may
have a general notion of them?
Very good.
Will not the desire of eating, that is, of simple food and
condiments, in so far as they are required for health and strength, be
of the necessary class?
That is what I should suppose.
The pleasure of eating is necessary in two ways; it does us good and
it is essential to the continuance of life?
But the condiments are only necessary in so far as they are good for
And the desire which goes beyond this, or more delicate food, or
other luxuries, which might generally be got rid of, if controlled and
trained in youth, and is hurtful to the body, and hurtful to the
soul in the pursuit of wisdom and virtue, may be rightly called
Very true.
May we not say that these desires spend, and that the others make
money because they conduce to production?
And of the pleasures of love, and all other pleasures, the same
holds good?
And the drone of whom we spoke was he who was surfeited in pleasures
and desires of this sort, and was the slave of the unnecessary
desires, whereas he who was subject o the necessary only was miserly
and oligarchical?
Very true.
Again, let us see how the democratical man grows out of the
oligarchical: the following, as I suspect, is commonly the process.
What is the process?
When a young man who has been brought up as we were just now
describing, in a vulgar and miserly way, has tasted drones' honey
and has come to associate with fierce and crafty natures who are
able to provide for him all sorts of refinements and varieties of
pleasure --then, as you may imagine, the change will begin of the
oligarchical principle within him into the democratical?
And as in the city like was helping like, and the change was
effected by an alliance from without assisting one division of the
citizens, so too the young man is changed by a class of desires coming
from without to assist the desires within him, that which is and alike
again helping that which is akin and alike?
And if there be any ally which aids the oligarchical principle
within him, whether the influence of a father or of kindred,
advising or rebuking him, then there arises in his soul a faction
and an opposite faction, and he goes to war with himself.
It must be so.
And there are times when the democratical principle gives way to the
oligarchical, and some of his desires die, and others are banished;
a spirit of reverence enters into the young man's soul and order is
Yes, he said, that sometimes happens.
And then, again, after the old desires have been driven out, fresh
ones spring up, which are akin to them, and because he, their
father, does not know how to educate them, wax fierce and numerous.
Yes, he said, that is apt to be the way.
They draw him to his old associates, and holding secret
intercourse with them, breed and multiply in him.
Very true.
At length they seize upon the citadel of the young man's soul, which
they perceive to be void of all accomplishments and fair pursuits
and true words, which make their abode in the minds of men who are
dear to the gods, and are their best guardians and sentinels.
None better.
False and boastful conceits and phrases mount upwards and take their
They are certain to do so.
And so the young man returns into the country of the lotus-eaters,
and takes up his dwelling there in the face of all men; and if any
help be sent by his friends to the oligarchical part of him, the
aforesaid vain conceits shut the gate of the king's fastness; and they
will neither allow the embassy itself to enter, private if private
advisers offer the fatherly counsel of the aged will they listen to
them or receive them. There is a battle and they gain the day, and
then modesty, which they call silliness, is ignominiously thrust
into exile by them, and temperance, which they nickname unmanliness,
is trampled in the mire and cast forth; they persuade men that
moderation and orderly expenditure are vulgarity and meanness, and so,
by the help of a rabble of evil appetites, they drive them beyond
the border.
Yes, with a will.
And when they have emptied and swept clean the soul of him who is
now in their power and who is being initiated by them in great
mysteries, the next thing is to bring back to their house insolence
and anarchy and waste and impudence in bright array having garlands on
their heads, and a great company with them, hymning their praises
and calling them by sweet names; insolence they term breeding, and
anarchy liberty, and waste magnificence, and impudence courage. And so
the young man passes out of his original nature, which was trained
in the school of necessity, into the freedom and libertinism of
useless and unnecessary pleasures.
Yes, he said, the change in him is visible enough.
After this he lives on, spending his money and labour and time on
unnecessary pleasures quite as much as on necessary ones; but if he be
fortunate, and is not too much disordered in his wits, when years have
elapsed, and the heyday of passion is over --supposing that he then
re-admits into the city some part of the exiled virtues, and does
not wholly give himself up to their successors --in that case he
balances his pleasures and lives in a sort of equilibrium, putting the
government of himself into the hands of the one which comes first
and wins the turn; and when he has had enough of that, then into the
hands of another; he despises none of them but encourages them all
Very true, he said.
Neither does he receive or let pass into the fortress any true
word of advice; if any one says to him that some pleasures are the
satisfactions of good and noble desires, and others of evil desires,
and that he ought to use and honour some and chastise and master the
others --whenever this is repeated to him he shakes his head and
says that they are all alike, and that one is as good as another.
Yes, he said; that is the way with him.
Yes, I said, he lives from day to day indulging the appetite of
the hour; and sometimes he is lapped in drink and strains of the
flute; then he becomes a water-drinker, and tries to get thin; then he
takes a turn at gymnastics; sometimes idling and neglecting
everything, then once more living the life of a philosopher; often
he-is busy with politics, and starts to his feet and says and does
whatever comes into his head; and, if he is emulous of any one who
is a warrior, off he is in that direction, or of men of business, once
more in that. His life has neither law nor order; and this
distracted existence he terms joy and bliss and freedom; and so he
goes on.
Yes, he replied, he is all liberty and equality.
Yes, I said; his life is motley and manifold and an epitome of the
lives of many; --he answers to the State which we described as fair
and spangled. And many a man and many a woman will take him for
their pattern, and many a constitution and many an example of
manners is contained in him.
Just so.
Let him then be set over against democracy; he may truly be called
the democratic man.
Let that be his place, he said.
Last of all comes the most beautiful of all, man and State alike,
tyranny and the tyrant; these we have now to consider.
Quite true, he said.
Say then, my friend, in what manner does tyranny arise? --that it
has a democratic origin is evident.
And does not tyranny spring from democracy in the same manner as
democracy from oligarchy --I mean, after a sort?
The good which oligarchy proposed to itself and the means by which
it was maintained was excess of wealth --am I not right?
And the insatiable desire of wealth and the neglect of all other
things for the sake of money-getting was also the ruin of oligarchy?
And democracy has her own good, of which the insatiable desire
brings her to dissolution?
What good?
Freedom, I replied; which, as they tell you in a democracy, is the
glory of the State --and that therefore in a democracy alone will
the freeman of nature deign to dwell.
Yes; the saying is in everybody's mouth.
I was going to observe, that the insatiable desire of this and the
neglect of other things introduces the change in democracy, which
occasions a demand for tyranny.
How so?
When a democracy which is thirsting for freedom has evil
cupbearers presiding over the feast, and has drunk too deeply of the
strong wine of freedom, then, unless her rulers are very amenable
and give a plentiful draught, she calls them to account and punishes
them, and says that they are cursed oligarchs.
Yes, he replied, a very common occurrence.
Yes, I said; and loyal citizens are insultingly termed by her slaves
who hug their chains and men of naught; she would have subjects who
are like rulers, and rulers who are like subjects: these are men after
her own heart, whom she praises and honours both in private and
public. Now, in such a State, can liberty have any limit?
Certainly not.
By degrees the anarchy finds a way into private houses, and ends
by getting among the animals and infecting them.
How do you mean?
I mean that the father grows accustomed to descend to the level of
his sons and to fear them, and the son is on a level with his
father, he having no respect or reverence for either of his parents;
and this is his freedom, and metic is equal with the citizen and the
citizen with the metic, and the stranger is quite as good as either.
Yes, he said, that is the way.
And these are not the only evils, I said --there are several
lesser ones: In such a state of society the master fears and
flatters his scholars, and the scholars despise their masters and
tutors; young and old are all alike; and the young man is on a level
with the old, and is ready to compete with him in word or deed; and
old men condescend to the young and are full of pleasantry and gaiety;
they are loth to be thought morose and authoritative, and therefore
they adopt the manners of the young.
Quite true, he said.
The last extreme of popular liberty is when the slave bought with
money, whether male or female, is just as free as his or her
purchaser; nor must I forget to tell of the liberty and equality of
the two sexes in relation to each other.
Why not, as Aeschylus says, utter the word which rises to our lips?
That is what I am doing, I replied; and I must add that no one who
does not know would believe, how much greater is the liberty which the
animals who are under the dominion of man have in a democracy than
in any other State: for truly, the she-dogs, as the proverb says,
are as good as their she-mistresses, and the horses and asses have a
way of marching along with all the rights and dignities of freemen;
and they will run at anybody who comes in their way if he does not
leave the road clear for them: and all things are just ready to
burst with liberty.
When I take a country walk, he said, I often experience what you
describe. You and I have dreamed the same thing.
And above all, I said, and as the result of all, see how sensitive
the citizens become; they chafe impatiently at the least touch of
authority and at length, as you know, they cease to care even for
the laws, written or unwritten; they will have no one over them.
Yes, he said, I know it too well.
Such, my friend, I said, is the fair and glorious beginning out of
which springs tyranny.
Glorious indeed, he said. But what is the next step?
The ruin of oligarchy is the ruin of democracy; the same disease
magnified and intensified by liberty overmasters democracy --the truth
being that the excessive increase of anything often causes a
reaction in the opposite direction; and this is the case not only in
the seasons and in vegetable and animal life, but above all in forms
of government.
The excess of liberty, whether in States or individuals, seems
only to pass into excess of slavery.
Yes, the natural order.
And so tyranny naturally arises out of democracy, and the most
aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme form of
As we might expect.
That, however, was not, as I believe, your question-you rather
desired to know what is that disorder which is generated alike in
oligarchy and democracy, and is the ruin of both?
Just so, he replied.
Well, I said, I meant to refer to the class of idle spendthrifts, of
whom the more courageous are the-leaders and the more timid the
followers, the same whom we were comparing to drones, some
stingless, and others having stings.
A very just comparison.
These two classes are the plagues of every city in which they are
generated, being what phlegm and bile are to the body. And the good
physician and lawgiver of the State ought, like the wise bee-master,
to keep them at a distance and prevent, if possible, their ever coming
in; and if they have anyhow found a way in, then he should have them
and their cells cut out as speedily as possible.
Yes, by all means, he said.
Then, in order that we may see clearly what we are doing, let us
imagine democracy to be divided, as indeed it is, into three
classes; for in the first place freedom creates rather more drones
in the democratic than there were in the oligarchical State.
That is true.
And in the democracy they are certainly more intensified.
How so?
Because in the oligarchical State they are disqualified and driven
from office, and therefore they cannot train or gather strength;
whereas in a democracy they are almost the entire ruling power, and
while the keener sort speak and act, the rest keep buzzing about the
bema and do not suffer a word to be said on the other side; hence in
democracies almost everything is managed by the drones.
Very true, he said.
Then there is another class which is always being severed from the
What is that?
They are the orderly class, which in a nation of traders sure to
be the richest.
Naturally so.
They are the most squeezable persons and yield the largest amount of
honey to the drones.
Why, he said, there is little to be squeezed out of people who
have little.
And this is called the wealthy class, and the drones feed upon them.
That is pretty much the case, he said.
The people are a third class, consisting of those who work with
their own hands; they are not politicians, and have not much to live
upon. This, when assembled, is the largest and most powerful class
in a democracy.
True, he said; but then the multitude is seldom willing to
congregate unless they get a little honey.
And do they not share? I said. Do not their leaders deprive the rich
of their estates and distribute them among the people; at the same
time taking care to reserve the larger part for themselves?
Why, yes, he said, to that extent the people do share.
And the persons whose property is taken from them are compelled to
defend themselves before the people as they best can?
What else can they do?
And then, although they may have no desire of change, the others
charge them with plotting against the people and being friends of
oligarchy? True.
And the end is that when they see the people, not of their own
accord, but through ignorance, and because they are deceived by
informers, seeking to do them wrong, then at last they are forced to
become oligarchs in reality; they do not wish to be, but the sting
of the drones torments them and breeds revolution in them.
That is exactly the truth.
Then come impeachments and judgments and trials of one another.
The people have always some champion whom they set over them and
nurse into greatness.
Yes, that is their way.
This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he
first appears above ground he is a protector.
Yes, that is quite clear.
How then does a protector begin to change into a tyrant? Clearly
when he does what the man is said to do in the tale of the Arcadian
temple of Lycaean Zeus.
What tale?
The tale is that he who has tasted the entrails of a single human
victim minced up with the entrails of other victims is destined to
become a wolf. Did you never hear it?
Oh, yes.
And the protector of the people is like him; having a mob entirely
at his disposal, he is not restrained from shedding the blood of
kinsmen; by the favourite method of false accusation he brings them
into court and murders them, making the life of man to disappear,
and with unholy tongue and lips tasting the blood of his fellow
citizen; some he kills and others he banishes, at the same time
hinting at the abolition of debts and partition of lands: and after
this, what will be his destiny? Must he not either perish at the hands
of his enemies, or from being a man become a wolf --that is, a tyrant?
This, I said, is he who begins to make a party against the rich?
The same.
After a while he is driven out, but comes back, in spite of his
enemies, a tyrant full grown.
That is clear.
And if they are unable to expel him, or to get him condemned to
death by a public accusation, they conspire to assassinate him.
Yes, he said, that is their usual way.
Then comes the famous request for a bodyguard, which is the device
of all those who have got thus far in their tyrannical career --'Let
not the people's friend,' as they say, 'be lost to them.'
The people readily assent; all their fears are for him --they have
none for themselves.
Very true.
And when a man who is wealthy and is also accused of being an
enemy of the people sees this, then, my friend, as the oracle said
to Croesus,

By pebbly Hermus' shore he flees and rests not and is not ashamed to
be a coward.

And quite right too, said he, for if he were, he would never be
ashamed again.
But if he is caught he dies.
Of course.
And he, the protector of whom we spoke, is to be seen, not
'larding the plain' with his bulk, but himself the overthrower of
many, standing up in the chariot of State with the reins in his
hand, no longer protector, but tyrant absolute.
No doubt, he said.
And now let us consider the happiness of the man, and also of the
State in which a creature like him is generated.
Yes, he said, let us consider that.
At first, in the early days of his power, he is full of smiles,
and he salutes every one whom he meets; --he to be called a tyrant,
who is making promises in public and also in private! liberating
debtors, and distributing land to the people and his followers, and
wanting to be so kind and good to every one!
Of course, he said.
But when he has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty,
and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stirring
up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader.
To be sure.
Has he not also another object, which is that they may be
impoverished by payment of taxes, and thus compelled to devote
themselves to their daily wants and therefore less likely to
conspire against him? Clearly.
And if any of them are suspected by him of having notions of
freedom, and of resistance to his authority, he will have a good
pretext for destroying them by placing them at the mercy of the enemy;
and for all these reasons the tyrant must be always getting up a war.
He must.
Now he begins to grow unpopular.
A necessary result.
Then some of those who joined in setting him up, and who are in
power, speak their minds to him and to one another, and the more
courageous of them cast in his teeth what is being done.
Yes, that may be expected.
And the tyrant, if he means to rule, must get rid of them; he cannot
stop while he has a friend or an enemy who is good for anything.
He cannot.
And therefore he must look about him and see who is valiant, who
is high-minded, who is wise, who is wealthy; happy man, he is the
enemy of them all, and must seek occasion against them whether he will
or no, until he has made a purgation of the State.
Yes, he said, and a rare purgation.
Yes, I said, not the sort of purgation which the physicians make
of the body; for they take away the worse and leave the better part,
but he does the reverse.
If he is to rule, I suppose that he cannot help himself.
What a blessed alternative, I said: --to be compelled to dwell
only with the many bad, and to be by them hated, or not to live at
Yes, that is the alternative.
And the more detestable his actions are to the citizens the more
satellites and the greater devotion in them will he require?
And who are the devoted band, and where will he procure them?
They will flock to him, he said, of their own accord, if lie pays
By the dog! I said, here are more drones, of every sort and from
every land.
Yes, he said, there are.
But will he not desire to get them on the spot?
How do you mean?
He will rob the citizens of their slaves; he will then set them free
and enrol them in his bodyguard.
To be sure, he said; and he will be able to trust them best of all.
What a blessed creature, I said, must this tyrant be; he has put
to death the others and has these for his trusted friends.
Yes, he said; they are quite of his sort.
Yes, I said, and these are the new citizens whom he has called
into existence, who admire him and are his companions, while the
good hate and avoid him.
Of course.
Verily, then, tragedy is a wise thing and Euripides a great
Why so?
Why, because he is the author of the pregnant saying,

Tyrants are wise by living with the wise;

and he clearly meant to say that they are the wise whom the tyrant
makes his companions.
Yes, he said, and he also praises tyranny as godlike; and many other
things of the same kind are said by him and by the other poets.
And therefore, I said, the tragic poets being wise men will
forgive us and any others who live after our manner if we do not
receive them into our State, because they are the eulogists of
Yes, he said, those who have the wit will doubtless forgive us.
But they will continue to go to other cities and attract mobs, and
hire voices fair and loud and persuasive, and draw the cities over
to tyrannies and democracies.
Very true.
Moreover, they are paid for this and receive honour --the greatest
honour, as might be expected, from tyrants, and the next greatest from
democracies; but the higher they ascend our constitution hill, the
more their reputation fails, and seems unable from shortness of breath
to proceed further.
But we are wandering from the subject: Let us therefore return and
enquire how the tyrant will maintain that fair and numerous and
various and ever-changing army of his.
If, he said, there are sacred treasures in the city, he will
confiscate and spend them; and in so far as the fortunes of
attainted persons may suffice, he will be able to diminish the taxes
which he would otherwise have to impose upon the people.
And when these fail?
Why, clearly, he said, then he and his boon companions, whether male
or female, will be maintained out of his father's estate.
You mean to say that the people, from whom he has derived his being,
will maintain him and his companions?
Yes, he said; they cannot help themselves.
But what if the people fly into a passion, and aver that a
grown-up son ought not to be supported by his father, but that the
father should be supported by the son? The father did not bring him
into being, or settle him in life, in order that when his son became a
man he should himself be the servant of his own servants and should
support him and his rabble of slaves and companions; but that his
son should protect him, and that by his help he might be emancipated
from the government of the rich and aristocratic, as they are
termed. And so he bids him and his companions depart, just as any
other father might drive out of the house a riotous son and his
undesirable associates.
By heaven, he said, then the parent will discover what a monster
he has been fostering in his bosom; and, when he wants to drive him
out, he will find that he is weak and his son strong.
Why, you do not mean to say that the tyrant will use violence? What!
beat his father if he opposes him?
Yes, he will, having first disarmed him.
Then he is a parricide, and a cruel guardian of an aged parent;
and this is real tyranny, about which there can be no longer a
mistake: as the saying is, the people who would escape the smoke which
is the slavery of freemen, has fallen into the fire which is the
tyranny of slaves. Thus liberty, getting out of all order and
reason, passes into the harshest and bitterest form of slavery.
True, he said.
Very well; and may we not rightly say that we have sufficiently
discussed the nature of tyranny, and the manner of the transition from
democracy to tyranny?
Yes, quite enough, he said.


LAST of all comes the tyrannical man; about whom we have once more
to ask, how is he formed out of the democratical? and how does he
live, in happiness or in misery?
Yes, he said, he is the only one remaining.
There is, however, I said, a previous question which remains
What question?
I do not think that we have adequately determined the nature and
number of the appetites, and until this is accomplished the enquiry
will always be confused.
Well, he said, it is not too late to supply the omission.
Very true, I said; and observe the point which I want to understand:
Certain of the unnecessary pleasures and appetites I conceive to be
unlawful; every one appears to have them, but in some persons they are
controlled by the laws and by reason, and the better desires prevail
over them-either they are wholly banished or they become few and weak;
while in the case of others they are stronger, and there are more of
Which appetites do you mean?
I mean those which are awake when the reasoning and human and ruling
power is asleep; then the wild beast within us, gorged with meat or
drink, starts up and having shaken off sleep, goes forth to satisfy
his desires; and there is no conceivable folly or crime --not
excepting incest or any other unnatural union, or parricide, or the
eating of forbidden food --which at such a time, when he has parted
company with all shame and sense, a man may not be ready to commit.
Most true, he said.
But when a man's pulse is healthy and temperate, and when before
going to sleep he has awakened his rational powers, and fed them on
noble thoughts and enquiries, collecting himself in meditation;
after having first indulged his appetites neither too much nor too
little, but just enough to lay them to sleep, and prevent them and
their enjoyments and pains from interfering with the higher
principle --which he leaves in the solitude of pure abstraction,
free to contemplate and aspire to the knowledge of the unknown,
whether in past, present, or future: when again he has allayed the
passionate element, if he has a quarrel against any one --I say, when,
after pacifying the two irrational principles, he rouses up the third,
which is reason, before he takes his rest, then, as you know, he
attains truth most nearly, and is least likely to be the sport of
fantastic and lawless visions.
I quite agree.
In saying this I have been running into a digression; but the
point which I desire to note is that in all of us, even in good men,
there is a lawless wild-beast nature, which peers out in sleep.
Pray, consider whether I am right, and you agree with me.
Yes, I agree.
And now remember the character which we attributed to the democratic
man. He was supposed from his youth upwards to have been trained under
a miserly parent, who encouraged the saving appetites in him, but
discountenanced the unnecessary, which aim only at amusement and
And then he got into the company of a more refined, licentious
sort of people, and taking to all their wanton ways rushed into the
opposite extreme from an abhorrence of his father's meanness. At last,
being a better man than his corruptors, he was drawn in both
directions until he halted midway and led a life, not of vulgar and
slavish passion, but of what he deemed moderate indulgence in
various pleasures. After this manner the democrat was generated out of
the oligarch?
Yes, he said; that was our view of him, and is so still.
And now, I said, years will have passed away, and you must
conceive this man, such as he is, to have a son, who is brought up
in his father's principles.
I can imagine him.
Then you must further imagine the same thing to happen to the son
which has already happened to the father: --he is drawn into a
perfectly lawless life, which by his seducers is termed perfect
liberty; and his father and friends take part with his moderate
desires, and the opposite party assist the opposite ones. As soon as
these dire magicians and tyrant-makers find that they are losing their
hold on him, they contrive to implant in him a master passion, to be
lord over his idle and spendthrift lusts --a sort of monstrous
winged drone --that is the only image which will adequately describe
Yes, he said, that is the only adequate image of him.
And when his other lusts, amid clouds of incense and perfumes and
garlands and wines, and all the pleasures of a dissolute life, now let
loose, come buzzing around him, nourishing to the utmost the sting
of desire which they implant in his drone-like nature, then at last
this lord of the soul, having Madness for the captain of his guard,
breaks out into a frenzy: and if he finds in himself any good opinions
or appetites in process of formation, and there is in him any sense of
shame remaining, to these better principles he puts an end, and
casts them forth until he has purged away temperance and brought in
madness to the full.
Yes, he said, that is the way in which the tyrannical man is
And is not this the reason why of old love has been called a tyrant?
I should not wonder.
Further, I said, has not a drunken man also the spirit of a tyrant?
He has.
And you know that a man who is deranged and not right in his mind,
will fancy that he is able to rule, not only over men, but also over
the gods?
That he will.
And the tyrannical man in the true sense of the word comes into
being when, either under the influence of nature, or habit, or both,
he becomes drunken, lustful, passionate? O my friend, is not that so?
Such is the man and such is his origin. And next, how does he live?
Suppose, as people facetiously say, you were to tell me.
I imagine, I said, at the next step in his progress, that there will
be feasts and carousals and revellings and courtezans, and all that
sort of thing; Love is the lord of the house within him, and orders
all the concerns of his soul.
That is certain.
Yes; and every day and every night desires grow up many and
formidable, and their demands are many.
They are indeed, he said.
His revenues, if he has any, are soon spent.
Then comes debt and the cutting down of his property.
Of course.
When he has nothing left, must not his desires, crowding in the nest
like young ravens, be crying aloud for food; and he, goaded on by
them, and especially by love himself, who is in a manner the captain
of them, is in a frenzy, and would fain discover whom he can defraud
or despoil of his property, in order that he may gratify them?
Yes, that is sure to be the case.
He must have money, no matter how, if he is to escape horrid pains
and pangs.
He must.
And as in himself there was a succession of pleasures, and the new
got the better of the old and took away their rights, so he being
younger will claim to have more than his father and his mother, and if
he has spent his own share of the property, he will take a slice of
No doubt he will.
And if his parents will not give way, then he will try first of
all to cheat and deceive them.
Very true.
And if he fails, then he will use force and plunder them.
Yes, probably.
And if the old man and woman fight for their own, what then, my
friend? Will the creature feel any compunction at tyrannizing over
Nay, he said, I should not feel at all comfortable about his
But, O heavens! Adeimantus, on account of some newfangled love of
a harlot, who is anything but a necessary connection, can you
believe that he would strike the mother who is his ancient friend
and necessary to his very existence, and would place her under the
authority of the other, when she is brought under the same roof with
her; or that, under like circumstances, he would do the same to his
withered old father, first and most indispensable of friends, for
the sake of some newly found blooming youth who is the reverse of
Yes, indeed, he said; I believe that he would.
Truly, then, I said, a tyrannical son is a blessing to his father
and mother.
He is indeed, he replied.
He first takes their property, and when that falls, and pleasures
are beginning to swarm in the hive of his soul, then he breaks into
a house, or steals the garments of some nightly wayfarer; next he
proceeds to clear a temple. Meanwhile the old opinions which he had
when a child, and which gave judgment about good and evil, are
overthrown by those others which have just been emancipated, and are
now the bodyguard of love and share his empire. These in his
democratic days, when he was still subject to the laws and to his
father, were only let loose in the dreams of sleep. But now that he is
under the dominion of love, he becomes always and in waking reality
what he was then very rarely and in a dream only; he will commit the
foulest murder, or eat forbidden food, or be guilty of any other
horrid act. Love is his tyrant, and lives lordly in him and lawlessly,
and being himself a king, leads him on, as a tyrant leads a State,
to the performance of any reckless deed by which he can maintain
himself and the rabble of his associates, whether those whom evil
communications have brought in from without, or those whom he
himself has allowed to break loose within him by reason of a similar
evil nature in himself. Have we not here a picture of his way of life?
Yes, indeed, he said.
And if there are only a few of them in the State, the rest of the
people are well disposed, they go away and become the bodyguard or
mercenary soldiers of some other tyrant who may probably want them for
a war; and if there is no war, they stay at home and do many little
pieces of mischief in the city.
What sort of mischief?
For example, they are the thieves, burglars, cutpurses, footpads,
robbers of temples, man-stealers of the community; or if they are able
to speak they turn informers, and bear false witness, and take bribes.
A small catalogue of evils, even if the perpetrators of them are few
in number.
Yes, I said; but small and great are comparative terms, and all
these things, in the misery and evil which they inflict upon a
State, do not come within a thousand miles of the tyrant; when this
noxious class and their followers grow numerous and become conscious
of their strength, assisted by the infatuation of the people, they
choose from among themselves the one who has most of the tyrant in his
own soul, and him they create their tyrant.
Yes, he said, and he will be the most fit to be a tyrant.
If the people yield, well and good; but if they resist him, as he
began by beating his own father and mother, so now, if he has the
power, he beats them, and will keep his dear old fatherland or
motherland, as the Cretans say, in subjection to his young retainers
whom he has introduced to be their rulers and masters. This is the end
of his passions and desires.
When such men are only private individuals and before they get
power, this is their character; they associate entirely with their own
flatterers or ready tools; or if they want anything from anybody, they
in their turn are equally ready to bow down before them: they
profess every sort of affection for them; but when they have gained
their point they know them no more.
Yes, truly.
They are always either the masters or servants and never the friends
of anybody; the tyrant never tastes of true freedom or friendship.
Certainly not.
And may we not rightly call such men treacherous?
No question.
Also they are utterly unjust, if we were right in our notion of
Yes, he said, and we were perfectly right.
Let us then sum up in a word, I said, the character of the worst
man: he is the waking reality of what we dreamed.
Most true.
And this is he who being by nature most of a tyrant bears rule,
and the longer he lives the more of a tyrant he becomes.


That is certain, said Glaucon, taking his turn to answer.
And will not he who has been shown to be the wickedest, be also
the most miserable? and he who has tyrannized longest and most, most
continually and truly miserable; although this may not be the
opinion of men in general?
Yes, he said, inevitably.
And must not the tyrannical man be like the tyrannical, State, and
the democratical man like the democratical State; and the same of
the others?
And as State is to State in virtue and happiness, so is man in
relation to man?
To be sure.
Then comparing our original city, which was under a king, and the
city which is under a tyrant, how do they stand as to virtue?
They are the opposite extremes, he said, for one is the very best
and the other is the very worst.
There can be no mistake, I said, as to which is which, and therefore
I will at once enquire whether you would arrive at a similar
decision about their relative happiness and misery. And here we must
not allow ourselves to be panic-stricken at the apparition of the
tyrant, who is only a unit and may perhaps have a few retainers
about him; but let us go as we ought into every corner of the city and
look all about, and then we will give our opinion.
A fair invitation, he replied; and I see, as every one must, that
a tyranny is the wretchedest form of government, and the rule of a
king the happiest.
And in estimating the men too, may I not fairly make a like request,
that I should have a judge whose mind can enter into and see through
human nature? He must not be like a child who looks at the outside and
is dazzled at the pompous aspect which the tyrannical nature assumes
to the beholder, but let him be one who has a clear insight. May I
suppose that the judgment is given in the hearing of us all by one who
is able to judge, and has dwelt in the same place with him, and been
present at his dally life and known him in his family relations, where
he may be seen stripped of his tragedy attire, and again in the hour
of public danger --he shall tell us about the happiness and misery
of the tyrant when compared with other men?
That again, he said, is a very fair proposal.
Shall I assume that we ourselves are able and experienced judges and
have before now met with such a person? We shall then have some one
who will answer our enquiries.
By all means.
Let me ask you not to forget the parallel of the individual and
the State; bearing this in mind, and glancing in turn from one to
the other of them, will you tell me their respective conditions?
What do you mean? he asked.
Beginning with the State, I replied, would you say that a city which
is governed by a tyrant is free or enslaved?
No city, he said, can be more completely enslaved.
And yet, as you see, there are freemen as well as masters in such
a State?
Yes, he said, I see that there are --a few; but the people, speaking
generally, and the best of them, are miserably degraded and enslaved.
Then if the man is like the State, I said, must not the same rule
prevail? his soul is full of meanness and vulgarity --the best
elements in him are enslaved; and there is a small ruling part,
which is also the worst and maddest.
And would you say that the soul of such an one is the soul of a
freeman, or of a slave?
He has the soul of a slave, in my opinion.
And the State which is enslaved under a tyrant is utterly
incapable of acting voluntarily?
Utterly incapable.
And also the soul which is under a tyrant (I am speaking of the soul
taken as a whole) is least capable of doing what she desires; there is
a gadfly which goads her, and she is full of trouble and remorse?
And is the city which is under a tyrant rich or poor?
And the tyrannical soul must be always poor and insatiable?
And must not such a State and such a man be always full of fear?
Yes, indeed.
Is there any State in which you will find more of lamentation and
sorrow and groaning and pain?
Certainly not.
And is there any man in whom you will find more of this sort of
misery than in the tyrannical man, who is in a fury of passions and
Reflecting upon these and similar evils, you held the tyrannical
State to be the most miserable of States?
And I was right, he said.
Certainly, I said. And when you see the same evils in the tyrannical
man, what do you say of him?
I say that he is by far the most miserable of all men.
There, I said, I think that you are beginning to go wrong.
What do you mean?
I do not think that he has as yet reached the utmost extreme of
Then who is more miserable?
One of whom I am about to speak.
Who is that?
He who is of a tyrannical nature, and instead of leading a private
life has been cursed with the further misfortune of being a public
From what has been said, I gather that you are right.
Yes, I replied, but in this high argument you should be a little
more certain, and should not conjecture only; for of all questions,
this respecting good and evil is the greatest.
Very true, he said.
Let me then offer you an illustration, which may, I think, throw a
light upon this subject.
What is your illustration?
The case of rich individuals in cities who possess many slaves: from
them you may form an idea of the tyrant's condition, for they both
have slaves; the only difference is that he has more slaves.
Yes, that is the difference.
You know that they live securely and have nothing to apprehend
from their servants?
What should they fear?
Nothing. But do you observe the reason of this?
Yes; the reason is, that the whole city is leagued together for
the protection of each individual.
Very true, I said. But imagine one of these owners, the master say
of some fifty slaves, together with his family and property and
slaves, carried off by a god into the wilderness, where there are no
freemen to help him --will he not be in an agony of fear lest he and
his wife and children should be put to death by his slaves?
Yes, he said, he will be in the utmost fear.
The time has arrived when he will be compelled to flatter divers
of his slaves, and make many promises to them of freedom and other
things, much against his will --he will have to cajole his own
Yes, he said, that will be the only way of saving himself.
And suppose the same god, who carried him away, to surround him with
neighbours who will not suffer one man to be the master of another,
and who, if they could catch the offender, would take his life?
His case will be still worse, if you suppose him to be everywhere
surrounded and watched by enemies.
And is not this the sort of prison in which the tyrant will be bound
--he who being by nature such as we have described, is full of all
sorts of fears and lusts? His soul is dainty and greedy, and yet
alone, of all men in the city, he is never allowed to go on a journey,
or to see the things which other freemen desire to see, but he lives
in his hole like a woman hidden in the house, and is jealous of any
other citizen who goes into foreign parts and sees anything of
Very true, he said.
And amid evils such as these will not he who is ill-governed in
his own person --the tyrannical man, I mean --whom you just now
decided to be the most miserable of all --will not he be yet more
miserable when, instead of leading a private life, he is constrained
by fortune to be a public tyrant? He has to be master of others when
he is not master of himself: he is like a diseased or paralytic man
who is compelled to pass his life, not in retirement, but fighting and
combating with other men.
Yes, he said, the similitude is most exact.
Is not his case utterly miserable? and does not the actual tyrant
lead a worse life than he whose life you determined to be the worst?
He who is the real tyrant, whatever men may think, is the real
slave, and is obliged to practise the greatest adulation and
servility, and to be the flatterer of the vilest of mankind. He has
desires which he is utterly unable to satisfy, and has more wants than
any one, and is truly poor, if you know how to inspect the whole
soul of him: all his life long he is beset with fear and is full of
convulsions, and distractions, even as the State which he resembles:
and surely the resemblance holds?
Very true, he said.
Moreover, as we were saying before, he grows worse from having
power: he becomes and is of necessity more jealous, more faithless,
more unjust, more friendless, more impious, than he was at first; he
is the purveyor and cherisher of every sort of vice, and the
consequence is that he is supremely miserable, and that he makes
everybody else as miserable as himself.
No man of any sense will dispute your words.
Come then, I said, and as the general umpire in theatrical
contests proclaims the result, do you also decide who in your
opinion is first in the scale of happiness, and who second, and in
what order the others follow: there are five of them in all --they are
the royal, timocratical, oligarchical, democratical, tyrannical.
The decision will be easily given, he replied; they shall be
choruses coming on the stage, and I must judge them in the order in
which they enter, by the criterion of virtue and vice, happiness and
Need we hire a herald, or shall I announce, that the son of
Ariston (the best) has decided that the best and justest is also the
happiest, and that this is he who is the most royal man and king
over himself; and that the worst and most unjust man is also the
most miserable, and that this is he who being the greatest tyrant of
himself is also the greatest tyrant of his State?
Make the proclamation yourself, he said.
And shall I add, 'whether seen or unseen by gods and men'?
Let the words be added.
Then this, I said, will be our first proof; and there is another,
which may also have some weight.
What is that?
The second proof is derived from the nature of the soul: seeing that
the individual soul, like the State, has been divided by us into three
principles, the division may, I think, furnish a new demonstration.
Of what nature?
It seems to me that to these three principles three pleasures
correspond; also three desires and governing powers.
How do you mean? he said.
There is one principle with which, as we were saying, a man
learns, another with which he is angry; the third, having many
forms, has no special name, but is denoted by the general term
appetitive, from the extraordinary strength and vehemence of the
desires of eating and drinking and the other sensual appetites which
are the main elements of it; also money-loving, because such desires
are generally satisfied by the help of money.
That is true, he said.
If we were to say that the loves and pleasures of this third part
were concerned with gain, we should then be able to fall back on a
single notion; and might truly and intelligibly describe this part
of the soul as loving gain or money.
I agree with you.
Again, is not the passionate element wholly set on ruling and
conquering and getting fame?
Suppose we call it the contentious or ambitious --would the term
be suitable?
Extremely suitable.
On the other hand, every one sees that the principle of knowledge is
wholly directed to the truth, and cares less than either of the others
for gain or fame.
Far less.
'Lover of wisdom,' 'lover of knowledge,' are titles which we may
fitly apply to that part of the soul?
One principle prevails in the souls of one class of men, another
in others, as may happen?
Then we may begin by assuming that there are three classes of men
--lovers of wisdom, lovers of honour, lovers of gain?
And there are three kinds of pleasure, which are their several
Very true.
Now, if you examine the three classes of men, and ask of them in
turn which of their lives is pleasantest, each will be found
praising his own and depreciating that of others: the money-maker will
contrast the vanity of honour or of learning if they bring no money
with the solid advantages of gold and silver?
True, he said.
And the lover of honour --what will be his opinion? Will he not
think that the pleasure of riches is vulgar, while the pleasure of
learning, if it brings no distinction, is all smoke and nonsense to
Very true.
And are we to suppose, I said, that the philosopher sets any value
on other pleasures in comparison with the pleasure of knowing the
truth, and in that pursuit abiding, ever learning, not so far indeed
from the heaven of pleasure? Does he not call the other pleasures
necessary, under the idea that if there were no necessity for them, he
would rather not have them?
There can be no doubt of that, he replied.
Since, then, the pleasures of each class and the life of each are in
dispute, and the question is not which life is more or less
honourable, or better or worse, but which is the more pleasant or
painless --how shall we know who speaks truly?
I cannot myself tell, he said.
Well, but what ought to be the criterion? Is any better than
experience and wisdom and reason?
There cannot be a better, he said.
Then, I said, reflect. Of the three individuals, which has the
greatest experience of all the pleasures which we enumerated? Has
the lover of gain, in learning the nature of essential truth,
greater experience of the pleasure of knowledge than the philosopher
has of the pleasure of gain?
The philosopher, he replied, has greatly the advantage; for he has
of necessity always known the taste of the other pleasures from his
childhood upwards: but the lover of gain in all his experience has not
of necessity tasted --or, I should rather say, even had he desired,
could hardly have tasted --the sweetness of learning and knowing
Then the lover of wisdom has a great advantage over the lover of
gain, for he has a double experience?
Yes, very great.
Again, has he greater experience of the pleasures of honour, or
the lover of honour of the pleasures of wisdom?
Nay, he said, all three are honoured in proportion as they attain
their object; for the rich man and the brave man and the wise man
alike have their crowd of admirers, and as they all receive honour
they all have experience of the pleasures of honour; but the delight
which is to be found in the knowledge of true being is known to the
philosopher only.
His experience, then, will enable him to judge better than any one?
Far better.
And he is the only one who has wisdom as well as experience?
Further, the very faculty which is the instrument of judgment is not
possessed by the covetous or ambitious man, but only by the
What faculty?
Reason, with whom, as we were saying, the decision ought to rest.
And reasoning is peculiarly his instrument?
If wealth and gain were the criterion, then the praise or blame of
the lover of gain would surely be the most trustworthy?
Or if honour or victory or courage, in that case the judgement of
the ambitious or pugnacious would be the truest?
But since experience and wisdom and reason are the judges--
The only inference possible, he replied, is that pleasures which are
approved by the lover of wisdom and reason are the truest.
And so we arrive at the result, that the pleasure of the intelligent
part of the soul is the pleasantest of the three, and that he of us in
whom this is the ruling principle has the pleasantest life.
Unquestionably, he said, the wise man speaks with authority when
he approves of his own life.
And what does the judge affirm to be the life which is next, and the
pleasure which is next?
Clearly that of the soldier and lover of honour; who is nearer to
himself than the money-maker.
Last comes the lover of gain?
Very true, he said.
Twice in succession, then, has the just man overthrown the unjust in
this conflict; and now comes the third trial, which is dedicated to
Olympian Zeus the saviour: a sage whispers in my ear that no
pleasure except that of the wise is quite true and pure --all others
are a shadow only; and surely this will prove the greatest and most
decisive of falls?
Yes, the greatest; but will you explain yourself?
I will work out the subject and you shall answer my questions.
Say, then, is not pleasure opposed to pain?
And there is a neutral state which is neither pleasure nor pain?
There is.
A state which is intermediate, and a sort of repose of the soul
about either --that is what you mean?
You remember what people say when they are sick?
What do they say?
That after all nothing is pleasanter than health. But then they
never knew this to be the greatest of pleasures until they were ill.
Yes, I know, he said.
And when persons are suffering from acute pain, you must. have heard
them say that there is nothing pleasanter than to get rid of their
I have.
And there are many other cases of suffering in which the mere rest
and cessation of pain, and not any positive enjoyment, is extolled
by them as the greatest pleasure?
Yes, he said; at the time they are pleased and well content to be at
Again, when pleasure ceases, that sort of rest or cessation will
be painful?
Doubtless, he said.
Then the intermediate state of rest will be pleasure and will also
be pain?
So it would seem.
But can that which is neither become both?
I should say not.
And both pleasure and pain are motions of the soul, are they not?
But that which is neither was just now shown to be rest and not
motion, and in a mean between them?
How, then, can we be right in supposing that the absence of pain
is pleasure, or that the absence of pleasure is pain?
This then is an appearance only and not a reality; that is tc say,
the rest is pleasure at the moment and in comparison of what is
painful, and painful in comparison of what is pleasant; but all
these representations, when tried by the test of true pleasure, are
not real but a sort of imposition?
That is the inference.
Look at the other class of pleasures which have no antecedent
pains and you will no longer suppose, as you perhaps may at present,
that pleasure is only the cessation of pain, or pain of pleasure.
What are they, he said, and where shall I find them?
There are many of them: take as an example the pleasures, of
smell, which are very great and have no antecedent pains; they come in
a moment, and when they depart leave no pain behind them.
Most true, he said.
Let us not, then, be induced to believe that pure pleasure is the
cessation of pain, or pain of pleasure.
Still, the more numerous and violent pleasures which reach the
soul through the body are generally of this sort --they are reliefs of
That is true.
And the anticipations of future pleasures and pains are of a like
Shall I give you an illustration of them?
Let me hear.
You would allow, I said, that there is in nature an upper and
lower and middle region?
I should.
And if a person were to go from the lower to the middle region,
would he not imagine that he is going up; and he who is standing in
the middle and sees whence he has come, would imagine that he is
already in the upper region, if he has never seen the true upper
To be sure, he said; how can he think otherwise?
But if he were taken back again he would imagine, and truly imagine,
that he was descending?
No doubt.
All that would arise out of his ignorance of the true upper and
middle and lower regions?
Then can you wonder that persons who are inexperienced in the truth,
as they have wrong ideas about many other things, should also have
wrong ideas about pleasure and pain and the intermediate state; so
that when they are only being drawn towards the painful they feel pain
and think the pain which they experience to be real, and in like
manner, when drawn away from pain to the neutral or intermediate
state, they firmly believe that they have reached the goal of
satiety and pleasure; they, not knowing pleasure, err in contrasting
pain with the absence of pain. which is like contrasting black with
grey instead of white --can you wonder, I say, at this?
No, indeed; I should be much more disposed to wonder at the
Look at the matter thus: --Hunger, thirst, and the like, are
inanitions of the bodily state?
And ignorance and folly are inanitions of the soul?
And food and wisdom are the corresponding satisfactions of either?
And is the satisfaction derived from that which has less or from
that which has more existence the truer?
Clearly, from that which has more.
What classes of things have a greater share of pure existence in
your judgment --those of which food and drink and condiments and all
kinds of sustenance are examples, or the class which contains true
opinion and knowledge and mind and all the different kinds of
virtue? Put the question in this way: --Which has a more pure being
--that which is concerned with the invariable, the immortal, and the
true, and is of such a nature, and is found in such natures; or that
which is concerned with and found in the variable and mortal, and is
itself variable and mortal?
Far purer, he replied, is the being of that which is concerned
with the invariable.
And does the essence of the invariable partake of knowledge in the
same degree as of essence?
Yes, of knowledge in the same degree.
And of truth in the same degree?
And, conversely, that which has less of truth will also have less of
Then, in general, those kinds of things which are in the service
of the body have less of truth and essence than those which are in the
service of the soul?
Far less.
And has not the body itself less of truth and essence than the soul?
What is filled with more real existence, and actually has a more
real existence, is more really filled than that which is filled with
less real existence and is less real?
Of course.
And if there be a pleasure in being filled with that which is
according to nature, that which is more really filled with more real
being will more really and truly enjoy true pleasure; whereas that
which participates in less real being will be less truly and surely
satisfied, and will participate in an illusory and less real pleasure?
Those then who know not wisdom and virtue, and are always busy
with gluttony and sensuality, go down and up again as far as the mean;
and in this region they move at random throughout life, but they never
pass into the true upper world; thither they neither look, nor do they
ever find their way, neither are they truly filled with true being,
nor do they taste of pure and abiding pleasure. Like cattle, with
their eyes always looking down and their heads stooping to the
earth, that is, to the dining-table, they fatten and feed and breed,
and, in their excessive love of these delights, they kick and butt
at one another with horns and hoofs which are made of iron; and they
kill one another by reason of their insatiable lust. For they fill
themselves with that which is not substantial, and the part of
themselves which they fill is also unsubstantial and incontinent.
Verily, Socrates, said Glaucon, you describe the life of the many
like an oracle.
Their pleasures are mixed with pains --how can they be otherwise?
For they are mere shadows and pictures of the true, and are coloured
by contrast, which exaggerates both light and shade, and so they
implant in the minds of fools insane desires of themselves; and they
are fought about as Stesichorus says that the Greeks fought about
the shadow of Helen at Troy in ignorance of the truth.
Something of that sort must inevitably happen.
And must not the like happen with the spirited or passionate element
of the soul? Will not the passionate man who carries his passion
into action, be in the like case, whether he is envious and ambitious,
or violent and contentious, or angry and discontented, if he be
seeking to attain honour and victory and the satisfaction of his anger
without reason or sense?
Yes, he said, the same will happen with the spirited element also.
Then may we not confidently assert that the lovers of money and
honour, when they seek their pleasures under the guidance and in the
company of reason and knowledge, and pursue after and win the
pleasures which wisdom shows them, will also have the truest pleasures
in the highest degree which is attainable to them, inasmuch as they
follow truth; and they will have the pleasures which are natural to
them, if that which is best for each one is also most natural to him?
Yes, certainly; the best is the most natural.
And when the whole soul follows the philosophical principle, and
there is no division, the several parts are just, and do each of
them their own business, and enjoy severally the best and truest
pleasures of which they are capable?
But when either of the two other principles prevails, it fails in
attaining its own pleasure, and compels the rest to pursue after a
pleasure which is a shadow only and which is not their own?
And the greater the interval which separates them from philosophy
and reason, the more strange and illusive will be the pleasure?
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 distance? Yes.
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 oligarch?
He will.
And the oligarch is third from the royal; since we count as one
royal and aristocratical?
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 complete,
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.
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?
Immeasurably greater.
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 propose.
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 he now?
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?
Very true.
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 and equals.
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 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.
Very true.
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 's his own he
certainly will, though in the land of his birth perhaps not, unless he
have a divine call.
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 other.
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 been distinguished.
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
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
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?
I do.
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 he?
And there is another artist, --I should like to know what you
would say of him.
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?
What way?
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?
Of course.
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
At any rate, he replied, philosophers would say that he was not
speaking the truth.
No wonder, then, that his work too is an indistinct expression of
No wonder.
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
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 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
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 bed?
But would you call the painter a creator and maker?
Certainly not.
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 imitator?
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?
The latter.
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 things.
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?
Of appearance.
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
And whenever any one informs us that he has found a man 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 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.
Most true.
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 profit.
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 name?
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 alive?
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 them 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.
Quite so.
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 explanation.
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
Most true.
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?
Of course.
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 own creations?
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?
Just so.
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?
Very true.
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
Most true.
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 contradiction?
But were we not saying that such a contradiction is the same faculty
cannot have contrary opinions at the same time about the same thing?
Very true.
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 soul?
No doubt.
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 offspring.
Very true.
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 anything more?
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 sorrow?
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 him?
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
Yes, he said, that is the true way of meeting the attacks of
Yes, I said; and the higher principle is ready to follow this
suggestion of reason?
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 are strangers.
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 principle in
the soul; but he will prefer the passionate and fitful temper, which
is easily imitated?
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 feelings most.
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
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 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 other metre?
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 a delight?
Certainly, he said, we shall 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 await virtue.
What, are there any greater still? If there are, they must be of
an inconceivable greatness.
Why, I said, what was ever great in a short time? The whole period
of threescore years and ten is surely but a little thing in comparison
with eternity?
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 it.
I see a great difficulty; but I should like to hear you state this
argument of which you make so light.
Listen then.
I am attending.
There is a thing which you call good and another which you call
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
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 evil.
Certainly not.
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 no destruction?
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 true?
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 the body ?
Certainly not.
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?
Very true.
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
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
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 death.
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 immortality.
Very true.
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?
Certainly not.
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.
Where then?
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 has 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.
Very true.
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 gods.
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 former sins?
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
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 true?
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 (of 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 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 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 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 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 tolls 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 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 describing.

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