Seventh Letter by Plato
Seventh Letter

Plato Seventh Letter

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Seventh Letter by Plato.
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[4]        You write to me that I must consider your views the same as those
[5]        of Dion, and you urge me to aid your cause so far as I can in word
[6]        and deed. My answer is that, if you have the same opinion and desire
[7]        as he had, I consent to aid your cause; but if not, I shall think
[8]        more than once about it. Now what his purpose and desire was, I can
[9]        inform you from no mere conjecture but from positive knowledge. For
[10]       when I made my first visit to Sicily, being then about forty years
[11]       old, Dion was of the same age as Hipparinos is now, and the opinion
[12]       which he then formed was that which he always retained, I mean the
[13]       belief that the Syracusans ought to be free and governed by the best
[14]       laws. So it is no matter for surprise if some God should make Hipparinos
[15]       adopt the same opinion as Dion about forms of government. But it is
[16]       well worth while that you should all, old as well as young, hear the
[17]       way in which this opinion was formed, and I will attempt to give you
[18]       an account of it from the beginning. For the present is a suitable
[19]       opportunity.
[21]       In my youth I went through the same experience as many other men.
[22]       I fancied that if, early in life, I became my own master, I should
[23]       at once embark on a political career. And I found myself confronted
[24]       with the following occurrences in the public affairs of my own city.
[25]       The existing constitution being generally condemned, a revolution
[26]       took place, and fifty-one men came to the front as rulers of the revolutionary
[27]       government, namely eleven in the city and ten in the Peiraeus-each
[28]       of these bodies being in charge of the market and municipal matters-while
[29]       thirty were appointed rulers with full powers over public affairs
[30]       as a whole. Some of these were relatives and acquaintances of mine,
[31]       and they at once invited me to share in their doings, as something
[32]       to which I had a claim. The effect on me was not surprising in the
[33]       case of a young man. I considered that they would, of course, so manage
[34]       the State as to bring men out of a bad way of life into a good one.
[35]       So I watched them very closely to see what they would do.
[37]       And seeing, as I did, that in quite a short time they made the former
[38]       government seem by comparison something precious as gold-for among
[39]       other things they tried to send a friend of mine, the aged Socrates,
[40]       whom I should scarcely scruple to describe as the most upright man
[41]       of that day, with some other persons to carry off one of the citizens
[42]       by force to execution, in order that, whether he wished it, or not,
[43]       he might share the guilt of their conduct; but he would not obey them,
[44]       risking all consequences in preference to becoming a partner in their
[45]       iniquitous deeds-seeing all these things and others of the same kind
[46]       on a considerable scale, I disapproved of their proceedings, and withdrew
[47]       from any connection with the abuses of the time.
[49]       Not long after that a revolution terminated the power of the thirty
[50]       and the form of government as it then was. And once more, though with
[51]       more hesitation, I began to be moved by the desire to take part in
[52]       public and political affairs. Well, even in the new government, unsettled
[53]       as it was, events occurred which one would naturally view with disapproval;
[54]       and it was not surprising that in a period of revolution excessive
[55]       penalties were inflicted by some persons on political opponents, though
[56]       those who had returned from exile at that time showed very considerable
[57]       forbearance. But once more it happened that some of those in power
[58]       brought my friend Socrates, whom I have mentioned, to trial before
[59]       a court of law, laying a most iniquitous charge against him and one
[60]       most inappropriate in his case: for it was on a charge of impiety
[61]       that some of them prosecuted and others condemned and executed the
[62]       very man who would not participate in the iniquitous arrest of one
[63]       of the friends of the party then in exile, at the time when they themselves
[64]       were in exile and misfortune.
[66]       As I observed these incidents and the men engaged in public affairs,
[67]       the laws too and the customs, the more closely I examined them and
[68]       the farther I advanced in life, the more difficult it seemed to me
[69]       to handle public affairs aright. For it was not possible to be active
[70]       in politics without friends and trustworthy supporters; and to find
[71]       these ready to my hand was not an easy matter, since public affairs
[72]       at Athens were not carried on in accordance with the manners and practices
[73]       of our fathers; nor was there any ready method by which I could make
[74]       new friends. The laws too, written and unwritten, were being altered
[75]       for the worse, and the evil was growing with startling rapidity. The
[76]       result was that, though at first I had been full of a strong impulse
[77]       towards political life, as I looked at the course of affairs and saw
[78]       them being swept in all directions by contending currents, my head
[79]       finally began to swim; and, though I did not stop looking to see if
[80]       there was any likelihood of improvement in these symptoms and in the
[81]       general course of public life, I postponed action till a suitable
[82]       opportunity should arise. Finally, it became clear to me, with regard
[83]       to all existing cornmunities, that they were one and all misgoverned.
[84]       For their laws have got into a state that is almost incurable, except
[85]       by some extraordinary reform with good luck to support it. And I was
[86]       forced to say, when praising true philosophy that it is by this that
[87]       men are enabled to see what justice in public and private life really
[88]       is. Therefore, I said, there will be no cessation of evils for the
[89]       sons of men, till either those who are pursuing a right and true philosophy
[90]       receive sovereign power in the States, or those in power in the States
[91]       by some dispensation of providence become true philosophers.
[93]       With these thoughts in my mind I came to Italy and Sicily on my first
[94]       visit. My first impressions on arrival were those of strong disapproval-disapproval
[95]       of the kind of life which was there called the life of happiness,
[96]       stuffed full as it was with the banquets of the Italian Greeks and
[97]       Syracusans, who ate to repletion twice every day, and were never without
[98]       a partner for the night; and disapproval of the habits which this
[99]       manner of life produces. For with these habits formed early in life,
[100]      no man under heaven could possibly attain to wisdom-human nature is
[101]      not capable of such an extraordinary combination. Temperance also
[102]      is out of the question for such a man; and the same applies to virtue
[103]      generally. No city could remain in a state of tranquillity under any
[104]      laws whatsoever, when men think it right to squander all their property
[105]      in extravagant, and consider it a duty to be idle in everything else
[106]      except eating and drinking and the laborious prosecution of debauchery.
[107]      It follows necessarily that the constitutions of such cities must
[108]      be constantly changing, tyrannies, oligarchies and democracies succeeding
[109]      one another, while those who hold the power cannot so much as endure
[110]      the name of any form of government which maintains justice and equality
[111]      of rights.
[113]      With a mind full of these thoughts, on the top of my previous convictions,
[114]      I crossed over to Syracuse-led there perhaps by chance-but it really
[115]      looks as if some higher power was even then planning to lay a foundation
[116]      for all that has now come to pass with regard to Dion and Syracuse-and
[117]      for further troubles too, I fear, unless you listen to the advice
[118]      which is now for the second time offered by me. What do I mean by
[119]      saying that my arrival in Sicily at that movement proved to be the
[120]      foundation on which all the sequel rests? I was brought into close
[121]      intercourse with Dion who was then a young man, and explained to him
[122]      my views as to the ideals at which men should aim, advising him to
[123]      carry them out in practice. In doing this I seem to have been unaware
[124]      that I was, in a fashion, without knowing it, contriving the overthrow
[125]      of the tyranny which; subsequently took place. For Dion, who rapidly
[126]      assimilated my teaching as he did all forms of knowledge, listened
[127]      to me with an eagerness which I had never seen equalled in any young
[128]      man, and resolved to live for the future in a better way than the
[129]      majority of Italian and Sicilian Greeks, having set his affection
[130]      on virtue in preference to pleasure and self-indulgence. The result
[131]      was that until the death of Dionysios he lived in a way which rendered
[132]      him somewhat unpopular among those whose manner of life was that which
[133]      is usual in the courts of despots.
[135]      After that event he came to the conclusion that this conviction, which
[136]      he himself had gained under the influence of good teaching, was not
[137]      likely to be confined to himself. Indeed, he saw it being actually
[138]      implanted in other minds-not many perhaps, but certainly in some;
[139]      and he thought that with the aid of the Gods, Dionysios might perhaps
[140]      become one of these, and that, if such a thing did come to pass, the
[141]      result would be a life of unspeakable happiness both for himself and
[142]      for the rest of the Syracusans. Further, he thought it essential that
[143]      I should come to Syracuse by all manner of means and with the utmost
[144]      possible speed to be his partner in these plans, remembering in his
[145]      own case how readily intercourse with me had produced in him a longing
[146]      for the noblest and best life. And if it should produce a similar
[147]      effect on Dionysios, as his aim was that it should, he had great hope
[148]      that, without bloodshed, loss of life, and those disastrous events
[149]      which have now taken place, he would be able to introduce the true
[150]      life of happiness throughout the whole territory.
[152]      Holding these sound views, Dion persuaded Dionysios to send for me;
[153]      he also wrote himself entreating me to come by all manner of means
[154]      and with the utmost possible speed, before certain other persons coming
[155]      in contact with Dionysios should turn him aside into some way of life
[156]      other than the best. What he said, though perhaps it is rather long
[157]      to repeat, was as follows: "What opportunities," he said, "shall we
[158]      wait for, greater than those now offered to us by Providence?" And
[159]      he described the Syracusan empire in Italy and Sicily, his own influential
[160]      position in it, and the youth of Dionysios and how strongly his desire
[161]      was directed towards philosophy and education. His own nephews and
[162]      relatives, he said, would be readily attracted towards the principles
[163]      and manner of life described by me, and would be most influential
[164]      in attracting Dionysios in the same direction, so that, now if ever,
[165]      we should see the accomplishment of every hope that the same persons
[166]      might actually become both philosophers and the rulers of great States.
[167]      These were the appeals addressed to me and much more to the same effect.
[169]      My own opinion, so far as the young men were concerned, and the probable
[170]      line which their conduct would take, was full of apprehension-for
[171]      young men are quick in forming desires, which often take directions
[172]      conflicting with one another. But I knew that the character of Dion's
[173]      mind was naturally a stable one and had also the advantage of somewhat
[174]      advanced years.
[176]      Therefore, I pondered the matter and was in two minds as to whether
[177]      I ought to listen to entreaties and go, or how I ought to act; and
[178]      finally the scale turned in favour of the view that, if ever anyone
[179]      was to try to carry out in practice my ideas about laws and constitutions,
[180]      now was the time for making the attempt; for if only I could fully
[181]      convince one man, I should have secured thereby the accomplishment
[182]      of all good things.
[184]      With these views and thus nerved to the task, I sailed from home,
[185]      in the spirit which some imagined, but principally through a feeling
[186]      of shame with regard to myself, lest I might some day appear to myself
[187]      wholly and solely a mere man of words, one who would never of his
[188]      own will lay his hand to any act. Also there was reason to think that
[189]      I should be betraying first and foremost my friendship and comradeship
[190]      with Dion, who in very truth was in a position of considerable danger.
[191]      If therefore anything should happen to him, or if he were banished
[192]      by Dionysios and his other enemies and coming to us as exile addressed
[193]      this question to me: "Plato, I have come to you as a fugitive, not
[194]      for want of hoplites, nor because I had no cavalry for defence against
[195]      my enemies, but for want of words and power of persuasion, which I
[196]      knew to be a special gift of yours, enabling you to lead young men
[197]      into the path of goodness and justice, and to establish in every case
[198]      relations of friendship and comradeship among them. It is for the
[199]      want of this assistance on your part that I have left Syracuse and
[200]      am here now. And the disgrace attaching to your treatment of me is
[201]      a small matter. But philosophy-whose praises you are always singing,
[202]      while you say she is held in dishonour by the rest of mankind-must
[203]      we not say that philosophy along with me has now been betrayed, so
[204]      far as your action was concerned? Had I been living at Megara, you
[205]      would certainly have come to give me your aid towards the objects
[206]      for which I asked it; or you would have thought yourself the most
[207]      contemptible of mankind. But as it is, do you think that you will
[208]      escape the reputation of cowardice by making excuses about the distance
[209]      of the journey, the length of the sea voyage, and the amount of labour
[210]      involved? Far from it." To reproaches of this kind what creditable
[211]      reply could I have made? Surely none.
[213]      I took my departure, therefore, acting, so far as a man can act, in
[214]      obedience to reason and justice, and for these reasons leaving my
[215]      own occupations, which were certainly not discreditable ones, to put
[216]      myself under a tyranny which did not seem likely to harmonise with
[217]      my teaching or with myself. By my departure I secured my own freedom
[218]      from the displeasure of Zeus Xenios, and made myself clear of any
[219]      charge on the part of philosophy, which would have been exposed to
[220]      detraction, if any disgrace had come upon me for faint-heartedness
[221]      and cowardice.
[223]      On my arrival, to cut a long story short, I found the court of Dionysios
[224]      full of intrigues and of attempts to create in the sovereign ill-feeling
[225]      against Dion. I combated these as far as I could, but with very little
[226]      success; and in the fourth month or thereabouts, charging Dion with
[227]      conspiracy to seize the throne, Dionysios put him on board a small
[228]      boat and expelled him from Syracuse with ignominy. All of us who were
[229]      Dion's friends were afraid that he might take vengeance on one or
[230]      other of us as an accomplice in Dion's conspiracy. With regard to
[231]      me, there was even a rumour current in Syracuse that I had been put
[232]      to death by Dionysios as the cause of all that had occurred. Perceiving
[233]      that we were all in this state of mind and apprehending that our fears
[234]      might lead to some serious consequence, he now tried to win all of
[235]      us over by kindness: me in particular he encouraged, bidding me be
[236]      of good cheer and entreating me on all grounds to remain. For my flight
[237]      from him was not likely to redound to his credit, but my staying might
[238]      do so. Therefore, he made a great pretence of entreating me. And we
[239]      know that the entreaties of sovereigns are mixed with compulsion.
[240]      So to secure his object he proceeded to render my departure impossible,
[241]      bringing me into the acropolis, and establishing me in quarters from
[242]      which not a single ship's captain would have taken me away against
[243]      the will of Dionysios, nor indeed without a special messenger sent
[244]      by him to order my removal. Nor was there a single merchant, or a
[245]      single official in charge of points of departure from the country,
[246]      who would have allowed me to depart unaccompanied, and would not have
[247]      promptly seized me and taken me back to Dionysios, especially since
[248]      a statement had now been circulated contradicting the previous rumours
[249]      and giving out that Dionysios was becoming extraordinarily attached
[250]      to Plato. What were the facts about this attachment? I must tell the
[251]      truth. As time went on, and as intercourse made him acquainted with
[252]      my disposition and character, he did become more and more attached
[253]      to me, and wished me to praise him more than I praised Dion, and to
[254]      look upon him as more specially my friend than Dion, and he was extraordinarily
[255]      eager about this sort of thing. But when confronted with the one way
[256]      in which this might have been done, if it was to be done at all, he
[257]      shrank from coming into close and intimate relations with me as a
[258]      pupil and listener to my discourses on philosophy, fearing the danger
[259]      suggested by mischief-makers, that he might be ensnared, and so Dion
[260]      would prove to have accomplished all his object. I endured all this
[261]      patiently, retaining the purpose with which I had come and the hope
[262]      that he might come to desire the philosophic life. But his resistance
[263]      prevailed against me.
[265]      The time of my first visit to Sicily and my stay there was taken up
[266]      with all these incidents. On a later occasion I left home and again
[267]      came on an urgent summons from Dionysios. But before giving the motives
[268]      and particulars of my conduct then and showing how suitable and right
[269]      it was, I must first, in order that I may not treat as the main point
[270]      what is only a side issue, give you my advice as to what your acts
[271]      should be in the present position of affairs; afterwards, to satisfy
[272]      those who put the question why I came a second time, I will deal fully
[273]      with the facts about my second visit; what I have now to say is this.
[275]      He who advises a sick man, whose manner of life is prejudicial to
[276]      health, is clearly bound first of all to change his patient's manner
[277]      of life, and if the patient is willing to obey him, he may go on to
[278]      give him other advice. But if he is not willing, I shall consider
[279]      one who declines to advise such a patient to be a man and a physician,
[280]      and one who gives in to him to be unmanly and unprofessional. In the
[281]      same way with regard to a State, whether it be under a single ruler
[282]      or more than one, if, while the government is being carried on methodically
[283]      and in a right course, it asks advice about any details of policy,
[284]      it is the part of a wise man to advise such people. But when men are
[285]      travelling altogether outside the path of right government and flatly
[286]      refuse to move in the right path, and start by giving notice to their
[287]      adviser that he must leave the government alone and make no change
[288]      in it under penalty of death-if such men should order their counsellors
[289]      to pander to their wishes and desires and to advise them in what way
[290]      their object may most readily and easily be once for all accomplished,
[291]      I should consider as unmanly one who accepts the duty of giving such
[292]      forms of advice, and one who refuses it to be a true man.
[294]      Holding these views, whenever anyone consults me about any of the
[295]      weightiest matters affecting his own life, as, for instance, the acquisition
[296]      of property or the proper treatment of body or mind, if it seems to
[297]      me that his daily life rests on any system, or if he seems likely
[298]      to listen to advice about the things on which he consults me, I advise
[299]      him with readiness, and do not content myself with giving him a merely
[300]      perfunctory answer. But if a man does not consult me at all, or evidently
[301]      does not intend to follow my advice, I do not take the initiative
[302]      in advising such a man, and will not use compulsion to him, even if
[303]      he be my own son. I would advise a slave under such circumstances,
[304]      and would use compulsion to him if he were unwilling. To a father
[305]      or mother I do not think that piety allows one to offer compulsion,
[306]      unless they are suffering from an attack of insanity; and if they
[307]      are following any regular habits of life which please them but do
[308]      not please me, I would not offend them by offering useless, advice,
[309]      nor would I flatter them or truckle to them, providing them with the
[310]      means of satisfying desires which I myself would sooner die than cherish.
[311]      The wise man should go through life with the same attitude of mind
[312]      towards his country. If she should appear to him to be following a
[313]      policy which is not a good one, he should say so, provided that his
[314]      words are not likely either to fall on deaf ears or to lead to the
[315]      loss of his own life. But force against his native land he should
[316]      not use in order to bring about a change of constitution, when it
[317]      is not possible for the best constitution to be introduced without
[318]      driving men into exile or putting them to death; he should keep quiet
[319]      and offer up prayers for his own welfare and for that of his country.
[321]      These are the principles in accordance with which I should advise
[322]      you, as also, jointly with Dion, I advised Dionysios, bidding him
[323]      in the first place to live his daily life in a way that would make
[324]      him as far as possible master of himself and able to gain faithful
[325]      friends and supporters, in order that he might not have the same experience
[326]      as his father. For his father, having taken under his rule many great
[327]      cities of Sicily which had been utterly destroyed by the barbarians,
[328]      was not able to found them afresh and to establish in them trustworthy
[329]      governments carried on by his own supporters, either by men who had
[330]      no ties of blood with him, or by his brothers whom he had brought
[331]      up when they were younger, and had raised from humble station to high
[332]      office and from poverty to immense wealth. Not one of these was he
[333]      able to work upon by persuasion, instruction, services and ties of
[334]      kindred, so as to make him a partner in his rule; and he showed himself
[335]      inferior to Darius with a sevenfold inferiority. For Darius did not
[336]      put his trust in brothers or in men whom he had brought up, but only
[337]      in his confederates in the overthrow of the Mede and Eunuch; and to
[338]      these he assigned portions of his empire, seven in number, each of
[339]      them greater than all Sicily; and they were faithful to him and did
[340]      not attack either him or one another. Thus he showed a pattern of
[341]      what the good lawgiver and king ought to be; for he drew up laws by
[342]      which he has secured the Persian empire in safety down to the present
[343]      time.
[345]      Again, to give another instance, the Athenians took under their rule
[346]      very many cities not founded by themselves, which had been hard hit
[347]      by the barbarians but were still in existence, and maintained their
[348]      rule over these for seventy years, because they had in each them men
[349]      whom they could trust. But Dionysios, who had gathered the whole of
[350]      Sicily into a single city, and was so clever that he trusted no one,
[351]      only secured his own safety with great difficulty. For he was badly
[352]      off for trustworthy friends; and there is no surer criterion of virtue
[353]      and vice than this, whether a man is or is not destitute of such friends.
[355]      This, then, was the advice which Dion and I gave to Dionysios, since,
[356]      owing to bringing up which he had received from his father, he had
[357]      had no advantages in the way of education or of suitable lessons,
[358]      in the first place...; and, in the second place, that, after starting
[359]      in this way, he should make friends of others among his connections
[360]      who were of the same age and were in sympathy with his pursuit of
[361]      virtue, but above all that he should be in harmony with himself; for
[362]      this it was of which he was remarkably in need. This we did not say
[363]      in plain words, for that would not have been safe; but in covert language
[364]      we maintained that every man in this way would save both himself and
[365]      those whom he was leading, and if he did not follow this path, he
[366]      would do just the opposite of this. And after proceeding on the course
[367]      which we described, and making himself a wise and temperate man, if
[368]      he were then to found again the cities of Sicily which had been laid
[369]      waste, and bind them together by laws and constitutions, so as to
[370]      be loyal to him and to one another in their resistance to the attacks
[371]      of the barbarians, he would, we told him, make his father's empire
[372]      not merely double what it was but many times greater. For, if these
[373]      things were done, his way would be clear to a more complete subjugation
[374]      of the Carthaginians than that which befell them in Gelon's time,
[375]      whereas in our own day his father had followed the opposite course
[376]      of levying attribute for the barbarians. This was the language and
[377]      these the exhortations given by us, the conspirators against Dionysios
[378]      according to the charges circulated from various sources-charges which,
[379]      prevailing as they did with Dionysios, caused the expulsion of Dion
[380]      and reduced me to a state of apprehension. But when-to summarise great
[381]      events which happened in no great time-Dion returned from the Peloponnese
[382]      and Athens, his advice to Dionysios took the form of action.
[384]      To proceed-when Dion had twice over delivered the city and restored
[385]      it to the citizens, the Syracusans went through the same changes of
[386]      feeling towards him as Dionysios had gone through, when Dion attempted
[387]      first to educate him and train him to be a sovereign worthy of supreme
[388]      power and, when that was done, to be his coadjutor in all the details
[389]      of his career. Dionysios listened to those who circulated slanders
[390]      to the effect that Dion was aiming at the tyranny in all the steps
[391]      which he took at that time his intention being that Dionysios, when
[392]      his mind had fallen under the spell of culture, should neglect the
[393]      government and leave it in his hands, and that he should then appropriate
[394]      it for himself and treacherously depose Dionysios. These slanders
[395]      were victorious on that occasion; they were so once more when circulated
[396]      among the Syracusans, winning a victory which took an extraordinary
[397]      course and proved disgraceful to its authors. The story of what then
[398]      took place is one which deserves careful attention on the part of
[399]      those who are inviting me to deal with the present situation.
[401]      I, an Athenian and friend of Dion, came as his ally to the court of
[402]      Dionysios, in order that I might create good will in place of a state
[403]      war; in my conflict with the authors of these slanders I was worsted.
[404]      When Dionysios tried to persuade me by offers of honours and wealth
[405]      to attach myself to him, and with a view to giving a decent colour
[406]      to Dion's expulsion a witness and friend on his side, he failed completely
[407]      in his attempt. Later on, when Dion returned from exile, he took with
[408]      him from Athens two brothers, who had been his friends, not from community
[409]      in philosophic study, but with the ordinary companionship common among
[410]      most friends, which they form as the result of relations of hospitality
[411]      and the intercourse which occurs when one man initiates the other
[412]      in the mysteries. It was from this kind of intercourse and from services
[413]      connected with his return that these two helpers in his restoration
[414]      became his companions. Having come to Sicily, when they perceived
[415]      that Dion had been misrepresented to the Sicilian Greeks, whom he
[416]      had liberated, as one that plotted to become monarch, they not only
[417]      betrayed their companion and friend, but shared personally in the
[418]      guilt of his murder, standing by his murderers as supporters with
[419]      weapons in their hands. The guilt and impiety of their conduct I neither
[420]      excuse nor do I dwell upon it. For many others make it their business
[421]      to harp upon it, and will make it their business in the future. But
[422]      I do take exception to the statement that, because they were Athenians,
[423]      they have brought shame upon this city. For I say that he too is an
[424]      Athenian who refused to betray this same Dion, when he had the offer
[425]      of riches and many other honours. For his was no common or vulgar
[426]      friendship, but rested on community in liberal education, and this
[427]      is the one thing in which a wise man will put his trust, far more
[428]      than in ties of personal and bodily kinship. So the two murderers
[429]      of Dion were not of sufficient importance to be causes of disgrace
[430]      to this city, as though they had been men of any note.
[432]      All this has been said with a view to counselling the friends and
[433]      family of Dion. And in addition to this I give for the third time
[434]      to you the same advice and counsel which I have given twice before
[435]      to others-not to enslave Sicily or any other State to despots-this
[436]      my counsel but-to put it under the rule of laws-for the other course
[437]      is better neither for the enslavers nor for the enslaved, for themselves,
[438]      their children's children and descendants; the attempt is in every
[439]      way fraught with disaster. It is only small and mean natures that
[440]      are bent upon seizing such gains for themselves, natures that know
[441]      nothing of goodness and justice, divine as well as human, in this
[442]      life and in the next.
[444]      These are the lessons which I tried to teach, first to Dion, secondly
[445]      to Dionysios, and now for the third time to you. Do you obey me thinking
[446]      of Zeus the Preserver, the patron of third ventures, and looking at
[447]      the lot of Dionysios and Dion, of whom the one who disobeyed me is
[448]      living in dishonour, while he who obeyed me has died honourably. For
[449]      the one thing which is wholly right and noble is to strive for that
[450]      which is most honourable for a man's self and for his country, and
[451]      to face the consequences whatever they may be. For none of us can
[452]      escape death, nor, if a man could do so, would it, as the vulgar suppose,
[453]      make him happy. For nothing evil or good, which is worth mentioning
[454]      at all, belongs to things soulless; but good or evil will be the portion
[455]      of every soul, either while attached to the body or when separated
[456]      from it.
[458]      And we should in very truth always believe those ancient and sacred
[459]      teachings, which declare that the soul is immortal, that it has judges,
[460]      and suffers the greatest penalties when it has been separated from
[461]      the body. Therefore also we should consider it a lesser evil to suffer
[462]      great wrongs and outrages than to do them. The covetous man, impoverished
[463]      as he is in the soul, turns a deaf ear to this teaching; or if he
[464]      hears it, he laughs it to scorn with fancied superiority, and shamelessly
[465]      snatches for himself from every source whatever his bestial fancy
[466]      supposes will provide for him the means of eating or drinking or glutting
[467]      himself with that slavish and gross pleasure which is falsely called
[468]      after the goddess of love. He is blind and cannot see in those acts
[469]      of plunder which are accompanied by impiety what heinous guilt is
[470]      attached to each wrongful deed, and that the offender must drag with
[471]      him the burden of this impiety while he moves about on earth, and
[472]      when he has travelled beneath the earth on a journey which has every
[473]      circumstance of shame and misery.
[475]      It was by urging these and other like truths that I convinced Dion,
[476]      and it is I who have the best right to be angered with his murderers
[477]      in much the same way as I have with Dionysios. For both they and he
[478]      have done the greatest injury to me, and I might almost say to all
[479]      mankind, they by slaying the man that was willing to act righteously,
[480]      and he by refusing to act righteously during the whole of his rule,
[481]      when he held supreme power, in which rule if philosophy and power
[482]      had really met together, it would have sent forth a light to all men,
[483]      Greeks and barbarians, establishing fully for all the true belief
[484]      that there can be no happiness either for the community or for the
[485]      individual man, unless he passes his life under the rule of righteousness
[486]      with the guidance of wisdom, either possessing these virtues in himself,
[487]      or living under the rule of godly men and having received a right
[488]      training and education in morals. These were the aims which Dionysios
[489]      injured, and for me everything else is a trifling injury compared
[490]      with this.
[492]      The murderer of Dion has, without knowing it, done the same as Dionysios.
[493]      For as regards Dion, I know right well, so far as it is possible for
[494]      a man to say anything positively about other men, that, if he had
[495]      got the supreme power, he would never have turned his mind to any
[496]      other form of rule, but that, dealing first with Syracuse, his own
[497]      native land, when he had made an end of her slavery, clothed her in
[498]      bright apparel, and given her the garb of freedom, he would then by
[499]      every means in his power have ordered aright the lives of his fellow-citizens
[500]      by suitable and excellent laws; and the thing next in order, which
[501]      he would have set his heart to accomplish, was to found again all
[502]      the States of Sicily and make them free from the barbarians, driving
[503]      out some and subduing others, an easier task for him than it was for
[504]      Hiero. If these things had been accomplished by a man who was just
[505]      and brave and temperate and a philosopher, the same belief with regard
[506]      to virtue would have been established among the majority which, if
[507]      Dionysios had been won over, would have been established, I might
[508]      almost say, among all mankind and would have given them salvation.
[509]      But now some higher power or avenging fiend has fallen upon them,
[510]      inspiring them with lawlessness, godlessness and acts of recklessness
[511]      issuing from ignorance, the seed from which all evils for all mankind
[512]      take root and grow and will in future bear the bitterest harvest for
[513]      those who brought them into being. This ignorance it was which in
[514]      that second venture wrecked and ruined everything.
[516]      And now, for good luck's sake, let us on this third venture abstain
[517]      from words of ill omen. But, nevertheless, I advise you, his friends,
[518]      to imitate in Dion his love for his country and his temperate habits
[519]      of daily life, and to try with better auspices to carry out his wishes-what
[520]      these were, you have heard from me in plain words. And whoever among
[521]      you cannot live the simple Dorian life according to the customs of
[522]      your forefathers, but follows the manner of life of Dion's murderers
[523]      and of the Sicilians, do not invite this man to join you, or expect
[524]      him to do any loyal or salutary act; but invite all others to the
[525]      work of resettling all the States of Sicily and establishing equality
[526]      under the laws, summoning them from Sicily itself and from the whole
[527]      Peloponnese-and have no fear even of Athens; for there, also, are
[528]      men who excel all mankind in their devotion to virtue and in hatred
[529]      of the reckless acts of those who shed the blood of friends.
[531]      But if, after all, this is work for a future time, whereas immediate
[532]      action is called for by the disorders of all sorts and kinds which
[533]      arise every day from your state of civil strife, every man to whom
[534]      Providence has given even a moderate share of right intelligence ought
[535]      to know that in times of civil strife there is no respite from trouble
[536]      till the victors make an end of feeding their grudge by combats and
[537]      banishments and executions, and of wreaking their vengeance on their
[538]      enemies. They should master themselves and, enacting impartial laws,
[539]      framed not to gratify themselves more than the conquered party, should
[540]      compel men to obey these by two restraining forces, respect and fear;
[541]      fear, because they are the masters and can display superior force;
[542]      respect, because they rise superior to pleasures and are willing and
[543]      able to be servants to the laws. There is no other way save this for
[544]      terminating the troubles of a city that is in a state of civil strife;
[545]      but a constant continuance of internal disorders, struggles, hatred
[546]      and mutual distrust is the common lot of cities which are in that
[547]      plight.
[549]      Therefore, those who have for the time being gained the upper hand,
[550]      when they desire to secure their position, must by their own act and
[551]      choice select from all Hellas men whom they have ascertained to be
[552]      the best for the purpose. These must in the first place be men of
[553]      mature years, who have children and wives at home, and, as far as
[554]      possible, a long line of ancestors of good repute, and all must be
[555]      possessed of sufficient property. For a city of ten thousand householders
[556]      their numbers should be fifty; that is enough. These they must induce
[557]      to come from their own homes by entreaties and the promise of the
[558]      highest honours; and having induced them to come they must entreat
[559]      and command them to draw up laws after binding themselves by oath
[560]      to show no partiality either to conquerors or to conquered, but to
[561]      give equal and common rights to the whole State.
[563]      When laws have been enacted, what everything then hinges on is this.
[564]      If the conquerors show more obedience to the laws than the conquered,
[565]      the whole State will be full of security and happiness, and there
[566]      will be an escape from all your troubles. But if they do not, then
[567]      do not summon me or any other helper to aid you against those who
[568]      do not obey the counsel I now give you. For this course is akin to
[569]      that which Dion and I attempted to carry out with our hearts set on
[570]      the welfare of Syracuse. It is indeed a second best course. The first
[571]      and best was that scheme of welfare to all mankind which we attempted
[572]      to carry out with the co-operation of Dionysios; but some chance,
[573]      mightier than men, brought it to nothing. Do you now, with good fortune
[574]      attending you and with Heaven's help, try to bring your efforts to
[575]      a happier issue.
[577]      Let this be the end of my advice and injunction and of the narrative
[578]      of my first visit to Dionysios. Whoever wishes may next hear of my
[579]      second journey and voyage, and learn that it was a reasonable and
[580]      suitable proceeding. My first period of residence in Sicily was occupied
[581]      in the way which I related before giving my advice to the relatives
[582]      and friends of Dion. After those events I persuaded Dionysios by such
[583]      arguments as I could to let me go; and we made an agreement as to
[584]      what should be done when peace was made; for at that time there was
[585]      a state of war in Sicily. Dionysios said that, when he had put the
[586]      affairs of his empire in a position of greater safety for himself,
[587]      he would send for Dion and me again; and he desired that Dion should
[588]      regard what had befallen him not as an exile, but as a change of residence.
[589]      I agreed to come again on these conditions.
[591]      When peace had been made, he began sending for me; he requested that
[592]      Dion should wait for another year, but begged that I should by all
[593]      means come. Dion now kept urging and entreating me to go. For persistent
[594]      rumours came from Sicily that Dionysios was now once more possessed
[595]      by an extraordinary desire for philosophy. For this reason Dion pressed
[596]      me urgently not to decline his invitation. But though I was well aware
[597]      that as regards philosophy such symptoms were not uncommon in young
[598]      men, still it seemed to me safer at that time to part company altogether
[599]      with Dion and Dionysios; and I offended both of them by replying that
[600]      I was an old man, and that the steps now being taken were quite at
[601]      variance with the previous agreement.
[603]      After this, it seems, Archytes came to the court of Dionysios. Before
[604]      my departure I had brought him and his Tarentine circle into friendly
[605]      relations with Dionysios. There were some others in Syracuse who had
[606]      received some instruction from Dion, and others had learnt from these,
[607]      getting their heads full of erroneous teaching on philosophical questions.
[608]      These, it seems, were attempting to hold discussions with Dionysios
[609]      on questions connected with such subjects, in the idea that he had
[610]      been fully instructed in my views. Now is not at all devoid of natural
[611]      gifts for learning, and he has a great craving for honour and glory.
[612]      What was said probably pleased him, and he felt some shame when it
[613]      became clear that he had not taken advantage of my teaching during
[614]      my visit. For these reasons he conceived a desire for more definite
[615]      instruction, and his love of glory was an additional incentive to
[616]      him. The real reasons why he had learnt nothing during my previous
[617]      visit have just been set forth in the preceding narrative. Accordingly,
[618]      now that I was safe at home and had refused his second invitation,
[619]      as I just now related, Dionysios seems to have felt all manner of
[620]      anxiety lest certain people should suppose that I was unwilling to
[621]      visit him again because I had formed a poor opinion of his natural
[622]      gifts and character, and because, knowing as I did his manner of life,
[623]      I disapproved of it.
[625]      It is right for me to speak the truth, and make no complaint if anyone,
[626]      after hearing the facts, forms a poor opinion of my philosophy, and
[627]      thinks that the tyrant was in the right. Dionysios now invited me
[628]      for the third time, sending a trireme to ensure me comfort on the
[629]      voyage; he sent also Archedemos-one of those who had spent some time
[630]      with Archytes, and of whom he supposed that I had a higher opinion
[631]      than of any of the Sicilian Greeks-and, with him, other men of repute
[632]      in Sicily. These all brought the same report, that Dionysios had made
[633]      progress in philosophy. He also sent a very long letter, knowing as
[634]      he did my relations with Dion and Dion's eagerness also that I should
[635]      take ship and go to Syracuse. The letter was framed in its opening
[636]      sentences to meet all these conditions, and the tenor of it was as
[637]      follows: "Dionysios to Plato," here followed the customary greeting
[638]      and immediately after it he said, "If in compliance with our request
[639]      you come now, in the first place, Dion's affairs will be dealt with
[640]      in whatever way you yourself desire; I know that you will desire what
[641]      is reasonable, and I shall consent to it. But if not, none of Dion's
[642]      affairs will have results in accordance with your wishes, with regard
[643]      either to Dion himself or to other matters." This he said in these
[644]      words; the rest it would be tedious and inopportune to quote. Other
[645]      letters arrived from Archytes and the Tarentines, praising the philosophical
[646]      studies of Dionysios and saying that, if I did not now come, I should
[647]      cause a complete rupture in their friendship with Dionysios, which
[648]      had been brought about by me and was of no small importance to their
[649]      political interests.
[651]      When this invitation came to me at that time in such terms, and those
[652]      who had come from Sicily and Italy were trying to drag me thither,
[653]      while my friends at Athens were literally pushing me out with their
[654]      urgent entreaties, it was the same old tale-that I must not betray
[655]      Dion and my Tarentine friends and supporters. Also I myself had a
[656]      lurking feeling that there was nothing surprising in the fact that
[657]      a young man, quick to learn, hearing talk of the great truths of philosophy,
[658]      should feel a craving for the higher life. I thought therefore that
[659]      I must put the matter definitely to the test to see whether his desire
[660]      was genuine or the reverse, and on no account leave such an impulse
[661]      unaided nor make myself responsible for such a deep and real disgrace,
[662]      if the reports brought by anyone were really true. So blindfolding
[663]      myself with this reflection, I set out, with many fears and with no
[664]      very favourable anticipations, as was natural enough. However, I went,
[665]      and my action on this occasion at any rate was really a case of "the
[666]      third to the Preserver," for I had the good fortune to return safely;
[667]      and for this I must, next to the God, thank Dionysios, because, though
[668]      many wished to make an end of me, he prevented them and paid some
[669]      proper respect to my situation.
[671]      On my arrival, I thought that first I must put to the test the question
[672]      whether Dionysios had really been kindled with the fire of philosophy,
[673]      or whether all the reports which had come to Athens were empty rumours.
[674]      Now there is a way of putting such things to the test which is not
[675]      to be despised and is well suited to monarchs, especially to those
[676]      who have got their heads full of erroneous teaching, which immediately
[677]      my arrival I found to be very much the case with Dionysios. One should
[678]      show such men what philosophy is in all its extent; what their range
[679]      of studies is by which it is approached, and how much labour it involves.
[680]      For the man who has heard this, if he has the true philosophic spirit
[681]      and that godlike temperament which makes him a kin to philosophy and
[682]      worthy of it, thinks that he has been told of a marvellous road lying
[683]      before him, that he must forthwith press on with all his strength,
[684]      and that life is not worth living if he does anything else. After
[685]      this he uses to the full his own powers and those of his guide in
[686]      the path, and relaxes not his efforts, till he has either reached
[687]      the end of the whole course of study or gained such power that he
[688]      is not incapable of directing his steps without the aid of a guide.
[689]      This is the spirit and these are the thoughts by which such a man
[690]      guides his life, carrying out his work, whatever his occupation may
[691]      be, but throughout it all ever cleaving to philosophy and to such
[692]      rules of diet in his daily life as will give him inward sobriety and
[693]      therewith quickness in learning, a good memory, and reasoning power;
[694]      the kind of life which is opposed to this he consistently hates. Those
[695]      who have not the true philosophic temper, but a mere surface colouring
[696]      of opinions penetrating, like sunburn, only skin deep, when they see
[697]      how great the range of studies is, how much labour is involved in
[698]      it, and how necessary to the pursuit it is to have an orderly regulation
[699]      of the daily life, come to the conclusion that the thing is difficult
[700]      and impossible for them, and are actually incapable of carrying out
[701]      the course of study; while some of them persuade themselves that they
[702]      have sufficiently studied the whole matter and have no need of any
[703]      further effort. This is the sure test and is the safest one to apply
[704]      to those who live in luxury and are incapable of continuous effort;
[705]      it ensures that such a man shall not throw the blame upon his teacher
[706]      but on himself, because he cannot bring to the pursuit all the qualities
[707]      necessary to it. Thus it came about that I said to Dionysios what
[708]      I did say on that occasion.
[710]      I did not, however, give a complete exposition, nor did Dionysios
[711]      ask for one. For he professed to know many, and those the most important,
[712]      points, and to have a sufficient hold of them through instruction
[713]      given by others. I hear also that he has since written about what
[714]      he heard from me, composing what professes to be his own handbook,
[715]      very different, so he says, from the doctrines which he heard from
[716]      me; but of its contents I know nothing; I know indeed that others
[717]      have written on the same subjects; but who they are, is more than
[718]      they know themselves. Thus much at least, I can say about all writers,
[719]      past or future, who say they know the things to which I devote myself,
[720]      whether by hearing the teaching of me or of others, or by their own
[721]      discoveries-that according to my view it is not possible for them
[722]      to have any real skill in the matter. There neither is nor ever will
[723]      be a treatise of mine on the subject. For it does not admit of exposition
[724]      like other branches of knowledge; but after much converse about the
[725]      matter itself and a life lived together, suddenly a light, as it were,
[726]      is kindled in one soul by a flame that leaps to it from another, and
[727]      thereafter sustains itself. Yet this much I know-that if the things
[728]      were written or put into words, it would be done best by me, and that,
[729]      if they were written badly, I should be the person most pained. Again,
[730]      if they had appeared to me to admit adequately of writing and exposition,
[731]      what task in life could I have performed nobler than this, to write
[732]      what is of great service to mankind and to bring the nature of things
[733]      into the light for all to see? But I do not think it a good thing
[734]      for men that there should be a disquisition, as it is called, on this
[735]      topic-except for some few, who are able with a little teaching to
[736]      find it out for themselves. As for the rest, it would fill some of
[737]      them quite illogically with a mistaken feeling of contempt, and others
[738]      with lofty and vain-glorious expectations, as though they had learnt
[739]      something high and mighty.
[741]      On this point I intend to speak a little more at length; for perhaps,
[742]      when I have done so, things will be clearer with regard to my present
[743]      subject. There is an argument which holds good against the man ventures
[744]      to put anything whatever into writing on questions of this nature;
[745]      it has often before been stated by me, and it seems suitable to the
[746]      present occasion.
[748]      For everything that exists there are three instruments by which the
[749]      knowledge of it is necessarily imparted; fourth, there is the knowledge
[750]      itself, and, as fifth, we must count the thing itself which is known
[751]      and truly exists. The first is the name, the, second the definition,
[752]      the third. the image, and the fourth the knowledge. If you wish to
[753]      learn what I mean, take these in the case of one instance, and so
[754]      understand them in the case of all. A circle is a thing spoken of,
[755]      and its name is that very word which we have just uttered. The second
[756]      thing belonging to it is its definition, made up names and verbal
[757]      forms. For that which has the name "round," "annular," or, "circle,"
[758]      might be defined as that which has the distance from its circumference
[759]      to its centre