Saturday, May 12, 2018


A Multitude of Laws

Isocrates, Areopagiticus 40-41 (tr. George Norlin):
But in fact, they thought, virtue is not advanced by written laws but by the habits of every-day life; for the majority of men tend to assimilate the manners and morals amid which they have been reared. Furthermore, they held that where there is a multitude of specific laws, it is a sign that the state is badly governed; for it is in the attempt to build up dikes against the spread of crime that men in such a state feel constrained to multiply the laws.

Those who are rightly governed, on the other hand, do not need to fill their porticoes with written statutes, but only to cherish justice in their souls; for it is not by legislation, but by morals, that states are well directed, since men who are badly reared will venture to transgress even laws which are drawn up with minute exactness, whereas those who are well brought up will be willing to respect even a simple code.

ἀλλὰ γὰρ οὐκ ἐκ τούτων τὴν ἐπίδοσιν εἶναι τῆς ἀρετῆς, ἀλλ᾿ ἐκ τῶν καθ᾿ ἑκάστην τὴν ἡμέραν ἐπιτηδευμάτων· τοὺς γὰρ πολλοὺς ὁμοίους τοῖς ἤθεσιν ἀποβαίνειν, ἐν οἷς ἂν ἕκαστοι παιδευθῶσιν. ἔπειτα τά γε πλήθη καὶ τὰς ἀκριβείας τῶν νόμων σημεῖον εἶναι τοῦ κακῶς οἰκεῖσθαι τὴν πόλιν ταύτην· ἐμφράγματα γὰρ αὐτοὺς ποιουμένους τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων πολλοὺς τίθεσθαι τοὺς νόμους ἀναγκάζεσθαι.

δεῖν δὲ τοὺς ὀρθῶς πολιτευομένους οὐ τὰς στοὰς ἐμπιπλάναι γραμμάτων, ἀλλ᾿ ἐν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ἔχειν τὸ δίκαιον· οὐ γὰρ τοῖς ψηφίσμασιν ἀλλὰ τοῖς ἤθεσι καλῶς οἰκεῖσθαι τὰς πόλεις, καὶ τοὺς μὲν κακῶς τεθραμμένους καὶ τοὺς ἀκριβῶς τῶν νόμων ἀναγεγραμμένους τολμήσειν παραβαίνειν, τοὺς δὲ καλῶς πεπαιδευμένους καὶ τοῖς ἁπλῶς κειμένοις ἐθελήσειν ἐμμένειν.

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