troublesome duties are taken over by the wet
nurses and other attendants?
Glaucon: you’re making it very easy for the
wives of the guardians to have children.
Socrates: and that’s only proper. So let’s take up
the next thing we proposed. We said that the
children’s parents should be in their prime.
Socrates: do you share the view that a woman’s
prime lasts about twenty years and a man’s
Glaucon: Which years are those?
Socrates: a woman is to bear children for the
city from the age of twenty to the age of forty,
a man from the time that he passes his peak as
a runner until he reaches fifty-five.
Glaucon: at any rate, that’s the physical and
mental prime for both.
Socrates: Then if a man who is younger or
older than that engages in reproduction for
the community, we’ll say that his offense is
neither pious nor just, for the child he begets
for the city, if it remains hidden, will be born
in darkness, through a dangerous weakness of
will, and without the benefit of the sacrifices
and prayers offered at every marriage festival,
in which the priests and priestesses together
with the entire city ask that the children of
good and beneficial parents may always prove
themselves still better and more beneficial.
Glaucon: That’s right.
Socrates: The same law will apply if a man still
of begetting years has a child with a woman
of childbearing age without the sanction of
the rulers. We’ll say that he brings to the city
an illegitimate, unauthorized, and unhallowed child.
Glaucon: That’s absolutely right.
Socrates: However, i think that when women
and men have passed the age of having children,
we’ll leave them free to have sex with whomever
they wish, with these exceptions: for a man—his
daughter, his mother, his daughter’s children, and
his mother’s ancestors; for a woman—her son
and his descendants, her father and his ancestors.
Having received these instructions, they should
be very careful not to let a single fetus see the
light of day, but if one is conceived and forces its
way to the light, they must deal with it in the
knowledge that no nurture is available for it.
Glaucon: That’s certainly sensible. But how will
they recognize their fathers and daughters and
the others you mentioned?
Socrates: They have no way of knowing. But
a man will call all the children born in the
tenth or seventh month after he became a
bridegroom his sons, if they’re male, and his
daughters, if they’re female, and they’ll call
him father. He’ll call their children his grandchildren, and they’ll call the group to which
he belongs grandfathers and grandmothers.
and those who were born at the same time
as their mothers and fathers were having
children they’ll call their brothers and sisters.
Thus, as we were saying, the relevant groups
will avoid sexual relations with each other. But
the law will allow brothers and sisters to have
sex with one another if the lottery works out
that way and the Pythia approves.
Glaucon: That’s absolutely right.
Plato, from The Republic. With his father claiming
descent from the last king of Athens and his mother
related to leaders of the oligarchy of 404 BC, Aristocles
became known by his nickname “Plato,” after the
Greek word “platus,” meaning “broad.” It is thought
that the name was given to him in his youth, either
in reference to his expansive forehead or robust
build. The philosopher is said to have left Athens
after Socrates was killed in 399 BC, traveled to Italy
and Egypt, and returned home twelve years later to
found the Academy.