Political Fragments: ancient examples of true Righteousness




The unwritten laws of the Gods were promulgated

against depraved manners, inflicting a

severe destiny and penalty on the disobedient;

and these unwritten laws are the fathers and

leaders of those that are written, and of the

dogmas established by men.




All inhabitants of city or country should in the first place be firmly persuaded of the existence of divinities, as result of their observation of the heavens and the world and the orderly arrangement of their contained beings. These are not the productions of fortune or of men. We should reverence and honor them as causes of every reasonable good. We should therefore prepare our souls so they may be free from vice. For the Gods are not honored by the worship of a bad man, nor through sumptuousity of offerings, nor with the tragical expense of a depraved man; but by virtue, and the deliberate choice of good and beautiful deeds. All of us, therefore, should be as good as possible, both in actions and deliberate choice; if one wishes to be dear to divinity. He should not fear the loss of money more than that of renown; such a one would be considered the better citizen. Those who do not easily feel so impelled, and whose soul is easily excited to injustice, are invited to consider the following. They, and their fellow residents of a house should remember that there are Gods who punish the unjust, and should remember that no one escapes the final liberation from life. For in the supreme moment they will repent, from remembering their unjust deeds, and wishing that their deeds had been just. Everyone, in every action should be mindful of this time, as if it were present; which is a powerful incentive to probity and justice.

Should any one feel (tempted by ) the presence of an evil genius, tempting him to injustice, he should go into a temple, remain at the altar, or in sacred groves, flying from injustice as from an impious and harmful mistress, supplicating the divinities to cooperate with him in turning it away from himself. He should also seek the company of men known for their probity, in order to hear them discourse about a blessed life and the punishment of bad men, that he may be deterred from bad deeds, dreading none but the avenging geniuses.

Citizens should honor all the Gods according to the particular country’s legal rites, which should be considered as the most beautiful of all others. Citizens should, besides obeying the laws, show their respect for the rulers by rising before them, and obeying their instructions. Men who are intelligent, and wish to be saved should, after the Gods, geniuses and heroes most honor parents, laws, and rulers.

Let none love his city better than his country, the indignation of whose Gods he would thus be exciting; for such conduct is the beginning of treachery. For a man to leave his country and reside in a foreign land, is something most afflicting and unbearable; for nothing is more kindred to us than out natal country. Nor let anyone consider a naturalized citizen an implacable enemy; such a person could neither judge, nor govern properly, for his anger predominates over his reason. Let none speak ill either of the whole city, or of a private citizen.

Let the guardians of the laws keep a watchful eye over offenders, first by admonishing them, and if that is not sufficient, by punishment. Should any established law seem unsatisfactory, let it be changed into a better one; but whichever remain should be universally obeyed; for the breaking of established laws is neither beautiful nor beneficial; though it is both beautiful and beneficial to be restrained by a more excellent law, as if vanquished thereby.

Transgressors of established laws should however be punished, as promoting anarchy, which is the greatest evil. The magistrates should neither be arrogant, nor judge insultingly, nor in passing sentence regard friendship, or hate, being partial, thus deciding more justly, and being worthy of the magistracy. Slaves should do what is just through fear, but free men, through shame, and for the sake of beauty in conduct. Governors should be men of this kind, to arouse reverence.

Anyone who wishes to change any one of the established laws, or to introduce another law, should put a halter around his neck, and address the people. And if from the suffrages it should appear that the established law should be dissolved, or that a new law should be introduced, let him not be punished. But if it should appear that the preexisting law is better, or, that the new proposition is unjust, let him who wishes to change an old, or introduce a new law, be executed by the halter.





A king should be one who is most just; and he will be most just who pays the greatest attention to the laws. For without justice no one will be a king; and without law there can be no justice. For that which is just is just through law, which is the effective cause of justice. But a king is either animated law, or a legal ruler. And hence it follows that he will be most just and most observant of the laws. There are, however, three peculiar employments of a king; viz. to lead an army, to administer justice, and to worship the Gods. He will, therefore, be able to lead an army properly, if he knows how to carry on war in a becoming manner. But he will be skilled in administering justice, and in governing all his subjects, if he has well learned the nature of justice and law. And he will worship the Gods in a pious and holy manner, if he has diligently considered the nature and virtue of the God ; so that a good king must necessarily be a good general, judge, and priest. For these are things consequent and suitable to the transcendency and virtue of a king. For it is the province of the pilot to preserve the ship, of the charioteer to preserve the chariot, and of the physician to save the sick ; but it belongs to a king and to a general to save those who are in danger in battle. For of that of which any one is the leader, he is also the provident inspector and artificer. But to be conversant with judicial affairs is, indeed, a universal thing; but is particularly the proper work of a king : who, like a God, is a leader and protector in the world. And universally, indeed, it is fit that the whole polity should be coadapted to one ruler and empire ; but, especially, that things which have the relation of parts should accord with the same harmony and supreme domination. Farther still, it is the province of a king to oblige and benefit his subjects, but this not without justice and law. And the third thing which is adapted to the dignity of a king is the worship of the Gods. For it is necessary that what is most excellent should be honoured by the most excellent; and that which is the leader and ruler, by that which leads and rules. Of things, therefore, which are by nature most honourable, God is the best ; but of things on the earth, and pertaining to men, a king is the most excellent. As God also is to the world, so is a king to the city [which he governs] ; and as a city is to the world, so is a king to God. For a city, indeed, being coadapted from things which are many and different, imitates the coarrangement and harmony of the world ; but a king who possesses an innoxious dominion, and who is himself animated law, exhibits the form of God among men.

Hence it is necessary that a king should not be vanquished by pleasure, but that he should vanquish it; that he should not be similar to, but far excel the multitude; and that he should not conceive his proper employment to consist in the pursuit of pleasure, but rather in the acquisition of probity. At the same time also it is fit that he who has occasion to rule over others should first be able to govern his own passions. But with respect to the desire of obtaining great property, it must be observed, that a king ought to be wealthy in order that he may benefit his friends, relieve those that are in want, and justly punish his enemies. For the enjoyment of prosperity in conjunction with virtue is most delightful. The same thing must be said concerning the transcendency of a king. For since he always surpasses others in virtue, it is fit to form a judgment of his empire with reference to virtue, and not with reference to riches, or power, or his military strength. For he possesses one of these [viz. riches] in common with any casual persons ; another [viz. power] in common with irrational animals ; and the last in common with tyrants. But virtue is alone the peculiarity of good men. Hence, whatever king is temperate with respect to pleasures, liberal with respect to money, and prudent and most skilful in governing, he will be in reality a king. The people, however, have the same analogy with respect to the virtues and the vices, as the parts of the human soul. For the desire of accumulating more than is fit subsists about the irrational part of the soul: for desire is not rational. But ambition and ferocity subsist about the irascible part: for this is the fervid and strenuous part of the soul. And the love of pleasure subsists about the epithymetic part: for this is the effeminate and yielding part of the soul. But injustice, which is the most perfect vice, and is of a composite nature, subsists about the whole soul. Hence it is necessary that the king should coharmonize like a lyre the city that is furnished with good laws, first establishing in himself the most just boundary and order of law, as knowing that the proper arrangement of the people, over whom divinity has given him dominion, ought to be coadapted to this boundary. It is also necessary that a good king should establish becoming positions and habits in the delivery of public orations, conducting himself politically, seriously, and earnestly, in order that he may neither appear to be rough to the multitude, nor may be contemptible; but may be agreeable and easy in his manners. He will however obtain these things, if in the first place he is venerable in his aspect and his discourse, and appears todeserve the sovereign authority which he possesses. But, in the second place, if he proves himself to be benign from his behaviour to those whom he may happen to meet, from his countenance and his beneficence. And in the third place, if he is formidable from his hatred of depravity, from the punishment which he inflicts on it, from his celerity in inflicting it, and, in short, from his skill and exercise in the art of government. For venerable gravity, being a thing which imitates divinity, is capable of causing him to be admired and honoured by the multitude. Benignity will render him pleasing and beloved. And his being formidable will cause him to be terrible to and unconquered by his enemies, and magnanimous and confident to his friends. It is necessary, however, that his gravity should have nothing in it of an abject or vulgar nature, but that it should be admirable, and such as becomes the dignity of empire and a sceptre. Nor should he ever contend with his inferiors, or his equals, but with those that are greater than himself; and he should conceive, conformably to the magnitude of his empire, that those pleasures are the greatest which are derived from beautiful and great deeds, and not those which arise from sensual gratifications; separating himself indeed from human passions, and approximating to the Gods, not through arrogance, but through magnanimity and an invincible transcendency of virtue. Hence he should invest himself with such a gracefulness and majesty in his aspect and his reasonings, in the conceptions of his mind, in the manners of his soul, and in his actions and the motions and gesture of hisbody, that those who survey him may perceive that he is adorned and fashioned with modesty and temperance, and a decorous disposition. For a good king should convert to himself the souls of those that behold him, no less than the sound of a flute and harmony attract the attention of those that hear them. And thus much concerning the venerable gravity of a king. But I shall now endeavour to speak of his benignity. Universally, therefore, every king will be benign, if he is just, equitable, and beneficent. For justice is a connective and collective communion, and is alone that disposition of the soul which adapts itself to those that are near to us. For as rhythm is to motion, and harmony to the voice, so is justice to communion ; since it is the common good of those that govern, and those that are governed, because it coharmonizes political society. But equity and benignity are certain assessors of justice; the former indeed softening the severity of punishment ; but the latter extending pardon to less guilty offenders. It is necessary, however, that a good king should give assistance to those that are in want of it, and be beneficent. But his assistance should be given not in one way only, but in every possible way. And it is requisite to be beneficent, not looking to the magnitude of honour, but to the manner and deliberate choice of him by whom honour is conferred. It is likewise necessary that a worthy king should so conduct himself towards all men as to avoid being troublesome to them, but especially towards men of an inferior rank and of a slender fortune : for these, like diseased bodies, can endure nothing of a troublesome nature. Good kings, indeed, have dispositions similar to those of the Gods, and which especially resemble those of Zeus, the ruler of all things. For he is venerable and honourable, through transcendency and magnitude of virtue. He is benign, because he is beneficent, and the giver of good ; and hence he is said by the Ionic poet [Homer] to be the father of men and Gods. He is also terrible and transcendent, because he punishes the unjust, and reigns and rules over all things. But he carries thunder in his hand, as a symbol of his formidable excellence. From all these particulars, therefore, it is requisite to remember that a kingdom is a God-resembling thing.





It is requisite that a king should be a wise man: for thus he will be honoured analogously to the first God, of whom also he will be an imitator. For this god is by nature the first king and potentate ; but a king is so by birth and imitation. And the former rules in the universe, and in the whole of things ; but the latter in the earth. The former also governs all things eternally, and has a neverfailing life, possessing wisdom in himself; but the latter acquires science through time. But a king will imitate the first God in the most  excellent manner, if he acquires magnanimity, gravity, and the want of but few things ; exhibiting to his subjects a paternal disposition. For on this account especially, the first God is conceived to be the father both of Gods and men, because he is mild to every thing which is in subjection to him, and never ceases to govern with providential regard. Nor is he alone satisfied with being the maker of all things, but he is the nourisher, the preceptor of every thing beautiful, and the legislator to all things equally. Such also ought the king to be who rules over men on the earth. Nothing however is beautiful which is deprived of a king and a ruler. But it is not possible for a king or a ruler [properly so called] to exist without wisdom and science. He, therefore, who is a wise man and a king, will be an imitator, and a legitimate minister of the God.





It is requisite that those who deliberate about, and perform any thing, should begin from the Gods: for it is best, as the proverb says, for God to be the cause of all our deliberations and works. And, farther still, it is requisite to abstain from base actions, and especially on account of consulting with God. For there is no communication between the God and him who is unjust. Every one, also, should give assistance to himself, and should incite himself to the undertaking and performance of such things as are conformable to his desert; since for a man to extend himself similarly to small and great undertakings appears to be too sordid and illiberal. Hence, you should be very careful to avoid falling vehemently into things of an extended nature, and of great consequence. But, in every undertaking, you should measure your own desert and power, in order that you may obtain honour and veneration. Let no assistance be afforded to a man or woman who has been condemned by the city, nor let any one associate with such a person, or if he does, let him be disgraced, as being similar to him or her with whom he associates. But it is proper to love men who, from the previous decision of the city, are good, and to associate with them ; and by imitating and acquiring in reality their virtue and probity, to be thus initiated in the greatest and most perfect of the mysteries. For no man is perfect without virtue. And assistance should be given to an injured citizen, whether he is in his own, or in a foreign country. But let every stranger who was venerated in his own country, and conformably to the proper laws of that country, be received and dismissed auspiciously and familiarly, calling to mind hospitable Zeus, as a God who is established by all nations in common, and who is the inspective guardian of hospitality and inhospitality. Let more elderly men also preside over such as are younger, so that the latter may be ashamed of and deterred from vice, through reverence and fear of the former. For in cities in which more elderly men are shameless, the children and grandchildren of these are also destitute of shame. But wanton insolence and injustice are the attendants of shamelessness and impudence. And destruction follows these. Let, however, no one be impudent, but let every one be modest and temperate; because he will thus have the Gods propitious to him, and will procure for himself salvation. For no vicious man is dear to divinity. Let every one likewise honour probity and truth, and hate what is base and false. For these are the indications of virtue and vice. Hence it is requisite to accustom children from their youth [to worthy manners], by punishing those that are lovers of falsehood, but being delighted with those that are lovers of truth, in order that in each that which is most beautiful, and most prolific of virtue, may be implanted. Each of the citizens, likewise, should be more anxious to pretend to be temperate than to pretend to be wise: for the pretence of wisdom is a great indication of an ignorance of probity, and is also a sign of pusillanimity. But let the pretence of temperance be considered as a true claim to it. For no one should feign with his tongue, that he performs beautiful deeds, when at the same time he is both destitute of worthy conduct and good intentions.

It is likewise requisite to preserve benevolence towards rulers, being obedient to and venerating them as if they were parents. For he who does not conceive that this is proper will suffer the punishment of bad counsel from the daemons who are the inspective guardians of the seat of empire. For the rulers are theguardians of the city, and of the safety of the citizens. But it is also necessary that governors should preside justly over those that are governed, in the same manner as over their own children, in passing sentence on others, laying asleep hatred, friendship, and anger. Let those likewise be praised and celebrated who, being themselves in affluence, have assisted the indigent, and let them be considered as the saviours of the children and defenders of their country. And let the wants of those be relieved who are poor through fortune, and not through an indolent and intemperate life. For fortune is common to all men, but an indolent and intemperate life is peculiar to bad men. Let it also be considered as a worthy deed, to point out any one who has acted unjustly, in order that the polity may be saved, which has many guardians of its decorous arrangement. But let the indicator of the unjust action be considered as a pious man, though his information should be respecting his most familiar acquaintance. For nothing is more familiar and allied to a man than his country. Let, however, the indication be made, not of things done through involuntary ignorance, but of such crimes as have been committed from a previous knowledge [of their enormity.] And if he who is detected should be hostile to him by whom he is detected, let him be hated by all men, in order that he may suffer the punishment of ingratitude, through which he deprives himself of being cured of the greatest of diseases injustice. Farther still, let a contempt of the Gods be considered as the greatest of iniquities, and also injuring parents voluntarily, the neglecting rulers and laws, and voluntarily dishonouring justice. But let him be considered as a most just and holy citizen who honours these things, and indicates to the citizens and rulers those that despise them.

Let it be esteemed to be more venerable for a man to die for his country than, through a desire of life, to desert it, together with probity. For it is better to die well than to live basely and disgracefully. It is likewise requisite to honour each of the dead, not with tears nor with lamentations, but with good remembrance, and with an oblation of annual fruits. For when we grieve immoderately for those that are dead, we are ungrateful to the terrestrial daemons. Let no one curse him by whom he has been injured. For praise is more divine than defamation. Let him be thought to be a better citizen who is superior to anger, than him who is an offender through it. Let not him be praised but disgraced, who, in the sumptuousness of his expence, surpasses temples and palaces. For let nothing private be more magnificent and venerable than things of a public nature. Let him who is a slave to wealth and money be despised, as one who is pusillanimous and illiberal, and is astonished by sumptuous possessions, and let him be considered as one who leads a tragical life, and whose soul is vile. For he who is magnanimous foresees with himself all human concerns, and is not disturbed by any thing of this kind [whether prosperous or adverse], when it accedes.

Let no one speak obscenely, in order that he may not in his thoughts approach to base deeds, and that he may not fill his soul with impudence and defilement. For we call things which are decorous and lovely, by their proper names, and by those appellations which are established by law. But we abstain from naming things to which we are hostile, on account of their baseness. Let it also be considered as base, to speak of a base thing. Let every one dearly love his lawful wife, and beget children from her. But let no one emit the seed of his children into any other person; nor let him illegally consume that  which is honourable both by nature and law, and act with wanton insolence. For nature produced the seed, for the sake of procreating children, and not for the sake of lust. But it is requisite that a wife should be chaste, and should not admit the impious connection with other men, as by so doing she will subject herself to the vengeance of the daemons, whose office it is to expel those to whom they are hostile from their houses, and to produce hatred. Let not him be praised who gives a stepmother to his children, but disgraced, as being the cause of domestic dissension. And as it is proper to observe these mandates, let him who transgresses them be obnoxious to political execration.

The law also orders that these proems should be known by all the citizens, and should be read in festivals after the paeans by him who is appointed for this purpose by the master of the feast, in order that the precepts may be inserted in the minds of all that hear them.

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