The School of Statesmanship

No, Posterity, you will never know how much it cost us to preserve your freedom. I hope that you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the pains . . .  — John Adams

 The School of Statesmanship at Ascension University will place special emphasis on the characteristic positive influence of the true individual statesman. It is a finishing school for any aspiring leader with a heart for service. Individuals engaged in support roles such as assistants, secretaries, and technical trustees must also understand certain basic principles as they work on behalf of the leaders and the greater public they serve.

Statesman are vested with a sacred trust that we come to appreciate as we examine public policy on a global, national, provincial, regional, state and municipal level. This overarching theme must be cultivated and carries with it a certain spiritual fragrance. This is the byproduct of character traits shared by people of good will. And they work tirelessly to elevate the public discourse.

All of this leads to questions about the personal qualities that all great leaders possess. What are the key differentiators that distinguish the true statesman from the mere politician? As a point of departure, consider the following statement:

“It is beauty that captures your attention; personality which captures your heart.” — Anonymous


The personality attributes of leaders who tend to be true to their trust run deep. These qualities generally include:

1) Service Motivation
2) Creative Vision
3) Unifying Integrity
4) Edifying Communications
5) Wise Leadership
6) Thoughtful Deliberations
7) Principled Compromise

“A politician thinks about the next elections — the statesman thinks about the next generations.” — James Freeman Clarke (1810-1888)



The School of Statesmanship offers inspirational overviews of the essential character attributes unique to the true statesman.  These summer seminars are available by invitation only to those providing a Statement of Intent to enter public service.

The School of Statesmanship would be of interest to one who: promotes the principles and practices of statesmanship – values the ideals of debate, diplomacy and beneficial compromise – wants to develop the skills and processes of statesmanship – is looking to hone their skills in leadership – seeks to understand conflict resolution – engages in decision making in a shared power setting.

The School of Statesmanship offers a curriculum in diplomacy, dialogue, listening skills, negotiation and mediation. We will rehearse you in the skills and the vision of governing together with political acumen and the exercise of astute leadership based on world vision. The School of Statesmanship is dedicated to helping you become the most effective promoter of the public good.


What is a Statesman According to Statesmen?

  • What the statesman is most anxious to produce is a certain moral character in his fellow citizens, namely a disposition to virtue and the performance of virtuous actions. — Aristotle (Ancient Greek Philosopher, Scientist and Physician, 384 BC-322 BC)
  • A disposition to preserve, and an ability to improve, taken together, would be my standard of a statesman. — Edmund Burke (British Statesman and Philosopher, 1729-1797)
  • No statesman e’er will find it worth his pains, to tax our labours and excise our brains. — Charles Churchill (1732-1764)
  • Peace. commerce, and honest friendship with all nations – entangling alliances with none. — Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
  • Honest statesmanship is the wise employment of individual manners for the public good. — Abraham Lincoln (American 16th US President (1861-65), who brought about the emancipation of the slaves. 1809-1865)
  • A statesman… must wait until he hears the steps of God sounding through events, then leap up and grasp the hem of His garment. — Otto von Bismarck (Prussian Prime Minister, Founder and Chancellor of the German Empire, 1815-1898)
  • Compromise makes a good umbrella, but a poor roof; it is temporary expedient, often wise in party politics, almost sure to be unwise in statesmanship. — James Russell Lowell (1819-1891)
  • A politician is a statesman who approaches every question with an open mouth. — Adlai E. Stevenson (American Politician. Governor of Illinois (1949-53) and Ambassador to the United Nations (1961-65). 1900-1965)
  • The essence of statesmanship is not a rigid adherence to the past, but a prudent and probing concern for the future. — Hubert H. Humphrey (American 38th US Vice President under Lyndon B. Johnson (1965-69) and US Senator from Minnesota (1949-64, 1971-78). 1911-1978)
  • A statesman who keeps his ear permanently glued to the ground will have neither elegance of posture nor flexibility of movement. — Abba Eban (Israeli Foreign Minister of Israel, 1915-2002)
  • Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. — John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)

STATESMAN by Plato 360 BC
translated by Benjamin Jowett


Socrates. I owe you many thanks, indeed, Theodorus, for the
acquaintance both of Theaetetus and of the Stranger.
Theodorus. And in a little while, Socrates, you will owe me three
times as many, when they have completed for you the delineation of the
Statesman and of the Philosopher, as well as of the Sophist.
Soc. Sophist, statesman, philosopher! O my dear Theodorus, do my
ears truly witness that this is the estimate formed of them by the
great calculator and geometrician?
Theod. What do you mean, Socrates?
Soc. I mean that you rate them all at the same value, whereas they
are really separated by an interval, which no geometrical ratio can
Theod. By Ammon, the god of Cyrene, Socrates, that is a very fair
hit; and shows that you have not forgotten your geometry. I will
retaliate on you at some other time, but I must now ask the
Stranger, who will not, I hope, tire of his goodness to us, to proceed
either with the Statesman or with the Philosopher, whichever he
Stranger. That is my duty, Theodorus; having begun I must go on, and
not leave the work unfinished. But what shall be done with Theaetetus?

Theod. In what respect?
Str. Shall we relieve him, and take his companion, the Young
Socrates, instead of him? What do you advise?
Theod. Yes, give the other a turn, as you propose. The young
always do better when they have intervals of rest.
Soc. I think, Stranger, that both of them may be said to be in
some way related to me; for the one, as you affirm, has the cut of
my ugly face, the other is called by my name. And we should always
be on the look-out to recognize a kinsman by the style of his
conversation. I myself was discoursing with Theaetetus yesterday,
and I have just been listening to his answers; my namesake I have
not yet examined, but I must. Another time will, do for me; to-day let
him answer you.
Str. Very good. Young Socrates, do you hear what the elder
Socrates is proposing?
Young Socrates. I do.
Str. And do you agree to his proposal?
Y. Soc. Certainly.
Str. As you do not object, still less can I. After the Sophist,
then, I think that the Statesman naturally follows next in the order
of enquiry. And please to say, whether he, too, should be ranked among
those who have science.
Y. Soc. Yes.
Str. Then the sciences must be divided as before?
Y. Soc. I dare say.
Str. But yet the division will not be the same?
Y. Soc. How then?
Str. They will be divided at some other point.
Y. Soc. Yes.
Str. Where shall we discover the path of the Statesman? We must find
and separate off, and set our seal upon this, and we will set the mark
of another class upon all diverging paths. Thus the soul will conceive
of ail kinds of knowledge under two classes.
Y. Soc. To find the path is your business, Stranger, and not mine.
Str. Yes, Socrates, but the discovery, when once made, must be yours
as well as mine.
Y. Soc. Very good.
Str. Well, and are not arithmetic and certain other kindred arts,
merely abstract knowledge, wholly separated from action?
Y. Soc. True.
Str. But in the art of carpentering and all other handicrafts, the
knowledge of the workman is merged in his work; he not only knows, but
he also makes things which previously did not exist.
Y. Soc. Certainly.
Str. Then let us divide sciences in general into those which are
practical and those which are-purely intellectual.
Y. Soc. Let us assume these two divisions of science, which is one
Str. And are “statesman,” “king,” “master,” or “householder,” one
and the same; or is there a science or art answering to each of
these names? Or rather, allow me to put the matter in another way.
Y. Soc. Let me hear.
Str. If any one who is in a private station has the skill to
advise one of the public physicians, must not he also be called a
Y. Soc. Yes.
Str. And if any one who is in a private station is able to advise
the ruler of a country, may not he be said to have the knowledge which
the ruler himself ought to have?
Y. Soc. True.
Str. But, surely the science of a true king is royal science?
Y. Soc. Yes.
Str. And will not he who possesses this knowledge, whether he
happens to be a ruler or a private man, when regarded only in
reference to his art, be truly called “royal”?
Y. Soc. He certainly ought to be.
Str. And the householder and master are the same?
Y. Soc. Of course.
Str. Again, a large household may be compared to a small state:-will
they differ at all, as far as government is concerned?
Y. Soc. They will not.
Str. Then, returning to the point which we were just now discussing,
do we not clearly see that there is one science of all of them; and
this science may be called either royal or political or economical; we
will not quarrel with any one about the name.
Y. Soc. Certainly not.
Str. This too, is evident, that the king cannot do much with his
hands, or with his whole body, towards the maintenance of his
empire, compared with what he does by the intelligence and strength of
his mind.
Y. Soc. Clearly not.
Str. Then, shall we say that the king has a greater affinity to
knowledge than to manual arts and to practical life in general?
Y. Soc. Certainly he has.
Str. Then we may put all together as one and the
same-statesmanship and the statesman-the kingly science and the king.
Y. Soc. Clearly.
Str. And now we shall only be proceeding in due order if we go on to
divide the sphere of knowledge?
Y. Soc. Very good.
Str. Think whether you can find any joint or parting in knowledge.
Y. Soc. Tell me of what sort.
Str. Such as this: You may remember that we made an art of
Y. Soc. Yes.
Str. Which was, unmistakably, one of the arts of knowledge?
Y. Soc. Certainly.
Str. And to this art of calculation which discerns the differences
of numbers shall we assign any other function except to pass
judgment on their differences?
Y. Soc. How could we?
Str. You know that the master-builder does not work himself, but
is the ruler of workmen?
Y. Soc. Yes.
Str. He contributes knowledge, not manual labour?
Y. Soc. True.
Str. And may therefore be justly said to share in theoretical
Y. Soc. Quite true.
Str. But he ought not, like the calculator, to regard his
functions as at and when he has formed a judgment;-he must assign to
the individual workmen their appropriate task until they have
completed the work.
Y. Soc. True.
Str. Are not all such sciences, no less than arithmetic and the
like, subjects of pure knowledge; and is not the difference between
the two classes, that the one sort has the power of judging only,
and the other of ruling as well?
Y. Soc. That is evident.
Str. May we not very properly say, that of all knowledge, there
are there are two divisions-one which rules, and the other which
Y. Soc. I should think so.
Str. And when men have anything to do in common, that they should be
of one mind is surely a desirable thing?
Y. Soc. Very true.
Str. Then while we are at unity among ourselves, we need not mind
about the fancies of others?
Y. Soc. Certainly not.
Str. And now, in which of these divisions shall we place the
king?-Is he a judge and a kind of spectator? Or shall we assign to him
the art of command-for he is a ruler?
Y. Soc. The latter, clearly.
Str. Then we must see whether there is any mark of division in the
art of command too. I am inclined to think that there is a distinction
similar to that of manufacturer and retail dealer, which parts off the
king from the herald.
Y. Soc. How is this?
Str. Why, does not the retailer receive and sell over again the
productions of others, which have been sold before?
Y. Soc. Certainly he does.
Str. And is not the herald under command, and does he not receive
orders, and in his turn give them to others?
Y. Soc. Very true.
Str. Then shall we mingle the kingly art in the same class with
the art of the herald, the interpreter, the boatswain, the prophet,
and the numerous kindred arts which exercise command; or, as in the
preceding comparison we spoke of manufacturers, or sellers for
themselves, and of retailers,-seeing, too, that the class of supreme
rulers, or rulers for themselves, is almost nameless-shall we make a
word following the same analogy, and refer kings to a supreme or
ruling-for-self science, leaving the rest to receive a name from
some one else? For we are seeking the ruler; and our enquiry is not
concerned with him who is not a ruler.
Y. Soc. Very good.
Str. Thus a very fair distinction has been attained between the
man who gives his own commands, and him who gives another’s. And now
let us see if the supreme power allows of any further division.
Y. Soc. By all means.
Str. I think that it does; and please to assist me in making the
Y. Soc. At what point?
Str. May not all rulers be supposed to command for the sake of
producing something?
Y. Soc. Certainly.
Str. Nor is there any difficulty in dividing the things produced
into two classes.
Y. Soc. How would you divide them?
Str. Of the whole class some have life and some are without life.
Y. Soc. True.
Str. And by the help of this distinction we may make, if we
please, a subdivision of the section of knowledge which commands.
Y. Soc. At what point?
Str. One part may be set over the production of lifeless, the
other of living objects; and in this way the whole will be divided.
Y. Soc. Certainly.
Str. That division, then, is complete; and now we may leave one
half, and take up the other; which may also be divided into two.
Y. Soc. Which of the two halves do you men?
Str. Of course that which exercises command about animals. For,
surely, the royal science is not like that of a master-workman, a
science presiding over lifeless objects;-the king has a nobler
function, which is the management and control of living beings.
Y. Soc. True.
Str. And the breeding and tending of living beings may be observed
to be sometimes a tending of the individual; in other cases, a
common care of creatures in flocks?
Y. Soc. True.
Str. But the statesman is not a tender of individuals-not like the
driver or groom of a single ox or horse; he is rather to be compared
with the keeper of a drove of horses or oxen.
Y. Soc. Yes, I see, thanks to you.
Str. Shall we call this art of tending many animals together, the
art of managing a herd, or the art of collective management?
Y. Soc. No matter;-Whichever suggests itself to us in the course
of conversation.
Str. Very good, Socrates; and, if you continue to be not too
particular about names, you will be all the richer in wisdom when
you are an old man. And now, as you say, leaving the discussion of the
name, -can you see a way in which a person, by showing the art of
herding to be of two kinds, may cause that which is now sought amongst
twice the number of things, to be then sought amongst half that
Y. Soc. I will try;-there appears to me to be one management of
men and another of beasts.
Str. You have certainly divided them in a most straightforward and
manly style; but you have fallen into an error which hereafter I think
that we had better avoid.
Y. Soc. What is the error?
Str. I think that we had better not cut off a single small portion
which is not a species, from many larger portions; the part should
be a species. To separate off at once the subject of investigation, is
a most excellent plan, if only the separation be rightly made; and you
were under the impression that you were right, because you saw that
you would come to man; and this led you to hasten the steps. But you
should not chip off too small a piece, my friend; the safer way is
to cut through the middle; which is also the more likely way of
finding classes. Attention to this principle makes all the
difference in a process of enquiry.
Y. Soc. What do you mean, Stranger?
Str. I will endeavour to speak more plainly out of love to your good
parts, Socrates; and, although I cannot at present entirely explain
myself, I will try, as we proceed, to make my meaning a little
Y. Soc. What was the error of which, as you say, we were guilty in
our recent division?
Str. The error was just as if some one who wanted to divide the
human race, were to divide them after the fashion which prevails in
this part of the world; here they cut off the Hellenes as one species,
and all the other species of mankind, which are innumerable, and
have no ties or common language, they include under the single name of
“barbarians,” and because they have one name they are supposed to be
of one species also. Or suppose that in dividing numbers you were to
cut off ten thousand from all the rest, and make of it one species,
comprehending the first under another separate name, you might say
that here too was a single class, because you had given it a single
name. Whereas you would make a much better and more equal and
logical classification of numbers, if you divided them into odd and
even; or of the human species, if you divided them into male and
female; and only separated off Lydians or Phrygians, or any other
tribe, and arrayed them against the rest of the world, when you
could no longer make a division into parts which were also classes.
Y. Soc. Very true; but I wish that this distinction between a part
and a class could still be made somewhat plainer.
Str. O Socrates, best of men, you are imposing upon me a very
difficult task. We have already digressed further from our original
intention than we ought, and you would have us wander still further
away. But we must now return to our subject; and hereafter, when there
is a leisure hour, we will follow up the other track; at the same time
I wish you to guard against imagining that you ever heard me declare-
Y. Soc. What?
Str. That a class and a part are distinct.
Y. Soc. What did I hear, then?
Str. That a class is necessarily a part, but there is no similar
necessity that a part should be a dass; that is the view which I
should always wish you to attribute to me, Socrates.
Y. Soc. So be it.
Str. There is another thing which I should like to know.
Y. Soc. What is it?
Str. The point at which we digressed; for, if I am not mistaken, the
exact place was at the question, Where you would divide the management
of herds. To this you appeared rather too ready to answer that them
were two species of animals; man being one, and all brutes making up
the other.
Y. Soc. True.
Str. I thought that in taking away a part you imagined that the
remainder formed a class, because you were able to call them by the
common name of brutes.
Y. Soc. That again is true.
Str. Suppose now, O most courageous of dialecticians, that some wise
and understanding creature, such as a crane is reputed to be, were, in
imitation of you, to make a similar division, and set up cranes
against all other animals to their own special glorification, at the
same time jumbling together all the others, including man, under the
appellation of brutes,-here would be the sort of error which we must
try to avoid.
Y. Soc. How can we be safe?
Str. If we do not divide the whole class of animals, we shall be
less likely to fall into that error.
Y. Soc. We had better not take the whole?
Str. Yes, there lay the source of error in our former division.
Y. Soc. How?
Str. You remember how that part of the art of knowledge which was
concerned with command, had to do with the rearing of living
creatures,-I mean, with animals in herds?
Y. Soc. Yes.
Str. In that case, there was already implied a division of all
animals into tame and wild; those whose nature can be tamed are called
tame, and those which cannot be tamed are called wild.
Y. Soc. True.
Str. And the political science of which we are in search, is and
ever was concerned with tame animals, and is also confined to
gregarious animals.
Y. Soc. Yes.
Str. But then ought not to divide, as we did, taking the whole class
at once. Neither let us be in too great haste to arrive quickly at the
political science; for this mistake has already brought upon us the
misfortune of which the proverb speaks.
Y. Soc. What misfortune?
Str. The misfortune of too much haste, which is too little speed.
Y. Soc. And all the better, Stranger;-we got what we deserved.
Str. Very well: Let us then begin again, and endeavour to divide the
collective rearing of animals; for probably the completion of the
argument will best show what you are so anxious to know. Tell me,
Y. Soc. What?
Str. Have you ever heard, as you very likely may-for I do not
suppose that you ever actually visited them-of the preserves of fishes
in the Nile, and in the ponds of the Great King; or you may have
seen similar preserves in wells at home?
Y. Soc. Yes, to be sure, I have seen them, and I have often heard
the others described.
Str. And you may have heard also, and may have been-assured by
report, although you have not travelled in those regions, of nurseries
of geese and cranes in the plains of Thessaly?
Y. Soc. Certainly.
Str. I asked you, because here is a new division of the management
of herds, into the management of land and of water herds.
Y. Soc. There is.
Str. And do you agree that we ought to divide the collective rearing
of herds into two corresponding parts, the one the rearing of water,
and the other the rearing of land herds?
Y. Soc. Yes.
Str. There is surely no need to ask which of these two contains
the royal art, for it is evident to everybody.
Y. Soc. Certainly.
Str. Any one can divide the herds which feed on dry land?
Y. Soc. How would you divide them?
Str. I should distinguish between those which fly and those which
Y. Soc. Most true.
Str. And where shall we look for the political animal? Might not
an idiot, so to speak, know that he is a pedestrian?
Y. Soc. Certainly.
Str. The art of managing the walking animal has to be further
divided, just as you might have an even number.
Y. Soc. Clearly.
Str. Let me note that here appear in view two ways to that part or
class which the argument aims at reaching-the one is speedier way,
which cuts off a small portion and leaves a large; the other agrees
better with the principle which we were laying down, that as far as we
can we should divide in the middle; but it is longer. We can take
either of them, whichever we please.
Y. Soc. Cannot we have both ways?
Str. Together? What a thing to ask! but, if you take them in turn,
you clearly may.
Y. Soc. Then I should like to have them in turn.
Str. There will be no difficulty, as we are near the end; if we
had been at the beginning, or in the middle, I should have demurred to
your request; but now, in accordance with your desire, let us begin
with the longer way; while we are fresh, we shall get on better. And
now attend to the division.
Y. Soc. Let me hear.
Str. The tame walking herding animals are distributed by nature into
two classes.
Y. Soc. Upon what principle?
Str. The one grows horns; and the other is without horns.
Y. Soc. Clearly.
Str. Suppose that you divide the science which manages pedestrian
animals into two corresponding parts, and define them; for if you
try to invent names for them, you will find the intricacy too great.
Y. Soc. How must I speak of them, then?
Str. In this way: let the science of managing pedestrian animals
be divided into two parts and one part assigned to the horned herd and
the other to the herd that has no horns.
Y. Soc. All that you say has been abundantly proved, and may
therefore, be assumed.
Str. The king is clearly the shepherd a polled herd, who have no
Y. Soc. That is evident.
Str. Shall we break up this hornless herd into sections, and
endeavour to assign to him what is his?
Y. Soc. By all means.
Str. Shall we distinguish them by their having or not having
cloven feet, or by their mixing or not mixing the breed? You know what
I mean.
Y. Soc. What?
Str. I mean that horses and asses naturally breed from one another.
Y. Soc. Yes.
Str. But the remainder of the hornless herd of tame animals will not
mix the breed.
Y. Soc. Very true.
Str. And of which has the Statesman charge,-of the mixed or of the
unmixed race?
Y. Soc. Clearly of the unmixed.
Str. I suppose that we must divide this again as before.
Y. Soc. We must.
Str. Every tame and herding animal has now been split up, with the
exception of two species; for I hardly think that dogs should be
reckoned among gregarious animals.
Y. Soc. Certainly not; but how shall we divide the two remaining
Str. There is a measure of difference which may be appropriately
employed by you and Theaetetus, who are students of geometry.
Y. Soc. What is that?
Str. The diameter; and, again, the diameter of a diameter.
Y. Soc. What do you mean?
Str. How does man walk, but as a diameter whose power is two feet?
Y. Soc. Just so.
Str. And the power of the remaining kind, being the power of twice
two feet, may be said to be the diameter of our diameter.
Y. Soc. Certainly; and now I think that I pretty nearly understand
Str. In these divisions, Socrates, I descry what would make
another famous jest.
Y. Soc. What is it?
Str. Human beings have come out in the same class with the freest
and airiest of creation, and have been running a race with them.
Y. Soc. I remark that very singular coincidence.
Str. And would you not expect the slowest to arrive last?
Y. Soc. Indeed I should.
Str. And there is a still more ridiculous consequence, that the king
is found running about with the herd and in close competition with the
bird-catcher, who of all mankind is most of an adept at the airy life.
Y. Soc. Certainly.
Str. Then here, Socrates, is still clearer evidence of the truth
of what was said in the enquiry about the Sophist?
Y. Soc. What?
Str. That the dialectical method is no respecter of persons, and
does not set the great above the small, but always arrives in her
own way at the truest result.
Y. Soc. Clearly.
Str. And now, I will not wait for you to ask the, but will of my own
accord take you by the shorter road to the definition of a king.
Y. Soc. By all means.
Str. I say that we should have begun at first by dividing land
animals into biped and quadruped; and since the winged herd, and
that alone, comes out in the same class with man, should divide bipeds
into those which have feathers and those which have not, and when they
have been divided, and the art of the management of mankind is brought
to light, the time will have come to produce our Statesman and
ruler, and set him like a charioteer in his place, and hand over to
him the reins of state, for that too is a vocation which belongs to
Y. Soc. Very good; you have paid me the debt-I mean, that you have
completed the argument, and I suppose that you added the digression by
way of interest.
Str. Then now, let us go back to the beginning, and join the
links, which together make the definition of the name of the
Statesman’s art.
Y. Soc. By all means.
Str. The science of pure knowledge had, as we said originally, a
part which was the science of rule or command, and from this was
derived another part, which was called command-for-self, on the
analogy of selling-for-self; an important section of this was the
management of living animals, and this again was further limited to
the manage merit of them in herds; and again in herds of pedestrian
animals. The chief division of the latter was the art of managing
pedestrian animals which are without horns; this again has a part
which can only be comprehended under one term by joining together
three names-shepherding pure-bred animals. The only further
subdivision is the art of man herding-this has to do with bipeds,
and is what we were seeking after, and have now found, being at once
the royal and political.
Y. Soc. To be sure.
Str. And do you think, Socrates, that we really have done as you
Y. Soc. What?
Str. Do you think, I mean, that we have really fulfilled our
intention?-There has been a sort of discussion, and yet the
investigation seems to me not to be perfectly worked out: this is
where the enquiry fails.
Y. Soc. I do not understand.
Str. I will try to make the thought, which is at this moment present
in my mind, clearer to us both.
Y. Soc. Let me hear.
Str. There were many arts of shepherding, and one of them was the
political, which had the charge of one particular herd?
Y. Soc. Yes.
Str. And this the argument defined to be the art of rearing, not
horses or other brutes, but the art of rearing man collectively?
Y. Soc. True.
Str. Note, however, a difference which distinguishes the king from
all other shepherds.
Y. Soc. To what do you refer?
Str. I want to ask, whether any one of the other herdsmen has a
rival who professes and claims to share with him in the management
of the herd?
Y. Soc. What do you mean?
Str. I mean to say that merchants husbandmen, providers of food, and
also training-masters and physicians, will all contend with the
herdsmen of humanity, whom we call Statesmen, declaring that they
themselves have the care of rearing of managing mankind, and that they
rear not only the common herd, but also the rulers themselves.
Y. Soc. Are they not right in saying so?
Str. Very likely they may be, and we will consider their claim.
But we are certain of this,-that no one will raise a similar claim
as against the herdsman, who is allowed on all hands to be the sole
and only feeder and physician of his herd; he is also their matchmaker
and accoucheur; no one else knows that department of science. And he
is their merry-maker and musician, as far as their nature is
susceptible of such influences, and no one can console and soothe
his own herd better than he can, either with the natural tones of
his voice or with instruments. And the same may be said of tenders
of animals in general.
Y. Soc. Very true.
Str. But if this is as you say, can our argument about the king be
true and unimpeachable? Were we right in selecting him out of ten
thousand other claimants to be the shepherd and rearer of the human
Y. Soc. Surely not.
Str. Had we not reason just to now apprehend, that although we may
have described a sort of royal form, we have not as yet accurately
worked out the true image of the Statesman? and that we cannot
reveal him as he truly is in his own nature, until we have
disengaged and separated him from those who bang about him and claim
to share in his prerogatives?
Y. Soc. Very true.
Str. And that, Socrates, is what we must do, if we do not mean to
bring disgrace upon the argument at its close.
Y. Soc. We must certainly avoid that.
Str. Then let us make a new beginning, and travel by a different
Y. Soc. What road?
Str. I think that we may have a little amusement; there is a
famous tale, of which a good portion may with advantage be interwoven,
and then we may resume our series of divisions, and proceed in the old
path until we arrive at the desired summit. Shall we do as I say?
Y. Soc. By all means.
Str. Listen, then, to a tale which a child would love to hear; and
you are not too old for childish amusement.
Y. Soc. Let me hear.
Str. There did really happen, and will again happen, like many other
events of which ancient tradition has preserved the record, the
portent which is traditionally said to have occurred in the quarrel of
Atreus and Thyestes. You have heard no doubt, and remember what they
say happened at that time?
Y. Soc. I suppose you to mean the token of the birth of the golden
Str. No, not that; but another part of the story, which tells how
the sun and the stars once rose in the west, and set in the east,
and that the god reversed their motion, and gave them that which
they now have as a testimony to the right of Atreus.
Y. Soc. Yes; there is that legend also.
Str. Again, we have been often told of the reign of Cronos.
Y. Soc. Yes, very often.
Str. Did you ever hear that the men of former times were
earthborn, and not begotten of one another?
Y. Soc. Yes, that is another old tradition.
Str. All these stories, and ten thousand others which are still more
wonderful, have a common origin; many of them have been lost in the
lapse of ages, or are repeated only in a disconnected form; but the
origin of them is what no one has told, and may as well be told now;
for the tale is suited to throw light on the nature of the king.
Y. Soc. Very good; and I hope that you will give the whole story,
and leave out nothing.
Str. Listen, then. There is a time when God himself guides and helps
to roll the world in its course; and there is a time, on the
completion of a certain cycle, when he lets go, and the world being
a living creature, and having originally received intelligence from
its author and creator turns about and by an inherent necessity
revolves in the opposite direction.
Y. Soc. Why is that?
Str. Why, because only the most divine things of all remain ever
unchanged and the same, and body is not included in this class. Heaven
and the universe, as we have termed them, although they have been
endowed by the Creator with many glories, partake of a bodily
nature, and therefore cannot be entirely free from perturbation. But
their motion is, as far as possible, single and in the same place, and
of the same kind; and is therefore only subject to a reversal, which
is the least alteration possible. For the lord of all moving things is
alone able to move of himself; and to think that he moves them at
one time in one direction and at another time in another is blasphemy.
Hence we must not say that the world is either self-moved always, or
all made to go round by God in two opposite courses; or that two Gods,
having opposite purposes, make it move round. But as I have already
said (and this is the only remaining alternative) the world is
guided at one time by an external power which is divine and receives
fresh life and immortality from the renewing hand of the Creator,
and again, when let go, moves spontaneously, being set free at such
a time as to have, during infinite cycles of years, a reverse
movement: this is due to its perfect balance, to its vast size, and to
the fact that it turns on the smallest pivot.
Y. Soc. Your account of the world seems to be very reasonable
Str. Let us now reflect and try to gather from what has been said
the nature of the phenomenon which we affirmed to be the cause of
all these wonders. It is this.
Y. Soc. What?
Str. The reversal which takes place from time to time of the
motion of the universe.
Y. Soc. How is that the cause?
Str. Of all changes of the heavenly motions, we may consider this to
be the greatest and most complete.
Y. Soc. I should imagine so.
Str. And it may be supposed to result in the greatest changes to the
human beings who are the inhabitants of the world at the time.
Y. Soc. Such changes would naturally occur.
Str. And animals, as we know, survive with difficulty great and
serious changes of many different kinds when they come upon them at
Y. Soc. Very true.
Str. Hence there necessarily occurs a great destruction of them,
which extends also to-the life of man; few survivors of the race are
left, and those who remain become the subjects of several novel and
remarkable phenomena, and of one in particular, which takes place at
the time when the transition is made to the cycle opposite to that
in which we are now living.
Y. Soc. What is it?
Str. The life of all animals first came to a standstill, and the
mortal nature ceased to be or look older, and was then reversed and
grew young and delicate; the white locks of the aged darkened again,
and the cheeks the bearded man became smooth, and recovered their
former bloom; the bodies of youths in their prime grew softer and
smaller, continually by day and night returning and becoming
assimilated to the nature of a newly-born child in mind as well as
body; in the succeeding stage they wasted away and wholly disappeared.
And the bodies of those who died by violence at that time quickly
passed through the like changes, and in a few days were no more seen.
Y. Soc. Then how, Stranger, were the animals created in those
days; and in what way were they begotten of one another?
Str. It is evident, Socrates, that there was no such thing in the
then order of nature as the procreation of animals from one another;
the earth-born race, of which we hear in story, was the one which
existed in those days-they rose again from the ground; and of this
tradition, which is now-a-days often unduly discredited, our
ancestors, who were nearest in point of time to the end of the last
period and came into being at the beginning of this, are to us the
heralds. And mark how consistent the sequel of the tale is; after
the return of age to youth, follows the return of the dead, who are
lying in the earth, to life; simultaneously with the reversal of the
world the wheel of their generation has been turned back, and they are
put together and rise and live in the opposite order, unless God has
carried any of them away to some other lot. According to this
tradition they of necessity sprang from the earth and have the name of
earth-born, and so the above legend clings to them.
Y. Soc. Certainly that is quite consistent with what has preceded;
but tell me, was the life which you said existed in the reign of
Cronos in that cycle of the world, or in this? For the change in the
course of the stars and the sun must have occurred in both.
Str. I see that you enter into my meaning;-no, that blessed and
spontaneous life does not belong to the present cycle of the world,
but to the previous one, in which God superintended the whole
revolution of the universe; and the several parts the universe were
distributed under the rule. certain inferior deities, as is the way in
some places still There were demigods, who were the shepherds of the
various species and herds of animals, and each one was in all respects
sufficient for those of whom he was the shepherd; neither was there
any violence, or devouring of one another or war or quarrel among
them; and I might tell of ten thousand other blessings, which belonged
to that dispensation. The reason why the life of man was, as tradition
says, spontaneous, is as follows: In those days God himself was
their shepherd, and ruled over them, just as man, over them, who is by
comparison a divine being, still rules over the lower animals. Under
him there were no forms of government or separate possession of
women and children; for all men rose again from the earth, having no
memory, of the past. And although they had nothing of this sort, the
earth gave them fruits in abundance, which grew on trees and shrubs
unbidden, and were not planted by the hand of man. And they dwelt
naked, and mostly in the open air, for the temperature of their
seasons, was mild; and they had no beds, but lay on Soft couches of
grass, which grew plentifully out of: the earth. Such was the life
of man in the days of Cronos, Socrates; the character of our present
life which is said to be under Zeus, you know from your own
experience. Can you, and will you, determine which of them you deem
the happier?
Y. Soc. Impossible.
Str. Then shall I determine for you as well as I can?
Y. Soc. By all means.
Str. Suppose that the nurslings of Cronos, having this boundless
leisure, and the power of holding intercourse, not only with men,
but with the brute creation, had used all these advantages with a view
to philosophy, conversing with the brutes as well as with one another,
and learning of every nature which was gifted with any special
power, and was able to contribute some special experience to the store
of wisdom there would be no difficulty in deciding that they would
be a thousand times happier than the men of our own day. Or, again, if
they had merely eaten and drunk until they were full, and told stories
to one another and to the animals-such stories as are now attributed
to them-in this case also, as I should imagine, the answer would be
easy. But until some satisfactory witness can be found of the love
of that age for knowledge and: discussion, we had better let the
matter drop, and give the reason why we have unearthed this tale,
and then we shall be able to get on.
In the fulness of time, when the change was to take place, and the
earth-born race had all perished, and every soul had completed its
proper cycle of births and been sown in the earth her appointed number
of times, the pilot of the universe let the helm go, and retired to
his place of view; and then Fate and innate desire reversed the motion
of the world. Then also all the inferior deities who share the rule of
the supreme power, being informed of what was happening, let go the
parts of the world which were under their control. And the world
turning round with a sudden shock, being impelled in an opposite
direction from beginning to end, was shaken by a mighty earthquake,
which wrought a new destruction of all manner of animals.
Afterwards, when sufficient time had elapsed, the tumult and confusion
and earthquake ceased, and the universal creature, once more at
peace attained to a calm, and settle down into his own orderly and
accustomed course, having the charge and rule of himself and of all
the creatures which are contained in him, and executing, as far as
he remembered them, the instructions of his Father and Creator, more
precisely at first, but afterwords with less exactness. The reason
of the falling off was the admixture of matter in him; this was
inherent in the primal nature, which was full of disorder, until
attaining to the present order. From God, the constructor; the world
received all that is good in him, but from a previous state came
elements of evil and unrighteousness, which, thence derived, first
of all passed into the world, and were then transmitted to the
animals. While the world was aided by the pilot in nurturing the
animals, the evil was small, and great the good which he produced, but
after the separation, when the world was let go, at first all
proceeded well enough; but, as time went there was more and more
forgetting, and the old discord again held sway and burst forth in
full glory; and at last small was the good, and great was the
admixture of evil, and there was a danger of universal ruin to the
world, and the things contained in him. Wherefore God, the orderer
of all, in his tender care, seeing that the world was in great
straits, and fearing that all might be dissolved in the storm and
disappear in infinite chaos, again seated himself at the helm; and
bringing back the elements which had fallen into dissolution and
disorder to the motion which had prevailed under his dispensation,
he set them in order and restored them, and made the world
imperishable and immortal.
And this is the whole tale, of which the first part will suffice
to illustrate the nature of the king. For when the world turned
towards the present cycle of generation, the age of man again stood
still, and a change opposite to the previous one was the result. The
small creatures which had almost disappeared grew in and stature,
and the newly-born children of the earth became grey and died and sank
into the earth again. All things changed, imitating and following
the condition of the universe, and of necessity agreeing with that
in their mode of conception and generation and nurture; for no animal;
was any longer allowed to come into being in the earth through the
agency of other creative beings, but as the world was ordained to be
the lord of his own progress, in like manner the parts were ordained
to grow and generate and give nourishment, as far as they could, of
themselves, impelled by a similar movement. And so we have arrived
at the real end of this discourse; for although there might be much to
tell of the lower animals, and of the condition out of which they
changed and of the causes of the change, about men there is not
much, and that little is more to the purpose. Deprived of the care
of God, who had possessed and tended them, they were left helpless and
defenceless, and were torn in pieces by the beasts, who were
naturally fierce and had now grown wild. And in the first ages they
were still without skill or resource; the food which once grew
spontaneously had failed, and as yet they knew not how to procure
it, because they-had never felt the pressure of necessity. For all
these reasons they were in a great strait; wherefore also the gifts
spoken of in the old tradition were imparted to man by the gods,
together with so much teaching and education as was indispensable;
fire was given to them by Prometheus, the arts by Hephaestus and his
fellow-worker, Athene, seeds and plants by others. From these is
derived all that has helped to frame human life; since the care of the
Gods, as I was saying, had now failed men, and they had to order their
course of life for themselves, and were their own masters, just like
the universal creature whom they imitate and follow, ever changing, as
he changes, and ever living and growing, at one time in one manner,
and at another time in another. Enough of the story, which may be of
use in showing us how greatly we erred in the delineation of the
king and the statesman in our previous discourse.
Y. Soc. What was this great error of which you speak?
Str. There were two; the first a lesser one, the other was an
error on a much larger and grander scale.
Y. Soc. What do you mean?
Str. I mean to say that when we were asked about a king and
statesman of the present; and generation, we told of a shepherd of a
human flock who belonged to the other cycle, and of one who was a
god when he ought to have been a man; and this a great error. Again,
we declared him to be, the ruler of the entire State, without,
explaining how: this was not the whole truth, nor very intelligible;
but still it was true, and therefore the second error was not so,
great as the first.
Y Soc. Very good.
Str. Before we can expect to have a perfect description of the
statesman we must define the nature of his office.
Y. Soc. Certainly.
Str. And the myth was introduced in order to show, not only that all
others are rivals of true shepherd who is the object of our search,
but in order that we might have a clearer view of him who is alone
worthy to receive this appellation, because, he alone of shepherds and
herdsmen, according to the image which we have employed, has the
care of human beings.
Y. Soc. Very true.
Str. And I cannot help thinking, Socrates, that the form of the
divine shepherd is even higher than that of a king; whereas the
statesmen who are now on earth seem to be much more like their
subjects in character, and which more nearly to partake of their
breeding and education.

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