Chapter 1

The Republic Reviewed Icon

January 31, 2022

Persons Of The Dialogue: Socrates, Critias, Timaeus, Hermocrates.

Socrates Socrates= The chief theme of my yesterday’s discourse was the State—how constituted and of what citizens composed it would seem likely to be most perfect. We began by separating the husbandmen and the artisans from the class of defenders of the State.

We gave each one that single employment and art which was suited to his nature.

We said who we wanted to be our warriors who were to be guardians of the city against attacks from inside and out. They have no other employment. They were to be merciful in judging their subjects, of whom they were by nature friends, but fierce to their enemies.

The guardians should be gifted with a temperament in a high degree both passionate and philosophical. They will be trained in gymnastic, music, and all other knowledge proper for them.

They were not to consider gold or silver or anything else to be their own private property. They were to be like hired troops, receiving pay for keeping guard from those who were protected by them—the pay was to be no more than would suffice for men of simple life. They were to spend in common, and to live together in the continual practice of virtue, which was to be their sole pursuit.

We declared that the natures of women should be assimilated and brought into harmony with those of the men, and that common pursuits should be assigned to them both in time of war and in their ordinary life.

All wives and children were to be in common, to the intent that no one should ever know his own child, but they were to imagine that they were all one family. Those who were within a suitable limit of age were to be brothers and sisters, those who were of an elder generation parents and grandparents, and those of a younger, children and grandchildren.

To secure the best breed, the chief magistrates, male and female, should contrive secretly, by the use of certain lots, so to arrange the nuptial meeting, that the bad of either sex and the good of either sex might pair with their like; and there was to be no quarrelling on this account, for they would imagine that the union was a mere accident, and was to be attributed to the lot.

The children of the good parents were to be educated, and the children of the bad secretly dispersed among the inferior citizens; and while they were all growing up the rulers were to be on the look-out, and to bring up from below in their turn those who were worthy, and those among themselves who were unworthy were to take the places of those who came up.

I want to tell you about the State which we have described. I am like a person who, on beholding beautiful animals either created by the painter’s art, or, better still, alive but at rest, is seized with a desire of seeing them in motion or engaged in some struggle or conflict to which their forms appear suited;

this is my feeling about the State which we have been describing. There are conflicts which all cities undergo, and I should like to hear some one tell of our own city carrying on a struggle against her neighbours, and how she went out to war in a becoming manner, and when at war showed by the greatness of her actions and the magnanimity of her words in dealing with other cities a result worthy of her training and education.

Now I, Critias and Hermocrates, am conscious that I myself should never be able to celebrate the city and her citizens in a befitting manner. I am not surprised at my own incapacity; to me the wonder is rather that the poets present as well as past are no better—not that I mean to depreciate them.

But everyone can see that they are a tribe of imitators, and will imitate best and most easily the life in which they have been brought up; while that which is beyond the range of a man’s education he finds hard to carry out in action, and still harder adequately to represent in language.

The Sophists have plenty of brave words and fair conceits. But I am afraid that being only wanderers from one city to another, and having never had habitations of their own, they may fail in their conception of philosophers and statesmen, and may not know what they do and say in time of war, when they are fighting or holding parley with their enemies.

Thus, people of your class are the only ones remaining who are fitted by nature and education to take part at once both in politics and philosophy.

Here is Timaeus, of Locris in Italy, a city which has admirable laws.

  • He is as wealthy and has a rank equal to any of his fellow-citizens.
  • He has held the most important and honourable offices in his own state.
  • He has scaled the heights of all philosophy.

Here is Critias, whom every Athenian knows is no novice in philosophy.

Many witnesses say Hermocrates has genius and education which qualify him for any philosophical speculation.

Therefore yesterday when I saw that you wanted me to describe the formation of the State, I readily assented, being very well aware, that, if you only would, none were better qualified to carry the discussion further, and that when you had engaged our city in a suitable war, you of all men living could best exhibit her playing a fitting part. When I had completed my task, I in return imposed this other task upon you.

You conferred together and agreed to entertain me to-day, as I had entertained you, with a feast of discourse. Here am I in festive array, and no man can be more ready for the promised banquet.

Hemocrates And we too, Socrates, as Timaeus says, will not be wanting in enthusiasm; and there is no excuse for not complying with your request. As soon as we arrived yesterday at the guest-chamber of Critias, with whom we are staying, or rather on our way thither, we talked the matter over, and he told us an ancient tradition, which I wish, Critias, that you would repeat to Socrates, so that he may help us to judge whether it will satisfy his requirements or not.
Critias This tale was attested by Solon, who was the wisest of the seven sages. He was a relative and a dear friend of my great-grandfather, Dropides, as he himself says in many passages of his poems; and he told the story to Critias, my grandfather, who remembered and repeated it to us. There were of old, he said, great and marvellous actions of the Athenian city, which have passed into oblivion through lapse of time and the destruction of mankind, and one in particular, greater than all the rest. This we will now rehearse. It will be a fitting monument of our gratitude to you, and a hymn of praise true and worthy of the goddess, on this her day of festival.