Summary and Analysis Book III: Section II



Socrates turns to a consideration of the physical training for the Guardians, which course in gymnastic should begin quite early in life and continue through life. This physical training, like training in the arts, is intended to teach the Guardians temperance. The Guardians are to abstain from any form of intemperance: gluttony, drunkenness, or any form of sexual license. Thus the training in gymnastic governs diet or any form of physical habit, for intemperance in things physical can result in gluttony, slothfulness, and debility from sexual excess. In fact, intemperance may even result in forms of hypochondria that cause men to invent or develop illnesses that in turn cause them habitually to seek aid from physicians, which would be a sorry plight for Guardians of the state. In fact, the responsible Guardian of the state has an obligation to maintain his good health and not to become a burden to the state. The Guardians are supposed to be too busy to be ill.


Plato sees no real difference in the gymnastic required of children and of professional soldiers; training in the use of arms is simply a difference of degree. The ideal citizen will remain morally and physically fit throughout life. This idea of training in both gymnastic and the academic, a healthy mind in a healthy body, has endured throughout most of the twentieth century, and into the twenty-first, in the Western world.


Hellespont another name for the Dardanelles, a strait in northwest Turkey connecting the Sea of Marmara with the Aegean Sea. The ancient Phrygian city of Troy (site of the Trojan War) was located in Asia Minor near the Aegean end of the strait.

Asclepius in Greek mythology, the god of healing and medicine.

Pandarus a leader of the Lycians in the Trojan War; a Trojan hero in the Iliad.

Menelaus king of Sparta, Agamemnon's brother, and husband of Helen of Troy, whose abduction by the Trojan Paris (son of King Priam) was the legendary cause of the Trojan War.