"Virtue and vice in the same man are found, And now they gain, and now they lose their ground." And, in my opinion, they are in the right: for when I consider that they who have learned verses by heart forget them unless they repeat them often, so I believe that they who neglect the reasonings of philosophers, insensibly lose the remembrance of them; and when they have let these excellent notions slip out of their minds, they at the same time lose the idea of the things that supported in the soul the love of temperance; and, having forgot those things, what wonder is it if at length they forget temperance likewise?

I observe, besides, that men who abandon themselves to the debauches of wine or women find it more difficult to apply themselves to things that are profitable, and to abstain from what is hurtful. For many who live frugally before they fall in love become prodigal when that passion gets the mastery over them; insomuch that after having wasted their estates, they are reduced to gain their bread by methods they would have been ashamed of before.

What hinders then, but that a man, who has been once temperate, should be so no longer, and that he who has led a good life at one time should not do so at another? I should think, therefore, that the being of all virtues, and chiefly of temperance, depends on the practice of them: for lust, that dwells in the same body with the soul, incites it continually to despise this virtue, and to find out the shortest way to gratify the senses only.

Thus, whilst Alcibiades and Critias conversed with Socrates, they were able, with so great an assistance, to tame their inclinations; but after they had left him, Critias, being retired into Thessaly, ruined himself entirely in the company of some libertines; and Alcibiades, seeing himself courted by several women of quality, because of his beauty, and suffering himself to be corrupted by soothing flatterers, who made their court to him, in consideration of the credit he had in the city and with the allies; in a word, finding himself respected by all the Athenians, and that no man disputed the first rank with him, began to neglect himself, and acted like a great wrestler, who takes not the trouble to exercise himself, when he no longer finds an adversary who dares to contend with him.

If we would examine, therefore, all that has happened to them; if we consider how much the greatness of their birth, their interest, and their riches, had puffed up their minds; if we reflect on the ill company they fell into, and the many opportunities they had of debauching themselves, can we be surprised that, after they had been so long absent from Socrates, they arrived at length to that height of insolence to which they have been seen to arise?

If they have been guilty of crimes, the accuser will load Socrates with them, and not allow him to be worthy of praise, for having kept them within the bounds of their duty during their youth, when, in all appearance, they would have been the most disorderly and least governable. This, however, is not the way we judge of other things; for whoever pretended that a musician, a player on the lute, or any other person that teaches, after he has made a good scholar, ought to be blamed for his growing more ignorant under the care of another master? If a young man gets an acquaintance that brings him into debauchery, ought his father to lay the blame on the first friends of his son among whom he always lived virtuously?

Is it not true, on the contrary, that the more he finds that this last friendship proves destructive to him, the more reason he will have to praise his former acquaintance. And are the fathers themselves, who are daily with their children, guilty of their faults, if they give them no ill example? Thus they ought to have judged of Socrates; if he led an ill life, it was reasonable to esteem him vicious; but if a good, was it just to accuse him of crimes of which he was innocent?

And yet he might have given his adversaries ground to accuse him, had he but approved, or seemed to approve those vices in others, from which he kept himself free: but Socrates abhorred vice, not only in himself, but in everyone besides. To prove which, I need only relate his conduct toward Critias, a man extremely addicted to debauchery. Socrates perceiving that this man had an unnatural passion for Euthydemus, and that the violence of it would precipitate him so far a length as to make him transgress the bounds of nature, shocked at his behavior, he exerted his utmost strength of reason and argument to dissuade him from so wild a desire.

And while the impetuosity of Critias' passion seemed to scorn all check or control, and the modest rebuke of Socrates had been disregarded, the philosopher, out of an ardent zeal for virtue, broke out in such language, as at once declared his own strong inward sense of decency and order, and the monstrous shamefulness of Critias' passion. Which severe but just reprimand of Socrates, it is thought, was the foundation of that grudge which he ever after bore him; for during the tyranny of the Thirty, of which Critias was one, when, together with Charicles, he had the care of the civil government of the city, he failed not to remember this affront, and, in revenge of it, made a law to forbid teaching the art of reasoning in Athens: and having nothing to reproach Socrates with in particular, he labored to render him odious by aspersing him with the usual calumnies that are thrown on all philosophers: for I have never heard Socrates say that he taught this art, nor seen any man who ever heard him say so; but Critias had taken offence, and gave sufficient proofs of it: for after the Thirty had caused to be put to death a great number of the citizens, and even of the most eminent, and had let loose the reins to all sorts of violence and rapine, Socrates said in a certain place that he wondered if a Minister of State, who lessens every day the number of his citizens, and makes the others more dissolute, was not ashamed of his ministry, and would not own himself to be an ill magistrate.

This was reported to Critias and Charicles, who forthwith sent for Socrates, and showing him the law they had made, forbid him to discourse with the young men. Upon which Socrates asked them whether they would permit him to propose a question, that he might be informed of what he did not understand in this prohibition; and his request being granted, he spoke in this manner: "I am most ready to obey your laws; but that I may not transgress through ignorance, I desire to know of you, whether you condemn the art of reasoning, because you believe it consists in saying things well, or in saying them ill? If for the former reason, we must then, from henceforward, abstain from speaking as we ought; and if for the latter, it is plain that we ought to endeavor to speak well."

At these words Charicles flew into a passion, and said to him: "Since you pretend to be ignorant of things that are so easily known, we forbid you to speak to the young men in any manner whatever." "It is enough," answered Socrates; "but that I may not be in a perpetual uncertainty, pray prescribe to me, till what age men are young." "Till they are capable of being members of the Senate," said Charicles:

"in a word, speak to no man under thirty years of age." "How!" says Socrates, "if I would buy anything of a tradesman who is not thirty years old am I forbid to ask him the price of it?" "I mean not so," answered Charicles: "but I am not surprised that you ask me this question, for it is your custom to ask many things that you know very well." Socrates added: "And if a young man ask me in the street where Charicles lodges, or whether I know where Critias is, must I make him no answer?" "I mean not so neither," answered Charicles.

Here Critias, interrupting their discourse, said: "For the future, Socrates, you must have nothing to do with the city tradesmen, the shoemakers, masons, smiths, and other mechanics, whom you so often allege as examples of life; and who, I apprehend, are quite jaded with your discourses." "I must then likewise," replied Socrates, "omit the consequences I draw from those discourses; and have no more to do with justice, piety, and the other duties of a good man." "Yes, yes," said Charicles.

Thus we see how Critias frequented Socrates, and what opinion they had of each other. I add, moreover, that we cannot learn anything of a man whom we do not like: therefore if Critias and Alcibiades made no great improvement with Socrates, it proceeded from this, that they never liked him. For at the very time that they conversed with him, they always rather courted the conversation of those who were employed in the public affairs, because they had no design but to govern. The following conference of Alcibiades, in particular, which he had with Pericles, his governor – who was the chief man of the city, whilst he was yet under twenty years of age – concerning the nature of the laws, will confirm what I have now advanced.

"Pray," says Alcibiades, "explain to me what the law is: for, as I hear men praised who observe the laws, I imagine that this praise could not be given to those who know not what the law is." "It is easy to satisfy you," answered Pericles: "the law is only what the people in a general assembly ordain, declaring what ought to be done, and what ought not to be done." "And tell me," added Alcibiades, "do they ordain to do what is good, or what is ill?" "Most certainly what is good." Alcibiades pursued: "And how would you call what a small number of citizens should ordain, in states where the people is not the master, but all is ordered by the advice of a few persons, who possess the sovereignty?" "I would call whatever they ordain a law; for laws are nothing else but the ordinances of sovereigns."

"If a tyrant then ordain anything, will that be a law?" "Yes, it will," said Pericles. "But what then is violence and injustice?" continued Alcibiades; "is it not when the strongest makes himself be obeyed by the weakest, not by consent, but by force only?" "In my opinion it is." "It follows then," says Alcibiades, "that ordinances made by a prince, without the consent of the citizens, will be absolutely unjust." "I believe so," said Pericles; "and cannot allow that the ordinances of a prince, when they are made without the consent of the people, should bear the name of laws." "And what the chief citizens ordain, without procuring the consent of the greater number, is that likewise a violence?" "There is no question of it," answered Pericles; "and in general, every ordinance made without the consent of those who are to obey it, is a violence rather than a law."

"And is what the populace decree, without the concurrence of the chiefs, to be counted a violence likewise, and not a law?" "No doubt it is," said Pericles: "but when I was of your age, I could resolve all these difficulties, because I made it my business to inquire into them, as you do now." "Would to God," cried Alcibiades, "I had been so happy as to have conversed with you then, when you understood these matters better."