Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Ideal Ruler Portrayed
By Plato (429–347 B.C.)
From ‘The Statesman’: Translation of Benjamin Jowett

STRANGER—When we praise quickness and energy and acuteness, whether of mind or body or speech, we express our praise of the quality which we admire, by one word; and that one word is manliness or courage.  1
  Young Socrates—How is that?  2
  Stranger—We speak of an action as energetic and manly, quick and manly, or vigorous and manly; this is the common epithet which we apply to all persons of this class.  3
  Young Socrates—True.  4
  Stranger—And do we not often praise the quiet strain of action also?  5
  Young Socrates—To be sure.  6
  Stranger—And do we not then say the opposite of what we said of the other?  7
  Young Socrates—How do you mean?  8
  Stranger—In speaking of the mind, we say, How calm! How temperate! These are the terms in which we describe the working of the intellect; and again we speak of actions as deliberate and gentle, and of the voice as smooth and deep, and of all rhythmical movement and of music in general as having a proper solemnity. To all these we attribute not courage, but a name indicative of order.  9
  Young Socrates—Very true.  10
  Stranger—But when, on the other hand, either of these is out of place, the names of either are changed into terms of censure.  11
  Young Socrates—How is that?  12
  Stranger—Too great sharpness or quickness or hardness is termed violence or madness; too great slowness or gentleness is called cowardice or sluggishness: and we may observe that these qualities, and in general the temperance of one class of characters and the manliness of another, are arrayed as enemies on opposite sides, and do not mingle with one another in their respective actions; and if we pursue the inquiry, we shall find that the men who have these qualities are at variance with one another.  13
  Young Socrates—How do you mean?  14
  Stranger—In the instance which I mentioned, and very likely in many others, there are some things which they praise as being like themselves, and other things which they blame as belonging to the opposite characters; and out of this, many quarrels and occasions of quarrels arise among them.  15
  Young Socrates—True.  16
  Stranger—The difference between the two classes is amusing enough at times; but when affecting really important matters, becomes a most utterly hateful disorder in the State.  17
  Young Socrates—What part of the State is thus affected?  18
  Stranger—The whole course of life suffers from the disorder. For the orderly class are always ready to lead a peaceful life, and do their own business; this is their way of living with all men at home, and they are equally ready to keep the peace with foreign States. And on account of this fondness of theirs for peace, which is often out of season where their influence prevails, they become by degrees unwarlike, and bring up their young men to be like themselves; they are at the command of others: and hence in a few years they and their children and the whole city often pass imperceptibly from the condition of freemen into that of slaves.  19
  Young Socrates—That is a hard, cruel fate.  20
  Stranger—What now is the case with the more courageous natures? Are they not always inciting their country to go to war, owing to their excessive love of the military life? Their enemies are many and mighty; and if they do not ruin their cities, they enslave and subject them to their enemies.  21
  Young Socrates—That, again, is true.  22
  Stranger—Must we not admit, then, that these two classes are always in the greatest antipathy and antagonism to one another?  23
  Young Socrates—We cannot deny that….  24
  Stranger—I want to know whether any constructive art will make any, even the smallest thing, out of bad and good materials indifferently, if this can be avoided? whether all art does not rather reject the bad as far as possible, and accept the good and fit materials, and out of these like and unlike elements gathering all into one, work out some form or idea?  25
  Young Socrates—To be sure.  26
  Stranger—Then the true natural art of statesmanship will never allow any State to be formed by a combination of good and bad men, if this can be avoided; but will begin by testing human natures in play, and after testing them, will intrust them to proper teachers who are her ministers: she will herself give orders and maintain authority,—like weaving, which continually gives orders and maintains authority over the carders and all the others who prepare the material for the work; showing to the subsidiary arts the works which she deems necessary for making the web.  27
  Young Socrates—Quite true.  28
  Stranger—In like manner, the royal science appears to me to be the mistress of all careful educators and instructors; and having this queenly power, will not allow any of them to train characters unsuited to the political constitution which she desires to create, but such as are suitable only. Other natures, which have no part in manliness and temperance or any other virtuous inclination, and from the necessity of an evil nature are violently carried away to godlessness and injustice and violence, she exterminates by death, and punishes them by exile and the greatest of disgraces.  29
  Young Socrates—That is commonly said.  30
  Stranger—But those who are wallowing in ignorance and baseness she bows under the yoke of slavery.  31
  Young Socrates—Quite right.  32
  Stranger—The rest of the citizens—of whom, if they have education, something noble may be made, and who are capable of social science—the kingly art blends and weaves together; taking on the one hand those whose natures tend rather to courage, which is the stronger element and may be regarded as the warp, and on the other hand those which incline to order and gentleness, and which are represented in the figure as spun thick and soft after the manner of the woof,—these, which are naturally opposed, she seeks to bind and weave together…. This, then, according to our view, is the perfection of the web of political action. There is a direct intertexture of the brave and temperate natures, when the kingly science has drawn the two sorts of lives into communion by unanimity and kindness; and having completed the noblest and best of all webs of which a common life admits, and enveloping therein all other inhabitants of cities, whether slaves or freemen, binds them in one fabric and governs and presides over them, omitting no element of a city’s happiness.  33
  Young Socrates—You have completed, Stranger, a very perfect image of the King and of the Statesman.  34

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2020 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit · Free Essays