A Woman’s Prudence? Letting her Body Serve the Needs of the State

The more things change…

Phintys, fr. 1, On a Woman’s Prudence by the Spartan Phintys, the daughter of Kallikrates the Pythagorean (=Stob. 4.23.61)

“It is necessary that a woman be completely good and well-ordered. Someone could never be like this without virtue. For the virtue which is proper to each thing causes the object which welcomes it to be more serious. The excellence of the eyes improves the eyes; that of hearing improves the ears; the horse’s virtue betters the horse and a man’s virtue improves the man. In the same way, a woman’s virtue ennobles a woman.

The virtue most appropriate to a woman is prudence. For through prudence a woman will be able to honor and take delight in her own husband. Many may in fact think that it is not fitting for a woman to practice philosophy, just as she should not ride a horse or speak in public. But I believe that while some things are particular to a man and others to a woman, there are some that are shared by both man and woman, even though some are more appropriate to a man than a woman and those better for a woman than a man.

For example, serving in an army or working in politics and speaking in public are proper for a man. For a woman, it is running the household, staying at home, and welcoming and serving her husband. In common I place bravery, an understanding of justice, and wisdom. For It is right that virtues of the body are proper for both a man and woman along with the virtues of the soul. And, just as having a healthy body is useful for both, so too is the health of the soul.

The virtues of the body are health, strength, good perception, and beauty. Some of these are better for a man to nourish and keep; and others are more appropriate for a woman. Courage and wisdom are certainly more proper for a man both die to the nature of his body and the power of his mind. But prudence is proper for a woman.

For this reason it is important to recognize what a woman trained in prudence is like, in particular from what number and kinds of traits this possession graces a woman. I propose that this comes from five things. The first is from respecting the sanctity and reverence of her marriage bed; the second is a sense of propriety for her body; the third is concerning the actions of those from her own household; the fourth is from not practicing the occult rites and the celebrations of the Great Mother; the fifth is in proper and moderate sacrifices to the divine.

Of these traits, the most important and vital for prudence in terms of her marriage bed is staying uncontaminated and fully separate from some other man. For, to start with, a woman who breaks this law does wrong against her ancestral gods, because she provides for her home and her family not true born allies but bastards.

The one who does this transgresses against the natural gods whose oath she took, following the practice of her forebears and relatives, “to participate in the common life and to produce offspring according to the law.” She also commits injustice against her country, because she does not stay with those who were assigned to her. Then she acts even beyond those for whom the greatest of penalties is assigned because of the excess of this injustice: this is because to commit an error or an outrage for the sake of pleasure is unlawful and the most unforgivable. Ruin is the outcome of all outrage.”

Φιντύος τᾶς Καλλικράτεος θυγατρὸς Πυθαγορείας

ἐκ τοῦ Περὶ γυναικὸς σωφροσύνας.

Τὸ μὲν ὅλον ἀγαθὰν δεῖ ἦμεν καὶ κοσμίαν· ἄνευ δ’ ἀρετᾶς οὐδέποκα γένοιτό τις τοιαύτα. ἑκάστα γὰρ ἀρετὰ περὶ ἕκαστον γινομένα τὸ αὐτᾶς δεκτικὸν ἀποδίδωτι σπουδαῖον· ἁ μὲν τῶν ὀπτίλων τὼς ὀπτίλως, ἁ δὲ τᾶς ἀκοᾶς τὰν ἀκοάν, καὶ ἁ μὲν ἵππω τὸν ἵππον, ἁ δ’ ἀνδρὸς τὸν  ἄνδρα· οὕτω δὲ καὶ <ἁ> γυναικὸς τὰν γυναῖκα. γυναικὸς δὲ μάλιστα ἀρετὰ σωφροσύνα· διὰ γὰρ ταύτας τὸν ἴδιον ἄνδρα καὶ τιμῆν καὶ ἀγαπῆν δυνασεῖται. πολλοὶ μὲν ἴσως δοξάζοντι, ὅτι οὐκ εὐάρμοστον γυναικὶ φιλοσοφέν, ὥσπερ οὐδ’ ἱππεύεν οὐδὲ δαμαγορέν· ἐγὼ δὲ τὰ μέν τινα νομίζω ἀνδρὸς ἦμεν ἴδια, τὰ δὲ γυναικός, τὰ δὲ κοινὰ ἀνδρὸς καὶ γυναικός, τὰ δὲ μᾶλλον ἀνδρὸς ἢ γυναικός, τὰ δὲ μᾶλλον γυναικὸς ἢ ἀνδρός. ἴδια μὲν ἀνδρὸς τὸ στραταγὲν καὶ πολιτεύεσθαι καὶ δαμαγορέν, ἴδια δὲ γυναικὸς τὸ οἰκουρὲν καὶ ἔνδον μένεν καὶ ἐκδέχεσθαι καὶ θεραπεύεν τὸν ἄνδρα. κοινὰ δὲ φαμὶ ἀνδρείαν καὶ δικαιοσύναν καὶ φρόνασιν· καὶ γὰρ τὰς τῶ σώματος ἀρετὰς ἔχεν πρέπον καὶ ἀνδρὶ καὶ γυναικὶ καὶ τᾶς ψυχᾶς ὁμοίως· καὶ ὡς ὑγιαίνεν τῷ σώματι ἀμφοτέροις ὠφέλιμον, οὕτως ὑγιαίνεν τᾷ ψυχᾷ· σώματος δὲ ἦμεν ἀρετὰς ὑγείαν ἰσχὺν εὐαισθησίαν κάλλος. τὰ δὲ μᾶλλον ἀνδρὶ καὶ ἀσκὲν καὶ ἔχεν οἰκῇόν ἐντι, τὰ δὲ μᾶλλον γυναικί.

ἀνδρότατα μὲν γὰρ καὶ φρόνασιν μᾶλλον ἀνδρὶ καὶ διὰ τὰν ἕξιν τῶ σώματος καὶ διὰ τὰν δύναμιν τᾶς ψυχᾶς,  σωφροσύναν δὲ γυναικί. διὸ δεῖ περὶ σωφροσύνας παιδευομέναν γνωρίζεν, ἐκ πόσων τινῶν καὶ ποίων τοῦτο τἀγαθὸν τᾷ γυναικὶ περιγίνεται. φαμὶ δὴ ἐκ πέντε τούτων· πρᾶτον μὲν ἐκ τᾶς περὶ τὰν εὐνὰν ὁσιότατός τε καὶ εὐσε-βείας· δεύτερον δὲ ἐκ τῶ κόσμω τῶ περὶ τὸ σῶμα· τρίτον <δ’> ἐκ τᾶν ἐξόδων τᾶν ἐκ τᾶς ἰδίας οἰκίας· τέταρ-τον δ’ ἐκ τῶ μὴ χρέεσθαι τοῖς ὀργιασμοῖς καὶ ματρῳασμοῖς· πέμπτον δ’ ἐν τᾷ θυσίᾳ τᾷ πρὸς τὸ θεῖον εὐλαβέα ἦμεν καὶ μετρίαν.

τούτων δὲ μέγιστον αἴτιον καὶ συνεκτικώτατον τᾶς σωφροσύνας τὸ περὶ τὰν εὐνὰν ἦμεν ἀδιάφθορον καὶ ἄμικτον θυραίω ἀνδρός. πρᾶτον μὲν γὰρ εἰς τοῦτο παρανομοῦσα ἀδικεῖ γενεθλίως θεώς, οἴκῳ καὶ συγγενείᾳ οὐ γνασίως ἐπικούρως ἀλλὰ νόθως παρεχομένα· ἀδικεῖ δὲ τὼς φύσει θεώς, ὥσπερ ἐπομόσασα μετὰ τῶν αὑτᾶς πατέρων τε καὶ συγγενῶν … συνελεύσεσθαι ἐπὶ κοινωνίᾳ βίω καὶ τέκνων γενέσει τᾷ κατὰ νόμον· ἀδικεῖ δὲ καὶ τὰν αὑτᾶς πατρίδα, μὴ ἐμμένουσα τοῖς ἐνδιατεταγμένοις. ἔπειτα ἐπὶ τούτοις ἀμβλακίσκεν, ἐφ’ οἷς τὸ μέγιστον τῶν προστίμων ὥρισται θάνατος διὰ τὰν ὑπερβολὰν τῶ ἀδικήματος, ἔκθεσμον καὶ ἀσυγγνωμονέστατον ἦμεν ἁδονᾶς ἕνεκεν ἁμαρτάνεν καὶ ὑβρίζεν· ὕβριος δὲ πάσας πέρας ὄλεθρος.

File:Ancient Sparta ruins (3).jpg
Ruins of Sparta

3 thoughts on “A Woman’s Prudence? Letting her Body Serve the Needs of the State

  1. Pingback: A List of Women Authors from the Ancient World – SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

  2. Pingback: Women’s History Month, Week 1 – SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

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