Elemental Reflections for Marriage

Plutarch, Roman Questions 1:

Why do they ask a woman being married to take fire and water?

Is it because each of these is part of the elements or first principles – the one masculine and the other feminine, the one possessing the principle of motion and the other the power of potential and material?

Or it is because fire purifies and water sanctifies – for a woman must remain purified and sanctified when she marries?

Or it is because, considering that fire is incapable of nourishing and dry, so water without heat is unproductive and fruitless; similarly, the masculine and feminine are unproductive without each other, but their conjunction produces a symbiosis between the partners in marriage, which must not be abandoned and must make common between them every fortune, even if they are to share nothing else but fire and water?”


‘Διὰ τί τὴν γαμουμένην ἅπτεσθαι πυρὸς καὶ ὕδατος κελεύουσι;’

πότερον τούτων ὡς ἐν στοιχείοις καὶ ἀρχαῖς τὸ μὲν ἄρρεν ἐστὶ τὸ δὲ θῆλυ, καὶ τὸ μὲν ἀρχὰς κινήσεως ἐνίησι τὸ δ’ ὑποκειμένου καὶ ὕλης δύναμιν· ἢ διότι τὸ πῦρ καθαίρει καὶ τὸ ὕδωρ ἁγνίζει,  δεῖ δὲ καθαρὰν καὶ ἁγνὴν διαμένειν τὴν γαμηθεῖσαν; ἢ ὅτι, καθάπερ τὸ πῦρ χωρὶς ὑγρότητος ἄτροφόν ἐστι καὶ ξηρὸν τὸ δὲ ὕδωρ ἄνευ θερμότητος ἄγονον καὶ ἀργόν, οὕτω καὶ τὸ ἄρρεν ἀδρανὲς καὶ τὸ θῆλυ χωρὶς ἀλλήλων, ἡ δὲ σύνοδος ἀμφοῖν ἐπιτελεῖ τοῖς γήμασι τὴν συμβίωσιν, ἣν οὐκ ἀπολειπτέον καὶ κοινωνητέον ἁπάσης τύχης, κἂν ἄλλου μηδενὸς ἢ πυρὸς καὶ ὕδατος μέλλωσι κοινωνεῖν ἀλλήλοις;

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