Persons of the Dialogue:
[Socrates] One, two, three; but where, my dear Timaeus, is the
fourth of those who were yesterday my guests and are to be my
[Timaeus] He has been taken ill, Socrates; for he would not
willingly have been absent from this gathering.
[Soc.] Then, if he is not coming, you and the two others must
supply his place.
[Tim.] Certainly, and we will do all that we can; having been
handsomely entertained by you yesterday, those of us who remain
should be only too glad to return your hospitality.
[Soc.] Do you remember what were the points of which I
required you to speak?
[Tim.] We remember some of them, and you will be here to
remind us of anything which we have forgotten: or rather, if we
are not troubling you, will you briefly recapitulate the whole,
and then the particulars will be more firmly fixed in our
[Soc.] To be sure I will: 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.
[Tim.] Yes, Socrates; and what you said of it was very much to
[Soc.] Did we not begin by separating the husbandmen and the
artisans from the class of defenders of the State?
[Soc.] And when we had given to each one that single
employment and particular art which was suited to his nature, we
spoke of those who were intended to be our warriors, and said
that they were to be guardians of the city against attacks from
within as well as from without, and to 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, when they
came across them in battle.
[Soc.] We said, if I am not mistaken, that the guardians
should be gifted with a temperament in a high degree both
passionate and philosophical; and that then they would be as they
ought to be, gentle to their friends and fierce with their
[Soc.] And what did we say of their education? Were they not
to be trained in gymnastic, and music, and all other sorts of
knowledge which were proper for them?
[Tim.] Very true.
[Soc.] And being thus trained 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; and they were to spend
in common, and to live together in the continual practice of
virtue, which was to be their sole pursuit.
[Tim.] That was also said.
[Soc.] Neither did we forget the women; of whom we declared,
that their natures 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.
[Tim.] That, again, was as you say.
[Soc.] And what about the procreation of children? Or rather
not the proposal too singular to be forgotten? for 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.
[Tim.] Yes, and the proposal is easy to remember, as you say.
[Soc.] And do you also remember how, with a view of securing
as far as we could the best breed, we said that 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?
[Tim.] I remember.
[Soc.] And you remember how we said that 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?
[Soc.] Then have I now given you all the heads of our
yesterday's discussion? Or is there anything more, my dear
Timaeus, which has been omitted?
[Tim.] Nothing, Socrates; it was just as you have said.
[Soc.] I should like, before proceeding further, to tell you
how I feel about the State which we have described. I might
compare myself to 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, and 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 every one 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. I am aware that 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. And 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, and who is himself in
wealth and rank the equal of any of his fellow-citizens; he has
held the most important and honourable offices in his own state,
and, as I believe, has scaled the heights of all philosophy; and
here is Critias, whom every Athenian knows to be no novice in the
matters of which we are speaking; and as to, Hermocrates, I am
assured by many witnesses that his genius and education qualify
him to take part in any speculation of the kind.