Francesco Fielfo, Letter to Lorenzo Medici (Part 20):
“I would nevertheless not deny to you that my first wife, who was more dear to me than life itself, Theodora Chrysolorina, the granddaughter of that most eminent man Manuel Chrysoloras, whom I mentioned earlier, led me to knowledge of Greek. For my father in law, her father, Johannes Chrysoloras, that most splendid golden knight, taught me literature and the other disciplines of the Greeks.
My wife Theodora was endowed with an entirely temperate and sweet speech (and it was Attic in the highest degree), which had nothing of an admixture of foreign and bumbling speech. For, since those noble Byzantine women, always kept themselves at home in respect of the old custom, and never went anywhere during the day, but only at night, with veiled faces and accompanied by their domestics and the people most connected to them, when they either sought some temple on holiday or visited their close relations from a sense of duty, they preserved the antiquity of incorrupt speech because of their solitude.
I think that Constantine brought this custom from Rome along with the colony itself. For we hear that at one time, Roman women abstained entirely from the speech with many and were accustomed to keep themselves at home.
Thus it happened that Gaius Sulpicius Gallus divorced his wide, because he had recognized her out in the city with an unveiled head, and old Quintus Antistius repudiated his wide, because he had seen her in public speaking secretly with a common freedwoman.
‘For my part,’ said Crassus, ‘when I hear my mother in law Laellia – women indeed are able to maintain an uncorrupted and old fashioned speech more easily, because they keep themselves from speaking with the crowd and thus hold on to what they learned first – I seem to hear Plautus or Naevius speaking.’”
Nec inficier tamen vobis ad graecam locutionem plurimum conduxisse primam illam uxorem meam, quae mihi vita ipsa carior fuit, Theodoram Chrysolorinam, summi illius viri Manuelis Chrysolorae neptem, cuius modo mentionem feci. Nam et litteraturam et caeteras Graecorum disciplinas splendidissimus eques auratus socer meus Ioannes Chrysoloras, huius pater, me docuit.
At uxor illa mea Theodora locutione erat admodum moderata ac suavi, et maxime attica, utpote quae nihil haberet peregrini ineptique sermonis admixtum. Nam quoniam nobiles illae mulieres constantinopolitanae, pro vetere quodam more, semper se domi continerent, neque interdiu unquam egrederentur, sed noctu quandoque duntaxat, dum et equites et facie velata et a domesticis, iisdemque coniunctissimis, comitatae, aut templum aliquod festis diebus peterent, aut officii gratia necessarios inviserent, ob huiusmodi solitudinem antiquitatem etiam illae observabant incorrupti sermonis.
Quam ego consuetudinem puto Constantinum Augustum, una cum colonia, ex urbe Roma Constantinopolin transtulisse. Audimus enim romanas quondam mulieres a multorum sermone vehementer abstinuisse et sese domi continere solitas.
Quo factum est ut G. Sulpitius Gallus uxorem dimiserit, quoniam eam capite aperto foris versatam cognoverat, et Q. Antistium veterem iccirco repudiasse uxorem, quod eam in publico cum libertina vulgari quadam secreto loquentem viderat.
“Equidem” inquit Crassus “cum audio socrum meam Laelliam – facilius enim mulieres incorruptam antiquitatem observant, quod multorum sermonis expertes ea tenent semper quae prima didicerunt – sed eam sic audio ut Plautum mihi aut Naevium videar audire”.