Book IV

But indeed[1] with respect to justice and uprightness he not only made no secret of the opinion he held, but gave practical demonstration of it, both in private by his law-abiding and helpful behaviour to all,[2] and in public by obeying the magistrates in all that the laws enjoined, whether in the life of the city or in military service, so that he was a pattern of loyalty to the rest of the world, and on three several occasions in particular: first, when as president (Epistates) of the assembly he would not suffer the sovereign people to take an unconstitutional vote,[3] but ventured, on the side of the laws, to resist a current of popular feeling strong enough, I think, to have daunted any other man. Again, when the Thirty tried to lay some injunction on him contrary to the laws, he refused to obey, as for instance when they forbade his conversing with the young;[4] or again, when they ordered him and certain other citizens to arrest a man to be put to death,[5] he stood out single-handed on the ground that the injunctions laid upon him were contrary to the laws. And lastly, when he appeared as defendant in the suit instituted by Meletus,[6] notwithstanding that it was customary for litigants in the law courts to humour the judges in the conduct of their arguments by flattery and supplications contrary to the laws,[7] notwithstanding also that defendants owed their acquittal by the court to the employment of such methods, he refused to do a single thing however habitual in a court of law which was not strictly legal; and though by only a slight deflection from the strict path he might easily have been acquitted by his judges,[8] he preferred to abide by the laws and die rather than transgress them and live.

These views he frequently maintained in conversation, now with one and now with another, and one particular discussion with Hippias of Elis[9] on the topic of justice and uprightness has come to my knowledge.[10]

Hippias had just arrived at Athens after a long absence, and chanced to be present when Socrates was telling some listeners how astonishing it was that if a man wanted to get another taught to be a shoemaker or carpenter or coppersmith or horseman, he would have no doubt where to send him for the purpose: "People say,"[11] he added, "that if a man wants to get his horse or his ox taught in the right way,[12] the world is full of instructors; but if he would learn himself, or have his son or his slave taught in the way of right, he cannot tell where to find such instruction."

Hippias, catching the words, exclaimed in a bantering tone: What! still repeating the same old talk,[13] Socrates, which I used to hear from you long ago?

Yes (answered Socrates), and what is still more strange, Hippias, it is not only the same old talk but about the same old subjects. Now you, I daresay, through versatility of knowledge,[14] never say the same thing twice over on the same subject?

To be sure (he answered), my endeavour is to say something new on all occasions.

What (he asked) about things which you know, as for instance in a case of spelling, if any one asks you, "How many letters in Socrates, and what is their order?"[15] I suppose you try to run off one string of letters to-day and to-morrow another? or to a question of arithmetic, "Does twice five make ten?" your answer to-day will differ from that of yesterday?

Hipparch. No; on these topics, Socrates, I do as you do and repeat myself. However, to revert to justice (and uprightness),[16] I flatter myself I can at present furnish you with some remarks which neither you nor any one else will be able to controvert.

By Hera![17] (he exclaimed), what a blessing to have discovered![18] Now we shall have no more divisions of opinion on points of right and wrong; judges will vote unanimously; citizens will cease wrangling; there will be no more litigation, no more party faction, states will reconcile their differences, and wars are ended. For my part I do not know how I can tear myself away from you, until I have heard from your own lips all about the grand discovery you have made.

You shall hear all in good time (Hippias answered), but not until you make a plain statement of your own belief. What is justice? We have had enough of your ridiculing all the rest of the world, questioning and cross-examining first one and then the other, but never a bit will you render an account to any one yourself or state a plain opinion upon a single topic.[19]

What, Hippias (Socrates retorted), have you not observed that I am in a chronic condition of proclaiming what I regard as just and upright?

Hipparch. And pray what is this theory[20] of yours on the subject? Let us have it in words.

Socrates. If I fail to proclaim it in words, at any rate I do so in deed and in fact. Or do you not think that a fact is worth more as evidence than a word?[21]

Worth far more, I should say (Hippias answered), for many a man with justice and right on his lips commits injustice and wrong, but no doer of right ever was a misdoer or could possibly be.

Socrates. I ask then, have you ever heard or seen or otherwise perceived me bearing false witness or lodging malicious information, or stirring up strife among friends or political dissension in the city, or committing any other unjust and wrongful act?

No, I cannot say that I have (he answered).

Socrates. And do you not regard it as right and just to abstain from wrong?[22]

Hipparch. Now you are caught, Socrates, plainly trying to escape from a plain statement. When asked what you believe justice to be, you keep telling us not what the just man does, but what he does not do.

Why, I thought for my part (answered Socrates) that the refusal to do wrong and injustice was a sufficient warrent in itself of righteousness and justice, but if you do not agree, see if this pleases you better: I assert that what is "lawful" is "just and righteous."

Do you mean to assert (he asked) that lawful and just are synonymous terms?

Socrates. I do.

I ask (Hippias added), for I do not perceive what you mean by lawful, nor what you mean by just.[23]

Socrates. You understand what is meant by laws of a city or state?

Yes (he answered).

Socrates. What do you take them to be?

Hipparch. The several enactments drawn up by the citizens or members of a state in agreement as to what things should be done or left undone.

Then I presume (Socrates continued) that a member of a state who regulates his life in accordance with these enactments will be law- abiding, while the transgressor of the same will be law-less?

Certainly (he answered).

Socrates. And I presume the law-loving citizen will do what is just and right, while the lawless man will do what is unjust and wrong?

Hipparch. Certainly.

Socrates. And I presume that he who does what is just is just, and he who does what is unjust is unjust?

Hipparch. Of course.

Socrates. It would appear, then, that the law-loving man is just, and the lawless unjust?

Then Hippias: Well, but laws, Socrates, how should any one regard as a serious matter either the laws themselves, or obedience to them, which laws the very people who made them are perpetually rejecting and altering?

Which is also true of war (Socrates replied); cities are perpetually undertaking war and then making peace again.

Most true (he answered).

Socrates. If so, what is the difference between depreciating obedience to law because laws will be repealed, and depreciating good discipline in war because peace will one day be made? But perhaps you object to enthusiasm displayed in defence of one's home and fatherland in war?

No, indeed I do not! I heartily approve of it (he answered).

Socrates. Then have you laid to heart the lesson taught by Lycurgus to the Lacedaemonians,[24] and do you understand that if he succeeded in giving Sparta a distinction above other states, it was only by instilling into her, beyond all else, a spirit of obedience to the laws? And among magistrates and rulers in the different states, you would scarcely refuse the palm of superiority to those who best contribute to make their fellow-citizens obedient to the laws? And you would admit that any particular state in which obedience to the laws is the paramount distinction of the citizens flourishes most in peace time, and in time of war is irresistible? But, indeed, of all the blessings which a state may enjoy, none stands higher than the blessing of unanimity. "Concord among citizens"--that is the constant theme of exhortation emphasised by the councils of elders[25] and by the choice spirits of the community;[26] at all times and everywhere through the length and breadth of all Hellas it is an established law that the citizens be bound together by an oath of concord;[27] everywhere they do actually swear this oath; not of course as implying that citizens shall all vote for the same choruses, or give their plaudits to the same flute-players, or choose the same poets, or limit themselves to the same pleasures, but simply that they shall pay obedience to the laws, since in the end that state will prove most powerful and most prosperous in which the citizens abide by these; but without concord neither can a state be well administered nor a household well organised.

And if we turn to private life, what better protection can a man have than obedience to the laws? This shall be his safeguard against penalties, his guarantee of honours at the hands of the community; it shall be a clue to thread his way through the mazes of the law courts unbewildered, secure against defeat, assured of victory.[28] It is to him, the law-loving citizen, that men will turn in confidence when seeking a guardian of the most sacred deposits, be it of money or be it their sons or daughters. He, in the eyes of the state collectively, is trustworthy--he and no other; who alone may be depended on to render to all alike their dues--to parents and kinsmen and servants, to friends and fellow-citizens and foreigners. This is he whom the enemy will soonest trust to arrange an armistice, or a truce, or a treaty of peace. They would like to become the allies of this man, and to fight on his side. This is he to whom the allies[29] of his country will most confidently entrust the command of their forces, or of a garrison, or their states themselves. This, again, is he who may be counted on to recompense kindness with gratitude, and who, therefore, is more sure of kindly treatment than another whose sense of gratitude is fuller.[30] The most desirable among friends, the enemy of all others to be avoided, clearly he is not the person whom a foreign state would choose to go to war with; encompassed by a host of friends and exempt from foes, his very character has a charm to compel friendship and alliance, and before him hatred and hostility melt away.

And now, Hippias, I have done my part; that is my proof and demonstration that the "lawful" and "law-observant" are synonymous with the "upright" and the "just"; do you, if you hold a contrary view, instruct us.[31]

Then Hippias: Nay, upon my soul, Socrates, I am not aware of holding any contrary opinion to what you have uttered on the theme of justice.[32]

Socrates. But now, are you aware, Hippias, of certain unwritten laws?[33]

Yes (he answered), those held in every part of the world, and in the same sense.

Can you then assert (asked Socrates) of these unwritten laws that men made them?

Nay, how (he answered) should that be, for how could they all have come together from the ends of the earth? and even if they had so done, men are not all of one speech?[34]

Socrates. Whom then do you believe to have been the makers of these laws.

Hipparch. For my part, I think that the gods must have made these laws for men, and I take it as proof that first and foremost it is a law and custom everywhere to worship and reverence the gods.

Socrates. And, I presume, to honour parents is also customary everywhere?

Yes, that too (he answered).

Socrates. And, I presume, also the prohibition of intermarriage between parents and children?

Hipparch. No; at that point I stop, Socrates. That does not seem to me to be a law of God.

Now, why? (he asked).

Because I perceive it is not infrequently transgressed (he answered).[35]

Socrates. Well, but there are a good many other things which people do contrary to law; only the penalty, I take it, affixed to the transgression of the divine code is certain; there is no escape for the offender after the manner in which a man may transgress the laws of man with impunity, slipping through the fingers of justice by stealth, or avoiding it by violence.

Hipparch. And what is the inevitable penalty paid by those who, being related as parents and children, intermingle in marriage?

Socrates. The greatest of all penalties; for what worse calamity can human beings suffer in the production of offspring than to misbeget?[36]

Hipparch. But how or why should they breed them ill where nothing hinders them, being of a good stock themselves and producing from stock as good?

Socrates. Because, forsooth, in order to produce good children, it is not simply necessary that the parents should be good and of a good stock, but that both should be equally in the prime and vigour of their bodies.[37] Do you suppose that the seed of those who are at their prime is like theirs who either have not yet reached their prime, or whose prime has passed?

Hipparch. No, it is reasonable to expect that the seed will differ.

Socrates. And for the better--which?

Hipparch. Theirs clearly who are at their prime.

Socrates. It would seem that the seed of those who are not yet in their prime or have passed their prime is not good?

Hipparch. It seems most improbable it should be.

Socrates. Then the right way to produce children is not that way?

Hipparch. No, that is not the right way.

Socrates. Then children who are so produced are produced not as they ought to be?

Hipparch. So it appears to me.

What offspring then (he asked) will be ill produced, ill begotten, and ill born, if not these?

I subscribe to that opinion also (replied Hippias).

Socrates. Well, it is a custom universally respected, is it not, to return good for good, and kindness with kindness?

Hipparch. Yes, a custom, but one which again is apt to be transgressed.

Socrates. Then he that so transgresses it pays penalty in finding himself isolated; bereft of friends who are good, and driven to seek after those who love him not. Or is it not so that he who does me kindness in my intercourse with him is my good friend, but if I requite not this kindness to my benefactor, I am hated by him for my ingratitude, and yet I must needs pursue after him and cling to him because of the great gain to me of his society?

Hipparch. Yes, Socrates. In all these cases, I admit, there is an implication of divine authority;[38] that a law should in itself be loaded with the penalty of its transgression does suggest to my mind a higher than human type of legistlator.

Socrates. And in your opinion, Hippias, is the legislation of the gods just and righteous, or the reverse of what is just and righteous?

Hipparch. Not the reverse of what is just and righteous, Socrates, God forbid! for scarcely could any other legislate aright, of not God himself.

Socrates. It would seem then, Hippias, the gods themselves are well pleased that "the lawful" and "the just" should be synonymous?[39]

By such language and by such conduct, through example and precept alike, he helped to make those who approached him more upright and more just.

[1] L. Dindorf suspects [SS. 1-6, {'Alla men . . . pollakis}], ed. Lips. 1872. See also Praef. to Ox. ed. p. viii.

[2] Or, "by his conduct to all, which was not merely innocent in the eye of law and custom but positively helpful."

[3] See above, I. i. 18; "Hell." I. vii. 14, 15; Grote, "H. G." viii. 272.

[4] See above, I. ii. 35.

[5] Leon of Salamis. See "Hell." II. iii. 39; Plat. "Apol." 32 C; Andoc. "de Myst." 46.

[6] See above, I. i. 1; Plat. "Apol." 19 C.

[7] Kuhner cf. Quintil. VI. i. 7: "Athenis affectus movere etiam per praeconem prohibatur orator"; "Apol." 4; Plat. "Apol." 38 D, E.

[8] See Grote, "H. G." viii. p. 663 foll.

[9] For this famous person see Cob. "Pros. Xen." s.n.; Plat. "Hipp. maj." 148; Quint. xii. 11, 21; Grote, "H. G." viii. 524.

[10] Or, "I can personally vouch for."

[11] L. Dindorf, after Ruhnken and Valckenar, omits this sentence {phasi de tines . . . didaxonton}. See Kuhner ad loc. For the sentiment see Plat. "Apol." 20 A.

[12] Cf. "Cyrop." II. ii. 26; VIII. iii. 38; also "Horsem." iii. 5; "Hunting," vii. 4.

[13] This tale is repeated by Dio Chrys. "Or." III. i. 109. Cf. Plat. "Gorg." 490 E.

[14] Or, "such is the breadth of your learning," {polumathes}. Cf. Plat. "Hipp. maj."

[15] Cf. "Econ." viii. 14; Plat. "Alc." i. 113 A.

[16] Or, "on the topic of the just I have something to say at present which," etc.

[17] See above, I. v. 5.

[18] Or, "what a panacea are you the inventor of"; lit. "By Hera, you have indeed discovered a mighty blessing, if juries are to cease recording their verdicts 'aye' and 'no'; if citizens are to cease their wranglings on points of justice, their litigations, and their party strifes; if states are to cease differing on matters of right and wrong and appealing to the arbitrament of war."

[19] See Plat. "Gorg." 465 A.

[20] {o logos}.

[21] Or, "is of greater evidential value," "ubi res adsunt, quid opus est verbis?"

[22] Or, "is not abstinence from wrongdoing synonymous with righteous behaviour?"

[23] Lit. "what sort of lawful or what sort of just is spoken of."

[24] Cf. "Pol. Lac." viii. See Newman, op. cit. i. 396.

[25] Lit. "the Gerousiai." {S} or {X S} uses the Spartan phraseology.

[26] Lit. "the best men." {S} or {X S} speaks as an "aristocrat."

[27] Cf. "Hell." II. iv. 43; Lys. xxv. 21 foll.; Schneid. cf. Lycurg. "u Leocr." 189.

[28] Or, "ignorant of hostile, assured of favourable verdict."

[29] Lit. "the Allies," e.g. of Sparta or of Athens, etc.

[30] Lit. "From whom may the doer of a deed of kindness more confidently expect the recompense of gratitude than from your lover of the law? and whom would one select as the recipient of kindness rather than a man susceptible of gratitude?"

[31] For the style of this enconium (of the {nomimos}) cf. "Ages." i. 36; and for the "Socratic" reverence for law cf. Plat. "Crito."

[32] Lit. "the just and upright," {tou dikaiou}.

[33] See Soph. "Antig." "Oed. T." 865, and Prof. Jebb ad loc.; Dem. "de Cor." 317, 23; Aristot. "Rhet." I. xiii.

[34] Or, "there would be difficulty of understanding each other, and a babel of tongues."

[35] Or, "as I perceive, it is not of universal application, some transgress it."

[36] Or, "in the propagation of the species than to produce misbegotten children."

[37] Cf. Plat. "Laws," viii. 839 A; Herbst, etc., cf. Grotius, "de Jure," ii. 5, xii. 4.

[38] Lit. "Yes, upon my word, Socrates, all these cases look very like (would seem to point to) the gods."

[39] Or, "it is well pleasing also to the gods that what is lawful is just and what is just is lawful."