Matchmaking With the Ancients

Hesiod, Works and Days 695-705

“The time to bring a wife to your home
is when you are not too many years under thirty,
or just a few years older. This is the season for marriage.
Your wife should be four years in puberty and married in the fifth.
Marry a virgin so you may teach her proper habits,
And marry a woman who lives nearby, making sure you check
every detail so that you won’t be wed to a joke for your neighbors.
For nothing is better for a man than a wife,
a good one, and nothing is more horrible than a bad one,
one who lies down to eat, and who can cook her husband without a fire,
even though he is a strong man, she makes him age when he’s young.”

  ῾Ωραῖος δὲ γυναῖκα τεὸν ποτὶ οἶκον ἄγεσθαι,
μήτε τριηκόντων ἐτέων μάλα πόλλ’ ἀπολείπων
μήτ’ ἐπιθεὶς μάλα πολλά· γάμος δέ τοι ὥριος οὗτος·
ἡ δὲ γυνὴ τέτορ’ ἡβώοι, πέμπτῳ δὲ γαμοῖτο.
παρθενικὴν δὲ γαμεῖν, ὥς κ’ ἤθεα κεδνὰ διδάξῃς,
[τὴν δὲ μάλιστα γαμεῖν, ἥτις σέθεν ἐγγύθι ναίει]
πάντα μάλ’ ἀμφὶς ἰδών, μὴ γείτοσι χάρματα γήμῃς.
οὐ μὲν γάρ τι γυναικὸς ἀνὴρ ληίζετ’ ἄμεινον
τῆς ἀγαθῆς, τῆς δ’ αὖτε κακῆς οὐ ῥίγιον ἄλλο,
δειπνολόχης, ἥ τ’ ἄνδρα καὶ ἴφθιμόν περ ἐόντα
εὕει ἄτερ δαλοῖο καὶ ὠμῷ γήραϊ δῶκεν.

Ovid, Heroides, 9.26-34 Deianeira addresses Herakles

“But I am considered well-married, because I am called Hercules’ wife
And because my father-in-law is the one who sounds deeply with swift steeds.
Yet, this is how the unequal colts arrive unhappily at the plow,
The way that a lesser bride matches to a great husband.
This isn’t an honor but merely the appearance of it which pains who carries it more;
If you want to be married happily, marry your equal.
My husband is always absent—he’s more famous as my guest than husband
As he pursues is terrible monsters and beasts.”

At bene nupta feror, quia nominer Herculis uxor,
sitque socer, rapidis qui tonat altus equis.
quam male inaequales veniunt ad aratra iuvenci,
tam premitur magno coniuge nupta minor.
non honor est sed onus species laesura ferentes:
siqua voles apte nubere, nube pari.
vir mihi semper abest, et coniuge notior hospes
monstraque terribiles persequiturque feras.

Hipponax, Fr. 68

“A woman has two days which are the sweetest:
When someone marries her and when someone carries her out dead.”

δύ᾿ ἡμέραι γυναικός εἰσιν ἥδισται,
ὅταν γαμῇ τις κἀκφέρῃ τεθνηκυῖαν.

Euripides, fr. 137 (Andromeda)

“Best of all riches is to find a noble spouse.”

τῶν γὰρ πλούτων ὅδ’ ἄριστος
γενναῖον λέχος εὑρεῖν.

Red-figure skyphoid pyxis by the Adrano Group, ca 330-320 BC, today at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Image shown under Creative Common License: shakko, Pyxis01 pushkinCC BY-SA 3.0 (Thanks to Commenter Marcus Cyron for reminding me to post this credit)



2 thoughts on “Matchmaking With the Ancients

  1. This is the image:
    The image is published under a free license. That means, it can be used without asking and without have to pay money. That did not means, that there is nothing to do. The license is CC-BY-SA-3.0. That means, the photographer have to be named and the license have to be given, that other people can see, that they can reuse the image free too. So there have to be written at the image (here in html):
    shakko, Pyxis01 pushkin, CC BY-SA 3.0
    (or in plain text): shakko (, „Pyxis01 pushkin“,
    at the end there must be to read: shakko, Pyxis01 pushkin, CC BY-SA 3.0
    very easy to do with the
    In the actual form, the photographer are able to initiate a legal action, because you did not respect the copyright.
    Btw – to use images as illustrations is nice, but what helps it, whan nothing about the image is said? This is a sicilian red-figure skyphoid pyxis by the Adrano Group, ca 330-320 BC, today at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.

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