Book 8.2

  • Can we any longer doubt, then, that the miser and money-maker answers to the oligarchical State?

There can be no doubt.

  • Next comes democracy.
  • We will enquire into the ways of the democratic man, and bring him up for judgment.
  • How does oligarchy change into democracy?
  • Is it wise or not?
  • The good at which such a State aims is to become as rich as possible.
  • Is this desire insatiable?
  • The rulers are aware that their power rests on their wealth.
    • They will refuse to curtail by law the extravagance of the spendthrift youth because they gain by their ruin.
    • They take interest from them.
    • They buy up their estates and increase their own wealth and importance.
  • The love of wealth and the spirit of moderation cannot exist together in citizens of the same state.
    • One or the other will be disregarded.
  • In Oligarchical States, from the general spread of carelessness and extravagance, men of good family often are reduced to beggary.
  • And still they remain in the city, ready to sting and fully armed.
  • Some of them owe money, some have forfeited their citizenship.
  • A third class are in both predicaments.
  • They hate and conspire against those who have got their property, and against everybody else, and are eager for revolution.
  • On the other hand, the men of business stoop as they walk.
    • They pretend not to see those whom they have already ruined.
    • They insert their sting—that is, their money—into some one else who is not on his guard against them.
    • They recover the parent sum many times over multiplied into a family of children.
    • And so they make drone and pauper to abound in the State.
  • The evil blazes up like a fire.
  • They will not extinguish it, either:
    • by restricting a man’s use of his own property, or
    • by letting every one enter into voluntary contracts at his own risk.
      • This will compel the citizens to look to their characters
      • There will be less of this scandalous money-making.
      • The evils of which we were speaking will be greatly lessened in the State.
  • At present the governors, treat their subjects badly; while they and their adherents, especially the young men of the governing class, live in luxury and idleness of body and mind.
    • They do nothing, and are incapable of resisting either pleasure or pain.
  • They themselves care only for making money.
    • They are as indifferent as the pauper to the cultivation of virtue.
  • Often, rulers and their subjects may come in one another’s way.
  • They may observe the behaviour of each other in the very moment of danger.
    • Wherever there is danger, the wiry sunburnt poor man may be placed in battle at the side of a wealthy man.
    • The poor will think that rich men are only rich because no one has the courage to despoil them.
    • People in private will say to one another ‘Our warriors are not good for much’?

Yes, he said, I am quite aware that this is their way of talking.

  • In a body which is diseased, an external touch may bring an illness.
    • Even when there is no external provocation, a commotion may arise within.
  • In the same way, wherever there is weakness in the State there is also likely to be illness.
  • One party introducing from outside their oligarchical or democratical allies.
  • Then the State falls sick, and is at war with herself even when there is no external cause.
  • And then democracy comes into being after the poor have conquered their opponents.
    • To the remainder they give an equal share of freedom and power.
    • This is the form of government in which the magistrates are commonly elected by lot.

Yes, that is the nature of democracy, whether the revolution has been effected by arms, or whether fear has caused the opposite party to withdraw.

  • How would they live?
  • What government have they? for as the government is, such will be the man.
  • In the first place, are they not free?
  • Is not the city full of freedom and frankness—a man may say and do what he likes?

‘Tis said so

  • And where freedom is, the individual is clearly able to order for himself his own life as he pleases?


  • Then in this kind of State there will be the greatest variety of human natures?

There will.

  • This, then, seems likely to be the fairest of States.
  • It is like an embroidered robe which is spangled with every sort of flower.
  • This is the best State to look for a government because of the liberty which reigns there.
    • They have a complete assortment of constitutions.
    • A person who establishes a government in a democracy is like a person going to a bazaar to pick out the one that suits him.

He will be sure to have patterns enough.

  • And there being no necessity for you to govern in this State unless you want to do so. No law forbids you to hold office. Isn’t this supremely delightful?

For the moment, yes.

  • And is not their humanity quite charming?
  • Have you not observed how, in a democracy, many persons, although they have been sentenced to death or exile, just stay where they are and walk and nobody sees or cares?


  • She grandly tramples on the fine principles which we laid down at the foundation of the city, through her:
    • forgiving spirit
    • the ‘don’t care’ about trifles
  • She never makes the pursuits which make a statesman
  • She gives honor to anyone who is friendly.
  • These and other kindred characteristics are proper to democracy.
  • It is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder.
  • It dispenses a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.

We know her well.

  • Let us consider how a man in this State comes into being.
  • The son of the miserly and oligarchical father is trained in the habits of oligarchs.
  • He keeps under by force, the unnecessary pleasures.
  • Necessary pleasures are those that we cannot get rid of.
  • Unnecessary pleasures are those that we get rid of.
  • The desire of eating simple food is a necessary pleasure as it is needed for life.
  • The desire of eating more delicate food is hurtful to the body and soul in the pursuit of wisdom and virtue are are unnecessary
  • The drone of whom we spoke, was the slave of the unnecessary desires, whereas the one who only had necessary desires was miserly and oligarchical?

Very true.

  • Socrates:
    • Let us see how the democratical man grows out of the oligarchical.
    • When a young man who has been brought up in a vulgar and miserly way, has tasted drones’ honey and has come to associate with fierce and crafty natures who are able to provide for him all sorts of refinements and varieties of pleasure—then the change will begin of the oligarchical principle within him into the democratical?
  • Inevitably.
  • Socrates:
    • Like helps like.
    • The change was effected by an alliance from without assisting one division of the citizens, so too the young man is changed by a class of desires coming from without to assist the desires within him, that which is akin and alike again helping that which is akin and alike?
  • Certainly.
  • Socrates: And if there be any ally which aids the oligarchical principle within him, whether the influence of a father or of kindred, advising or rebuking him, then there arises in his soul a faction and an opposite faction, and he goes to war with himself.
  • It must be so.
  • Socrates: There are times when the democratical principle gives way to the oligarchical, and some of his desires die, and others are banished; a spirit of reverence enters into the young man’s soul and order is restored.
  • Yes, that sometimes happens.
  • Socrates: 
    • After the old desires have been driven out, fresh ones spring up, which are akin to them
    • Because he their father does not know how to educate them, wax fierce and numerous.
  • Yes
  • Socrates: 
    • They draw him to his old associates and breed and multiply in him.
  • Very true.
  • Socrates: 
    • They seize upon the citadel of the young man’s soul
    • They perceive it to be void of all accomplishments and fair pursuits and true words, which make their abode in the minds of men who are dear to the gods, and are their best guardians and sentinels.
    • False and boastful conceits and phrases mount upwards and take their place.
    • And so the young man returns into the country of the lotus-eaters, and takes up his dwelling there in the face of all men;
    • If any help be sent by his friends to the oligarchical part of him, the aforesaid vain conceits shut the gate of the king’s fastness; and they will neither allow the embassy itself to enter, nor if private advisers offer the fatherly counsel of the aged will they listen to them or receive them.
    • There is a battle and they win.
    • They call modesty as silliness and exile it.
    • They call temperance as unmanliness and trample it.
    • They persuade men that moderation and orderly expenditure are vulgarity and meanness.
    • By a rabble of evil appetites, they drive them beyond the border.
    • And when they have emptied and swept clean the soul of him who is now in their power and who is being initiated by them in great mysteries, they then bring back to their house the following with garlands:
      • insolence
      • anarchy
      • waste
      • impudence
    • They give them sweet names:
      • insolence they call breeding
      • anarchy they call liberty
      • waste they call magnificence
      • impudence they call courage.
    • And so the young man passes out of his original nature, which was trained in the school of necessity, into the freedom and libertinism of useless and unnecessary pleasures.

Yes, the change in him is visible enough.

  • Socrates:
    • After this he lives on, spending his money and labour and time on unnecessary pleasures.
    • But if he is fortunate when heydays are over, he balances his pleasures and lives in an equilibrium.
    • He puts the government of himself into someone and then another sequentially;
    • He despises none of them but encourages them all equally.

Very true

  • Neither does he receive or let pass into the fortress any true word of advice.
  • If anyone says to him that some pleasures are the satisfactions of good and noble desires, and others of evil desires, and that he should use and honour some and chastise and master the others—whenever this is repeated to him he shakes his head and says that they are all alike, and that one is as good as another.

Yes that is the way with him.

  • Yes, he lives from day to day indulging the appetite of the hour.
  • Sometimes he is lapped in drink and strains of the flute.
  • Then he becomes a water-drinker, and tries to get thin.
  • Then he tries gymnastics.
  • Then once more living the life of a philosopher.
  • Often he is busy with politics.
  • He starts to his feet and says and does whatever comes into his head.
  • If he is emulous of any one who is a warrior, off he is in that direction, or of men of business, once more in that.
  • His life has neither law nor order.
  • This distracted existence he terms joy and bliss and freedom; and so he goes on.

Yes, he is all liberty and equality.

  • Yes. His life is motley and manifold and an epitome of the lives of many.
  • He answers to the State as fair and spangled.
  • And many will take him for their pattern.
  • Many a constitution and many an example of manners is contained in him.
  • Let him then be set over against democracy.
  • He may truly be called the democratic man.
  • Last of all comes the most beautiful of all, man and State alike, tyranny and the tyrant.

Quite true

  • Say then, my friend, how does tyranny arise?
  • Does tyranny spring from democracy in the same way as democracy from oligarchy?


  • The good which oligarchy proposed to itself and the means by which it was maintained was excess of wealth.
  • The insatiable desire of wealth and the neglect of all other things for the sake of money-getting was also the ruin of oligarchy.
  • Does Democracy have her own good, of which the insatiable desire brings her to dissolution?

What good?

  • Freedom, which, as they tell you in a democracy, is the glory of the State.
  • Therefore in a democracy alone will the freeman of nature deign to dwell.

Yes; the saying is in every body’s mouth.

  • The insatiable desire of this and the neglect of other things introduces the change in democracy, which creates a demand for tyranny.

How so?

  • 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 more wine, she calls them to account and punishes them, and says that they are cursed oligarchs.

Yes, a very common occurrence.

  • Loyal citizens are insultingly termed by her slaves who hug their chains.
  • She would have subjects who are like rulers, and rulers who are like subjects.
  • These are men after her own heart, whom she praises
  • Now, in such a State, can liberty have any limit?

Certainly not.

  • By degrees the anarchy finds a way into private houses, and ends by getting among the animals and infecting them.


  • The father grows accustomed to descend to the level of his sons and to fear them.
  • The son is on a level with his father.
  • He has no respect or reverence for his parents.
  • This is his freedom.
  • The foreigner is equal with the citizen and the citizen with the foreigner .
  • The stranger is quite as good as either.


  • These are not the only evils.
  • There are several lesser ones.
  • In such a state of society, the master fears and flatters his scholars.
  • The scholars despise their masters and tutors.
  • Young and old are all alike.
  • The young man is on a level with the old, and is ready to compete with him in word or deed.
  • Old men condescend to the young and are full of pleasantry and gaiety.
  • They are loth to be thought morose and authoritative, and therefore they adopt the manners of the young.

Quite true

  • The last extreme of popular liberty is when:
    • the slave is just as free as his or her owner.
    • there is liberty and equality of the two sexes.

Why not, as Aeschylus says, utter the word which rises to our lips?

  • That is what I am doing.
  • 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.
  • The she-dogs, as the proverb says, are as good as their she-mistresses.
  • The horses and asses have a way of marching along with all the rights and dignities of freemen.
  • They will run at any body who comes in their way if he does not leave the road clear for them.
  • All things are just ready to burst with liberty.

When I take a country walk, I often experience what you describe.

  • And above all, see how sensitive the citizens become.
  • They chafe impatiently at the least touch of authority.
  • They cease to care even for the laws, written or unwritten
  • They will have no one over them.
  • Such is the fair and glorious beginning out of which springs tyranny.

But what is the next step?

  • The ruin of oligarchy is the ruin of democracy.
  • The same disease magnified and intensified by liberty overmasters democracy
  • The excessive increase of anything often causes a reaction in the opposite direction.
    • This is the case not only in the seasons and in vegetable and animal life, but above all in forms of government.


  • The excess of liberty, whether in States or individuals, seems only to pass into excess of slavery.

Yes, the natural order.

  • And so tyranny naturally arises out of democracy
  • The most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme form of liberty

As we might expect.

  • That, however, was not your question.
  • You wanted to know the disorder generated alike in oligarchy and democracy, and is the ruin of both?


  • 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.
  • The good physician and lawgiver of the State should like the wise bee-master, keep them far and prevent their ever coming in.
  • 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

  • Let us imagine democracy to be divided into three classes.
    • Freedom creates more drones in the democratic than there were in the oligarchical State.
    • And in the democracy they are certainly more intensified.
    • In the oligarchical State, they are disqualified and driven from office.
    • They cannot train or gather strength.
    • Whereas in a democracy they are almost the entire ruling power.
    • 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 drones.

Very true

  • Then there is another class which is always being severed from the mass.
  • 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, there is little to be squeezed out of people who have little.

  • This is called the wealthy class, and the drones feed upon them.
  • 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 on.
  • This, when assembled, is the largest and most powerful class in a democracy.

True, but then the multitude is seldom willing to congregate unless they get a little honey.

  • And do they not share?
  • 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 themselves?

Yes, to that extent the people do share.

  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs.
  • When he first appears above ground he is a protector.

Yes, that is quite clear.

  • A protector begin to changes into a tyrant when he does what the man is said to do in the tale of the Arcadian temple of Lycaean Zeus.
  • 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.
  • 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 favourite 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 is the same as 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 grown.
  • And if they are unable to expel him, or to get him condemned to death by a public accusation, they conspire to assassinate him.
  • Then comes the famous request for a body-guard.
  • This 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 them.’
  • 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’ 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.
  • The protector is seen not ‘larding the plain’ with his bulk, but himself the overthrower of many.
  • He stands up in the chariot of State with the reins in his hand, no longer protector, but tyrant absolute.
  • What is the happiness of the man, and the State under Tyranny?

Yes, let us consider that.

  • In the early days of his power, he is full of smiles.
  • He salutes every one whom he meets.
  • He makes promises in public and in private!
  • He liberates debtors, and distributes land to the people and his followers, and wanting to be so kind and good to every one!
  • 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 leader.
  • He aims that the people be impoverished by payment of taxes so that they could be  compelled to devote themselves to their daily wants and less likely to conspire against him.
  • 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.
  • For all these reasons, the tyrant must be always getting up a war.

He must.

  • Now he begins to grow unpopular.
  • Then some of those who joined in setting him up, and who are in power, speak their minds to him and to one another
  • The more courageous of them cast in his teeth what is being done.
  • 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.
  • Therefore he must look about him and see:
    • who is valiant
    • who is high-minded
    • who is wise
    • who is wealthy
  • He is the enemy of them all and must purge the State.

Yes, he said, and a rare purgation.

  • Yes, 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 reverse.

If he is to rule, I suppose that he cannot help himself.

  • 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.

  • The more detestable his actions are to the citizens, the more satellites and the greater devotion he will require.
  • Who are the devoted band, and where will he procure them?

They will flock to him, of their own accord, if he pays them.

  • By the dog! I said, here are more drones, of every sort and from every land.
  • But will he not desire to get them on the spot?
  • He will rob the citizens of their slaves; he will then set them free and enroll them in his body-guard.
  • What a blessed creature, must this tyrant be.
  • He has killed the others and has these for his trusted friends.
  • These are the new citizens whom he has called into existence, who admire him and are his companions, while the good hate and avoid him.
  • Verily, then, tragedy is a wise thing and Euripides a great tragedian because he is the author of the pregnant saying: ‘Tyrants are wise by living with the wise;’
  • He clearly meant that they are the wise whom the tyrant makes his companions.

Yes, and he also praises tyranny as godlike; and many other things of the same kind are said by him and by the other poets.

  • 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 tyranny.
  • But they will continue to go to other cities to:
    • attract mobs,
    • hire voices fair and loud and persuasive, and draw the cities over to tyrannies and democracies.
  • Moreover, they are paid for this and receive honour 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 proceed further.
  • How will the tyrant maintain his fair and numerous ever-changing army?

If there are sacred treasures in the city, he will confiscate and spend them and reduce the taxes which he would otherwise have to impose upon the people.

  • And when these fail?

Then he and his boon companions, 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 companions?

Yes, he said; they cannot help themselves.

  • But what if the people aver that a grown-up son should not be supported by his father, but that the father should be supported by the son?
  • The father did not raise him so that when his son became a man he should himself be the servant of his own servants and support him and his slaves.
  • He raised his son to protect him and be free from the government of the rich and aristocratic.
  • 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, 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.
  • This is real tyranny.
  • As the saying goes, 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 of slavery.