Written 360 B.C.E
Translated by Benjamin Jowett
Socrates - ADEIMANTUS
Such then, I said, are our principles of theology --some tales are to be told, and others are not to be told to our
disciples from their youth upwards, if we mean them to honour the gods and their parents, and to value friendship
with one another.
Yes; and I think that our principles are right, he said.
But if they are to be courageous, must they not learn other lessons besides these, and lessons of such a kind as
will take away the fear of death? Can any man be courageous who has the fear of death in him?
Certainly not, he said.
And can he be fearless of death, or will he choose death in battle rather than defeat and slavery, who believes the
world below to be real and terrible?
Then we must assume a control over the narrators of this class of tales as well as over the others, and beg them
not simply to but rather to commend the world below, intimating to them that their descriptions are untrue, and will
do harm to our future warriors.
That will be our duty, he said.
Then, I said, we shall have to obliterate many obnoxious passages, beginning with the verses,
I would rather he a serf on the land of a poor and portionless man than rule over all the dead who have come to
nought. We must also expunge the verse, which tells us how Pluto feared,
Lest the mansions grim and squalid which the gods abhor should be seen both of mortals and immortals. And
O heavens! verily in the house of Hades there is soul and ghostly form but no mind at all! Again of Tiresias: --
[To him even after death did Persephone grant mind,] that he alone should be wise; but the other souls are flitting
shades. Again: --
The soul flying from the limbs had gone to Hades, lamenting her fate, leaving manhood and youth. Again: --
And the soul, with shrilling cry, passed like smoke beneath the earth. And, --
As bats in hollow of mystic cavern, whenever any of them has dropped out of the string and falls from the rock, fly
shrilling and cling to one another, so did they with shrilling cry hold together as they moved. And we must beg
Homer and the other poets not to be angry if we strike out these and similar passages, not because they are
unpoetical, or unattractive to the popular ear, but because the greater the poetical charm of them, the less are they
meet for the ears of boys and men who are meant to be free, and who should fear slavery more than death.
Also we shall have to reject all the terrible and appalling names describe the world below --Cocytus and Styx,
ghosts under the earth, and sapless shades, and any similar words of which the very mention causes a shudder to
pass through the inmost soul of him who hears them. I do not say that these horrible stories may not have a use of
some kind; but there is a danger that the nerves of our guardians may be rendered too excitable and effeminate by
There is a real danger, he said.
Then we must have no more of them.
Another and a nobler strain must be composed and sung by us.
And shall we proceed to get rid of the weepings and wailings of famous men?
They will go with the rest.
But shall we be right in getting rid of them? Reflect: our principle is that the good man will not consider death
terrible to any other good man who is his comrade.
Yes; that is our principle.
And therefore he will not sorrow for his departed friend as though he had suffered anything terrible?
He will not.
Such an one, as we further maintain, is sufficient for himself and his own happiness, and therefore is least in need
of other men.
True, he said.
And for this reason the loss of a son or brother, or the deprivation of fortune, is to him of all men least terrible.
And therefore he will be least likely to lament, and will bear with the greatest equanimity any misfortune of this sort
which may befall him.
Yes, he will feel such a misfortune far less than another.
Then we shall be right in getting rid of the lamentations of famous men, and making them over to women (and not
even to women who are good for anything), or to men of a baser sort, that those who are being educated by us to
be the defenders of their country may scorn to do the like.
That will be very right.
Then we will once more entreat Homer and the other poets not to depict Achilles, who is the son of a goddess,
first lying on his side, then on his back, and then on his face; then starting up and sailing in a frenzy along the shores
of the barren sea; now taking the sooty ashes in both his hands and pouring them over his head, or weeping and
wailing in the various modes which Homer has delineated. Nor should he describe Priam the kinsman of the gods
as praying and beseeching,
Rolling in the dirt, calling each man loudly by his name. Still more earnestly will we beg of him at all events not to
introduce the gods lamenting and saying,
Alas! my misery! Alas! that I bore the harvest to my sorrow. But if he must introduce the gods, at any rate let him
not dare so completely to misrepresent the greatest of the gods, as to make him say --
O heavens! with my eyes verily I behold a dear friend of mine chased round and round the city, and my heart is
sorrowful. Or again: --
Woe is me that I am fated to have Sarpedon, dearest of men to me, subdued at the hands of Patroclus the son of
Menoetius. For if, my sweet Adeimantus, our youth seriously listen to such unworthy representations of the gods,
instead of laughing at them as they ought, hardly will any of them deem that he himself, being but a man, can be
dishonoured by similar actions; neither will he rebuke any inclination which may arise in his mind to say and do the
like. And instead of having any shame or self-control, he will be always whining and lamenting on slight occasions.
Yes, he said, that is most true.
Yes, I replied; but that surely is what ought not to be, as the argument has just proved to us; and by that proof we
must abide until it is disproved by a better.
It ought not to be.
Neither ought our guardians to be given to laughter. For a fit of laughter which has been indulged to excess almost
always produces a violent reaction.
So I believe.
Then persons of worth, even if only mortal men, must not be represented as overcome by laughter, and still less
must such a representation of the gods be allowed.
Still less of the gods, as you say, he replied.
Then we shall not suffer such an expression to be used about the gods as that of Homer when he describes how
Inextinguishable laughter arose among the blessed gods, when they saw Hephaestus bustling about the mansion.
On your views, we must not admit them.
On my views, if you like to father them on me; that we must not admit them is certain.
Again, truth should be highly valued; if, as we were saying, a lie is useless to the gods, and useful only as a
medicine to men, then the use of such medicines should be restricted to physicians; private individuals have no
business with them.
Clearly not, he said.
Then if any one at all is to have the privilege of lying, the rulers of the State should be the persons; and they, in
their dealings either with enemies or with their own citizens, may be allowed to lie for the public good. But nobody
else should meddle with anything of the kind; and although the rulers have this privilege, for a private man to lie to
them in return is to be deemed a more heinous fault than for the patient or the pupil of a gymnasium not to speak
the truth about his own bodily illnesses to the physician or to the trainer, or for a sailor not to tell the captain what
is happening about the ship and the rest of the crew, and how things are going with himself or his fellow sailors.
Most true, he said.
If, then, the ruler catches anybody beside himself lying in the State,
Any of the craftsmen, whether he priest or physician or carpenter. he will punish him for introducing a practice
which is equally subversive and destructive of ship or State.
Most certainly, he said, if our idea of the State is ever carried out.
In the next place our youth must be temperate?
Are not the chief elements of temperance, speaking generally, obedience to commanders and self-control in
Then we shall approve such language as that of Diomede in Homer,
Friend, sit still and obey my word, and the verses which follow,
The Greeks marched breathing prowess,
...in silent awe of their leaders, and other sentiments of the same kind.
What of this line,
O heavy with wine, who hast the eyes of a dog and the heart of a stag, and of the words which follow? Would
you say that these, or any similar impertinences which private individuals are supposed to address to their rulers,
whether in verse or prose, are well or ill spoken?
They are ill spoken.
They may very possibly afford some amusement, but they do not conduce to temperance. And therefore they are
likely to do harm to our young men --you would agree with me there?
And then, again, to make the wisest of men say that nothing in his opinion is more glorious than
When the tables are full of bread and meat, and the cup-bearer carries round wine which he draws from the bowl
and pours into the cups, is it fit or conducive to temperance for a young man to hear such words? Or the reverse?
The saddest of fates is to die and meet destiny from hunger? What would you say again to the tale of Zeus, who,
while other gods and men were asleep and he the only person awake, lay devising plans, but forgot them all in a
moment through his lust, and was so completely overcome at the sight of Hera that he would not even go into the
hut, but wanted to lie with her on the ground, declaring that he had never been in such a state of rapture before,
even when they first met one another
Without the knowledge of their parents; or that other tale of how Hephaestus, because of similar goings on, cast a
chain around Ares and Aphrodite?
Indeed, he said, I am strongly of opinion that they ought not to hear that sort of thing.
But any deeds of endurance which are done or told by famous men, these they ought to see and hear; as, for
example, what is said in the verses,
He smote his breast, and thus reproached his heart,
Endure, my heart; far worse hast thou endured!
Certainly, he said.
In the next place, we must not let them be receivers of gifts or lovers of money.
Neither must we sing to them of
Gifts persuading gods, and persuading reverend kings. Neither is Phoenix, the tutor of Achilles, to be approved or
deemed to have given his pupil good counsel when he told him that he should take the gifts of the Greeks and
assist them; but that without a gift he should not lay aside his anger. Neither will we believe or acknowledge
Achilles himself to have been such a lover of money that he took Agamemnon's or that when he had received
payment he restored the dead body of Hector, but that without payment he was unwilling to do so.
Undoubtedly, he said, these are not sentiments which can be approved.
Loving Homer as I do, I hardly like to say that in attributing these feelings to Achilles, or in believing that they are
truly to him, he is guilty of downright impiety. As little can I believe the narrative of his insolence to Apollo, where
Thou hast wronged me, O far-darter, most abominable of deities. Verily I would he even with thee, if I had only
the power, or his insubordination to the river-god, on whose divinity he is ready to lay hands; or his offering to the
dead Patroclus of his own hair, which had been previously dedicated to the other river-god Spercheius, and that
he actually performed this vow; or that he dragged Hector round the tomb of Patroclus, and slaughtered the
captives at the pyre; of all this I cannot believe that he was guilty, any more than I can allow our citizens to believe
that he, the wise Cheiron's pupil, the son of a goddess and of Peleus who was the gentlest of men and third in
descent from Zeus, was so disordered in his wits as to be at one time the slave of two seemingly inconsistent
passions, meanness, not untainted by avarice, combined with overweening contempt of gods and men.
You are quite right, he replied.
And let us equally refuse to believe, or allow to be repeated, the tale of Theseus son of Poseidon, or of Peirithous
son of Zeus, going forth as they did to perpetrate a horrid rape; or of any other hero or son of a god daring to do
such impious and dreadful things as they falsely ascribe to them in our day: and let us further compel the poets to
declare either that these acts were not done by them, or that they were not the sons of gods; --both in the same
breath they shall not be permitted to affirm. We will not have them trying to persuade our youth that the gods are
the authors of evil, and that heroes are no better than men-sentiments which, as we were saying, are neither pious
nor true, for we have already proved that evil cannot come from the gods.
And further they are likely to have a bad effect on those who hear them; for everybody will begin to excuse his
own vices when he is convinced that similar wickednesses are always being perpetrated by --
The kindred of the gods, the relatives of Zeus, whose ancestral altar, the attar of Zeus, is aloft in air on the peak of
Ida, and who have
the blood of deities yet flowing in their veins. And therefore let us put an end to such tales, lest they engender
laxity of morals among the young.
By all means, he replied.
But now that we are determining what classes of subjects are or are not to be spoken of, let us see whether any
have been omitted by us. The manner in which gods and demigods and heroes and the world below should be
treated has been already laid down.
And what shall we say about men? That is clearly the remaining portion of our subject.
But we are not in a condition to answer this question at present, my friend.
Because, if I am not mistaken, we shall have to say that about men poets and story-tellers are guilty of making the
gravest misstatements when they tell us that wicked men are often happy, and the good miserable; and that
injustice is profitable when undetected, but that justice is a man's own loss and another's gain --these things we
shall forbid them to utter, and command them to sing and say the opposite.
To be sure we shall, he replied.
But if you admit that I am right in this, then I shall maintain that you have implied the principle for which we have
been all along contending.
I grant the truth of your inference.
That such things are or are not to be said about men is a question which we cannot determine until we have
discovered what justice is, and how naturally advantageous to the possessor, whether he seems to be just or not.
Most true, he said.
Enough of the subjects of poetry: let us now speak of the style; and when this has been considered, both matter
and manner will have been completely treated.
I do not understand what you mean, said Adeimantus.
Then I must make you understand; and perhaps I may be more intelligible if I put the matter in this way. You are
aware, I suppose, that all mythology and poetry is a narration of events, either past, present, or to come?
Certainly, he replied.
And narration may be either simple narration, or imitation, or a union of the two?
That again, he said, I do not quite understand.
I fear that I must be a ridiculous teacher when I have so much difficulty in making myself apprehended. Like a bad
speaker, therefore, I will not take the whole of the subject, but will break a piece off in illustration of my meaning.
You know the first lines of the Iliad, in which the poet says that Chryses prayed Agamemnon to release his
daughter, and that Agamemnon flew into a passion with him; whereupon Chryses, failing of his object, invoked the
anger of the God against the Achaeans. Now as far as these lines,
And he prayed all the Greeks, but especially the two sons of Atreus, the chiefs of the people, the poet is speaking
in his own person; he never leads us to suppose that he is any one else. But in what follows he takes the person of
Chryses, and then he does all that he can to make us believe that the speaker is not Homer, but the aged priest
himself. And in this double form he has cast the entire narrative of the events which occurred at Troy and in Ithaca
and throughout the Odyssey.
And a narrative it remains both in the speeches which the poet recites from time to time and in the intermediate
But when the poet speaks in the person of another, may we not say that he assimilates his style to that of the
person who, as he informs you, is going to speak?
And this assimilation of himself to another, either by the use of voice or gesture, is the imitation of the person
whose character he assumes?
Then in this case the narrative of the poet may be said to proceed by way of imitation?
Or, if the poet everywhere appears and never conceals himself, then again the imitation is dropped, and his poetry
becomes simple narration. However, in order that I may make my meaning quite clear, and that you may no more
say, I don't understand,' I will show how the change might be effected. If Homer had said, 'The priest came,
having his daughter's ransom in his hands, supplicating the Achaeans, and above all the kings;' and then if, instead
of speaking in the person of Chryses, he had continued in his own person, the words would have been, not
imitation, but simple narration. The passage would have run as follows (I am no poet, and therefore I drop the
metre), 'The priest came and prayed the gods on behalf of the Greeks that they might capture Troy and return
safely home, but begged that they would give him back his daughter, and take the ransom which he brought, and
respect the God. Thus he spoke, and the other Greeks revered the priest and assented. But Agamemnon was
wroth, and bade him depart and not come again, lest the staff and chaplets of the God should be of no avail to him
--the daughter of Chryses should not be released, he said --she should grow old with him in Argos. And then he
told him to go away and not to provoke him, if he intended to get home unscathed. And the old man went away in
fear and silence, and, when he had left the camp, he called upon Apollo by his many names, reminding him of
everything which he had done pleasing to him, whether in building his temples, or in offering sacrifice, and praying
that his good deeds might be returned to him, and that the Achaeans might expiate his tears by the arrows of the
god,' --and so on. In this way the whole becomes simple narrative.
I understand, he said.
Or you may suppose the opposite case --that the intermediate passages are omitted, and the dialogue only left.
That also, he said, I understand; you mean, for example, as in tragedy.
You have conceived my meaning perfectly; and if I mistake not, what you failed to apprehend before is now made
clear to you, that poetry and mythology are, in some cases, wholly imitative --instances of this are supplied by
tragedy and comedy; there is likewise the opposite style, in which the my poet is the only speaker --of this the
dithyramb affords the best example; and the combination of both is found in epic, and in several other styles of
poetry. Do I take you with me?
Yes, he said; I see now what you meant.
I will ask you to remember also what I began by saying, that we had done with the subject and might proceed to
Yes, I remember.
In saying this, I intended to imply that we must come to an understanding about the mimetic art, --whether the
poets, in narrating their stories, are to be allowed by us to imitate, and if so, whether in whole or in part, and if the
latter, in what parts; or should all imitation be prohibited?
You mean, I suspect, to ask whether tragedy and comedy shall be admitted into our State?
Yes, I said; but there may be more than this in question: I really do not know as yet, but whither the argument may
blow, thither we go.
And go we will, he said.
Then, Adeimantus, let me ask you whether our guardians ought to be imitators; or rather, has not this question
been decided by the rule already laid down that one man can only do one thing well, and not many; and that if he
attempt many, he will altogether fall of gaining much reputation in any?
And this is equally true of imitation; no one man can imitate many things as well as he would imitate a single one?
Then the same person will hardly be able to play a serious part in life, and at the same time to be an imitator and
imitate many other parts as well; for even when two species of imitation are nearly allied, the same persons cannot
succeed in both, as, for example, the writers of tragedy and comedy --did you not just now call them imitations?
Yes, I did; and you are right in thinking that the same persons cannot succeed in both.
Any more than they can be rhapsodists and actors at once?
Neither are comic and tragic actors the same; yet all these things are but imitations.
They are so.
And human nature, Adeimantus, appears to have been coined into yet smaller pieces, and to be as incapable of
imitating many things well, as of performing well the actions of which the imitations are copies.
Quite true, he replied.
If then we adhere to our original notion and bear in mind that our guardians, setting aside every other business, are
to dedicate themselves wholly to the maintenance of freedom in the State, making this their craft, and engaging in
no work which does not bear on this end, they ought not to practise or imitate anything else; if they imitate at all,
they should imitate from youth upward only those characters which are suitable to their profession --the
courageous, temperate, holy, free, and the like; but they should not depict or be skilful at imitating any kind of
illiberality or baseness, lest from imitation they should come to be what they imitate. Did you never observe how
imitations, beginning in early youth and continuing far into life, at length grow into habits and become a second
nature, affecting body, voice, and mind?
Yes, certainly, he said.
Then, I said, we will not allow those for whom we profess a care and of whom we say that they ought to be good
men, to imitate a woman, whether young or old, quarrelling with her husband, or striving and vaunting against the
gods in conceit of her happiness, or when she is in affliction, or sorrow, or weeping; and certainly not one who is
in sickness, love, or labour.
Very right, he said.
Neither must they represent slaves, male or female, performing the offices of slaves?
They must not.
And surely not bad men, whether cowards or any others, who do the reverse of what we have just been
prescribing, who scold or mock or revile one another in drink or out of in drink or, or who in any other manner sin
against themselves and their neighbours in word or deed, as the manner of such is. Neither should they be trained
to imitate the action or speech of men or women who are mad or bad; for madness, like vice, is to be known but
not to be practised or imitated.
Very true, he replied.
Neither may they imitate smiths or other artificers, or oarsmen, or boatswains, or the like?
How can they, he said, when they are not allowed to apply their minds to the callings of any of these?
Nor may they imitate the neighing of horses, the bellowing of bulls, the murmur of rivers and roll of the ocean,
thunder, and all that sort of thing?
Nay, he said, if madness be forbidden, neither may they copy the behaviour of madmen.
You mean, I said, if I understand you aright, that there is one sort of narrative style which may be employed by a
truly good man when he has anything to say, and that another sort will be used by a man of an opposite character
And which are these two sorts? he asked.
Suppose, I answered, that a just and good man in the course of a narration comes on some saying or action of
another good man, --I should imagine that he will like to personate him, and will not be ashamed of this sort of
imitation: he will be most ready to play the part of the good man when he is acting firmly and wisely; in a less
degree when he is overtaken by illness or love or drink, or has met with any other disaster. But when he comes to
a character which is unworthy of him, he will not make a study of that; he will disdain such a person, and will
assume his likeness, if at all, for a moment only when he is performing some good action; at other times he will be
ashamed to play a part which he has never practised, nor will he like to fashion and frame himself after the baser
models; he feels the employment of such an art, unless in jest, to be beneath him, and his mind revolts at it.
So I should expect, he replied.
Then he will adopt a mode of narration such as we have illustrated out of Homer, that is to say, his style will be
both imitative and narrative; but there will be very little of the former, and a great deal of the latter. Do you agree?
Certainly, he said; that is the model which such a speaker must necessarily take.
But there is another sort of character who will narrate anything, and, the worse lie is, the more unscrupulous he
will be; nothing will be too bad for him: and he will be ready to imitate anything, not as a joke, but in right good
earnest, and before a large company. As I was just now saying, he will attempt to represent the roll of thunder, the
noise of wind and hall, or the creaking of wheels, and pulleys, and the various sounds of flutes; pipes, trumpets,
and all sorts of instruments: he will bark like a dog, bleat like a sheep, or crow like a cock; his entire art will
consist in imitation of voice and gesture, and there will be very little narration.
That, he said, will be his mode of speaking.
These, then, are the two kinds of style?
And you would agree with me in saying that one of them is simple and has but slight changes; and if the harmony
and rhythm are also chosen for their simplicity, the result is that the speaker, if hc speaks correctly, is always
pretty much the same in style, and he will keep within the limits of a single harmony (for the changes are not great),
and in like manner he will make use of nearly the same rhythm?
That is quite true, he said.
Whereas the other requires all sorts of harmonies and all sorts of rhythms, if the music and the style are to
correspond, because the style has all sorts of changes.
That is also perfectly true, he replied.
And do not the two styles, or the mixture of the two, comprehend all poetry, and every form of expression in
words? No one can say anything except in one or other of them or in both together.
They include all, he said.
And shall we receive into our State all the three styles, or one only of the two unmixed styles? or would you
include the mixed?
I should prefer only to admit the pure imitator of virtue.
Yes, I said, Adeimantus, but the mixed style is also very charming: and indeed the pantomimic, which is the
opposite of the one chosen by you, is the most popular style with children and their attendants, and with the world
I do not deny it.
But I suppose you would argue that such a style is unsuitable to our State, in which human nature is not twofold or
manifold, for one man plays one part only?
Yes; quite unsuitable.
And this is the reason why in our State, and in our State only, we shall find a shoemaker to be a shoemaker and
not a pilot also, and a husbandman to be a husbandman and not a dicast also, and a soldier a soldier and not a
trader also, and the same throughout?
True, he said.
And therefore when any one of these pantomimic gentlemen, who are so clever that they can imitate anything,
comes to us, and makes a proposal to exhibit himself and his poetry, we will fall down and worship him as a
sweet and holy and wonderful being; but we must also inform him that in our State such as he are not permitted to
exist; the law will not allow them. And so when we have anointed him with myrrh, and set a garland of wool upon
his head, we shall send him away to another city. For we mean to employ for our souls' health the rougher and
severer poet or story-teller, who will imitate the style of the virtuous only, and will follow those models which we
prescribed at first when we began the education of our soldiers.
We certainly will, he said, if we have the power.
Then now, my friend, I said, that part of music or literary education which relates to the story or myth may be
considered to be finished; for the matter and manner have both been discussed.