Plato’s Republic Book I Translations

I’ll update this page with some of my translations from Book I of Plato’s Republic. These translations will follow the original text as literally as possible, meaning I’ll prioritize accurate grammar over well-styled English prose.

Yesterday I went down to Piraeus with Glaucon, son of Aristos, both offering prayers to the goddess and also wishing to behold in what way they held the festival inasmuch as leading it now for the first time. Now on the one hand the procession of the citizens also seemed to be beautiful to me; however, the procession which the Thracians held did not appear to be less fitting. And having offered prayers and also viewing the procession, we went away towards the town. So Polemarchus, having from a distance caught sight of us, having set out homeward, urged his slave to run to urge us to wait for him. And the slave, behind me, having taken hold of a piece of  my clothing, said, “Polemarchus urges you to wait for him.” And I turned around and asked where he was. “Here,” he said, “he comes from behind. Wait.” “We will wait,” said this man Glaucon.

And a little later both Polemarchus and Adamantus, brother of Glaucon, and Niceratus, of Nicias, and some others came, apparently from the procession.

So Polemarchus said, “Socrates, you seem to me to have set out towards the town as if leaving.”

“You do not think wrong,” I said.

“So you see” he said “how many we are?”

“How would I not?”

“Therefore either be stronger than us or stay here.”

“Is there certainly not still left,” I said, “the possibility of our persuading you that it is necessary to let us go?”

“In fact would you be able,” he said, “to persuade us while we are not listening?”

“In no way,” said Glaucon.

“So have in mind that therefore we will not listen.”

And Adamantus said, “Did you not know that there will be a torch-race of horses this evening for the goddess?”

“Of horses?” I said. “This is new. Will they, bearing torches, pass them on to the others while competing with the horses? What do you mean?”

“Yes,” said Polemarchus. “And in addition they will hold an all-night festival, which is worthy to see. For we will rise after dinner and watch the festival. And we will be with many young men there and talk with them. But stay and do not do otherwise.”

And Glaucon said, “It seems we must stay.”

“But if it seems best to you,” I said, “so it is necessary to do.”

So we went to the house of Polemarchus, and there we found both Lusias and Euthydemus, brothers of Polemarchus, and particularly Thrasymachus, of Chalcedon, and Charamantides, of Paiania, and Kleitophon, son of Aristonymus. And Cephalus, the father of Polemarchus, was also within. And he seemed to me to be very old. For it had actually been a long time since I had seen him. He, wearing a crown, was sitting on something of a cushion and chair. For he, having made an offer, happened to be in the court. So we sat down beside him: for some seats lay there in a circle.

As soon as Cephalus saw me, he both greeted me and said, “Oh Socrates, you do not often go down to Piraeus. However, it is right to. For if I still indeed were in the ability to go into town easily, there would be no need for you to come hither, but we would go to you. And now it is necessary for you to come hither frequently. Since you should know well that to the extent that pleasures with respect to the body are wasting away, that much the desires and also pleasures of words are increasing. So don’t do otherwise, but in these words be with these young men and come hither to us as to your friends and as entirely your family.”

“Why yes,” I said, “oh Cephalus, because I am delighted talking with very old people. For it seems to me that it is necessary to learn from them, as if from ones traveling some road which it is also equally necessary for us to travel, to learn what kind it is, rough and difficult, or fast and easy. And in particular I would gladly learn from you what this seems to you, since you are already at that point of your life which the poets say is ‘on the threshold that is old age,’ whether it is a difficult time of life, or how you proclaim this.”

“I will say by Zeus to you,” he said, “oh Socrates, it seems to me such. Some of us, bearing similar ages, often go to the same place, preserving the old saying; so most of us, whenever together, lament, longing for pleasures in youth and recalling things concerning sex and concerning drinking parties and feasts and some other things which are related to this, and they are vexed that they have been deprived of anything great and were living well at that time, but not now. And some bewail the insult from their family of their old age, and they sing that old age is the cause of many bad things. But it seems to me, oh Socrates, that these things are not to be blamed as the cause. For if this were the cause, I would also feel this, on account of my old age, and so would as many others as have come here to this time of life. But as things are I have already met with others who are not this way, and in particular when I was with Sophocles the poet he was asked by someone: “How,” he said, “oh Sophocles, are you concerning sex? Are you still able to have sex with your wife?” And he said, “Quiet, oh man. Certainly I most gladly escaped from this, just as one having escaped from some raging and savage master.” So at that time it seemed to me that that man spoke correctly, and now it does not seem less so. For all together peace and freedom from such things comes into being in old age. Whenever these desires stop stretching and loosen, all the things of Sophocles come into being, it is to have rid entirely of many and raging masters. But concerning this and any those in regard to family members there is one cause, not old age, oh Socrates, but the way of humans. For if they are moderate and satisfied, old age is also moderately painful; however if not, both old age, oh Socrates, and youth are difficult for this man.”

And I admired his speaking these things, still wishing for him to speak, I urged him on and said “Oh Cephalus, I suppose from you that most people, when you say this, do not accept it but believe that you bear old age easily not through this way but through the much wealth you have acquired; for they say that there are many consolations for the wealthy.”