The Nature and Origin of
Republic, Book I,
The Participants: Socrates, Glaucon,
Adeimantus, Polemarchus, Cephalus, Thrasymachus,
Because you fancy that the shepherd or neatherd
fattens or tends the sheep or oxen with a view to
their own good and not to the good of himself or
his master; and you further imagine that the rulers
of States, if they are true rulers, never think of
their subjects as sheep, and that they are not
studying their own advantage day and night. Oh, no;
and so entirely astray are you in your ideas about
the just and unjust as not even to know that
justice and the just are in reality another's good;
that is to say, the interest of the ruler and
stronger, and the loss of the subject and servant;
and injustice the opposite; for the unjust is lord
over the truly simple and just: he is the stronger,
and his subjects do what is for his interest, and
minister to his happiness, which is very far from
being their own. Consider further, most foolish
Socrates, that the just is always a loser in
comparison with the unjust. First of all, in
private contracts: wherever the unjust is the
partner of the just you will find that, when the
partnership is dissolved, the unjust man has always
more and the just less. Secondly, in their dealings
with the State: when there is an income-tax, the
just man will pay more and the unjust less on the
same amount of income; and when there is anything
to be received the one gains nothing and the other
much. Observe also what happens when they take an
office; there is the just man neglecting his
affairs and perhaps suffering other losses, and
getting nothing out of the public, because he is
just; moreover he is hated by his friends and
acquaintance for refusing to serve them in unlawful
ways. But all this is reversed in the case of the
unjust man. I am speaking, as before, of injustice
on a large scale in which the advantage of the
unjust is most apparent; and my meaning will be
most clearly seen if we turn to that highest form
of injustice in which the criminal is the happiest
of men, and the sufferers or those who refuse to do
injustice are the most miserable -- that is to say
tyranny, which by fraud and force takes away
the property of others, not little by little but
wholesale; comprehending in one, things sacred as
well as profane, private and public; for which acts
of wrong, if he were detected perpetrating any one
of them singly, he would be punished and incur
great disgrace -- they who do such wrong in
particular cases are called robbers of temples, and
man-stealers and burglars and swindlers and
thieves. But when a man besides taking away the
money of the citizens has made slaves of them,
then, instead of these names of reproach, he is
termed happy and blessed, not only by the citizens
but by all who hear of his having achieved the
consummation of injustice. For mankind censure
injustice, fearing that they may be the victims of
it and not because they shrink from committing it.
And thus, as I have shown, Socrates, injustice,
when on a sufficient scale, has more strength and
freedom and mastery than justice; and, as I said at
first, justice is the interest of the stronger,
whereas injustice is a man's own profit and
Republic, Book VIII,
There is no difficulty in returning; you
implied, then as now, that you had finished the
description of the State: you said that such a
State was good, and that the man was good who
answered to it, although, as now appears, you had
more excellent things to relate both of State and
man. And you said further, that if this was the
true form, then the others were false; and of the
false forms, you said, as I remember, that there
were four principal ones, and that their defects,
and the defects of the individuals corresponding to
them, were worth examining. When we had seen all
the individuals, and finally agreed as to who was
the best and who was the worst of them, we were to
consider whether the best was not also the
happiest, and the worst the most miserable. I asked
you what were the four forms of government of which
you spoke, and then Polemarchus and Adeimantus put
in their word; and you began again, and have found
your way to the point at which we have now
Your recollection, I said, is most exact.
Then, like a wrestler, he replied, you must put
yourself again in the same position; and let me ask
the same questions, and do you give me the same
answer which you were about to give me then.
Yes, if I can, I will, I said.
I shall particularly wish to hear what were the
four constitutions of which you were speaking.
That question, I said, is easily answered: the
four governments of which I spoke, so far as they
have distinct names, are first, those of Crete and
Sparta, which are generally applauded; what is
termed oligarchy comes next; this is not equally
approved, and is a form of government which teems
with evils: thirdly, democracy, which naturally
follows oligarchy, although very different: and
lastly comes tyranny, great and famous,
which differs from them all, and is the fourth and
worst disorder of a State. I do not know, do you?
of any other constitution which can be said to have
a distinct character. There are lordships and
principalities which are bought and sold, and some
other intermediate forms of government. But these
are nondescripts and may be found equally among
Hellenes and among barbarians.
Yes, he replied, we certainly hear of many
curious forms of government which exist among
Do you know, I said, that governments vary as
the dispositions of men vary, and that there must
be as many of the one as there are of the other?
For we cannot suppose that States are made of "oak
and rock," and not out of the human natures which
are in them, and which in a figure turn the scale
and draw other things after them?
Yes, he said, the States are as the men are;
they grow out of human characters.
Then if the constitutions of States are five,
the dispositions of individual minds will also be
Him who answers to aristocracy, and whom we
rightly call just and good, we have already
Last of all comes the most beautiful of all, man
and State alike, tyranny and the
tyrant; these we have now to consider.
Quite true, he said.
Say then, my friend, in what manner does
tyranny arise? -- that it has a democratic
origin is evident.
And does not tyranny spring from
democracy in the same manner as democracy from
oligarchy -- I mean, after a sort?
The good which oligarchy proposed to itself and
the means by which it was maintained was excess of
wealth -- am I not right?
And the insatiable desire of wealth and the
neglect of all other things for the sake of
money-getting were also the ruin of oligarchy?
And democracy has her own good, of which the
insatiable desire brings her to dissolution?
Freedom, I replied; which, as they tell you in a
democracy, is the glory of the State -- and that
therefore in a democracy alone will the freeman of
nature deign to dwell.
Yes; the saying is in everybody's mouth.
I was going to observe, that the insatiable
desire of this and the neglect of other things
introduce the change in democracy, which occasions
a demand for tyranny.
When a democracy which is thirsting for freedom
has evil cup-bearers presiding over the feast, and
has drunk too deeply of the strong wine of freedom,
then, unless her rulers are very amenable and give
a plentiful draught, she calls them to account and
punishes them, and says that they are cursed
Yes, he replied, a very common occurrence.
Yes, I said; and loyal citizens are insultingly
termed by her "slaves" who hug their chains, and
men of naught; she would have subjects who are like
rulers, and rulers who are like subjects: these are
men after her own heart, whom she praises and
honors both in private and public. Now, in such a
State, can liberty have any limit?
By degrees the anarchy finds a way into private
houses, and ends by getting among the animals and
How do you mean?
I mean that the father grows accustomed to
descend to the level of his sons and to fear them,
and the son is on a level with his father, he
having no respect or reverence for either of his
parents; and this is his freedom; and the metic is
equal with the citizen, and the citizen with the
metic, and the stranger is quite as good as
Yes, he said, that is the way.
And these are not the only evils, I said --
there are several lesser ones: In such a state of
society the master fears and flatters his scholars,
and the scholars despise their masters and tutors;
young and old are all alike; and the young man is
on a level with the old, and is ready to compete
with him in word or deed; and old men condescend to
the young and are full of pleasantry and gayety;
they are loth to be thought morose and
authoritative, and therefore they adopt the manners
of the young.
Quite true, he said.
The last extreme of popular liberty is when the
slave bought with money, whether male or female, is
just as free as his or her purchaser; nor must I
forget to tell of the liberty and equality of the
two sexes in relation to each other.
Why not, as AEschylus says, utter the word which
rises to our lips?
That is what I am doing, I replied; and I must
add that no one who does not know would believe how
much greater is the liberty which the animals who
are under the dominion of man have in a democracy
than in any other State: for, truly, the she-dogs,
as the proverb says, are as good as their
she-mistresses, and the horses and asses have a way
of marching along with all the rights and dignities
of freemen; and they will run at anybody who comes
in their way if he does not leave the road clear
for them: and all things are just ready to burst
When I take a country walk, he said, I often
experience what you describe. You and I have
dreamed the same thing.
And above all, I said, and as the result of all,
see how sensitive the citizens become; they chafe
impatiently at the least touch of authority, and at
length, as you know, they cease to care even for
the laws, written or unwritten; they will have no
one over them.
Yes, he said, I know it too well.
Such, my friend, I said, is the fair and
glorious beginning out of which springs
Glorious indeed, he said. But what is the next
The ruin of oligarchy is the ruin of democracy;
the same disease magnified and intensified by
liberty overmasters democracy -- the truth being
that the excessive increase of anything often
causes a reaction in the opposite direction; and
this is the case not only in the seasons and in
vegetable and animal life, but above all in forms
The excess of liberty, whether in States or
individuals, seems only to pass into excess of
Yes, the natural order.
And so tyranny naturally arises out of
democracy, and the most aggravated form of
tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme
form of liberty?
As we might expect.
That, however, was not, as I believe, your
question -- you rather desired to know what is that
disorder which is generated alike in oligarchy and
democracy, and is the ruin of both?
Just so, he replied.
Well, I said, I meant to refer to the class of
idle spendthrifts, of whom the more courageous are
the leaders and the more timid the followers, the
same whom we were comparing to drones, some
stingless, and others having stings.
A very just comparison.
These two classes are the plagues of every city
in which they are generated, being what phlegm and
bile are to the body. And the good physician and
lawgiver of the State ought, like the wise
bee-master, to keep them at a distance and prevent,
if possible, their ever coming in; and if they have
anyhow found a way in, then he should have them and
their cells cut out as speedily as possible.
Yes, by all means, he said.
Then, in order that we may see clearly what we
are doing, let us imagine democracy to be divided,
as indeed it is, into three classes; for in the
first place freedom creates rather more drones in
the democratic than there were in the oligarchical
That is true.
And in the democracy they are certainly more
Because in the oligarchical State they are
disqualified and driven from office, and therefore
they cannot train or gather strength; whereas in a
democracy they are almost the entire ruling power,
and while the keener sort speak and act, the rest
keep buzzing about the bema and do not suffer a
word to be said on the other side; hence in
democracies almost everything is managed by the
Very true, he said.
Then there is another class which is always
being severed from the mass.
What is that?
They are the orderly class, which in a nation of
traders is sure to be the richest.
They are the most squeezable persons and yield
the largest amount of honey to the drones.
Why, he said, there is little to be squeezed out
of people who have little.
And this is called the wealthy class, and the
drones feed upon them.
That is pretty much the case, he said.
The people are a third class, consisting of
those who work with their own hands; they are not
politicians, and have not much to live upon. This,
when assembled, is the largest and most powerful
class in a democracy.
True, he said; but then the multitude is seldom
willing to congregate unless they get a little
And do they not share? I said. Do not their
leaders deprive the rich of their estates and
distribute them among the people; at the same time
taking care to reserve the larger part for
Why, yes, he said, to that extent the people do
And the persons whose property is taken from
them are compelled to defend themselves before the
people as they best can?
What else can they do?
And then, although they may have no desire of
change, the others charge them with plotting
against the people and being friends of oligarchy?
And the end is that when they see the people,
not of their own accord, but through ignorance, and
because they are deceived by informers, seeking to
do them wrong, then at last they are forced to
become oligarchs in reality; they do not wish to
be, but the sting of the drones torments them and
breeds revolution in them.
That is exactly the truth.
Then come impeachments and judgments and trials
of one another.
The people have always some champion whom they
set over them and nurse into greatness.
Yes, that is their way. This, and no other, is
the root from which a tyrant springs; when
he first appears above ground he is a
Yes, that is quite clear. How, then, does a
protector begin to change into a tyrant?
Clearly when he does what the man is said to do in
the tale of the Arcadian temple of Lycaean
The tale is that he who has tasted the entrails
of a single human victim minced up with the
entrails of other victims is destined to become a
wolf. Did you never hear it?
And the protector of the people is like him;
having a mob entirely at his disposal, he is not
restrained from shedding the blood of kinsmen; by
the favorite method of false accusation he brings
them into court and murders them, making the life
of man to disappear, and with unholy tongue and
lips tasting the blood of his fellow-citizens; some
he kills and others he banishes, at the same time
hinting at the abolition of debts and partition of
lands: and after this, what will be his destiny?
Must he not either perish at the hands of his
enemies, or from being a man become a wolf -- that
is, a tyrant?
This, I said, is he who begins to make a party
against the rich?
After a while he is driven out, but comes back,
in spite of his enemies, a tyrant full
That is clear.
And if they are unable to expel him, or to get
him condemned to death by a public accusation, they
conspire to assassinate him.
Yes, he said, that is their usual way.
Then comes the famous request for a body-guard,
which is the device of all those who have got thus
far in their tyrannical career -- "Let not the
people's friend," as they say, "be lost to
The people readily assent; all their fears are
for him -- they have none for themselves.
And when a man who is wealthy and is also
accused of being an enemy of the people sees this,
then, my friend, as the oracle said to Croesus,
"By pebbly Hermus's shore he flees and rests
not, and is not ashamed to be a coward."
And quite right too, said he, for if he were, he
would never be ashamed again.
But if he is caught he dies.
And he, the protector of whom we spoke, is to be
seen, not "larding the plain" with his bulk, but
himself the overthrower of many, standing up in the
chariot of State with the reins in his hand, no
longer protector, but tyrant absolute.
No doubt, he said.
And now let us consider the happiness of the
man, and also of the State in which a creature like
him is generated.
Yes, he said, let us consider that.
At first, in the early days of his power, he is
full of smiles, and he salutes everyone whom he
meets; he to be called a tyrant, who is
making promises in public and also in private!
liberating debtors, and distributing land to the
people and his followers, and wanting to be so kind
and good to everyone!
Of course, he said.
But when he has disposed of foreign enemies by
conquest or treaty, and there is nothing to fear
from them, then he is always stirring up some war
or other, in order that the people may require a
To be sure.
Has he not also another object, which is that
they may be impoverished by payment of taxes, and
thus compelled to devote themselves to their daily
wants and therefore less likely to conspire against
And if any of them are suspected by him of
having notions of freedom, and of resistance to his
authority, he will have a good pretext for
destroying them by placing them at the mercy of the
enemy; and for all these reasons the tyrant
must be always getting up a war.
Now he begins to grow unpopular.
A necessary result.
Then some of those who joined in setting him up,
and who are in power, speak their minds to him and
to one another, and the more courageous of them
cast in his teeth what is being done.
Yes, that may be expected.
And the tyrant, if he means to rule, must
get rid of them; he cannot stop while he has a
friend or an enemy who is good for anything.
And therefore he must look about him and see who
is valiant, who is high-minded, who is wise, who is
wealthy; happy man, he is the enemy of them all,
and must seek occasion against them whether he will
or no, until he has made a purgation of the
Yes, he said, and a rare purgation.
Yes, I said, not the sort of purgation which the
physicians make of the body; for they take away the
worse and leave the better part, but he does the
If he is to rule, I suppose that he cannot help
What a blessed alternative, I said: to be
compelled to dwell only with the many bad, and to
be by them hated, or not to live at all!
Yes, that is the alternative.
And the more detestable his actions are to the
citizens the more satellites and the greater
devotion in them will he require?
And who are the devoted band, and where will he
They will flock to him, he said, of their own
accord, if he pays them.
By the dog! I said, here are more drones, of
every sort and from every land.
Yes, he said, there are.
But will he not desire to get them on the
How do you mean?
He will rob the citizens of their slaves; he
will then set them free and enrol them in his
To be sure, he said; and he will be able to
trust them best of all.
What a blessed creature, I said, must this
tyrant be; he has put to death the others
and has these for his trusted friends.
Yes, he said; they are quite of his sort.
Yes, I said, and these are the new citizens whom
he has called into existence, who admire him and
are his companions, while the good hate and avoid
Verily, then, tragedy is a wise thing and
Euripides a great tragedian.
Why, because he is the author of the pregnant
"Tyrants are wise by living with the
and he clearly meant to say that they are the
wise whom the tyrant makes his
Yes, he said, and he also praises tyranny
as godlike; and many other things of the same kind
are said by him and by the other poets.
And therefore, I said, the tragic poets being
wise men will forgive us and any others who live
after our manner, if we do not receive them into
our State, because they are the eulogists of
Yes, he said, those who have the wit will
doubtless forgive us.
But they will continue to go to other cities and
attract mobs, and hire voices fair and loud and
persuasive, and draw the cities over to tyrannies
Moreover, they are paid for this and receive
honor -- the greatest honor, as might be expected,
from tyrants, and the next greatest from
democracies; but the higher they ascend our
constitution hill, the more their reputation fails,
and seems unable from shortness of breath to
But we are wandering from the subject: Let us
therefore return and inquire how the tyrant
will maintain that fair, and numerous, and various,
and ever-changing army of his.
If, he said, there are sacred treasures in the
city, he will confiscate and spend them; and in so
far as the fortunes of attainted persons may
suffice, he will be able to diminish the taxes
which he would otherwise have to impose upon the
And when these fail?
Why, clearly, he said, then he and his boon
companions, whether male or female, will be
maintained out of his father's estate.
You mean to say that the people, from whom he
has derived his being, will maintain him and his
Yes, he said; they cannot help themselves.
But what if the people fly into a passion, and
aver that a grown-up son ought not to be supported
by his father, but that the father should be
supported by the son? The father did not bring him
into being, or settle him in life, in order that
when his son became a man he should himself be the
servant of his own servants and should support him
and his rabble of slaves and companions; but that
his son should protect him, and that by his help he
might be emancipated from the government of the
rich and aristocratic, as they are termed. And so
he bids him and his companions depart, just as any
other father might drive out of the house a riotous
son and his undesirable associates.
By heaven, he said, then the parent will
discover what a monster he has been fostering in
his bosom; and, when he wants to drive him out, he
will find that he is weak and his son strong.
Why, you do not mean to say that the
tyrant will use violence? What! beat his
father if he opposes him?
Yes, he will, having first disarmed him.
Then he is a parricide, and a cruel guardian of
an aged parent; and this is real tyranny,
about which there can be no longer a mistake: as
the saying is, the people who would escape the
smoke which is the slavery of freemen, has fallen
into the fire which is the tyranny of
slaves. Thus liberty, getting out of all order and
reason, passes into the harshest and bitterest form
True, he said.
Very well; and may we not rightly say that we
have sufficiently discussed the nature of
tyranny, and the manner of the transition
from democracy to tyranny?
Yes, quite enough, he said.
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