Writing Down the Law

Plato, Laws 890E

 “Hey now, friend. If we put up with ourselves when we were talking about drinking and music, shouldn’t we dedicate the same energy when talking about the gods and these kinds of topics?

Really, this kind of talk is a big help to good law-making, I think, since proclamation about the law remained final when put down in words, as if they are presented for testing for all time so that even if they are hard to hear at the beginning no one needs to worry about it since it is permitted even for the slowest person to go back and read them often, even if they are long, as long as they are useful. That’s why I think that anyone who has any reason or is a bit righteous won’t hesitate to give his strength to such arguments.”

Λ. Τί δαί, ὦ ξένε; περὶ μέθης μὲν καὶ μουσικῆς οὕτω μακρὰ λέγοντας ἡμᾶς αὐτοὺς περιεμείναμεν, περὶ θεῶν δὲ καὶ τῶν τοιούτων οὐχ ὑπομενοῦμεν; καὶ μὴν καὶ νομοθεσίᾳ γέ ἐστί που τῇ μετὰ φρονήσεως μεγίστη βοήθεια, διότι τὰ περὶ νόμους προστάγματα ἐν γράμμασι τεθέντα, ὡς δώσοντα εἰς πάντα χρόνον ἔλεγχον, πάντως ἠρεμεῖ, ὥστε οὔτ᾿ εἰ χαλεπὰ κατ᾿ ἀρχὰς ἀκούειν ἐστὶ φοβητέον, ἅ γ᾿ ἔσται καὶ τῷ δυσμαθεῖ πολλάκις ἐπανιόντι σκοπεῖν, οὔτε εἰ μακρά, ὠφέλιμα δέ· διὰ ταῦτα λόγον οὐδαμῇ ἔχει οὐδὲ ὅσιον ἔμοιγε εἶναι φαίνεται τὸ μὴ οὐ βοηθεῖν τούτοις τοῖς λόγοις πάντα ἄνδρα κατὰ δύναμιν.