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Laws by Plato (e-book)
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Laws by Plato (e-book)

by Benjamin Jowett (Translated)
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Format: ePub
Publisher: EBC Publishing Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Date Added: 2009-01-01
Search Category: eBooks,ebooks


The Laws of Plato are essentially Greek; unlike Xenophon's Cyropaedia, they contain nothing foreign or oriental. Their aim is to reconstruct the work of the great lawgivers of Hellas in a literary form. They partake both of an Athenian and a Spartan character. Some of them too are derived from Crete, and are appropriately transferred to a Cretan colony. But of Crete so little is known to us, that although, as Montesquieu (Esprit des Lois) remarks, 'the Laws of Crete are the original of those of Sparta and the Laws of Plato the correction of these latter,' there is only one point, viz. the common meals, in which they can be compared. Most of Plato's provisions resemble the laws and customs which prevailed in these three states (especially in the two former), and which the personifying instinct of the Greeks attributed to Minos, Lycurgus, and Solon. A very few particulars may have been borrowed from Zaleucus (Cic. de Legibus), and Charondas, who is said to have first made laws against perjury (Arist. Pol.) and to have forbidden credit (Stob. Florileg., Gaisford). Some enactments are Plato's own, and were suggested by his experience of defects in the Athenian and other Greek states. The Laws also contain many lesser provisions, which are not found in the ordinary codes of nations, because they cannot be properly defined, and are therefore better left to custom and common sense. 'The greater part of the work,' as Aristotle remarks (Pol.), 'is taken up with law's; yet this is not wholly true, and applies to the latter rather than to the first half of it. The book rests on an ethical and religious foundation; the actual laws begin with a hymn of praise in honour of the soul. And the same lofty aspiration after the good is perpetually recurring, especially in Books X, XI, XII, and whenever Plato's mind is filled with his highest themes. In prefixing to most of his laws a prooemium he has two ends in view, to persuade and also to threaten. They are to have the sanction of laws and the effect of sermons. And Plato's 'Book of Laws,' if described in the language of modern philosophy, may be said to be as much an ethical and educational, as a political or legal treatise.

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