Plato recounts the myth of Gyges (Republic), forefather of King Croesus, who served the then archon of Lydia. Gyges found a magic ring that gave him the ability to become invisible to others. Wearing the ring, he went to the palace, made the queen his lover, killed the king and took his riches. Thus, the shepherd, with the help of the ring, annihilated the king and took the throne himself.
The obvious message of the myth is pointed out by Plato himself: Those who apply justice do so not of desire but because they cannot do otherwise. But if license were given to both the just and the unjust to do as they wished with impunity and we observed where their desire led them, we would ‘catch’ the just one selecting the same path as the unjust. This, is because every person, by nature, aspires to avarice as something good, and only by law is forced to respect equality. If, therefore, such a ring is worn by both the just and unjust man, neither would appear such an upstanding character so as to remain true to justice, if he had the ability to, without fear, do anything he desired, Plato maintains.
The myth of Gyges has corresponding applications in the field of modern-day sport, as a ‘record’ turns the athlete into a Croesus, who has everything at his feet. But the myth, has analogous applications in modern world as well. How many, in truth, wearing Gyges’ wondrous ring and being able to use the advantage it offers with impunity would not do so? They are very few, those who, although possessors of the ‘magic’ ring, have the strength of character, the moral fortitude, to resist the temptation. These few, the only ones capable of rejecting the lure of avarice, are the chaste, Plato intimates.