The Dialogues of Plato — Translation by David Horan

Plato’s Republic

Book 3

386A Well, said I, these are the sort of things that should be heard about the gods, and the sort that should not, from their earliest childhood, by those who are to show respect for the gods and for their own parents, and not make light of their friendship with one another.

Yes, said he, and I think we are now looking at this in the right way.

But what if they are to be courageous? Mustn’t they be told these stories and also the kind of thing that will make them least afraid of death? Or do you think 386B anyone would become courageous whilst harbouring this fear within himself?

By Zeus, said he, I do not.

What about this? Do you think anyone who believes in Hades and its horrors will be fearless in the face of death and will choose death in battle in preference to defeat and slavery?

Not at all.

It seems then that we should also supervise those who turn their hand to telling these stories, and implore them not to speak ill of Hades’ realm, in such a simplistic manner but, rather, to praise it, since what they are now telling us is neither true, 386C nor beneficial to those who are to become fighting men.

We should indeed, said he.

So we shall erase everything of this sort, beginning with the following verses:

I would rather follow the plow as thrall to another man,

one with no land allotted him and not much to live on,

than be a king over all the perished dead.[1]

386D And

the houses of the dead lie open to men and immortals,

ghastly and moldering, so the very gods shudder before them;[2]


Oh, wonder! Even in the house of Hades there is left something,

a soul and an image, but there is no real heart of life in it.[3]

And this

To whom alone Persephone has granted intelligence

even after death, but the rest of them are flittering shadows.[4]


…and the soul fluttering free of his limbs went down into Death’s house

mourning her destiny, leaving youth and manhood behind her.[5]

387A And this

…but the spirit went underground, like vapour,[6]


And as when bats in the depth of an awful cave flitter

and gibber, when one of them has fallen out of his place in

the chain that the bats have formed by holding one on another;

so, gibbering, they went their way together,[7]

387B And we shall ask Homer and the other poets not to be angry if we strike out these verses and others like them, not because they are unpoetic, or unpleasant for most people to hear, but because the more poetic they are, the less they should be heard by the young, and by men who need to be free, and more afraid of slavery than of death.

Entirely so.

What’s more, shouldn’t all the terrible, frightening 387C names associated with these realms be abolished too; names like Cocytus and Styx, “the dead” and “those beneath the earth”, and other names of this type that make anyone who hears them tremble? Perhaps they are good for some other purpose, but we are afraid that as a result of such trembling, our guardians may become more excitable and softer than needs be.

And we would be right to be afraid, said he.

Should they be excluded?


Then words that have the opposite effect should be used, in common parlance and in poetry?

Of course.

387D Shall we also remove the lamentations and wailings of the famous men?

We must, said he, in the light of the previous exclusions.

Then, said I, let’s consider whether we are right to remove them. We maintain that a reasonable man won’t think that dying is a terrible thing to happen to another reasonable man, who is also his friend.

We maintain this, indeed.

So he would not lament, at least not for that man, as though something terrible had befallen him.

Certainly not.

In that case, we are also saying, that as regards living well, a person like this is most sufficient unto himself 387E and, in contrast to other people, he is least dependent on anyone else.

True, said he.

So, to him, it is least terrible to be deprived of a son, or a brother, or money, or anything else like that.

Least, indeed.

So whenever some such misfortune overtakes him, he laments least, and bears it with the utmost gentleness.

Very much so.

We would be right then, to take these dirges away from men of reputation, and we might give them to women, but not to women of substance, 388A and to bad men, so that those whom we say we are rearing as guardians of their own country will be disgusted at the prospect of behaving like such people.

We would be right, said he.

Once again, then, we shall ask Homer, and the other poets, not to have Achilles, the son of a Goddess:

Lying now on his side, then

again on his back, then face down,

then standing upright and

roaming, distraught along the

388B shore of the unharvested ocean.[8]

Nor say;

In both hands he caught up the grimy dust, and poured it over his head and face.[9]

Nor have him generally wailing and lamenting in the whole variety of ways that the poet makes him behave. Nor should he say Priam, a near relation of the gods, was making entreaties and:

…wallowed in the muck before them calling on each man and naming him by his name[10]

But it is even more important that we ask them, in particular, not to have gods lamenting and saying:

Ah me, my sorrow, the bitterness in this best of child-bearing,[11]

And even if he makes gods act like this, he certainly mustn’t dare to portray the greatest of the gods so inaccurately that he says:

“Ah me, this is a man beloved whom now my eyes watch

being chased around the wall; my heart is mourning for Hektor.[12]


388D “Ah me, that it is destined that the dearest of men, Sarpedon,

must go down under the hands of Menoitios’ son Patroklos.[13]

For, dear Adeimantus, if our young folk were to listen seriously to this sort of thing, and not deride these as unworthy utterances, they would hardly regard such behaviour as unworthy of mere mortals like themselves, if it also occurs to them to say or do something like this. Instead they would exhibit neither shame nor restraint in singing dirges and laments aplenty at the slightest mishap.

What you are saying is very true, said he.

388E Well we don’t want that, as the argument indicated to us just now; an argument in which we should place our trust until someone convinces us otherwise with a better one.

Indeed, we don’t want that.

Indeed not, nor should they be too fond of laughter either. For whenever someone yields to violent laughter, this sort of thing involves a violent change.

I think so, said he.

So if someone portrays any human being, worthy of note, as overcome by laughter, 389A that is unacceptable, and it is even more unacceptable in the case of gods.

More unacceptable indeed, said he.

In that case we shall not accept, anything like the following verses about the gods, even from Homer:

But among the blessed immortals uncontrollable laughter

went up as they saw Hephaistos bustling about the palace.[14]

According to our argument these should be rejected.

389B You may attribute that to me if you wish, said he. In any case it should not be accepted.

But of course we must attach great importance to truth. Indeed if we were right to say earlier, that although falsehood is really of no use to gods, it is still useful to humans as a kind of medicine, then it is obvious that something like this should be entrusted to physicians, and that private citizens should have no involvement with it.

Obviously, he said.

It is appropriate then, for those who rule our city, if anyone, to tell falsehoods, in dealing with the citizens or in dealing with enemies, for the benefit of the city, while it is not appropriate for anyone else to be involved in something of this sort. 389C But for a private citizen to be false towards the rulers, in particular, is, we shall maintain the same, indeed a greater error, than not speaking the truth to a physician when ill or to a trainer during a training programme, about the condition of his own body, or not informing a steersman about what’s actually going on regarding the ship and the sailors, or his own level of experience, or that of his fellow sailors.

Very true, said he.

389D So if the ruler catches anyone else in the city, lying, whether:

He is one who works for the people, either a prophet, or a healer of sickness, or a

skilled workman,[15]

he will punish them for introducing a practice that overturns and destroys the city, just like a ship.

Yes, said he, if word is matched by deeds.

What about sound-mindedness, then; won’t our young folk need this?

Of course.

And for most people don’t the most important aspects of sound-mindedness consist in being obedient to their rulers 389E and being rulers, themselves, over the pleasures of drink, sex and food.

Yes, I think so.

Then I think we shall declare that the sort of thing that Diomedes says in Homer, is well said:

Friend, stay quiet rather and do as I tell you;[16]

And the connected lines,

But the Achaian men went silently, breathing valour,

…, in fear of their commanders; [17]

And anything else of this sort.

Very well.

What about lines like these?

“You wine sack, with a dog’s eyes, with a deer’s heart…[18]

390A And the lines that follow; are these, and any other insolent remarks directed by private citizens against their rulers, either in verse or in prose, good?

They are not good.

Indeed I don‘t think they are appropriate for the young folk to hear, not with a view to sound-mindedness, at any rate. Yet if they provide some other pleasure, that’s no surprise: how does this look to you?

As you say, said he.

And what if he makes the most sound-minded of men say that he thinks the most beautiful moment of all is when:

…the tables are loaded with bread 390B and meats, and from the mixing bowl the wine steward draws the wine and carries it about and fills the cups. [19]

Do you think these lines are suitable for a young person to hear, for developing self-control? Or indeed:

All deaths are detestable for wretched mortals,

but hunger is the sorriest way to die.[20]

Or about Zeus, awake, alone, while the other gods, and humans too, are sleeping, quickly forgetting 390C all the plans he had made, because of sexual desire; being so overcome at the sight of Hera that he couldn’t even wait to get into their chamber but wanted to have intercourse with her, there and then, on the ground; saying that he was never in the grip of such desire, not even when they first consorted together:

“Unbeknownst to their dear parents.”

Nor about Ares and Aphrodite being tied up by Hephaestus for similar reasons.

No, by Zeus, said he, that doesn’t seem suitable to me.

390D But if some feats of endurance in the face of all sorts of trials, are spoken of, and enacted by famous men; these should be seen and heard by our young folk.

For example:

He struck himself on the chest and spoke to his heart and scolded it:

‘Bear up, my heart. You have had worse to endure before this’[21]

Entirely so, said he.

Nor indeed should we allow such men to be corruptible by bribes or 390E fond of money. So no one should sing the line that says:

Gifts move the gods and gifts persuade dread kings.[22]

Nor should we praise Achilles’ teacher, Phoenix, as setting the standard when he advised him to accept gifts in return for assisting the Achaeans, and not to abate his wrath if no gifts were forthcoming. We shall not deem Achilles himself worthy of this, nor shall we accept that he was so fond of money as to take bribes 391A from Agamemnon, or indeed, to release a dead body if he was paid, but not otherwise.

No, said he, it wouldn’t really be right to praise this sort of thing.

And I am reluctant, said I, for Homer’s sake, to declare that it is unholy to say all this about Achilles, or to believe it when others say so, or indeed that he said to Apollo:

“You have balked me, striker from afar, most malignant of all gods,

Else I would punish you, if only the strength were in me.”[23]

391B Or that he was disrespectful of the river, a god, and was prepared to do battle against him, or again, that although his own locks were already promised to the other river, Spercheius, he said:

“I would give my hair into the keeping of the hero Patroclus”[24]

even though Patroclus was a corpse. We should not believe that Achilles did this. And we shall deny that the dragging of Hector’s body around the tomb of Patroclus, and the slaughter of the prisoners of war over his funeral pyre is true. Nor shall we allow our charges 391C to be convinced that Achilles, the son of a goddess and of Peleus who was the most sound-minded of men, a grandson of Zeus, reared by the all-wise Cheiron, was so full of confusion as to harbour within himself two opposed diseases; a love of money that ill becomes a free man, and an arrogance towards gods and men alike.

You are right, said he.

Then we should not believe them, said I, nor should we believe, nor allow it to be said, 391D that Theseus, the son of Poseidon, and Perithous, son of Zeus, embarked upon such awful abductions, nor that any other child of a god and a hero would dare to enact awful, impious deeds; the sort that are falsely attributed to them nowadays. Rather, we shall compel the poets to declare, either that the deeds were not theirs, or that those who performed them were not the children of gods; but they must not make both statements. Nor should they attempt to persuade our young folk that the gods give rise to evil, or that heroes are no better than mortal men. For as we were saying 391E before, these claims are neither pious, nor are they true. Indeed we have shown, I presume, that it is impossible for evils to come from the gods.

Of course.

And what’s more, they are harmful to those who hear them since anyone will forgive himself for being bad once he is convinced that such deeds are performed and have been performed by:

The near-sown seed of gods,

Close kin to Zeus, for whom on Ida’s top

Ancestral altars flame to highest heaven,

Nor in their life-blood fails the fire divine.[25]

That’s why we should put a stop to stories of this sort, lest they engender a total indifference 392A to degenerate behaviour, in our young folk.

Yes, precisely, said he.

So, said I, now that we are defining the kind of accounts that should be delivered, and the kind that should not, is there anything we have left out? We have said how the gods, daimons and heroes should be spoken of, and those in Hades too.

Yes, indeed.

So, what’s left would be concerned with humans, wouldn’t it?


But, my friend, it is impossible for us to arrange this at the moment.

Why so?

Because I think we shall simply affirm that poets and prose writers do indeed speak ill 392B of human beings on matters of the utmost importance. They say that although they are unjust, many of them are happy, while the just people are wretched; that acting unjustly is profitable as long as it goes undetected, while justice is what’s good for someone else, but inimical to your own interests. And I think we shall forbid them to say this sort of thing, and direct them instead to sing and tell stories that say the exact opposite; don’t you think so?

I know full well, said he.

In that case, if you concede that what I am saying is correct, may I claim that you have made concessions on the issues we have been investigating all along?

392C Correct, said he, you have understood.

Now once we find out the sort of thing justice is, and how it is naturally beneficial to its possessor, regardless of whether he seems to be just or not, we shall then come to agreement on the sort of accounts that should be given about human beings, but not until then.

Very true, said he.

Well, let that be the end of our discussion of speeches and, in my opinion, we should consider speech itself next. Then our consideration of what should be said, and how it should be said will be a comprehensive one.

Then Adeimantus said; I don’t understand what you mean by this.

392D Well you do need to understand, said I. Perhaps you will get a better sense of it from the following: isn’t everything that storytellers or poets say, a narrative of events that have happened, are happening, or are going to happen?

Yes, what else could it be? said he.

Yes, and don’t they proceed either by simple narrative, by narrative that takes place through imitation, or through both?

I still need to understand this more clearly, he said.

I seem, said I, to be a ridiculous teacher, devoid of clarity. 392E So like those who are unable to express themselves, I shall attempt to show you what I mean, not in full, but by taking a particular part of it. Tell me then, do you know the initial verses of the Illiad where the poet says that Chryses begged Agamemnon to set his daughter free, but that Agamemnon was angry, and so Chryses, since he had been unsuccessful, called down curses 393A from the god, upon the Achaeans?

I do indeed.

Then you know that up to the lines:

… he supplicated all the Achaians,

But above all Atreus’ two sons, the marshals of the people:[26]

the poet himself is speaking, and he does not even attempt to give us the impression that anyone else is speaking except himself. But in the lines that follow these, he speaks as if he himself is Chryses, and he attempts, as best he can, to make us 393B think that the speaker is not Homer but the priest, an old man. And all of the rest of the narrative, about events at Troy and Ithica, and the entire Odyssey, has, for the most part, been composed in this way.

Yes, indeed, said he.

Now it is narrative, isn’t it, on the occasions when he is speaking the speeches, and also when there is an interval between speeches?

Of course.

But when he delivers a speech as though he were someone else, won’t we then say that, as best he can, he is making his own speech resemble 393C that of the person whom he tells us is about to speak?

We shall say so; what of it?

Doesn’t the process of making oneself resemble another person, either in speech or in outward appearance, mean imitating the person one is making oneself resemble?


So in a case like this, it seems that Homer and the other poets construct the narrative through imitation.

Entirely so.

But if the poet were not to hide himself, anywhere, the entire poetic narrative would have proceeded without imitation. 393D And in case you say, once more, that you don’t understand, I’ll tell you how this may happen. Indeed if Homer were to begin by saying that Chryses arrived as a supplicant of the Achaeans, and particularly of their king, bringing his daughter’s ransom, and he was to speak thereafter, still as Homer, and not as if he had become Chryses, you know that that would not be imitation but simple narrative. It would proceed somewhat as follows; I’ll deliver it in prose since I am no poet.

When the priest 393E arrived, he prayed that the gods would grant them safe passage home once they had captured Troy, and that they would accept the ransom, and free his daughter out of reverence to the god. Once he had said all this, everyone else was respectful and co-operative, but Agamemnon was annoyed, and he ordered him to depart, there and then, never to return, or else his sceptre, and the garlands of his god, would not be enough to protect him. And he said, that before he would release Chryses’ daughter she would grow old with him 394A in Argos, and he ordered him to go away and not provoke him if he wanted to return home safely. The old man was terrified when he heard this, and he departed in silence, but once he was out of the Archaean camp, he prayed profusely to Apollo, invoking the many names of the god, and issuing reminders, asking to be repaid if any gifts he had ever given had pleased the god, either through building temples or sacrificing animals. In return for these, he prayed that the Achaeans would pay the price of his tears with the arrows of the god.

394B That, my friend, said I, is how a simple narrative proceeds, in the absence of imitation.

I understand, said he.

Then you should understand, said I, that the exact opposite of this occurs when someone removes the intervening words of the poet himself, and leaves only the exchanges between the speakers.

I understand this too, said he; this is the sort of thing that occurs in tragedies.

You’re quite right, said I, you have understood, and I think I am now clarifying, for you, what I could not clarify previously; that some poetry and storytelling proceeds entirely through imitation, 394C including, as you say, tragedy and comedy; the kind that proceeds through reports by the poet himself, you would find, for the most part, in dithyrambic poems, while the kind that employs both, is found in epic poetry, and in numerous other places too, if you understand me.

Yes, said he, I now follow what you wanted to say then.

And do you also recollect what went before, when we maintained that, although we have already explained what should be said, we still need to consider how it should be said.

Yes, I remember.

394D Well this is the point I was making, that we need to come to an agreement on whether we shall allow the poets to compose narratives for us by using imitation, or allow them to imitate in some cases but not in others, and the sort of cases we envisage, or, indeed, not allow them to imitate at all.

I get the sense, said he, that you are considering whether we shall admit tragedy and comedy into our city or not.

Perhaps, said I, and perhaps even more than these. In fact, I don’t know yet, but we should go in whatever direction the wind of the argument carries us.

Yes, said he, you put that nicely.

394E Well, Adeimantus, reflect upon this; should our guardians be imitators or not? Or does this also follow from what we said before; that each particular person would be good at engaging in one particular pursuit, and not in many, and if he should attempt to turn his hand to lots of pursuits, he would fail to achieve distinction in any of them.

Of course it does.

Doesn’t the same argument apply also to imitation; it is not possible for the same person to imitate many things as well as he can imitate one thing?

Indeed not.

395A In that case, he will hardly engage in any pursuit worth mentioning and, simultaneously, be an imitator, imitating lots of things, when the same people cannot even do a good job of simultaneously producing two imitations that seem as closely related, as comedy and tragedy, for instance; you did refer to these two as imitations, didn’t you?

I did, and what you are saying is true: the same people cannot compose both.

Nor indeed can they be good rhapsodes, and good actors at the same time.


395B And the same people cannot be good actors in comedy and in tragedy too; and all these are imitations; aren’t they?


And it seems to me that human nature has been cut up into even smaller pieces than these, so that it is incapable of imitating many things properly, or of properly enacting the very things that those imitations resemble.

Very true, said he.

So, if we are going to save our initial argument whereby our guardians, set apart from all the other artificers, 395C should be artificers of the freedom of the city, in the strictest sense, and engage in no other pursuit that does not lead in this direction, then it is necessary that they neither enact nor imitate anything else. And if they are to imitate anything, they should, from their earliest childhood, imitate only what is appropriate to these artificers of freedom; men who are courageous, sound-minded, pious, free, and everything of this sort. But they will not enact, nor be clever at imitating, anything devoid of freedom, nor anything else that is shameful, in case they proceed from enjoying the imitation, to enjoying the reality. Or haven’t you noticed, that imitations 395D that are continued from our earliest years and beyond, become established as habits and as nature, at the level of body, speech, and indeed, of thought?

Very much so, said he.

Then those whom we claim to care for, men who should themselves become good men, these we shall not permit to imitate a woman, old or young, railing against her husband, in conflict with gods, being boastful about it, and believing herself to be a happy 395E woman; or when she is overtaken by misfortune, grief, or lamentation, and especially not when she is sick, in love, or in labour.

Absolutely, said he.

Nor should they imitate slaves, male or female, doing what slaves do.

No, they shouldn’t imitate this either.

Nor bad men either, it seems; nor cowards and those who do the very opposite of what we have said; reviling and ridiculing one another, using foul language, when drunk or even when sober, full of the errors that such people fall into, in what they say or do to themselves or others. And I think they should not develop the habit of behaving like mad people, in word or in deed; for although they should be able to recognise mad and degenerate men and women, they should not do anything these people do, nor should they imitate them.

Very true, said he.

Well, said I, should they imitate metal workers, or those who row triremes, or those who shout orders to the rowers, or anything else 396B about these?

Indeed, said he, how could they? They are not allowed to pay any heed to these matters at all.

What about horses neighing, bulls bellowing, rivers rippling, the sea roaring, thunder too, and indeed, everything of this sort; will they imitate these?

No, said he, they have been forbidden either to be mad or to imitate mad people.

In that case, said I, if I understand what you are saying, there is a particular form of speech 396C and narrative in which the truly noble and good person would tell the story whenever he had to say something, and there is also another form, unlike this one, that someone, opposite to this man in nature and upbringing, would hold to, and in which he would tell the story.

And what are these? he asked.

I think, said I, that the moderate man, when it comes to the point in his narrative where there is some speech or action of a good man, will be willing to present this as though he himself was that person, and he will not be ashamed of this sort of imitation, especially when imitating 396D a man acting resolutely and intelligently, and less so, and to a lesser extent, as he succumbs to disease, passion, drunkenness or some other affliction. But when it comes to someone unworthy of himself, he will not be prepared, seriously, to make himself like this inferior person, except perhaps briefly, whenever he does something useful. Rather he will be ashamed of being so unpractised at imitating people like this, and disgusted too at the prospect of moulding and adapting himself to the behaviour of people who are worse than himself; unless it is just for fun, he is 396E repulsed by the very thought.

Quite likely, said he.

So, won’t he make use of the kind of narrative we described earlier when speaking of Homeric epic, and although his own speech will involve both imitation and the other form of narrative, won’t imitation be a small part of the overall discourse? Or am I talking nonsense?

This makes a lot of sense; this must be the type for a speaker like this.

397A Someone, said I, who, by contrast, is not like this, the more debased he is, the more inclined he is to include everything in the narrative, and he will deem nothing unworthy of himself. So he will attempt, seriously, and before large audiences, to imitate everything, including what we mentioned just now; thunder, the noise of wind, hail, axels and pulleys, the notes of flutes, of pipes and all instruments, and even the sounds 397B of dogs, sheep, and birds. And in that case, will all of this person’s exposition be through imitation by voice, and by gesture, or will it include a small element of simple narrative?

It must include this too, said he.

Well, said I, these are the two forms of exposition I was speaking of.

They are indeed, said he.

Now doesn’t one of these forms involve only minor variations, and once someone imparts an appropriate harmony and rhythm to the exposition, since the variations are minor, doesn’t the person who delivers it correctly, deliver it, largely, according to the same harmony, a single harmony, and indeed in a rhythm that matches it, in like manner.

397C Yes, precisely, said he, that’s how matters stand.

And what about the other form? Doesn’t it require the very opposite; all the harmonies and all the rhythms, if it too is going to be delivered in its own way, because it has such a huge variety of forms?

Yes, this too is very much how matters stand.

In that case, do all the poets, or anyone who says anything, fall into one or the other of these two types of exposition, or make up some mixture of them both?

They must, said he.

397D So, what shall we do? said I. Shall we admit all of these into our city, or one of the unmixed ones, or the mixed one?

If I am to prevail, said he, it will be the unmixed imitator of the noble person.

And yet, said I, the mixed one is pleasing, and what’s most pleasing of all to children, and to people responsible for them, and to the broad mass of people, is the very opposite of what you are choosing.

Most pleasing, indeed.

But perhaps you would maintain, said I; that this would not fit in with our 397E constitution, because there is no twofold man among us or a manifold one either, since each engages in only one thing.

Indeed not, this would not fit in.

And isn’t that the reason why a city like this is the only one where we shall find the shoemaker being a shoemaker and not being a helmsman as well as making shoes, and the farmer being a farmer and not being a juror as well as farming his land, and the soldier being a soldier and not being a businessman as well as acting as a soldier, and so on for everything else.

True, said he.

398A Then it seems that if a man whose wisdom enables him to take on every possible shape, and to imitate anything at all, were to arrive in our city, anxious to put himself and his poems on show, we would fall down before him as though he were a sacred object, a wondrous and pleasing one at that. But we would say that there is no one else of this sort among the citizens of our city, nor is it permitted that there ever shall be. We would anoint his head with myrrh, and give him a garland of wool, but for our own benefit, we would, ourselves, employ the more severe and less pleasing poet 398B and story-teller, who would imitate the exposition of the noble man for us, and he would deliver the speeches in accord with those types we ordained by law when we first set about educating our soldiers.

Yes indeed, said he, that’s what we would do if it were up to us.

Well, my friend, said I, at this stage, the aspect of music that concerns speeches and stories has probably been bought to a conclusion, fully, since we have described what should be said and also how it should be said.

Yes, I think so too, said he.

398C After this, said I, what remains is the aspect that concerns song and melody, and their manner.

Of course.

Well couldn’t anyone at all discover by now what we must say about them, and what they need to be like if we are going to be in harmony with what we said previously?

And Glaucon said, with a laugh; well Socrates, I’m afraid I’m not included in this “anyone at all.” At the moment, at any rate, I am not really up to the task of deciding the sort of things we should be saying; although I do have my suspicions.

Surely, said I, you are fully up to the task of saying, firstly, 398D that melody is composed of three things combined; speech, harmony and rhythm.

Yes, said he, this at least.

Well, insofar as it is speech, it does not differ at all from speech that is not sung; it needs to be delivered according to the same types we prescribed earlier, and in a similar manner, doesn’t it?

True, said he.

And indeed, the harmony and rhythm should follow the speech.

Of course.

But we did say that in the case of speeches, we do not need to include dirges and lamentations.

Of course not.

398E Well, since you are musical, tell me: what are the dirge-like harmonies?

The mixed Lydian harmony, said he, and the taut Lydian, and some others like these.

Shouldn’t these be taken away? said I, since they are not even useful to women who are to be reasonable, let alone to men.


And indeed, drunkenness, softness, and idleness in our guardians is most unseemly.

Of course.

So what harmonies are soft, and suited to drinking parties?

Ionic harmonies, said he, and also some Lydian harmonies that are called “loose.”

399A Well, my friend, could you make use of these for military men?

Not at all, said he, indeed it looks as if you only have the Doric and Phrygian harmonies left.

I don’t know these harmonies, said I, but please leave one harmony which would appropriately imitate the sound and tone of voice of a courageous man, engaged in military activities, or in any use of force; a man who, even in failure, or when wounded, or facing death, 399B or when some other misfortune befalls him, confronts the situation with steadfast endurance. And leave another one for this man when he is engaged in peaceful activity that is devoid of force, and voluntary; persuading or imploring someone, either by praying to a god, or instructing or admonishing his fellow man, or when the roles are reversed, and he himself submits to someone else who is asking him for something, or instructing him, or persuading him to change his mind; acting according to his own mind in all these, without being boastful; conducting himself 399C with sound-mindedness and measure, always prepared to accept the outcomes. So leave these two harmonies, one forceful, the other voluntary that will best imitate the utterances of sound-minded courageous men as they succeed and as they fail in their purpose.

Well, said he, you are simply asking me to leave the ones I just mentioned.

Therefore, said I, we shan’t need to include many-stringed instruments that play all of the harmonies, in our songs and melodies.

No, said he, not as I see it.

Then we shall not encourage artificers of triangles, harps and all the other many-stringed instruments 399D that play in lots of harmonies.

Apparently not.

What about flute makers and flute players, shall we also admit them into our city? Or isn’t the flute “many-stringed” in the extreme, and aren’t the very instruments that play all of the harmonies just imitations of the flute?

Of course, said he.

Then the lyre and the cithara are left for use in the city, and in the countryside there would be pipes of some sort for the shepherds.

Well, said he, that’s what our argument is indicating.

We are not really doing anything new, said I; just preferring Apollo and his instruments to Marsyas and the instruments that belong to him.

By Zeus, said he, it seems we are not.

By the dog, said I, without noticing it, we have been thoroughly purifying the city again; the one we called luxurious a moment ago.

Well we are being sound-minded, said he.

Come on then, said I, let’s also purify whatever is left. Yes, indeed, after harmony we have the matter of rhythm, and we should not pursue complicated or variegated rhythmic units; we should, rather, look for 400A the rhythms of a life which is orderly and courageous. Once we have seen these, the metrical foot must be made to follow the speech of such a person, and so should the melody, but the speech must not follow the foot and the melody. But it’s your job to state what these rhythms are, just as you did with the harmonies.

Well, by Zeus, said he, I cannot say. And although I can say, from observation, that there are three forms from which all rhythms are woven, just as there are four sounds which are the source of all harmonies, I cannot say what sort of life each imitates.

400B Well, said I, we shall take advice from Damon on these, and on which rhythms are suited to absence of freedom, to aggression and to madness, and what rhythms are to be left for their opposites. I am not clear about this, but I think I have heard him referring to some military rhythm as a compound, and as a dactyl and as heroic. I do not know how he arranged it, but up and down were made equal, passing into short and long, and I think he called one “iambic”, and the other one 400C “trochaic”, and he assigned long and short to each. And in some of these he censured, or indeed praised, the tempo of the foot no less than the rhythms themselves, or else some combination of both. But as I said, we should refer all this to Damon. For a decision on this would involve a lengthy discussion, or do you think otherwise?

By Zeus, I do not.

But we can decide that grace, and lack of grace, follow good rhythm, and lack of rhythm.

Of course.

And indeed, good rhythm follows beautiful speech 400D and resembles it, while lack of rhythm follows the opposite. And the same goes for good harmony, and lack of harmony, if rhythm and harmony do indeed follow speech, as we said earlier, and speech does not follow them.

But of course, said he, these must follow the speech.

But what about the manner of speaking, said I, and the speech itself? Don’t these follow the disposition of the soul?

Of course.

And everything else follows the speech?


So good speech, harmony and grace, and good rhythm, 400E follow good disposition, not what is referred to as a good disposition as a euphemism for silliness, but a mind truly endowed with a good and noble disposition.

Yes, entirely so, said he.

Well, mustn’t these be pursued everywhere by our young people if they are to enact what is their own?

Yes, these must be pursued.

401A And surely painting and any craftsmanship of this sort is full of these, weaving is also full of them, house building too, and indeed, all production of any other items; even the nature of bodies and of anything else that grows: for good grace and absence of grace is inherent in all these. Indeed the lack of grace, rhythm and harmony are the close kindred of bad speech and bad disposition, and the opposites are the close kindred and imitations of its opposite; a sound-minded and good disposition.

Entirely so, said he.

401B Well then, should we only oversee the poets, and compel them to portray the image of the good disposition in their poems, or else compose nothing in our city? Or should we also oversee the other artificers, and prevent them from portraying this bad disposition, the unrestrained one, devoid of freedom and grace, either in images of living creatures, or on buildings, or in anything else they produce? And if they cannot comply, should we stop them from plying their trade in our city, in case our guardians, feeding on images of evil, in an evil pasture, grazing freely, day by day, gradually 401C picking up a great deal from many different sources, unwittingly accumulate a single great evil in their own soul? Should we search, rather, for those craftsmen who are naturally capable of seeking out the noble and graceful nature, so that our young folk, as though dwelling in a healthy region, may derive benefit from everything that impinges upon their sight or their hearing, from the noble works of the place, like a breeze that bears health from a wholesome region, and leads them, unwittingly, from their earliest childhood, to resemble 401D noble discourse, and enjoy friendship and concord therewith?

Yes, said he, that would be the best way to rear them; very much so.

Well then, Glaucon, said I, isn’t this why being reared in music is of supreme importance; because rhythm and harmony, more than anything else, sink into the innermost soul and fasten most powerfully upon her, bringing good grace and making her gracious, provided the person has been reared aright, 401E and having the opposite effect otherwise? And it is also of supreme importance because the person who has been reared in this, as he should be, would quickly discern any deficiencies in whatever has not been well made, or well wrought by nature, and being rightly dissatisfied, he would praise, and delight in whatever is good, receive this into his soul, and being nourished thereby, he would become 402A noble and good. And he would rightly criticise whatever is base, and he would hate it, even as a child, before he was capable of understanding speech, and when speech had finally come, someone reared in this way would welcome it, most of all, recognising it because of its familiarity.

Yes, said he, I think it’s for reasons of this sort that upbringing in music exists.

So it’s like when we had an adequate understanding of reading and writing, once we noticed that the individual letters, few in number, keep recurring in all of the words they occur in: we showed the same regard for them, whether they were observed in long 402B words or short words, for we were eager to recognise them, fully, everywhere, because we were never going to be knowledgeable until we were able to do this.


And we won’t recognise images of letters that appear somehow in water or in mirrors until we have first recognised the letters themselves, but both involve the same skill and practice

Entirely so.

Well then, said I, by the gods, can I say, that in like manner, we shall not become 402C musicians, neither ourselves nor these guardians we say we should educate, unless we can first recognise the forms of sound-mindedness, of courage, of freedom, of high-mindedness, and all that is akin to these, and indeed, all the opposites of these, everywhere, in all the various places they appear, and be aware of their presence wherever they are present, themselves and their images too, and show the same regard for minor instances, as for major instances, because we believe that the skill and the practice is the same in each case?

This must be so, said he, very much so.

402D Well then, said I, if beautiful qualities that are internal, in the soul, coincide in the external form, and are in agreement and concord with those others, and share the same type, wouldn’t that be the most beautiful sight of all for anyone with eyes to behold it?

Very much so.

And indeed what’s most beautiful is most loveable?

Of course.

Then the musical person would love people who are most like this, and would not love someone who lacked such concordance.

He would not, said he, not if the deficiency related to the soul. However, if the deficiency was something related to the body, he would accept this and be prepared to embrace him.

402E I understand, said I, that you have a favourite like this, or you once had one, and I accept your point. But tell me this; do sound-mindedness and excessive pleasure have anything in common?

How could they, said he, when excessive pleasure, no less than excessive pain, drives a person out of their mind?

Does it have anything in common with excellence in general?

403A Not at all.

What about violence and lack of restraint?

Least of all.

And can you name any pleasure greater or more intense than sexual pleasure?

I cannot, said he, or a more manic pleasure either.

But doesn’t right love, love the orderly and the beautiful, and love them sound-mindedly and musically?

Very much so, said he.

So should anything manic, or anything akin to a lack of restraint be involved in right love?

No, they should not be involved.

403B So this particular pleasure should not be involved, nor should a lover and beloved, who love and are loved in the right way, have any share in it.

No, by Zeus, Socrates, said he, it should not be involved.

And so, it seems, you will establish laws for the city we are founding, that a lover is to kiss, consort with, and touch his favourite, as a father would his son, for beauty’s sake, and only with his consent. And in general, that a lover is to associate with anyone he is interested in, in such a way that their relationship will never seem to go beyond 403C this; or else he will come in for criticism as an unmusical fellow with no sense of beauty.

Quite so, said he.

Well now, said I, does it look to you as though our account dealing with music is at an end? At any rate, it has ended where it should end; surely considerations of music should end in considerations of love of the beautiful.

I agree, said he.

After music then, the young folk should be brought up in gymnastics.


403D Then they should also be brought up, systematically in this, beginning in childhood and continuing through life. And it consists, I believe, in the following; see if you agree. Indeed I am not of the view that if a body is sound, it makes a soul good, by the body’s own excellence, but on the contrary, a good soul renders a body as good as it can possibly be, by her own excellence. Is that your view too?

That is how I see it, said he.

Well, would we be doing the right thing if we were to care for the mind properly, and then trust it to determine precisely what the body needs, while we provide instruction on the general guidelines, 403E so that we don’t have to give a lengthy account?

Entirely so.

Well, we said that guardians must avoid drunkenness; for a guardian is surely the last person we would allow to get drunk, and not know where on earth he is.

Yes, said he, it would be absurd that a guardian would need another guardian to look after him.

Well then, what about their food? Indeed these men are athletes in a contest of the utmost importance, aren’t they?


404A In that case would the condition of our modern athletes be suitable to these men?


But, said I, this is a somewhat drowsy condition, and it is perilous to their health. Or don’t you see that they sleep their lives away, and that the athletes themselves really become violently ill if they depart, even a little, from the prescribed way of life?

Yes, I see this.

Then there is a need for some more refined training for our warrior athletes, who need to be like sleepless hounds whose sight and hearing are as keen as they can possibly be, able to undergo lots of 404B changes on military campaigns, changes of water, of their general diet, of summer and of winter, without their health being in peril.

Apparently so.

Now would the best upbringing in gymnastics be closely related to the musical upbringing we described a little earlier?

What do you mean?

An appropriate gymnastic is also simple, I presume, especially in the case of warfare.

In what way?

You could, said I, even learn this sort of thing from Homer. For you know, that on campaign, at the feasts of the heroes, he does not feast them on 404C fish, even though they are by the sea, on the Hellespont, or on boiled meat, but only on roast meat which is easier for soldiers to provide, since, generally speaking, it is easier to arrange to use a simple fire than to carry cooking equipment around with you.

Very much so.

Nor indeed does Homer ever mention sauces. And doesn’t anyone who is in training know that if his body is to be in good condition, he should abstain from everything of this sort.

Yes, they know, said he, and they abstain, and rightly so.

404D And if you think these are right, my friend, it seems you won’t praise Syracusan cuisine or Sicilian cookery in all its variety.

I think not.

Then you won’t recommend a Corinthian maiden as a lady friend for men whose body is to be in good condition.

Absolutely not.

Nor the famed delights of Attic pastries?

I must agree.

Yes, and on the whole, I think, we could liken a diet and a lifestyle of this sort, to melody and song that employs all the modes and all the rhythms,404E and the comparison would be correct.

Of course.

Didn’t variety engender lack of restraint in that case, while in this case it engenders disease, and simplicity in music engenders sound-mindedness in souls, while simplicity in physical training engenders health in bodies.

Very true, said he.

405A And when lack of restraint, and diseases, multiply in a city, don’t law courts and medical centres open their doors in large numbers, while courtroom oratory and medical skill take on a great solemnity, as lots of people, even free men, get extremely serious about them?

What else are they to do?

But can we get any greater evidence of the bad and disgraceful system of education in a city, than the fact that first rate physicians, and legal practitioners, are needed, not only by the ordinary folk and the manual labourers, but also by those who pretend to have been brought up 405B in the guise of free men? Or don’t you think it is a disgrace, and strong evidence of a lack of education, to be compelled to use justice brought in from other people, who act as your masters and judges, because you don’t have any resources of your own?

It’s the most disgraceful thing of all, said he.

Or do you think, said he, that it’s even more disgraceful when someone, not alone spends most his time defending himself, or prosecuting others in court, but is even persuaded, because he has no sense of nobility, to pride himself on this very fact; on being clever when it comes to acting unjustly, 405C and well up to the task of exploring every twist and turn, and every possible escape route, to wriggle his way out, and avoid facing justice; doing all this for the sake of worthless trivia, ignorant of how much better and more noble it would be to provide himself with a life that did not depend upon the somnolence of a juror.

No, said he, this is even more disgraceful than the other example.

And don’t you think it’s a disgrace to need a physician, not because of injuries or some 405D seasonal diseases you have caught, but due to idleness and the sort of lifestyle we were describing; being filled with fluids and gases like some sort of swamp, compelling the refined Asclepiads to come up with names for diseases, such as flatulences and catarrhs.

Yes, indeed, said he, these really are novel and unusual names for diseases.

The sort of diseases, said I, that in my view did not exist in Asclepius’ time. My evidence for this is that at Troy, his own sons did not find fault with the women who gave Pramnian wine sprinkled lavishly with barley and grated cheese, to the wounded 405E Eurypylus, 406A even though these are believed to produce inflammation; nor did they criticise Patroclus who was responsible for the treatment.

Yes, said he; that certainly was a strange potion for someone in that predicament.

Not if you recognise, said I, that this fostering of diseases, that is fashionable in modern medicine, was not used by the Asclepiads of former times, not until Herodicus arrived on the scene. But Herodicus was a physical trainer, and when he himself fell ill, he mixed his physical training with medicine, 406B and tormented himself, first and foremost, and then did the same to lots of other people.

In what way? he asked.

He turned his own death, said I, into a lengthy process. For although he paid minute attention to the disease, which was a fatal one, he was, I believe, unable to cure himself, and he lived his entire life under medical treatment, with no time for anything else, tormented if he departed at all from his usual lifestyle; so struggling against death, aided by his wisdom, he managed to reach old age.

So, said he, he won a beautiful prize from his skill.

406C A fitting prize, said I, for someone who failed to recognise that Asclepius was not ignorant or lacking experience in this form of medicine when he didn’t teach it to his offspring. Rather, he knew that everyone living under good laws is each assigned a single task in the city, which he must work at, and no one has time to spend his life being ill and being treated for an illness. And it is laughable that we are aware of this in the case of the craftsmen, and do not notice it in the case of the wealthy people, who are regarded as fortunate.

How so? said he.

Well, said I, when a carpenter is ill, he expects the physician to give him medicine 406D to drink as an emetic for the disease, or apply a purgative, or to get rid of it by burning or cutting. But if someone prescribes a lengthy regimen for him, placing felt hats on his head, and so on, he quickly says that he has no time to be ill, nor is it worth his while to live in that way, preoccupied with a disease, and neglecting the function that is in front of him. With that 406E he bids farewell to physicians of this sort, resumes his usual lifestyle, and either gets healthy and lives on, doing his own work, or else, if his body can’t take the strain, he dies and is quit of his troubles.

Well, that seems to be the proper approach to medical treatment for someone like this.

407A So, said I,was that because he had a function to perform, and it was not worth his while being alive if he did not perform it?

Of course, said he.

But the wealthy man, so we say, has no function of this sort set before him; one that makes life unlivable if he is compelled to give it up.

Indeed not; that’s what people say, at any rate.

Yes, that’s because you don’t listen to Phocylides who says that once someone has a livelihood he should practise excellence.

Yes, said he, and I think they should do so even before then.

Let’s not fight with him about this, said I, instead let’s teach ourselves whether a wealthy person should practise this, and whether life is worth living 407B for someone who does not do so; or is the fostering of diseases an impediment to the application of the mind to carpentry and the other skills, while it does not prevent us from adhering to the injunction of Phocylides.

Yes, by Zeus, said he. Excessive attention to the body, beyond simple physical training, is almost the greatest impediment of them all; in fact, it is troublesome in running a household, in military campaigns, and in positions of authority in the city.

But then, what’s most significant is that it makes any kind 407C of learning, reflection, or attention to oneself, hard. It is constantly suspecting some tension or dizziness of the head, and blaming this on philosophy, and so it acts as a total impediment to practising and testing excellence in this way. For it constantly makes a person believe he is sick, and makes him agonise incessantly about his body.

Quite likely, said he.

Should we maintain that Asclepius recognised all this too: there are those whose bodies are naturally healthy and have a healthy lifestyle, but have contracted some specific 407D disease; and it was for these people, in this condition, that he devised medicine, for getting rid of diseases through drugs and surgery, prescribing their accustomed lifestyle so that he wouldn’t damage the public affairs of the city? While in the case of bodies that are diseased through and through, he did not attempt to contrive a long, bad life for the person, by gradually pouring things in, and draining things out, enabling him in all likelihood to produce 407E more sickly offspring of this sort. Rather he did not believe he should treat someone who was unable to live his life normally, following the established course, since this would not be worthwhile either for himself or the city.

You are saying, said he, that Asclepius was a statesman.

Of course, said I, and his children too, because of the sort of man he was. Or don’t you see 408A that, at Troy, they proved themselves to be good at warfare, and they practised medicine in the way I described it. Or don’t you also recall that in the case of Menelaus’ wound, the one Pandarus inflicted on him;

They sucked the blood and soothing simples sprinkled[27]

But they did not prescribe what he should drink or eat afterwards, any more than they did for Eurypylus, since the drugs were quite sufficient to cure a man who had a healthy and orderly 408B lifestyle before he was injured, even if he happened to take a barley, cheese and wine drink afterwards. However they thought that it was not worthwhile, either for himself or anyone else, that someone who is diseased by nature, and lacking in restraint, should live on. They decided that their skill should not be applied to people like this, and that they should not treat them, even if they were wealthier than Midas.

You are saying, said he, that the sons of Asclepius were men of great refinement.

Appropriately so, said I, and yet, the tragedians and Pindar too are unconvinced by us, and they maintain that although Asclepius was a son of Apollo, he was bribed with gold to cure 408C a wealthy man who was already at the point of death, and for this, they say, he was struck by a thunderbolt. Whereas we, adhering to what we said before, are unconvinced by either of their claims; rather, if he was the son of a god, we shall maintain that he was not corruptible, and if he was corruptible he was not the son of a god.

Well you are quite right about that, said he. But what point are you making here, Socrates? Should we not have good physicians in our city? And presumably the best qualified doctors would be the ones who had treated the greatest number of healthy people, and sick people too, and the same would go for jurors; 408D the best would have consorted with a whole range of people of all sorts and varieties.

I am referring to good ones, very much so, said I. But do you know who I regard as good?

I would if you told me, said he.

I will try, said I. But you were asking about two dissimilar cases in the same question.

How so? he asked.

Physicians, said I, become highly accomplished if, beginning in childhood, besides learning their skill, they also deal with as many bodies as possible, of the most degenerate 408E kind, and have, themselves, suffered from all these diseases, and are, by nature, utterly unhealthy. For I do not believe they treat a body using their own body. Indeed if that were the case, their bodies could never be allowed to be in a bad condition, or to become so. But they treat a body using their own soul, which cannot be allowed to become bad, or to be so, if it is to carry out the treatment well.

Correct, said he.

409A But a juror, my friend, rules over a soul using his own soul, which should not be allowed, from its earliest years, to be reared among degenerate souls, to consort with them, act unjustly itself, and systematically go through all the injustices so that it may, with a keen eye, detect the injustices of others, like bodily diseases. It must, rather, from its earliest years, have no experience of evil dispositions, and be uncontaminated by them, if it is to be noble and good, and deliver sound judgements as to what is just. That’s why the most suitable candidates appear simple-minded when they are young, and are easily deceived by unjust folk, since they do not have 409B patterns within themselves, that resemble the responses of the evil doers.

Yes, indeed, said he, that certainly is what happens to them.

That’s why, said I, a good juror should be old rather than young. Someone who has learned, late in life, what injustice is, by becoming aware of it, not as something that belongs in his own soul: rather over a considerable time, he practises being fully aware of it as something alien, present in alien souls as an innate badness, having recourse to knowledge rather than his own direct experience.

409C Well a juror like this, said he, seems to be the noblest kind of all.

And good too, which is what you were asking about. For anyone who has a good soul is good. But that clever fellow with a suspicious mind, who has done a lot of evil deeds himself, who is cunning, and thinks he is wise when in the company of people like himself, appears clever when he is being cautious, and looks to his own internal patterns. But when he is alongside good people, or his elders, at that stage, by contrast, he appears stupid, by being unnecessarily 409D suspicious, unable to recognise a healthy disposition because he does not possess patterns of this sort. But since he meets degenerate people more often than worthy people he seems to himself, and to others, to be more wise rather than more foolish.

Yes, said he, that’s true, entirely so.

Well then said I, we should not seek out a juror of this sort, if we want a good and wise one; we should seek the previous sort. For, degeneracy would never recognise both excellence and itself; but natural excellence may be educated, over time, to apprehend 409E both itself and degeneracy, simultaneously. So this person, as I see it, and not the bad person, turns out to be wise.

That, said he, is the way I see it too.

Won’t you prescribe laws for our city, instituting medicine, as we described it, alongside this sort of judicial practice? Will these treat those citizens of yours whose 410A bodies and souls are naturally good, and if this is not so, allow those who are naturally bad in body, to die off, while they themselves put to death those who are naturally bad in soul, and incurable.

This, said he, is, apparently, what’s best both for the people in this predicament and for the city.

And so your young folk, of course, will be careful not to need a judicial process like this, by making use of that simple music which, we say, engenders sound-mindedness.

Indeed, said he.

410B And won’t the musical person, by following the same trail in the case of physical training, if he wishes, understand how to avoid the need for medical treatment, except when it is absolutely necessary.

Yes, I think so.

Even the physical training itself, and the exercises, are something he will work at with the spirited aspect of his nature in view, rather than physical strength, unlike other athletes who make use of diet and exercise for the sake of strength.

Quite right said he.

In that case, Glaucon, said I, those who established education in music 410C and physical training, did not do so with the intention that some people assume; that one would treat the body while the other would treat the soul.

What was their intention then? he asked.

It’s most likely said I that they established both, mainly, for the sake of the soul.

How so?

Haven’t you noticed how the mind itself is affected in people who devote themselves, throughout their lives, to physical exercise, and have nothing to do with music; or those who do the exact opposite?

What are you referring to? he asked.

410D A fierceness and hardness in one case, and a softness and gentleness in the other, said I.

I have noticed, said he, that those who devote themselves exclusively to physical training turn out more fierce than they should be, while those who do so in the case of music become softer than is good for them.

And indeed, said I, the fierceness is derived from the spirited part of the nature, and given the proper nurture it would constitute courage, but if it becomes more intense than it should, it would likely become hard and harsh.

I think so, said he.

410E Yes, and wouldn’t the philosophic nature be associated with the gentleness, and if this is relaxed too much, won’t it be softer than it should be, and if it is properly nurtured, won’t it be gentle and orderly.

Quite so.

And we are saying that our guardians should possess both of these natures.

They should.

And shouldn’t the two be in harmony with one another?

Of course.

And where there is such harmony, the soul is sound-minded and courageous?

Entirely so.

And where there is disharmony, it is cowardly and harsh.

Very much so.

Now whenever someone surrenders to music, to be charmed by the flute sounds pouring into his soul through the ears, as if through a funnel, pouring in those sweet, soft, dirge-like harmonies, we spoke of just now, and lives his whole life humming delightedly in song, this man, if he possesses a spirited part, softens it at first, like iron, and renders it useful, instead of being useless 411B and brittle. But if he pours music in, unceasingly, and it works its charms, he then proceeds, already, to melt his spirit, turn it to liquid until he finally dissolves it away, as if he were severing the very sinews of his soul, and turning it into a “feeble warrior”.

Entirely so, said he.

Now if he were endowed, by nature, said I, from the very outset, with a soul devoid of spirit, this would happen very quickly. But if it were spirited, having weakened the spirit, he would render the soul unstable, quick to quarrel 411C over trivia, and just as quick to calm down. So he becomes bad tempered and irascible, rather than spirited, and he is filled with discontent.

Yes, exactly.

And what if someone, in contrast, works hard at physical training, feeds himself well, very well, but refrains from music and philosophy? At first, because his body is in such good shape, won’t he be filled with confidence and spirit, and become more courageous than he was before?

Very much so.

And what if he practised nothing else, and had no communion with a Muse 411D at all? Even if there was some love of learning in his soul, since it never gets a taste of learning or of inquiry, and is never involved in discourse, or music in general, won’t it become weak, deaf and blind, since it is never awakened or nourished, and its awareness is never purified?

Just so, said he.

Then a person like this becomes a hater of discourse, and is devoid of music; he no longer uses verbal persuasion, but he gets results, in everything, through force and violence, like 411E some wild animal, and he lives his life in ignorance and ineptitude, without any rhythm or grace.

That’s it, said he, entirely so.

Well since there are these two, the spirited and the philosophic, I would say that some god has given humanity two skills, music and physical training, aimed at the spirited and the philosophic, not at the soul and the body, except incidentally, but at these two, so that they may be harmonised with one another 412A by tightening and slackening them to the appropriate extent.

Yes, so it seems, said he.

So the person who blends physical training most beautifully with music, and applies them to the soul with the utmost measure, is the one we may rightly declare to be perfectly musical, and well harmonised in the highest degree, much more so than anyone who tunes the strings of an instrument.

Quite likely, Socrates, said he.

In that case, Glaucon, won’t we always need some overseer of this sort 412B in our city, if our constitution is to be preserved?

Yes, indeed, we shall need this most of all.

These then, would be the guidelines for their education and upbringing. Indeed why would anyone itemise the dances, hunts, chases, athletic contests, and horse races, that people like this would have? Surely it is quite obvious that these must adhere to those guidelines, and should no longer be hard to discover.

Probably not, said he.

So be it, said I. Well then, what should we decide next? 412C Won’t we need to decide which of these same people will rule, and which of them will be ruled? Is it obvious that the rulers should be older, and those who are ruled should be younger?

It is obvious.

And that the best of them should rule.

That’s obvious too.

But don’t the best of the farmers turn out to be the most accomplished at farming?


And now, since these must be the best of our guardians, won’t they be the most accomplished at guarding our city?


And mustn’t they be intelligent in this role, and capable, and still care for the city.

412D That’s it.

But someone would care most for that which he actually loves.


And indeed, he would love this most, once he believes that whatever benefits this also benefits himself, and thinks that when it does well, he himself does well too, and if it does not, he does not.

Quite so.

Then we should select men of this sort from among the other guardians: men who, as we watch them, throughout their entire life, 412E seem to us to be entirely eager to do whatever benefits the city, and unwilling, under any circumstances, to do anything that does not.

These are suitable for selection, said he.

Then I think they need to be watched, at all stages of their lives, to see that they guard this precept well, and are never charmed or forced to forget, and cast aside the opinion that they should do what is best for the city.

What do you mean, said he, by “cast aside”?

I shall tell you, I replied. It seems to me that opinion departs from the mind either voluntarily or involuntarily: voluntarily, when false opinion departs from someone who learns better, involuntarily, in the case of any true opinion.

I understand the case where it is voluntary, 413A but I need you to explain the case where it is involuntary.

What about this, said I? Don’t you believe, as I do, that people are deprived of what is good, involuntarily, and of what is bad, voluntarily? Or isn’t it bad to be deceived in relation to the truth, and good to have the truth? Or don’t you think that to have the truth is to think things that are?

Yes, said he, what you are saying is right, and I think they have been deprived, involuntarily, of true opinion.

413B Doesn’t this happen to them when they are robbed, harmed or forced?

Now I don’t understand this either, said he.

Perhaps, said I, I am speaking in a lofty tragic style. Indeed by “robbed” I mean those who are persuaded to change their minds, or who are made to forget, because time in the latter case, and discourse in the former case, takes something from them without their noticing. So, I presume you understand now.


And by “those who are forced” I mean those whom pain or distress would induce to change their minds.

Yes, I understand that too, and what you are saying is correct.

413C Those who are charmed, I think you would agree, are those who change their opinions when beguiled by pleasure, or intimidated by some fear.

Indeed, said he, everything that deceives people seems to charm them.

Well then, as I was saying just now, we should seek out some who are the best guardians of their own precept, whereby they should, on every occasion, do whatever seems best for the city. So they should be watched from their very earliest years; setting them tasks in which someone would be most inclined to forget such a precept, and be deceived; and we should select those whose memory holds, and who are difficult to deceive, 413D and reject anyone who is not like this. Is this so?


And we should also assign hard work, tribulations, and trials to them, in which we should watch for these same qualities.

Rightly so, he replied.

Now, said I, we should also devise a third kind of test in relation to being charmed, and we should watch what happens. Just as people expose young horses to noise and commotion to see if they are fearful, so too, whilst still young, our guardians should be brought into fearful circumstances and then transferred 413E into situations of pleasure, and thus be tested far better than gold is tested in the fire. And if someone is evidently resistant to charms, dignified in everything, a good guardian of himself and of the culture he has come to understand, adhering to good rhythm and harmony in himself under all these circumstances, he would then be of the greatest service, both to himself, and to the city. And someone who is tested continually, as a child, as a youth, and as a man, and emerges without taint 414A should be installed as a ruler and guardian of the city, and should be given honour in life, and after death, by assigning the most revered of our tombs and other memorials to him; while someone who is not like this should be rejected.

So, Glaucon, said I, I think this is the selection and appointment process for our rulers and guardians; it is just an outline, not a detailed description.

Well, said he, that’s how it appears to me too.

414B In that case, would it, in truth, be most correct to refer to these people as guardians in every respect, both in relation to enemies from outside, and friends within, so that the friends will not wish to do anything bad, and the enemies will be unable to do so; while the younger people, whom we were calling guardians just now, are referred to as auxiliaries, who support the precepts of the rulers?

Yes, I think so, said he.

Is there any way, said I, we might contrive one of those lies, we were referring to earlier, the ones that arise in response to a need; a single noble lie 414C to persuade the rulers themselves, for the most part, or failing that, persuade the city in general?

What sort of lie? said he.

It’s nothing new, said I, yes, it is something from Phoenicia, which has happened in many places already, as the poets maintain, and have convinced people. But it has not happened in our time, nor do I know if it could happen, and to convince people would require a lot of persuasion.

You seem to be speaking with some reluctance, said hie.

My reluctance, said I, will seem quite reasonable once I have said what I have to say.

Speak on, said he, and have no fear.

414D I’ll tell you then, even though I do not know where to find the audacity, or the words to use, and I shall attempt, firstly, to persuade the rulers themselves and the soldiers, and then the rest of the city, that, in fact, all the education and upbringing we gave them was just like a dream. They imagined they were experiencing all this, and that this was happening to them but, in truth, they were under the earth at the time, being moulded and nurtured within her, and both themselves, and their armour, and the rest of their equipment was being manufactured, and once they had come fully 414E to completion, the earth, their mother, sent them forth. And now they are to plan for, and defend the place they are in, as though it were their mother and their nurse, if anyone goes against her. And they are to think of all the other citizens as their brothers and sisters, sprung from the self same earth.

No wonder you were ashamed to recount this lie, said he.

415A Quite reasonably so, said I, but nevertheless, listen to the rest of the story. Yes, indeed, all who are in the city are brothers, that’s what we shall tell them in our story, but as the god fashioned you, he mixed in gold in the generation of those of you who are up to the task of being rulers, and because of this, such people are valued most. In the case of the auxiliaries, he mixed in silver, and he used iron and bronze in the case of farmers and other craftsmen. Now since you are all kindred, you would, for the most part, produce offspring like 415B yourselves; yet there are times when silver could be born from gold, and there could be golden offspring from silver, and all the others could spring from one another in the same way. So the god first, and most emphatically, proclaims to the rulers that they should be good guardians of nothing else, and should watch over nothing as intently, as they watch the offspring, in case there be any admixture of these other metals in their souls. And if their offspring is born with admixture of bronze or of iron, 415C they will not act out of pity in any way; rather, granting them the respect appropriate to their nature, they will banish them to the ranks of artisans or farmers. Then again, if someone with an admixture of gold or silver is born among these, they will respect them and transfer some to the rank of guardians, others to that of auxiliaries, because there is an oracle whereby the city will be destroyed whenever an iron guardian, or a bronze guardian, guards her. Now do you know any way that they might believe this story?

Not at all, said he, not in the case of the people themselves, but perhaps their 415D sons and the next generation, and humanity in general thereafter, might believe it.

But even this much, said I, would work nicely to ensure that they show more care for the city and for one another; for I think I understand what you are saying fairly well. Indeed this will unfold in whatever way human tradition may take it, while we lead out these earth born men, fully armed, led by their rulers. And when they arrive, have them look about for the best place in the city to set up their military camp; a location from which they could exercise most control over the city’s inhabitants, 415E in case anyone might be unwilling to obey the laws, a place from which they could also defend her against outsiders, in case enemies might come upon her, like a wolf upon a flock of sheep. And with their camp established, having offered sacrifices to the appropriate gods, they could make places to rest. Or how do you see it?

Just so, said he.

Won’t such places be adequate to withstand the heat of summer and the cold of winter?

Yes, they must be, said he, since I think you are referring to their dwellings.

Yes, said I, dwellings for soldiers rather than for money-makers.

416A Again, said he, what distinction are you making between these two?

I’ll try to explain this to you, said I. Indeed it is surely the most terrible thing of all, and an utter disgrace, for a shepherd to rear the sort of dogs that mind sheep, in such a way that through indiscipline, or hunger, or some general defect of character, the dogs attempt to harm the sheep, and behave like wolves rather than dogs.

Terrible, said he, of course.

416B So, mustn’t we be on our guard, in every way, in case these auxiliaries of ours do something like this to our citizens, because they are stronger than them, and become like harsh overlords rather than well-meaning allies.

Yes, said he, we must be on our guard.

Wouldn’t they have been provided with the greatest safeguard against this if they really had been properly educated?

But surely they have been properly educated, said he.

And I said; this is not worth insisting upon, Glaucon, my friend. However it is worth insisting upon what we said earlier; that they must have the right 416C education, whatever that may be, if they are to possess the most important factor required to make them gentle, both towards themselves and towards the citizens under their guardianship.

And rightly so, said he.

And in addition to this education, anyone with any intelligence would maintain that they should also be provided with dwellings, and property in general, that does not prevent them from being 416D guardians of the best possible kind, and does not induce them to behave badly towards the other citizens.

And he would be speaking the truth.

Then see, said I, if they should live and be housed somewhat as follows if they are to be guardians of this sort. In the first place, none should possess any private property that is not absolutely necessary. Secondly, none of them should have a dwelling or storehouse that is not open to anyone who wants to go in. The necessities of life, as much as men in training for war, who are both sound-minded and courageous, 416E require, these they will receive from the other citizens, as they stipulate, as a wage for guarding them; enough to last them no more than a year, without any lack. And like soldiers in a military camp they should live life in common, and dine together at common tables. We shall tell them that they have gold and silver of a divine sort, as a gift from the gods, always in their soul, and have no further need for the human sort: that it is an unholy act, to pollute 417A and contaminate that divine possession, through the acquisition of mortal gold, because so much unholiness has arisen from dealing with the currency of the multitude, whereas the currency of these people is without taint. And that they are the only people in the city who are prohibited from handling, or even coming into contact with gold or silver, or even from being under the same roof with them, from wearing them about their person, or drinking from a gold or silver vessel.

Accordingly, they would save themselves and save the city: but once they acquire land or houses or money of their own, they will then be householders or farmers rather than guardians, and will become slave-masters and enemies 417B of the rest of the citizens, rather than their allies; they will spend their entire life hating and being hated, conspiring and being conspired against, much more fearful of internal rather than external enemies, as they run a course, for themselves and the rest of the city, that is already almost doomed to shipwreck.

So, for all these reasons, said I, let’s declare that this is how the guardians should be provided with housing and with anything else, and let us establish these arrangements in law.

Entirely so, said Glaucon.

End Book 3

[1]Odyssey, XI, 489-491, Lattimore translation.

[2]Iliad, XX, 64, Lattimore translation.

[3]Iliad, XXIII, 103, Lattimore.

[4] Odyssey, X, 495, Lattimore.

[5] Iliad, XVI, 856, Lattimore.

[6] Iliad, XXIII, 100, Lattimore.

[7] Odyssey, XXIV, 6-9, Lattimore.

[8] Iliad, XVIII, 23-24. Describing Achilles, on hearing of the death of his friend, Patroclus; Lattimore.

[9] Iliad, XVIII, 23-24, Lattimore translation.

[10] Iliad, XXII, 414-415, Lattimore.

[11] Iliad, XVII, 54, Lattimore.

[12] Iliad, XXII, 168-169, Lattimore.

[13] Iliad, XVI, 433-434, Lattimore.

[14]Iliad, I, 599-600, Lattimore.

[15]Odyssey, XVII, 383-384, Lattimore.

[16] Iliad, IV, 312, Lattimore.

[17] In our version of Homer this is; Iliad, III, 8, and then Iliad, IV, 431, Lattimore.

[18] Iliad, I, 225, Lattimore.

[19]Odyssey, IX, 8-10, Lattimore.

[20]Odyssey, XII, 342, Lattimore.

[21]Odyssey, XX, 17-18, Lattimore.

[22]Shorey translation – perhaps from Hesiod.

[23]Illiad, XX, 15 and 20, Lattimore.

[24] Illiad, XXIII, 151, Lattimore.

[25] From Aeschylus’ Niobe, Shorey translation.

[26] Iliad I, 15-16, Lattimore.

[27] Shorey translation, Loeb edition.