Political fragments of Archytas and other ancient Pythagoreans/From the treatise of Phintys, the daughter of Callicrates, on the temperance of a woman

Political fragments of Archytas and other ancient Pythagoreans
by Thomas Taylor
From the treatise of Phintys, the daughter of Callicrates, on the temperance of a woman

Extract from a Pythagorean work by Phintys, 4th or 3rd century BCE. Translated by Thomas Taylor, 1822.

From the treatise of Phintys, the daughter of Callicrates, on the temperance of a womanEdit

A WOMAN ought to be wholly good and modest; but she will never be a character of this kind without virtue. For any virtue subsisting in any one thing renders that which receives it valuable. And the virtue, indeed, of the eyes is sight, but of the ears hearing. Thus, too, the virtue of a horse causes it to be a good horse; and the virtue of a man and the virtue of a woman render each of them worthy. But the principal virtue of a woman is temperance; for through this she will be able to honour and love her husband. Many, indeed, may perhaps think it does not become a woman to philosophize, as neither is it proper for her to ride on horseback, nor to harangue in public. But I think that some things are the province of a (p70) man, others of a woman, and that others are common both to man and woman. And, likewise, that some things pertain more to a man than to a woman; but others more to a woman than to a man. But the things peculiar to a man are, to lead an army, to govern, arid to harangue in public. The offices peculiar to a woman are, to be the guardian of a house, to stay at home, and to receive and be ministrant to her husband. And the virtues pertaining to both are fortitude, justice, and prudence. For it is fit that both the husband and wife should have the virtues of the body, and in a similar manner those of the soul. And as health of body is beneficial to both, so also is health of soul. The virtues, however, of the body are health, strength, vigour of sensation, and beauty. With respect to the virtues, also, some are more adapted to be exercised and possessed by a man, but others by a woman. For fortitude and prudence pertain more to the man than to the woman, both on account of the habit of the body, and the power of the soul; but temperance peculiarly belongs to the woman. Hence it is requisite to know the number and the quality of the things through which this virtue accedes to a woman. I say, therefore, that they are these five. And in the (p71) first place, she obtains this virtue through sanctity and piety about the marriage bed. In the second place, through ornament pertaining to the body. In the third place, through egressions from her own house. In the fourth place, through refraining from the celebration of orgies, and the mysteries of the mother of the Gods. And in the fifth place, through being cautious and moderate in the sacrifices to divinity. Of these, however, the greatest and most comprehensive cause of temperance, is that which causes the wife to be undefiled with respect to the marriage bed, and not to have connexion with any other man than her husband, For in the first place, by such illegal conduct, she acts unjustly towards the Gods who preside over nativities, rendering them not genuine but spurious adjutors of her family and kindred. In the second place, she acts unjustly towards the Gods who preside over nature, by whom she solemnly swore, in conjunction with her parents and kindred, that she would legally associate with her husband in the communion of life and the procreation of children. And in the third place, she acts (p72) unjustly towards her country, by not observing its decrees. To which may be added, that to offend against right in those things for which the greatest punishment, death, is ordained, on account of the magnitude of the crime, and to do so for the sake of pleasure and wanton insolence, is nefarious, and most undeserving of pardon. But the end of all insolent conduct is destruction.

This, also, ought to be considered, that no purifying remedy has been discovered for this offence, so as to render a woman thus guilty pure and beloved by divinity. For God is most averse to pardon this crime. But the best indication of the chastity of a woman towards her husband is that which arises from the resemblance of her children to their father. And thus much concerning the marriage bed.

With respect, however, to the ornament of the body, it appears to me, that the garments of a woman should be white and simple, and by no means superfluous. But they will be so, if they are neither transparent nor variegated, nor woven from silk, but are not expensive, and are of a white colour. For thus she will avoid excessive ornament, luxury, and superfluous clothes; and will not produce a depraved imitation in others. And, in short, (p73) she should not decorate her person with gold and emeralds. For they are very expensive, and exhibit pride and arrogance towards the vulgar. It is necessary, however, that a city which is governed by good laws, and is well arranged in all its parts, should accord with itself, and have an equable legislation; and should expel the artificers who make things of this kind from the city. She should, likewise, give a splendour to her face, not by employing adscititious and foreign colour, but that which is adapted to the body, and is produced by washing it with water; and adorning her person through modesty rather than through art. For thus she will render both herself and her husband honourable. But the lower class of women should go out of their houses, for the purpose of sacrificing to the tutelar deity of the city, for the welfare of their husbands and all their family. A woman, also, should depart from her house neither by twilight nor in the evening, but should openly leave it when the forum is full of people; accompanied by one, or at most two servants, for the sake of beholding a certain thing, or of buying something she may want. She should also offer frugal sacrifices to the Gods, and such as are adapted to her ability; but she should abstain (p74) from the celebration of orgies, and from those sacred rites of the mother of the Gods, which are performed at home. For the common law of the city ordains that these shall not be performed by women. To which may be added, that these rites introduce ebriety, and mental alienation. It is necessary, however, that she who is the mistress of a family, and presides over domestic affairs, should be temperate and undefiled.