Last of all comes the tyrannical man; about whom we have once more to ask,
how is he formed out of the democratical? and how does he live, in
happiness or in misery?
Yes, he said, he is the only one remaining.
There is, however, I said, a previous question which remains unanswered.
I do not think that we have adequately determined the nature and number of
the appetites, and until this is accomplished the enquiry will always be
Well, he said, it is not too late to supply the omission.
Very true, I said; and observe the point which I want to understand:
Certain of the unnecessary pleasures and appetites I conceive to be
unlawful; every one appears to have them, but in some persons they are
controlled by the laws and by reason, and the better desires prevail over
them--either they are wholly banished or they become few and weak; while in
the case of others they are stronger, and there are more of them.
Which appetites do you mean?
I mean those which are awake when the reasoning and human and ruling power
is asleep; then the wild beast within us, gorged with meat or drink, starts
up and having shaken off sleep, goes forth to satisfy his desires; and
there is no conceivable folly or crime--not excepting incest or any other
unnatural union, or parricide, or the eating of forbidden food--which at
such a time, when he has parted company with all shame and sense, a man may
not be ready to commit.
Most true, he said.
But when a man's pulse is healthy and temperate, and when before going to
sleep he has awakened his rational powers, and fed them on noble thoughts
and enquiries, collecting himself in meditation; after having first
indulged his appetites neither too much nor too little, but just enough to
lay them to sleep, and prevent them and their enjoyments and pains from
interfering with the higher principle--which he leaves in the solitude of
pure abstraction, free to contemplate and aspire to the knowledge of the
unknown, whether in past, present, or future: when again he has allayed
the passionate element, if he has a quarrel against any one--I say, when,
after pacifying the two irrational principles, he rouses up the third,
which is reason, before he takes his rest, then, as you know, he attains
truth most nearly, and is least likely to be the sport of fantastic and
I quite agree.
In saying this I have been running into a digression; but the point which I
desire to note is that in all of us, even in good men, there is a lawless
wild-beast nature, which peers out in sleep. Pray, consider whether I am
right, and you agree with me.
Yes, I agree.
And now remember the character which we attributed to the democratic man.
He was supposed from his youth upwards to have been trained under a miserly
parent, who encouraged the saving appetites in him, but discountenanced the
unnecessary, which aim only at amusement and ornament?
And then he got into the company of a more refined, licentious sort of
people, and taking to all their wanton ways rushed into the opposite
extreme from an abhorrence of his father's meanness. At last, being a
better man than his corruptors, he was drawn in both directions until he
halted midway and led a life, not of vulgar and slavish passion, but of
what he deemed moderate indulgence in various pleasures. After this manner
the democrat was generated out of the oligarch?
Yes, he said; that was our view of him, and is so still.
And now, I said, years will have passed away, and you must conceive this
man, such as he is, to have a son, who is brought up in his father's
I can imagine him.
Then you must further imagine the same thing to happen to the son which has
already happened to the father:--he is drawn into a perfectly lawless life,
which by his seducers is termed perfect liberty; and his father and friends
take part with his moderate desires, and the opposite party assist the
opposite ones. As soon as these dire magicians and tyrant-makers find that
they are losing their hold on him, they contrive to implant in him a master
passion, to be lord over his idle and spendthrift lusts--a sort of
monstrous winged drone--that is the only image which will adequately
Yes, he said, that is the only adequate image of him.
And when his other lusts, amid clouds of incense and perfumes and garlands
and wines, and all the pleasures of a dissolute life, now let loose, come
buzzing around him, nourishing to the utmost the sting of desire which they
implant in his drone-like nature, then at last this lord of the soul,
having Madness for the captain of his guard, breaks out into a frenzy: and
if he finds in himself any good opinions or appetites in process of
formation, and there is in him any sense of shame remaining, to these
better principles he puts an end, and casts them forth until he has purged
away temperance and brought in madness to the full.
Yes, he said, that is the way in which the tyrannical man is generated.
And is not this the reason why of old love has been called a tyrant?
I should not wonder.
Further, I said, has not a drunken man also the spirit of a tyrant?
And you know that a man who is deranged and not right in his mind, will
fancy that he is able to rule, not only over men, but also over the gods?
That he will.
And the tyrannical man in the true sense of the word comes into being when,
either under the influence of nature, or habit, or both, he becomes
drunken, lustful, passionate? O my friend, is not that so?
Such is the man and such is his origin. And next, how does he live?
Suppose, as people facetiously say, you were to tell me.
I imagine, I said, at the next step in his progress, that there will be
feasts and carousals and revellings and courtezans, and all that sort of
thing; Love is the lord of the house within him, and orders all the
concerns of his soul.
That is certain.
Yes; and every day and every night desires grow up many and formidable, and
their demands are many.
They are indeed, he said.
His revenues, if he has any, are soon spent.
Then comes debt and the cutting down of his property.
When he has nothing left, must not his desires, crowding in the nest like
young ravens, be crying aloud for food; and he, goaded on by them, and
especially by love himself, who is in a manner the captain of them, is in a
frenzy, and would fain discover whom he can defraud or despoil of his
property, in order that he may gratify them?
Yes, that is sure to be the case.
He must have money, no matter how, if he is to escape horrid pains and
And as in himself there was a succession of pleasures, and the new got the
better of the old and took away their rights, so he being younger will
claim to have more than his father and his mother, and if he has spent his
own share of the property, he will take a slice of theirs.
No doubt he will.
And if his parents will not give way, then he will try first of all to
cheat and deceive them.
And if he fails, then he will use force and plunder them.
And if the old man and woman fight for their own, what then, my friend?
Will the creature feel any compunction at tyrannizing over them?
Nay, he said, I should not feel at all comfortable about his parents.
But, O heavens! Adeimantus, on account of some new-fangled love of a
harlot, who is anything but a necessary connection, can you believe that he
would strike the mother who is his ancient friend and necessary to his very
existence, and would place her under the authority of the other, when she
is brought under the same roof with her; or that, under like circumstances,
he would do the same to his withered old father, first and most
indispensable of friends, for the sake of some newly-found blooming youth
who is the reverse of indispensable?
Yes, indeed, he said; I believe that he would.
Truly, then, I said, a tyrannical son is a blessing to his father and
He is indeed, he replied.
He first takes their property, and when that fails, and pleasures are
beginning to swarm in the hive of his soul, then he breaks into a house, or
steals the garments of some nightly wayfarer; next he proceeds to clear a
temple. Meanwhile the old opinions which he had when a child, and which
gave judgment about good and evil, are overthrown by those others which
have just been emancipated, and are now the body-guard of love and share
his empire. These in his democratic days, when he was still subject to the
laws and to his father, were only let loose in the dreams of sleep. But
now that he is under the dominion of love, he becomes always and in waking
reality what he was then very rarely and in a dream only; he will commit
the foulest murder, or eat forbidden food, or be guilty of any other horrid
act. Love is his tyrant, and lives lordly in him and lawlessly, and being
himself a king, leads him on, as a tyrant leads a State, to the performance
of any reckless deed by which he can maintain himself and the rabble of his
associates, whether those whom evil communications have brought in from
without, or those whom he himself has allowed to break loose within him by
reason of a similar evil nature in himself. Have we not here a picture of
his way of life?
Yes, indeed, he said.
And if there are only a few of them in the State, and the rest of the
people are well disposed, they go away and become the body-guard or
mercenary soldiers of some other tyrant who may probably want them for a
war; and if there is no war, they stay at home and do many little pieces of
mischief in the city.
What sort of mischief?
For example, they are the thieves, burglars, cut-purses, foot-pads, robbers
of temples, man-stealers of the community; or if they are able to speak
they turn informers, and bear false witness, and take bribes.
A small catalogue of evils, even if the perpetrators of them are few in
Yes, I said; but small and great are comparative terms, and all these
things, in the misery and evil which they inflict upon a State, do not come
within a thousand miles of the tyrant; when this noxious class and their
followers grow numerous and become conscious of their strength, assisted by
the infatuation of the people, they choose from among themselves the one
who has most of the tyrant in his own soul, and him they create their
Yes, he said, and he will be the most fit to be a tyrant.
If the people yield, well and good; but if they resist him, as he began by
beating his own father and mother, so now, if he has the power, he beats
them, and will keep his dear old fatherland or motherland, as the Cretans
say, in subjection to his young retainers whom he has introduced to be
their rulers and masters. This is the end of his passions and desires.
When such men are only private individuals and before they get power, this
is their character; they associate entirely with their own flatterers or
ready tools; or if they want anything from anybody, they in their turn are
equally ready to bow down before them: they profess every sort of
affection for them; but when they have gained their point they know them no
They are always either the masters or servants and never the friends of
anybody; the tyrant never tastes of true freedom or friendship.
And may we not rightly call such men treacherous?
Also they are utterly unjust, if we were right in our notion of justice?
Yes, he said, and we were perfectly right.
Let us then sum up in a word, I said, the character of the worst man: he
is the waking reality of what we dreamed.
And this is he who being by nature most of a tyrant bears rule, and the
longer he lives the more of a tyrant he becomes.
That is certain, said Glaucon, taking his turn to answer.
And will not he who has been shown to be the wickedest, be also the most
miserable? and he who has tyrannized longest and most, most continually and
truly miserable; although this may not be the opinion of men in general?
Yes, he said, inevitably.
And must not the tyrannical man be like the tyrannical State, and the
democratical man like the democratical State; and the same of the others?
And as State is to State in virtue and happiness, so is man in relation to
To be sure.
Then comparing our original city, which was under a king, and the city
which is under a tyrant, how do they stand as to virtue?
They are the opposite extremes, he said, for one is the very best and the
other is the very worst.
There can be no mistake, I said, as to which is which, and therefore I will
at once enquire whether you would arrive at a similar decision about their
relative happiness and misery. And here we must not allow ourselves to be
panic-stricken at the apparition of the tyrant, who is only a unit and may
perhaps have a few retainers about him; but let us go as we ought into
every corner of the city and look all about, and then we will give our
A fair invitation, he replied; and I see, as every one must, that a tyranny
is the wretchedest form of government, and the rule of a king the happiest.
And in estimating the men too, may I not fairly make a like request, that I
should have a judge whose mind can enter into and see through human nature?
he must not be like a child who looks at the outside and is dazzled at the
pompous aspect which the tyrannical nature assumes to the beholder, but let
him be one who has a clear insight. May I suppose that the judgment is
given in the hearing of us all by one who is able to judge, and has dwelt
in the same place with him, and been present at his dally life and known
him in his family relations, where he may be seen stripped of his tragedy
attire, and again in the hour of public danger--he shall tell us about the
happiness and misery of the tyrant when compared with other men?
That again, he said, is a very fair proposal.
Shall I assume that we ourselves are able and experienced judges and have
before now met with such a person? We shall then have some one who will
answer our enquiries.
By all means.
Let me ask you not to forget the parallel of the individual and the State;
bearing this in mind, and glancing in turn from one to the other of them,
will you tell me their respective conditions?
What do you mean? he asked.
Beginning with the State, I replied, would you say that a city which is
governed by a tyrant is free or enslaved?
No city, he said, can be more completely enslaved.
And yet, as you see, there are freemen as well as masters in such a State?
Yes, he said, I see that there are--a few; but the people, speaking
generally, and the best of them are miserably degraded and enslaved.
Then if the man is like the State, I said, must not the same rule prevail?
his soul is full of meanness and vulgarity--the best elements in him are
enslaved; and there is a small ruling part, which is also the worst and
And would you say that the soul of such an one is the soul of a freeman, or
of a slave?
He has the soul of a slave, in my opinion.
And the State which is enslaved under a tyrant is utterly incapable of
And also the soul which is under a tyrant (I am speaking of the soul taken
as a whole) is least capable of doing what she desires; there is a gadfly
which goads her, and she is full of trouble and remorse?
And is the city which is under a tyrant rich or poor?
And the tyrannical soul must be always poor and insatiable?
And must not such a State and such a man be always full of fear?
Is there any State in which you will find more of lamentation and sorrow
and groaning and pain?
And is there any man in whom you will find more of this sort of misery than
in the tyrannical man, who is in a fury of passions and desires?
Reflecting upon these and similar evils, you held the tyrannical State to
be the most miserable of States?
And I was right, he said.
Certainly, I said. And when you see the same evils in the tyrannical man,
what do you say of him?
I say that he is by far the most miserable of all men.
There, I said, I think that you are beginning to go wrong.
What do you mean?
I do not think that he has as yet reached the utmost extreme of misery.
Then who is more miserable?
One of whom I am about to speak.
Who is that?
He who is of a tyrannical nature, and instead of leading a private life has
been cursed with the further misfortune of being a public tyrant.
From what has been said, I gather that you are right.
Yes, I replied, but in this high argument you should be a little more
certain, and should not conjecture only; for of all questions, this
respecting good and evil is the greatest.
Very true, he said.
Let me then offer you an illustration, which may, I think, throw a light
upon this subject.
What is your illustration?
The case of rich individuals in cities who possess many slaves: from them
you may form an idea of the tyrant's condition, for they both have slaves;
the only difference is that he has more slaves.
Yes, that is the difference.
You know that they live securely and have nothing to apprehend from their
What should they fear?
Nothing. But do you observe the reason of this?
Yes; the reason is, that the whole city is leagued together for the
protection of each individual.
Very true, I said. But imagine one of these owners, the master say of some
fifty slaves, together with his family and property and slaves, carried off
by a god into the wilderness, where there are no freemen to help him--will
he not be in an agony of fear lest he and his wife and children should be
put to death by his slaves?
Yes, he said, he will be in the utmost fear.
The time has arrived when he will be compelled to flatter divers of his
slaves, and make many promises to them of freedom and other things, much
against his will--he will have to cajole his own servants.
Yes, he said, that will be the only way of saving himself.
And suppose the same god, who carried him away, to surround him with
neighbours who will not suffer one man to be the master of another, and
who, if they could catch the offender, would take his life?
His case will be still worse, if you suppose him to be everywhere
surrounded and watched by enemies.
And is not this the sort of prison in which the tyrant will be bound--he
who being by nature such as we have described, is full of all sorts of
fears and lusts? His soul is dainty and greedy, and yet alone, of all men
in the city, he is never allowed to go on a journey, or to see the things
which other freemen desire to see, but he lives in his hole like a woman
hidden in the house, and is jealous of any other citizen who goes into
foreign parts and sees anything of interest.
Very true, he said.
And amid evils such as these will not he who is ill-governed in his own
person--the tyrannical man, I mean--whom you just now decided to be the
most miserable of all--will not he be yet more miserable when, instead of
leading a private life, he is constrained by fortune to be a public tyrant?
He has to be master of others when he is not master of himself: he is like
a diseased or paralytic man who is compelled to pass his life, not in
retirement, but fighting and combating with other men.
Yes, he said, the similitude is most exact.
Is not his case utterly miserable? and does not the actual tyrant lead a
worse life than he whose life you determined to be the worst?
He who is the real tyrant, whatever men may think, is the real slave, and
is obliged to practise the greatest adulation and servility, and to be the
flatterer of the vilest of mankind. He has desires which he is utterly
unable to satisfy, and has more wants than any one, and is truly poor, if
you know how to inspect the whole soul of him: all his life long he is
beset with fear and is full of convulsions and distractions, even as the
State which he resembles: and surely the resemblance holds?
Very true, he said.
Moreover, as we were saying before, he grows worse from having power: he
becomes and is of necessity more jealous, more faithless, more unjust, more
friendless, more impious, than he was at first; he is the purveyor and
cherisher of every sort of vice, and the consequence is that he is
supremely miserable, and that he makes everybody else as miserable as
No man of any sense will dispute your words.
Come then, I said, and as the general umpire in theatrical contests
proclaims the result, do you also decide who in your opinion is first in
the scale of happiness, and who second, and in what order the others
follow: there are five of them in all--they are the royal, timocratical,
oligarchical, democratical, tyrannical.
The decision will be easily given, he replied; they shall be choruses
coming on the stage, and I must judge them in the order in which they
enter, by the criterion of virtue and vice, happiness and misery.
Need we hire a herald, or shall I announce, that the son of Ariston (the
best) has decided that the best and justest is also the happiest, and that
this is he who is the most royal man and king over himself; and that the
worst and most unjust man is also the most miserable, and that this is he
who being the greatest tyrant of himself is also the greatest tyrant of his
Make the proclamation yourself, he said.
And shall I add, 'whether seen or unseen by gods and men'?
Let the words be added.
Then this, I said, will be our first proof; and there is another, which may
also have some weight.
What is that?
The second proof is derived from the nature of the soul: seeing that the
individual soul, like the State, has been divided by us into three
principles, the division may, I think, furnish a new demonstration.
Of what nature?
It seems to me that to these three principles three pleasures correspond;
also three desires and governing powers.
How do you mean? he said.
There is one principle with which, as we were saying, a man learns, another
with which he is angry; the third, having many forms, has no special name,
but is denoted by the general term appetitive, from the extraordinary
strength and vehemence of the desires of eating and drinking and the other
sensual appetites which are the main elements of it; also money-loving,
because such desires are generally satisfied by the help of money.
That is true, he said.
If we were to say that the loves and pleasures of this third part were
concerned with gain, we should then be able to fall back on a single
notion; and might truly and intelligibly describe this part of the soul as
loving gain or money.
I agree with you.
Again, is not the passionate element wholly set on ruling and conquering
and getting fame?
Suppose we call it the contentious or ambitious--would the term be
On the other hand, every one sees that the principle of knowledge is wholly
directed to the truth, and cares less than either of the others for gain or
'Lover of wisdom,' 'lover of knowledge,' are titles which we may fitly
apply to that part of the soul?
One principle prevails in the souls of one class of men, another in others,
as may happen?
Then we may begin by assuming that there are three classes of men--lovers
of wisdom, lovers of honour, lovers of gain?
And there are three kinds of pleasure, which are their several objects?
Now, if you examine the three classes of men, and ask of them in turn which
of their lives is pleasantest, each will be found praising his own and
depreciating that of others: the money-maker will contrast the vanity of
honour or of learning if they bring no money with the solid advantages of
gold and silver?
True, he said.
And the lover of honour--what will be his opinion? Will he not think that
the pleasure of riches is vulgar, while the pleasure of learning, if it
brings no distinction, is all smoke and nonsense to him?
And are we to suppose, I said, that the philosopher sets any value on other
pleasures in comparison with the pleasure of knowing the truth, and in that
pursuit abiding, ever learning, not so far indeed from the heaven of
pleasure? Does he not call the other pleasures necessary, under the idea
that if there were no necessity for them, he would rather not have them?
There can be no doubt of that, he replied.
Since, then, the pleasures of each class and the life of each are in
dispute, and the question is not which life is more or less honourable, or
better or worse, but which is the more pleasant or painless--how shall we
know who speaks truly?
I cannot myself tell, he said.
Well, but what ought to be the criterion? Is any better than experience
and wisdom and reason?
There cannot be a better, he said.