Plato to the relatives and companions of Dion wishes well-doing.
The policy which would best serve to secure your real “well-doing” is that which I shall now endeavor as best I can to describe to you. And I hope that my advice will not only be salutary to you (though to you in special), but also to all the Syracusans, in the second place, and, in the third, to your enemies and your foes, unless any of them be a doer of impious deeds; for such deeds are irremediable and none could ever wash out their stain. Mark, then, what I now say. Now that the tyranny is broken down over the whole of Sicily all your fighting rages round this one subject of dispute, the one party desiring to recover the headship, and the other to put the finishing touch to the expulsion of the tyrants. Now the majority of men always believe that the right advice about these matters is the advising of such action as will do the greatest possible harm to one’s enemies and the greatest possible good to one’s friends; whereas it is by no means easy to do much harm to others without also suffering in turn much harm oneself. And without going far afield one may see such consequences clearly in the recent events in Sicily itself, where the one faction is trying to inflict injury and the other to ward off the injurers; and the tale thereof, if ever you told it to others, would inevitably prove a most impressive lesson. Of such policies, one may say, there is no lack; but as for a policy which would prove beneficial to all alike, foes as well as friends, or at least as little detrimental as possible to either, such a policy is neither easy to discern, nor, when discerned, easy to carry out; and to advise such a policy or attempt to describe it is much like saying a prayer. Be it so, then, that this is nothing but a prayer (and in truth every man ought always to begin his speaking and his thinking with the gods); yet may it attain fulfilment in indicating some such counsel as this: — Now and almost ever since the war began both you and your enemies have been ruled continuously by that one family which your fathers set on the throne in the hour of their greatest distress, when Greek Sicily was in the utmost danger of being entirely overrun by the Carthaginians and barbarized. On that occasion they chose Dionysius because of his youth and warlike prowess to take charge of the military operations for which he was suited, with Hipparinus, who was older, as his fellow-counsellor, appointing them dictators for the safeguarding of Sicily, with the title, as men say, of “tyrants.” But whether one prefers to suppose that the cause which ultimately brought about their salvation was divine Fortune and the Deity, or the virtue of the rulers, or possibly the combination of both assisted by the citizens of that age — as to this let everyone form his own notion; in any case this was the way in which salvation for the men of that generation came about. Seeing, then, that they proved themselves men of such a quality, it is surely right that they should be repaid with gratitude by all those whom they saved. But if in after times the tyrant’s house has wrongly abused the bounty of the city, the penalty for this it has suffered in part, and in part it will have to pay. What, then, is the penalty rightly to be exacted from them under existing circumstances? If you were able to get quit of them easily, without serious dangers and trouble, or if they were able to regain the empire without difficulty, then, in either case, it would not have been possible for me so much as to offer the advice which I am now about to utter; but as it is, both of you ought to bear in mind and remember how many times each party has hopefully imagined that it lacked but a little of achieving complete success almost every time; and, what is more, that it is precisely this little deficiency which is always turning out to be the cause of great and numberless evils. And of these evils no limit is ever reached, but what seems to be the end of the old is always being linked on to the beginning of a new brood; and because of this endless chain of evil the whole tribe of tyrants and democrats alike will be in danger of destruction. But should any of these consequences — likely as they are though lamentable — come to pass, hardly a trace of the Greek tongue will remain in all Sicily, since it will have been transformed into a province or dependency of Phoenicians or Opicians. Against this all the Greeks must with all zeal provide a remedy. If, therefore, any man knows of a remedy that is truer and better than that which I am now about to propose, and puts it openly before us, he shall have the best right to the title “Friend of Greece.” The remedy, however, which commends itself to me I shall now endeavor to explain, using the utmost freedom of speech and a tone of impartial justice. For indeed I am speaking somewhat like an arbitrator, and addressing to the two parties, the former despot and his subjects, as though each were a single person, the counsel I gave of old. And now also my word of advice to every despot would be that he should shun the despot’s title and his task, and change his despotism for kingship. That this is possible has been actually proved by that wise and good man Lycurgus; forwhen he saw that the family of his kinsmen in Argos and in Messene had in both cases destroyed both themselves and their city by advancing from kingship to despotic power, he was alarmed about his own city as well as his own family, and as a remedy he introduced the authority of the Elders and of the Ephors to serve as a bond of safety for the kingly power; and because of this they have already been kept safe and glorious all these generations since Law became with them supreme king over men instead of men being despots over the laws. And now also I urgently admonish you all to do the same. Those of you who are rushing after despotic power I exhort to change their course and to flee betimes from what is counted as “bliss” by men of insatiable cravings and empty heads, and to try to transform themselves into the semblance of a king, and to become subject to kingly laws, owing their possession of the highest honors to the voluntary goodwill of the citizens and to the laws. And I should counsel those who follow after the ways of freedom, and shun as a really evil thing the yoke of bondage, to beware lest by their insatiable craving for an immoderate freedom they should ever fall sick of their forefathers’ disease, which the men of that time suffered because of their excessive anarchy, through indulging an unmeasured love of freedom. For the Siceliots of the age before Dionysius and Hipparinus began to rule were living blissfully, as they supposed, being in luxury and ruling also over their rulers; and they even stoned to death the ten generals who preceded Dionysius, without any legal trial, to show that they were no slaves of any rightful master, nor of any law, but were in all ways altogether free. Hence it was that the rule of the despots befell them. For as regards both slavery and freedom, when either is in excess it is wholly evil, but when in moderation wholly good; and moderate slavery consists in being the slave of God, immoderate, in being the slave of men; and men of sound sense have Law for their God, but men without sense Pleasure. Since these things are naturally ordained thus, I exhort Dion’s friends to declare what I am advising to all the Syracusans, as being the joint advice both of Dion and myself; and I will be the interpreter of what he would have said to you now, were he alive and able to speak. “Pray then,” someone might say, “what message does the advice of Dion declare to us concerning the present situation?” It is this: “Above all else, O ye Syracusans, accept such laws as do not appear to you likely to turn your minds covetously to money-making and wealth; but rather — since there are three objects, the soul, the body, and money besides, — accept such laws as cause the virtue of the soul to be held first in honor, that of the body second, subordinate to that of the soul, and the honor paid to money to come third and last, in subjection to both the body and the soul. The ordinance which effects this will be truly laid down by you as law, since it really makes those who obey it blessed; whereas the phrase which terms the rich “blessed” is not only a miserable one in itself, being the senseless phrase of women and children, but also renders those who believe it equally miserable. That this exhortation of mine is true you will learn by actual experience if you make trial of what I am now saying concerning laws; for in all matters experience is held to be the truest test. And when you have accepted laws of this kind, inasmuch as Sicily is beset with dangers,and you are neither complete victors nor utterly vanquished, it will be, no doubt, both just and profitable for you all to pursue a middle course — not only those of you who flee from the harshness of the tyranny, but also those who crave to win back that tyranny — the men whose ancestors in those days performed the mightiest deed in saving the Greeks from the barbarians, with the result that it is possible for us now to talk about constitutions; whereas, if they had then been ruined, no place would have been left at all for either talk or hope. So, then, let the one party of you gain freedom by the aid of kingly rule, and the other gain a form of kingly rule that is not irresponsible, with the laws exercising despotic sway over the kings themselves as well as the rest of the citizens, in case they do anything illegal. On these conditions setup kings for all of you, by the help of the gods and with honest and sound intent, — my own son first in return for twofold favors, namely that conferred by me and that conferred by my father; for he delivered the city from barbarians in his own day, while I, in the present day, have twice delivered it from tyrants, whereof you yourselves are witnesses. And as your second king create the man who possesses the same name as my father and is son to Dionysius, in return for his present assistance and for his pious disposition; for he, though he is sprung from a tyrant’s loins, is in act of delivering the city of his own free will, gaining thereby for himself and for his race everlasting honor in place of a transitory and unrighteous tyranny. And, thirdly, you ought to invite to become king of Syracuse — as willing king of a willing city — him who is now commander of your enemies’ army, Dionysius, son of Dionysius, if so be that he is willing of his own accord to transform himself into a king, being moved thereto by fear of fortune’s changes, and by pity for his country and the untended state of her temples and her tombs, lest because of his ambition he utterly ruin all and become a cause of rejoicing to the barbarians. And these three, — whether you grant them the power of the Laconian kings or curtail that power by a common agreement, — you should establish as kings in some such manner as the following, which indeed has been described to you before, yet listen to it now again. If you find that the family of Dionysius and Hipparinus is willing to make an end of the evils now occurring in order to secure the salvation of Sicily provided that they receive honors both in the present and for the future for themselves and for their family, then on these terms, as was said before, convoke envoys empowered to negotiate a pact, such men as they may choose, whether they come from Sicily or from abroad or both, and in such numbers as may be mutually agreed. And these men, on their arrival, should first lay down laws and a constitution which is so framed as to permit the kings to be put in control of the temples and of all else that fitly belongs to those who once were benefactors. And as controllers of war and peace they should appoint Law-wardens, thirty-five in number, in conjunction with the People and the Council. And there should be various courts of law for various suits, but in matters involving death or exile the Thirty-five should form the court; and in addition to these there should be judges selected from the magistrates of each preceding year, one from each magistracy — the one, that is, who is approved as the most good and just; and these should decide for the ensuing year all cases which involve the death, imprisonment or transportation of citizens; and it should not be permissible for a king to be a judge of such suits, but he, like a priest, should remain clean from bloodshed and imprisonment and exile. This is what I planned for you when I was alive, and it is still my plan now. With your aid, had not Furies in the guise of guests prevented me, I should then have overcome our foes, and established the State in the way I planned; and after this, had my intentions been realized, I should have resettled the rest of Sicily by depriving the barbarians of the land they now hold — excepting those who fought in defence of the common liberty against the tyranny — and restoring the former occupiers of the Greek regions to their ancient and ancestral homes. And now likewise I counsel you all with one accord to adopt and execute these same plans, and to summon all to this task, and to count him who refuses as a common enemy. Nor is such a course impossible; for when plans actually exist in two souls, and when they are readily perceived upon reflection to be the best, he who pronounces such plans impossible is hardly a man of understanding. And by the “two souls” I mean the soul of Hipparinus the son of Dionysius and that of my own son; for should these agree together, I believe that all the rest of the Syracusans who have a care for their city will consent. Well then, when you have paid due honor, with prayer, to all the gods and all the other powers to whom, along with the gods, it is due, cease not from urging and exhorting both friends and opponents by gentle means and every means, until, like a heaven-sent dream presented to waking eyes, the plan which I have pictured in words be wrought by you into plain deeds and brought to a happy consummation.”