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Encyclopedia > Laws (dialogue)
Part of the series on:
The Dialogues of Plato
Early dialogues:
EuthyphroFirst Alcibiades
Hippias MajorHippias Minor
Transitional & middle dialogues:
Later middle dialogues:
The RepublicPhaedrus
Late dialogues:
The SophistThe Statesman
Of doubtful authenticity:
MinosRival Lovers
Second AlcibiadesTheages
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The Laws is Plato's last and longest dialogue. The question asked at the beginning is not "What is law?" as one would expect- that is the question of the Minos. The kick-off question is rather, "Who is given the credit for laying down your laws?" Image File history File links Plato-raphael. ... (The) Apology (of Socrates) is Platos version of the speech given by Socrates as he defends himself against the charges of being a man who corrupted the young, did not believe in the gods, and created new deities. Apology here has its earlier meaning (now usually expressed by the... The Charmides (Greek: ) is a dialogue of Plato, discussing the nature and utility of temperance. ... The Crito (IPA [kriːtɔːn]; in English usually [ˈkɹiːtɘʊː]) is a short but important dialogue by the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato. ... Euthyphro is one of Platos known early dialogues. ... The First Alcibiades or Alcibiades I is a dialogue featuring Alcibiades in conversation with Socrates, ascribed to Plato, but his authorship is doubtful, though probably written by someone within a century or two of Platos other works. ... Hippias Major (or What is Beauty) is one of the dialogues of Plato. ... Hippias Minor (or On Lying) is one of Platos early dialogues, written while the author was still young, although the exact date has not been established. ... Platos Ion aims to give an account of poetry in dialogue form. ... Laches, also known as Courage, is a Socratic dialogue written by Plato, and concerns the topic of courage. ... Lysis is one of the socratic dialogues written by Plato and discusses the nature of friendship. ... Cratylus (Κρατυλος) is the name of a dialogue by Plato, written in approximately 360 BC. In the dialogue, Socrates is asked by two men, Cratylus and Hermogenes, to advise them whether names are conventional or natural, that is, whether language is a system of arbitrary signs or whether words have an... Euthydemus (Euthydemos), written 380 BCE, is dialogue by Plato which satirizes the logical fallacies of the Sophists. ... Gorgias is an important dialogue in which Plato sets the rhetorician, whose specialty is persuasion, in opposition to the philosopher, whose specialty is dissuasion, or refutation. ... The Menexenus is a Socratic dialogue of Plato, traditionally included in the seventh tetralogy along with the Greater and Lesser Hippias and the Ion. ... Meno is a Socratic dialogue written by Plato. ... It has been suggested that Phaidon be merged into this article or section. ... Protagoras is the title of one of Platos dialogues. ... The Symposium is a dialogue by Plato, written soon after 385 BCE. It is a philosophical discussion on the nature of love, taking the form of a series of speeches, both satirical and serious, given by a group of men at a symposion or drinking party at the house of... The Republic (Greek: ) is an influential work of philosophy and political theory by the Greek philosopher Plato, written in approximately 360 BC. It is written in the format of a Socratic dialogue. ... The Phaedrus, written by Plato, is a dialogue between Platos main protagonist, Socrates, and Phaedrus, an interlocutor in several dialogues. ... Parmenides is one of the dialogues of Plato. ... The Theætetus (Θεαίτητος) is one of Platos dialogues concerning the nature of knowledge. ... Timaeus is a theoretical treatise of Plato in the form of a Socratic dialogue, written circa 360 BC. The work puts forward speculation on the nature of the physical world. ... Critias, a dialogue of Platos, speaks about a variety of subjects. ... The Sophist (Greek: Σοφιστής) is one of the late Dialogues of Plato, which was written much more lately than the Parmenides and the Theaetetus, probably in 360 BC.After he criticized his own Theory of Forms in the Parmenides, Plato proceeds in the Sophist with a new conception of the Forms... The Statesman, or Politikos in Greek and Politicus in Latin, is a four part dialogue contained within the work of Plato. ... Philebus is among the last of the late Socratic dialogues of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. ... The Clitophon, a dialogue generally ascribed to Plato, is significant for focusing on Socrates role as an exhorter of other people to engage in philosophic inquiry. ... The Epinomis is a dialogue in the style of Plato, but today considered spurious by most scholars. ... The Epistles of Plato are a series of thirteen letters traditionally included in the Platonic corpus. ... The Hipparchus is a dialogue attributed to the classical Greek philosopher and writer Plato. ... Minos is one of the dialogues of Plato, featuring Socrates and a Companion. ... Rival Lovers (Greek: ) is a Socratic dialogue included in the traditional corpus of Platos works, though its authenticity has been doubted. ... The Second Alcibiades or Alcibiades II is a dialogue ascribed to Plato, featring Alcibiades conversing with Socrates, but there is a general consensus amongst scholars that this text is spurious, though again probably written by someone within a century or two of Platos other works. ... Theages is one of the dialogues of Plato, featuring Demodocus, Socrates and Theages. ... PLATO was one of the first generalized Computer assisted instruction systems, originally built by the University of Illinois (U of I) and later taken over by Control Data Corporation (CDC), who provided the machines it ran on. ... A dialogue (often spelled dialog[1]) is a reciprocal conversation between two or more Entities. ... Minos is one of the dialogues of Plato, featuring Socrates and a Companion. ...

It is generally agreed that Plato wrote this dialogue as an old man, having failed in his effort in Syracuse on the island of Sicily to guide a tyrant's rule, instead having been thrown in prison. These events are alluded to in the Seventh Letter. Syracuse (Italian, Siracusa, ancient Syracusa - see also List of traditional Greek place names) is a city on the eastern coast of Sicily and the capital of the province of Syracuse, Italy. ... Sicily (Sicilia in Italian and Sicilian) is an autonomous region of Italy and the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, with an area of 25,708 km² (9,926 sq. ... The Seventh Letter is a literary and philosophical text of the mid-fourth century BC (ca. ...



The setting

Unlike most of Plato's dialogues, Socrates does not appear in the Laws. This is fitting because the dialogue takes place on the island of Crete, and Socrates never appears outside of Athens in Plato's writings, except in the Phaedrus, where he is just outside the city's walls. Instead of Socrates we have the Athenian Stranger (in Greek, 'xenos') and two other old men, an ordinary Spartan citizen (Megillos) and a Cretan politician and lawgiver (Kleinias) from Knossos. For the famous World War II battle, see: Battle of Crete For other uses, see Crete (disambiguation). ... Phaedrus, ¹ (15 B.C. – AD 50), Roman fabulist, was by birth a Macedonian and lived in the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius and Claudius. ... Athens (Greek: Αθήνα - Athína) is the largest city and capital of Greece, located in the Attica periphery of central Greece. ... Sparta (Doric: Spártā, Attic: Spártē) is a city in southern Greece. ... A portion of Arthur Evans reconstruction of the Minoan palace at Knossos. ...

The Athenian Stranger, who is much like Socrates but whose name is never given, joins the other two on their religious pilgrimage to the cave of Zeus. The entire dialogue takes place during this journey, which mimics the action of Minos, who is said by the Cretans to have made their ancient laws, who walked this path every nine years in order to receive instruction from Zeus on lawgiving. It is also said to be the longest day of the year, allowing for a densely-packed twelve chapters. The Statue of Zeus at Olympia Phidias created the 12-m (40-ft) tall statue of Zeus at Olympia about 435 BC. The statue was perhaps the most famous sculpture in Ancient Greece, imagined here in a 16th century engraving Zeus (in Greek: nominative: Zeús, genitive: Diós), is... Front face of the MINOS far detector. ...

By the end of the third chapter Kleinias announces that he has in fact been given the charge of laying down laws for a new Cretan colony, and that he would like the Stranger's assistance. The rest of the dialogue proceeds with the three old men, walking towards the cave and making laws for this new city.


The questions of the Laws are without limit:

  • Divine revelation, divine law and lawgiving
  • The role of intelligence in lawgiving
  • The relations of philosophy, religion, and politics
  • The role of music, exercise and dance in education
  • Natural law and natural right
  • ...

The dialogue uses primarily the Athenian and Spartan (Lacedaemonian) law systems as background for pinpointing a choice of laws, which the speakers imagine as a more or less coherent set for the new city they are talking about.


...to other dialogues by Plato

The Laws is similar to and yet in opposition to the Republic. It is similar in that both dialogues concern the making of a city in speech, but different in that the one city is ideal, and the other a real, practical city. The city of the Laws is described as "second best," whereas the beautiful city of the Republic is the best possible city. The city of the Laws differs in its allowance of private property and private families, and in the very existence of written laws, from the city of the Republic, with its communistic property-system, possession of women in common, and absence of written law. Also, whereas the Republic is a dialogue between Socrates and many young men (Cephalus goes to bed early, after attending to his boring old sacrifices), the Laws is a discussion among old men, where children are not allowed and there is always a pretence of piety and ritualism. All in all, while the Laws is more similar to the Republic than any other dialogue, they are so different that the Laws needs to be considered in its own right, as Plato's most serious and comprehensive contribution to political philosophy. The Republic is an influential dialogue by Plato, written in the first half of the 4th century BC. This Socratic dialogue mainly is about political philosophy and ethics. ...

It has the sense of a writer trying to get everything into his last work, yet its structure is comparable to the Symposium in its beauty and grace. The Symposium is a dialogue by Plato, written soon after 385 BCE. It is a philosophical discussion on the nature of love, taking the form of a series of speeches, both satirical and serious, given by a group of men at a symposion or drinking party at the house of...

Traditionally, the Minos is thought to be the preface, and the Epinomis the epilogue, to the Laws, but both may be spurious. Minos is one of the dialogues of Plato, featuring Socrates and a Companion. ... The Epinomis is a dialogue in the style of Plato, but today considered spurious by most scholars. ...

In The Laws, Plato takes a harsh view of homosexuality, and proposes to legislate against it. This is a stark contrast to the Symposium and the Phaedrus, both of which seem to present homosexuality in a positive light. The Phaedrus, written by Plato, is a dialogue between Platos main protagonist, Socrates, and Phaedrus, an interlocutor in several dialogues. ...

...to other ancient accounts of Greek law systems

Plato was not the only Ancient Greek author writing about the law systems of his day, and making comparisons between the Athenian and the Lacedaemonian/Spartan laws. Notably, The Polity of the Athenians and the Lacedaemonians, by Xenophon, another of Socrates' pupils, has also survived. The Temple to Athena, the Parthenon Ancient Greece is a period in Greek history that lasted for around three thousand years. ... Athens (Greek: Αθήνα - Athína) is the largest city and capital of Greece, located in the Attica periphery of central Greece. ... Laconia (Λακωνία), also known as Lacedaemonia, was in ancient Greece the portion of the Peloponnesus of which the most important city was Sparta. ... Sparta (Doric: Spártā, Attic: SpártÄ“) is a city in southern Greece. ... Xenophon, Greek historian Xenophon (In Greek , ca. ... This page is about the ancient Greek philosopher. ...

Some centuries later Plutarch would also devote attention to the topic of Ancient Greek law systems, e.g. in his Life of Lykurgus. Lykurgus (or: Lycurgus) was the legendary law-giver of the Lacedaemonians. Plutarch compares Lycurgus (and his Spartan laws) to the law system Numa Pompilius introduced in Rome around 700 BC. Mestrius Plutarchus (Greek: Πλούταρχος; 46 - 127), better known in English as Plutarch, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist. ... // Lycurgus Lycurgus (Greek: , Lukoûrgos; 700 BC?–630 BC) was the legendary lawgiver of Sparta, who established the military-oriented reformation of Spartan society in accordance with the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. ... rome hotel According to legend, Numa Pompilius was the second of the Kings of Rome, succeeding Romulus. ...

Both Xenophon and Plutarch are stark admirers of the Spartan system, showing less reserve than Plato in expressing that admiration.

See also

See also

Political content

Please wikify (format) this article as suggested in the Guide to layout and the Manual of Style. ... Mixed government, also known as a mixed constitution, is a form of government that integrated facets of democracy, oligarchy, and monarchy. ... The Open Society and Its Enemies is an influential two-volume work by Karl Popper written during World War II. Failing to find a publisher in the United States, it was first printed in London, in 1945. ... Sir Karl Raimund Popper, CH, FRS, FBA, (July 28, 1902 – September 17, 1994), was an Austrian born naturalized British[1] philosopher and a professor at the London School of Economics. ... Forms of government Part of the Politics series Politics Portal This box:      Totalitarianism is a term employed by political scientists, especially those in the field of comparative politics, to describe modern regimes in which the state regulates nearly every aspect of public and private behavior. ...

Other aspects

In ancient Greece, the gymnasium (Greek: ; gymnasion) functioned as a training facility for competitors in public games. ... Corybantian dance, the type of dance most likely danced on Gymnopedia festivals (image from Smiths Dictionary of Antiquities) Gymnopaedia derives from the ancient Greek γυμνοπαιδία, a festivity in Sparta, where naked youths would perform war dances. ...

External references

Regarding Plato's The Laws

  • Kochin, Michael (2002). Gender and Rhetoric in Plato's Political Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-80852-9. 
  • Pangle, Thomas L., 1980. The Laws of Plato, Translated, with Notes and an Interpretive Essay, New York, Basic Books.
  • The Laws, available at Project Gutenberg., a 19th century translation.

Project Gutenberg, abbreviated as PG, is a volunteer effort to digitize, archive, and distribute cultural works. ...

Other ancient texts about law systems

  • Polity of the Athenians and the Lacedaemonians by Xenophon, available at Project Gutenberg.
  • Works by Plutarch at Project Gutenberg (The text about Lykurgus is in Volume I of the Lives)

  Results from FactBites:
Plato (3698 words)
In the Laws the andreia, contrary to the traditional view, has the lowest position in the hierarchy, while justice (closely related to sophrosyne and the other virtues) is the essential virtue for the political life.
The law against impiety that is promulgated in the tenth Book is used by the Athenian to make α broad exposition about the metaphysical principles of the world and to attack the atheists and the traditional believers as well.
The ultimate understanding of the significance of the Laws is intimately related to the exact knowledge of the history of the constitution of the text and of its transmission.
  More results at FactBites »



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