The Celtic Literature Collective


But, my dear Sirs, our argument now is not concerned with the rest of mankind but with the goodness or badness of the lawgivers themselves. So let us deal more fully with the subject of drunkenness in general for it is a practice of no slight importance, and it requires no mean legislator to understand it. I am now referring not to the drinking or non-drinking of wine generally, but to drunkenness pure and simple, and the question is--ought we to deal with it as the Scythians and Persians do and the Carthaginians also, and Celts, Iberians and Thracians, who are all warlike races, or as you Spartans do; for you, as you say, abstain from it altogether, whereas the Scythians and Thracians, both men and women, take their wine neat and let it pour down over their clothes, and regard this practice of theirs as a noble and splendid practice; and the Persians indulge greatly in these and other luxurious habits which you reject, albeit in a more orderly fashion than the others.

But we, my good Sir, when we take arms in our hands, put all these people to rout.

Say not so, my dear Sir; for there have been, in fact, in the past and there will be in the future many a flight and many a pursuit which are past explaining, so that victory or defeat in battle could never be called a decisive, but rather a questionable, test of the goodness or badness of an institution. Larger States, for example, are victorious in battle over smaller States, and we find the Syracusans subjugating the Locrians, who are reputed to have been the best-governed of the peoples in that part of the world: and the Athenians the Ceians,--and we could find countless other instances of the same kind. So let us leave victories and defeats out of account for the present, and discuss each several institution on its own merits in the endeavor to convince ourselves, and explain in what way one kind is good and another had. And to begin with, listen to my account of the right method of inquiring into the merits and demerits of institutions.

Plato. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vols. 10 & 11 translated by R.G. Bury.{title}. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1967 & 1968.

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