Gender, Smell and Lemnos: More Misogyny from Greek Myth

A proverb from the Suda

“By a Lemnian Hand: [meaning] cruelly and lawlessly. This is from a story: for they say that the women in Lemnos allegedly killed their husbands because they weren’t having sex with them”

Λημνίᾳ χειρί: ὠμῇ καὶ παρανόμῳ. ἀπὸ τῆς ἱστορίας· φασὶ γὰρ τὰς ἐν Λήμνῳ γυναῖκας τοὺς ἄνδρας αὐτῶν ἀνελεῖν αἰτιωμένας, ὅτι αὐταῖς οὐκ ἐμίγνυντο.

A few years ago I was looking up some odd word or another in the work of the lexicographer Hesychius (ok, to be honest, I was looking up words for feces and was looking at κοκκιλόνδις· παιδὸς ἀφόδευμα; kokkilondis: “a child’s excrement”). I found the following words which are pretty much absent from all modern lexica.

Kikkasos: the sweat flowing from between the thighs

κίκκασος· ὁ ἐκ τῶν παραμηρίων ἱδρὼς ῥέων.

Kikkê: Sex. Or the bad smell [that comes] from genitals

κίκκη· συνουσία. ἡ ἀπὸ τῶν αἰδοίων δυσοσμία

Obviously, the specificity of these two lexical items is amusing. But their very existence perplexed me a bit. Where did they come from? How were they used? (They don’t actually appear anywhere but in Hesychius.) After some contemplation and a little restraint, I can only conclude that the words emerge from a generally misogynistic context which also considered sex in some way unclean.

The story that I kept thinking of was that of the Lemnian women—it is one of the few connections I could make between sex and bad smells. It is also one of my least favorite myths because it echoes modern misogynistic taboos which marginalize and alienate female bodies. So, I almost didn’t write this post. But I do think that it is worth making these connections, however uncomfortable they are.

Here are two versions of the Lemnian women tale.

Apollodorus, 1.114

“Jason was the captain of the ship as they disembarked and neared Lemnos. The island then happened to be bereft of men and was ruled by Hypsipyle, Thoas’ daughter, for the following reason. The Lemnian women used not to honor Aphrodite. She cast a terrible smell upon them and, for this reason, their husbands acquired spear-won women from Thrace and slept with them.

Because they were dishonored, the Lemnian women slaughtered their fathers and husbands. Hypsipyle alone spared her father Thoas by hiding him. After they landed on the women-controlled island, they slept with the women. Hypsipyle gave birth to sons after sleeping with Jason: Eunêos and Nebrophonos.”

οὗτοι ναυαρχοῦντος ᾿Ιάσονος ἀναχθέντες προσίσχουσι Λήμνῳ. ἔτυχε δὲ ἡ Λῆμνος ἀνδρῶν τότε οὖσα ἔρημος, βασιλευομένη δὲ ὑπὸ ῾Υψιπύλης τῆς Θόαντος
δι’ αἰτίαν τήνδε. αἱ Λήμνιαι τὴν ᾿Αφροδίτην οὐκ ἐτίμων· ἡ δὲ αὐταῖς ἐμβάλλει δυσοσμίαν, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο οἱ γήμαντες αὐτὰς ἐκ τῆς πλησίον Θρᾴκης λαβόντες
αἰχμαλωτίδας συνευνάζοντο αὐταῖς. ἀτιμαζόμεναι δὲ αἱ Λήμνιαι τούς τε πατέρας καὶ τοὺς ἄνδρας φονεύουσι· μόνη δὲ ἔσωσεν ῾Υψιπύλη τὸν ἑαυτῆς πατέρα κρύψασα
Θόαντα. προσσχόντες οὖν τότε γυναικοκρατουμένῃ τῇ Λήμνῳ μίσγονται ταῖς γυναιξίν. ῾Υψιπύλη δὲ ᾿Ιάσονι συνευνάζεται, καὶ γεννᾷ παῖδας Εὔνηον καὶ Νεβρο-φόνον.

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Schol ad. Pind. P4 88b

“The story goes like this: Because the Lemnian women had carried out the honors for Aphrodite improperly, the goddess inflicted a bad smell upon them: for this reason, men turned them away. They all worked together and killed their husbands in a plot. Then the Argonauts, as they were travelling to Skythia, arrived in in Lemnos; when they found that the island was bereft of men, they slept with the women and then left. The sons who were born from them went to Sparta in search of their fathers and, once they were accepted among the Lakonians, they became citizens there and settled in Sparta.

ἱστορία τοιαύτη· ταῖς Λημνίαις γυναιξὶν ἀσεβῶς διακειμέναις περὶ τὰς τῆς ᾿Αφροδίτης τιμὰς ἡ θεὸς δυσοσμίαν προσέπεμψε, καὶ οὕτως αὐτὰς οἱ ἄνδρες ἀπεστράφησαν· αἱ δὲ συνθέμεναι πρὸς ἑαυτὰς ἐξ ἐπιβουλῆς τοὺς ἄνδρας ἀνεῖλον. τηνικαῦτα δὲ οἱ ᾿Αργοναῦται τὸν εἰς Σκυθίαν στελλόμενοι πλοῦν προσωρμίσθησαν τῇ Λήμνῳ, καὶ εὑρόντες ἔρημον ἀρσένων τὴν νῆσον συνελθόντες ταῖς γυναιξὶν ἀπηλλάγησαν. οἱ δὲ φύντες ἐξ αὐτῶν ἦλθον εἰς Λακεδαίμονα κατὰ ζήτησιν τῶν πατέρων, καὶ προσδεχθέντες παρὰ Λάκωσι καὶ πολιτευσάμενοι συνέθεντο ἐπιθέσθαι τῇ Σπάρτῃ…

This tale seems to combine with a larger treatment of Lemnos as clear from the proverb above and this one:

A proverb from Zenobius (4.91)

“A Lemnian evil”: A proverb which they say comes from the lawless acts committed against husbands by the women of Lemnos. Or it derives from the story of the women who were abducted from Attica by the Pelasgians and settled in Lemnos. Once they gave birth, they taught their sons the ways and the language of the Athenians. They honored each other and ruled over those who descended from Thracians. Then the Pelasgians, because they were angry over this, killed them and their mothers. Or the proverb derives from the bad smell of the Lemnian women.”

Λήμνιον κακόν: παροιμία, ἣν διαδοθῆναι φασὶν ἀπὸ τῶν παρανομηθέντων εἰς τοὺς ἄνδρας ἐν Λήμνῳ ὑπὸ τῶν γυναικῶν. ῍Η διὰ τὸ τὰς ἁρπαγείσας ὑπὸ Πελασγῶν ἐκ τῆς ᾿Αττικῆς γυναῖκας εἰς Λῆμνον ἀπαχθῆναι· ἃς ἀποτεκούσας τρόπους τε τῶν ᾿Αθηναίων διδάξαι τοὺς παῖδας καὶ γλῶτταν· τούτους δὲ τιμωρεῖν ἀλλήλοις καὶ τῶν ἐκ τῶν Θρᾳσσῶν γεγενημένων ἐπικρατεῖν· τοὺς δὲ Πελασγοὺς ἐπὶ τούτῳ ἀχθομένους κτεῖναι αὐτοὺς καὶ τὰς μητέρας αὐτῶν. ῍Η διὰ τὴν δυσωδίαν τῶν Λημνιάδων γυναικῶν τὴν παροιμίαν διαδοθῆναι.

The story of the Lemnian crimes (Lêmnia Erga) is told by Herodotus (6.137-138): the Pelasgians were driven out of Attic and took Lemnos; then they got their revenge by abducting Athenian women during a festival. When the sons of these women grew up, they frightened the native Pelasgians and they were all killed.

In the major tales, it is clear that the women are not completely at fault, but they are the ones who seem to suffer the most. Within the broader narrative of the Argonaut tale, especially, we can see how women are defined by their bodies as loci of sexual interest or disinterest, the ability to produce children, and anxiety that they might not remain subordinate to male desire. The casual detail of the Pelasgian tale is especially harrowing.

How A Woman Should Dress (And Sacrifice)

Phintys, fr. 2, On a Woman’s Prudence by the Spartan Phintys, the daughter of Kallikrates the Pythagorean (=Stob. 4.23.61)

“It is also necessary for a woman to take to heart that she will find no kind of purifying remedy for this mistake [adultery], something that would allow her to approach the temples and altars of the gods as a chaste and god-loved woman. This is because in this crime especially the divine spirit is most unforgiving. The most beautiful achievement of a free woman and the foremost glory is to provide as testimony to her prudence toward her husband her children, if they do in fact bear the imprint of similarity to the father who sowed them. That seems to me to be enough regarding marriage.

The following seems to be right to me when it comes to the management of the body. A woman should wear white, but be dressed simply and without decoration. This style of dressing is achieved without transparent or decorated robes or robes which are made from silk; instead a woman should wear modest and white clothing. She preferably also avoids luxury and ostentation and will not cause vile jealousy in other women. She should also not put on gold or emeralds at all—this behavior would make her seem wealthy and haughty to common women.

It is necessary that the well-governed city which is ordered completely with a view to its whole should be one of common experiences and likemindedness. And it should keep out the craftspeople who create these sorts of baubles from its territory. A prudent woman should not embellish her appearance with foreign decoration and makeup but should use the native beauty of the body—she should decorate her body by washing it in water rather than bringing it shame. For this brings honor to herself and the man she lives with.

Women need to make processions from their homes to make sacrifices to the leading-god of the city for themselves, their husbands, and their households. They must make their expedition to the theater or to the market for household goods, however, not when the evening star is rising nor when it is dark but whenever it is still light, accompanied by a single servant or, at most, two as is proper.

In addition, a prudent woman must also perform sacrificial rites for the gods as is permitted to her, but must abstain from the occult rites and rituals of the Great Mother at home. For the common law prohibits women from performing these rituals, since, in addition to other things, these practices make them drunk and insane. The woman of the home needs to be temperate and uncontaminated by everything, even when she is governing the home.”

 

     Κἀκεῖνο δὲ χρὴ διαλογίζεσθαι, ὡς οὐδὲν καθάρσιον εὑρήσει τᾶς ἀμπλακίας ταύτας ἄκος, ὥστε ὡς ἱερὰ θεῶν καὶ βωμὼς ποτερχομέναν ἦμεν ἁγνὰν καὶ θεοφιλάταν· ἐπὶ γὰρ ταύτᾳ τᾷ ἀδικίᾳ μάλιστα καὶ τὸ δαιμόνιον ἀσυγγνωμόνητον γίνεται. κάλλιστος δὲ κόσμος γυναικὸς ἐλευθέρας πρᾶτόν τε κῦδος τὸ διὰ τῶν αὑτᾶς τέκνων ἐπιμαρτύρασθαι τὰν σωφροσύναν τὰν ποτὶ τὸν ἄνδρα, αἴκα τὸν τύπον τᾶς ὁμοιότατος ἐπιφέρωντι τῶ κατασπείραντος αὐτὼς πατρός. καὶ περὶ μὲν εὐνᾶς οὕτως ἔχει· περὶ δὲ τῶ κόσμω τῶ περὶ τὸ σῶμα δοκεῖ μοι οὕτως.

δεῖ λευχείμονα ἦμεν καὶ ἁπλοϊκὰν καὶ ἀπερίσσευτον. ἐσσεῖται  δὲ τοῦτο, αἴκα μὴ διαφανέεσσι μηδὲ διαποικίλοις μηδὲ ἀπὸ βόμβυκος ὑφασμένοις χρᾶται τοῖς περὶ τὸ σῶμα, ἀλλὰ μετρίοις καὶ λευκοχρωμάτοις· οὕτω γὰρ τὸ μᾶλλον κοσμεῖσθαι καὶ τρυφὰν καὶ καλλωπισμὸν φεύξεται, καὶ ζᾶλον οὐκ ἐμποιήσει μοχθηρὸν ταῖς ἄλλαις. χρυσὸν δὲ καὶ σμάραγδον ἁπλῶς μὴ περιτίθεσθαι· καὶ γὰρ πολυχρήματον καὶ ὑπεραφανίαν ἐμφαῖνον ποττὰς δαμοτικάς.

δεῖ δὲ τὰν εὐνομουμέναν πόλιν, ὅλαν αὐτὰν δι’ ὅλας τεταγμέναν, συμπαθέα τε καὶ ὁμοιόνομον ἦμεν, ἀπερύκεν δὲ καὶ δαμιοεργὼς ἐκ τᾶς πόλιος τὼς ἐργαζομένως τὰ τοιαῦτα. χρώματι δὲ φαιδρύνεσθαι τὰν ποτῶπα μὴ ἐπακτῷ καὶ ἀλλοτρίῳ, τῷ δ’ οἰκῄῳ τῶ σώματος δι’ αὐτῶ τῶ ὕδατος ἀπολουομέναν, κοσμὲν δὲ μᾶλλον αὑτὰν αἰσχύνᾳ·

καὶ γὰρ τὸν συμβιῶντα καὶ αὑτὰν ἔντιμον παρέξεται. τὰς δὲ ἐξόδως ἐκ τᾶς οἰκίας ποιεῖσθαι † τὰς γυναῖκας τὰς δαμοτελέας θυηπολούσας τῷ ἀρχαγέτᾳ θεῷ τᾶς πόλιος ὑπὲρ αὑτᾶς καὶ τῶ ἀνδρὸς καὶ τῶ παντὸς οἴκω· ἔπειτα  μήτε ὄρφνας ἐνισταμένας μήτε ἑσπέρας ἀλλὰ πλαθυούσας ἀγορᾶς καταφανέα γινομέναν τὰν ἔξοδον ποιεῖσθαι θεωρίας ἕνεκά τινος ἢ ἀγορασμῶ οἰκῄω μετὰ θεραπαίνας μιᾶς ἢ καττὸ πλεῖστον δύο εὐκόσμως χειραγωγουμέναν.

τὰς δὲ θυσίας λιτὰς παριστάμεν τοῖς θεοῖς καὶ καττὰν δύναμιν, ὀργιασμῶν δὲ καὶ ματρῳασμῶν τῶν κατ’ οἶκον  ἀπέχεσθαι. καὶ γὰρ ὁ κοινὸς νόμος τᾶς πόλιος ἀπερύκει ταῦ<τα> τὰς γυναῖκας ἐπιτελέν, καὶ ἄλλως καὶ ὅτι μέθας καὶ ἐκστάσιας ψυχᾶς ἐπάγοντι ταὶ θρησκεύσιες αὗται· τὰν δ’ οἰκοδέσποιναν καὶ προκαθεζομέναν οἴκω δεῖ σώφρονα καὶ ἀνέπαφον ποτὶ πάντα ἦμεν.

 

Image result for ancient greek women's clothing
Image from Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History 4th Century BCE Marble Statue

“If it is a girl…”: A Letter about Child Exposure

This letter contains a reference to disposing of a female infant. 

P. Oxy. 120 (1st Century BCE) From Hilarion to Alis

“Hilarion sends sends many, many greetings to his sister along with my lady Berous and Apollonarion. Listen, we are still in Alexandria. Don’t worry about this—if they go home completely, I will stay in Alexandria. I am asking you and begging you to take care of the little child and when we are paid, I will send it to you right away. If you happen to be pregnant again, if it is a boy, leave it; if it is a girl, throw it out.

You have told Aphrodisias “don’t forget me.” How could I possibly forget you? Please, do not be worried….”

Ἱλαρίων{α} Ἄλιτι τῆι ἀδελφῇ πλεῖστα χαίρειν καὶ Βεροῦτι τῇ κυρίᾳ μου καὶ Ἀπολλωνάριν. γίνωσκε ὡς ἔτι καὶ νῦν ἐν Ἀλεξανδρέᾳ ᾿σμεν. μὴ ἀγωνιᾷς· ἐὰν ὅλως εἰσπορεύονται, ἐγὼ ἐν Ἀλεξανδρέᾳ μενῶ. ἐρωτῶ σε καὶ παρακαλῶ σε, ἐπιμελήθ<ητ>ι τῷ παιδίῳ καὶ ἐὰν εὐθὺς ὀψώνιον λάβωμεν ἀποστελῶ σε ἄνω. ἐὰν πολλὰ πολλῶν τέκῃς, ἐὰν ᾖ{ν} ἄρσενον, ἄφες, ἐὰν ᾖ{ν} θήλεα, ἔκβαλε. εἴρηκας δὲ Ἀφροδισιᾶτι ὅτι μή με ἐπιλάθῃς. πῶς δύναμαί σε ἐπιλαθεῖν; ἐρωτῶ σε οὖν ἵνα μὴ ἀγωνιάσῃς.

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Walters Art Museum Illuminated Manuscripts · Osée et Gomer. Birth of Yizréel Cote : Français 10 , Fol. 444 Guiard

“Feminine Fame”: Homer on Why We Disbelieve Women

After the suitor Amphimedon arrives in the underworld and tells the story of Penelope’s shroud and Odysseus’ return, Agamemnon responds:

Odyssey 24.192-202:

“Blessed child of Laertes, much-devising Odysseus,
You really secured a wife with magnificent virtue!
That’s how good the brains are for blameless Penelope,
Ikarios’ daughter, how well she remembered Odysseus,
Her wedded husband. The fame of her virtue will never perish,
And the gods will craft a pleasing song
Of mindful Penelope for mortals over the earth.
This is not the way for Tyndareos’ daughter.
She devised wicked deeds and since she killed
Her wedded husband, a hateful song
Will be hers among men, she will attract harsh rumor
To the race of women, even for those who are good.”

“ὄλβιε Λαέρταο πάϊ, πολυμήχαν’ ᾿Οδυσσεῦ,
ἦ ἄρα σὺν μεγάλῃ ἀρετῇ ἐκτήσω ἄκοιτιν·
ὡς ἀγαθαὶ φρένες ἦσαν ἀμύμονι Πηνελοπείῃ,
κούρῃ ᾿Ικαρίου, ὡς εὖ μέμνητ’ ᾿Οδυσῆος,
ἀνδρὸς κουριδίου. τῶ οἱ κλέος οὔ ποτ’ ὀλεῖται
ἧς ἀρετῆς, τεύξουσι δ’ ἐπιχθονίοισιν ἀοιδὴν
ἀθάνατοι χαρίεσσαν ἐχέφρονι Πηνελοπείῃ,
οὐχ ὡς Τυνδαρέου κούρη κακὰ μήσατο ἔργα,
κουρίδιον κτείνασα πόσιν, στυγερὴ δέ τ’ ἀοιδὴ
ἔσσετ’ ἐπ’ ἀνθρώπους, χαλεπὴν δέ τε φῆμιν ὀπάσσει
θηλυτέρῃσι γυναιξί, καὶ ἥ κ’ εὐεργὸς ἔῃσιν.”

More than half of this speech praises Penelope for being a loyal, ‘good’ wife (and that is another issue of its own). Of course, this makes Agamemnon think of Klytemnestra. There’s a lot to be said about how this passage sets up the end of the Odyssey, but Agamemnon’s words are striking because they reflect a sad reality not just about misogynistic thinking but about the operation of human thought.

Let’s start with the misogyny: Agamemnon says here, quite clearly, that because of the behavior of one woman (well, two if we hear ambiguity in the phrase “Tyndareos’ daughter” and think of Helen too) all women have bad fame, even if they are “good”? A simple response to this is to wonder whether the same applies to men (of course not…) Let’s pass over the fact that the murder of Agamemnon was probably well deserved.  I think this passage also reflects human cognition: the story of Klytemnestra is paradigmatic. We learn basic patterns about people and the world and apply these patterns (prejudices) as substitutions for deeper thought.

I am not sure whether this serves as a bit of an anticipatory apologetic on the part of epic–that the tale of Penelope cannot match up to negative messages about women. It probably stands as an acknowledgement of a “negative expectancy effect”–we are primed to hear negative tales and to believe negative things. I suspect that on Homer’s part this is probably less about women and more about anticipating the reception of this poem.

But, at the very least, this is a clear indication that Homer knows the way it goes: we live in a cultural system that discounts positive stories about women in favor of negative ones and which, accordingly, downgrades the authority of the stories they tell. In our responses to the testimonies of men and women, men have the privilege of being individuals whose lives might be ruined by rumor and false claims, while women are always already undermined. This is is an example of structural misogyny.

For discussions of this passage see: On the contrasting fame of Klytemnestra and Penelope, see Franco 2012, 60–61. For invocations of Klytemnestra as an example of how a woman can ruin a nostos, see Murnaghan 2011, chapter 4 and Nagy 1999, 36–39.

orestes
Classical myth deserves trigger warnings.

Franco, Cristina. 2012. “Women in Homer,” in Sharon L. James and Sheila Dillon, eds., A Companion to Women in the Ancient World. London. 55­–65.

Marquardt, Patricia. 1989. “Love’s Labor’s Lost: Women in the Odyssey,” in Robert Sutton, ed., Daidalikon: Studies in Honor of Raymond V. Schoder, S.J. Chicago. 239-248.

Murnaghan, Sheila. 2011. Disguise and Recognition in the Odyssey, Second Edition. Lanham.

Nagy, Gregory 1996. Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond. Cambridge

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.

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Ruins of Sparta

A Reminder: Medical and Philosophical Traditions Consider Women Not Fully Human

Aristotle, Generation of Animals Book 2, 737a

“That [female] substance, even though it possesses all segments of the body in potential, actually exhibits none of them. For it contains those kinds of elements in potential by which the female is distinguished from the male. For just as it happens that at times deformed children come from deformed parents and at times they do not, so too in the same way sometimes female offspring come from females and sometimes they don’t, but males do instead. For the female is like a deformity of the male and menstrual discharge is like semen, but unclean.”

καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνο περίττωμα, καὶ πάντα τὰ μόρια ἔχει δυνάμει, ἐνεργείᾳ δ᾿ οὐθέν. καὶ γὰρ τὰ τοιαῦτ᾿ ἔχει μόρια δυνάμει, ᾗ διαφέρει τὸ θῆλυ τοῦ ἄρρενος. ὥσπερ γὰρ καὶ ἐκ πεπηρωμένων ὁτὲ μὲν γίνεται πεπηρωμένα ὁτὲ δ᾿οὔ, οὕτω καὶ ἐκ θήλεος ὁτὲ μὲν θῆλυ ὁτὲ δ᾿ οὔ, ἀλλ᾿ ἄρρεν. τὸ γὰρ θῆλυ ὥσπερ ἄρρεν ἐστὶ πεπηρωμένον, καὶ τὰ καταμήνια σπέρμα, οὐ καθαρὸν δέ

Generation of Animals, Book 4, 767b

“These causes are also of the same. Some [offspring] are born similar to their parents while others are not. Some are similar to their father; others are like their mother, applying both to the body as a whole and to each part. Offspring are more like their parents than their ancestors and more like their ancestors than passersby.

Males are more similar to their father and females are more similar to their mother. But some are not like any of their relatives, but are still akin to human beings while others are like not at all like humans in their appearance, but rather like some monster. For whoever is not like his parents is in some way a monster because nature has in these cases wandered in some way from the essential character. The first beginning of this is when a female was born instead of a male.

But this is necessary by nature since a race of things divided by male and female must be preserved and since the male may at times not be in control because of age or youth or some other reason, it is necessary for species to have female offspring. Monstrosity is not necessary for any reason or specific ends, but it is necessary by probability of accident—since its origin must be considered as residing here.”

Αἱ δ᾿ αὐταὶ αἰτίαι καὶ τοῦ τὰ μὲν ἐοικότα γίνεσθαι τοῖς τεκνώσασι τὰ δὲ μὴ ἐοικότα, καὶ τὰ μὲν πατρὶ τὰ δὲ μητρί, κατά τε ὅλον τὸ σῶμα καὶ κατὰ μόριον ἕκαστον, καὶ μᾶλλον αὐτοῖς ἢ τοῖς προγόνοις, καὶ τούτοις ἢ τοῖς τυχοῦσι, καὶ τὰ μὲν ἄρρενα μᾶλλον τῷ πατρὶ τὰ δὲ θήλεα τῇ μητρί, τὰ δ᾿ οὐδενὶ τῶν συγγενῶν, ὅμως δ᾿ ἀνθρώπῳ γέ τινι, τὰ δ᾿ οὐδ᾿ ἀνθρώπῳ τὴν ἰδέαν ἀλλ᾿ ἤδη τέρατι. καὶ γὰρ ὁ μὴ ἐοικὼς τοῖς γονεῦσιν ἤδη τρόπον τινὰ τέρας ἐστίν· παρεκβέβηκε γὰρ ἡ φύσις ἐν τούτοις ἐκ τοῦ γένους τρόπον τινά. ἀρχὴ δὲ πρώτη τὸ θῆλυ γίνεσθαι καὶ μὴ ἄρρεν. ἀλλ᾿ αὕτη μὲν ἀναγκαία τῇ φύσει, δεῖ γὰρ σώζεσθαι τὸ γένος τῶν κεχωρισμένων κατὰ τὸ θῆλυ καὶ τὸ ἄρρεν· ἐνδεχομένου δὲ μὴ κρατεῖν ποτὲ τὸ ἄρρεν ἢ διὰ νεότητα ἢ γῆρας ἢ δι᾿ ἄλλην τινὰ αἰτίαν τοιαύτην, ἀνάγκη γίνεσθαι θηλυτοκίαν ἐν τοῖς ζῴοις. τὸ δὲ τέρας οὐκ ἀναγκαῖον πρὸς τὴν ἕνεκά του καὶ τὴν τοῦ τέλους αἰτίαν, ἀλλὰ κατὰ συμβεβηκὸς ἀναγκαῖον, ἐπεὶ τήν γ᾿ ἀρχὴν ἐντεῦθεν δεῖ λαμβάνειν.

τέρας: can mean ‘monster’ (as translated here) or divine sign/omen. In cognates and parallel forms it is also associated with magic and the unnatural.

πηρόω (πεπηρωμένον) is a denominative verb from the noun πηρός, which means “infirm, invalid” (hence: “blind or lame”)

Thomson, Rosemarie Garland. 1997. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York.

19: “Perhaps the founding association of femaleness with disability occurs in the fourth book of Generation of Animals, Aristotle’s discourse of the normal and the abnormal, in which he refines the Platonic concept of antinomies so that bodily variety translates into hierarchies of the typical and aberrant.”

20: “What this passage makes clearest, however, is that without the monstrous body to demarcate the borders of the generic, without the female body to distinguish the shape of the male, and without the pathological to give form to the normal, the taxonomies of bodily value that underlie political, social and economic arrangements would collapse.”

20: “This persistent intertwining of disability with femaleness in Western discourse provides a starting point for exploring the relationship of social identity to the body. As Aristotle’s pronouncement suggests, the social category of disability rests on the significance accorded bodily functioning and configuration.”

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Ivory Sculpture from the MET

 

Perictione and the Harmonious Woman

Perictione, On a Woman’s “Harmony” [=Stob. 4.28.19 p. 688]

“A woman must recognize that harmony is full of thought and wisdom. For a mind must be thoroughly trained for virtue in order to be just, brave, thoughtful, improved by self-sufficiency, and hateful to empty opinion. From these qualities, a woman gains noble deeds for herself and her husband. Her children and home benefit too. Often there is also benefit for the state if a woman like this governs cities or peoples as we observe in kingdoms.

For the one who rules her own desires and passion becomes divine and harmonious. Lawless lusts do not pursue her and she will be able to maintain her husband, children, and whole household in friendship. Indeed, all the women who become seduced by foreign beds also become hostile to all those in their home who are free and dedicated to the family. A woman like this works up tricks against her husband and manufactures lies about him so that she alone might seem to stand apart for her good mind and her conduct of the household when she really loves laziness. Truly, this is the ruin of all the things that are common for her and her husband.

But I have said enough about these things. It is necessary to arrange the body to the measure of nature for food, clothes, bathing, anointing, hair-dos, and everything that comes from gold and stone for jewelry. For all the women who eat, drink, dress, and carry these expensive things are prepared to fall into the folly of complete wickedness in their beds and criminal behavior in other things too. It is right only to sate hunger and thirst with things which are simple and to keep off the cold with wool or some cloak of hair.

No small a vice is forsworn by staying far away from food either sold for a a lot or of great renown. And it is great foolishness to don excessively thin clothing or garments decorated with due from seashells or any other expensive color. For the body wants only not to be cold or naked for the sake of propriety, but it asks for nothing else. Human opinion longs for empty and useless things because of ignorance. Also, a woman should not wrap gold around her, or Indian stone or anything coming from another place; she will not braid her hair with excessive artifice, nor will she anoint herself with scents smelling of Arabia, nor color the face by making it whiter or making it blush or darkening her eyebrows and eyes, making her hair light with dyes nor take lots of baths. The one who pursues these strategies is looking for someone who admires feminine lack of control.

“Beauty comes from intelligence and not from those things—and it commends women who do well. Necessity should not compel nobility and wealth and coming from great city and the repute and friendship of famous and royal men. If she misses these things, she does not grieve; if she does not miss them, she does not press to seek them. For a thoughtful woman is not hindered from living apart from these things. If she allows those things which she has been allotted, her mind must never doubt at the great and wondrous things, but instead let her depart far from them. For when they fall into misfortune it harms more than it helps. Conspiracy, envy, and betrayal are proper to these things so that a woman of this sort would never be at peace. Instead one needs to revere the gods to gain the good hope of happiness and to obey her country’s laws and customs.

After these precepts, I advise a woman to honor and revere her parents. For they are equal to the gods in all ways and act on behalf of their relatives. In respect to her husband it is right that she live lawfully and rightly, keeping nothing private in her thoughts but watching and guarding their bed. Everything is common in this. She must endure everything  from her husband—if he is unlucky and if he makes any mistakes because of ignorance, or sickness or drunkenness or has relationships with other women. For this fault is at home with men, but never women, and vengeance is set for it.

“She must preserve custom and not be jealous. She needs to endure anger, and cheapness, and faultfinding, and envy, and evil speech and anything else he has his nature and will put everything in a way that will be dear to him in her prudence. For a woman who is dear to her husband and works for him well is harmonious and loves her whole household and makes those outside of it well-intentioned toward it. When she does not love the home, she is not willing to see her household, or her own children, or her servants or the possessions she has safe, but in stead she curses them and prays for every kind of ruin, as if she were an enemy, and she prays for her husband to die, as if he is hateful to her so that she is a neighbor to others and hates all those who tend to him.

“I think that a woman like this is harmonious, if she is full of intelligence and prudence. For she will not only help her husband, but also her children and relatives and slaves and the whole household in which her possessions and friends, citizens and guests, reside. Her body supports things things by not being excessive, by pursuing and heeding noble actions, by following her husband in the practice of shared opinion in their common life, by following along with those he admits to their family and friendships and by believing the same things are sweet and bitter as her husband, she is not disharmonious in any way.”

Περὶ γυναικὸς ἁρμονίας

Τὴν ἁρμονίην γυναῖκα γνώσασθαι δεῖ φρονήσιός τε καὶ σωφροσύνης πλείην· κάρτα γὰρ ψυχὴν πεπνῦσθαι δεῖ εἰς ἀρετήν, ὥστ’ ἔσται καὶ δικαίη καὶ ἀνδρηίη καὶ φρονέουσα καὶ αὐταρκείῃ καλλυνομένη καὶ κενὴν δόξην μισέουσα. ἐκ τούτων γὰρ ἔργματα καλὰ γίνεται γυναικὶ ἐς αὐτήν τε καὶ ἄνδρα· καὶ τέκεα καὶ οἶκον· πολλάκις δὲ καὶ πόλει, εἴ γε πόλιας ἢ ἔθνεα ἡ τοίη γε κρατύνοι,  ὡς ἐπὶ βασιληίης ὁρέομεν. κρατέουσα ὦν ἐπιθυμίας καὶ θυμοῦ, ὁσίη καὶ ἁρμονίη γίγνεται· ὥστε οὐδὲ ἔρωτες αὐτὴν ἄνομοι διώξουσιν, ἀλλ’ ἐς ἄνδρα τε καὶ τέκεα καὶ τὸν οἶκον ξύμπαντα φιλίην ἕξει. ὁκόσαι γὰρ ἐράστριαι τελέθουσιν ἀλλοτρίων λεχέων, αὗται δὲ πολέμιαι γίγνονται πάντων τῶν ἐν τῇ οἰκίῃ ἐλευθέρων τε καὶ οἰκετέων· καὶ συντιθῆ ψύθη καὶ δόλους ἀνδρὶ καὶ ψεύδεα κατὰ πάντων μυθίζεται πρὸς τοῦτον, ἵνα μούνη δοκέῃ διαφέρειν εὐνοίῃ καὶ τῆς οἰκίης κρατῇ ἀργίην φιλέουσα. ἐκ τούτων γὰρ φθορὴ γίγνεται συμπάντων ὁκόσα αὐτῇ τε καὶ τῷ ἀνδρὶ ξυνά ἐστι.

καὶ ταῦτα μὲν ἄχρι τῶνδε λελέχθω. σκῆνος δὲ ἄγειν χρὴ πρὸς μέτρα φύσιος τροφῆς τε πέρι καὶ ἱματίων καὶ λουτρῶν καὶ ἀλειψίων καὶ τριχῶν θέσιος καὶ τῶν ὁκόσα ἐς κόσμον ἐστὶ χρυσοῦ καὶ λίθων. ὁκόσαι γὰρ πολυτελέα πάντα ἐσθίουσι καὶ πίνουσι καὶ ἀμπέχονται καὶ φορέουσι τὰ φορέουσι γυναῖκες, ἐς ἁμαρτίην ἕτοιμαι κακίης συμπάσης ἔς τε λέχεα καὶ ἐς τὰ ἄλλα ἀδικοπρηγέες. λιμὸν ὦν καὶ δίψαν ἐξακέεσθαι δεῖ μοῦνον, κἢν ἐκ τῶν εὐτελέων ἔῃ, καὶ ῥῖγος, κἢν νάκος κἢν σισύρη.

βρωτῆρας δὲ εἶναι τῶν τηλόθεν ἢ τῶν πολλοῦ πωλεομένων ἢ τῶν ἐνδόξων κακίη οὐχὶ μικρὰ πέφαται· ἠμφιάσθαι <δ’> εἵματα ἀπεικότα λίην καὶ ποικίλα ἀπὸ θαλασσίης βάψιος τοῦ κόχλου ἢ ἄλλης χρόης πολυτελέος μωρίη πολλή. σκῆνος γὰρ ἐθέλει μὴ ῥιγέειν μηδὲ γυμνὸν εἶναι χάριν εὐπρεπείης, ἄλλου δ’ οὐδενὸς χρῄζει. δόξα δὲ ἀνθρώπων μετὰ ἀμαθίης ἐς τὰ κενεά τε καὶ περισσὰ  ἵεται. ὥστ’ οὔτε χρυσὸν ἀμφιθήσεται ἢ λίθον ᾿Ινδικὸν ἢ χώρης ἐόντα ἄλλης, οὐδὲ πλέξεται πολυτεχνίῃσι τρίχας, οὐδ’ ἀλείψεται ᾿Αραβίης ὀδμῆς ἐμπνέοντα, οὐδὲ χρίσεται πρόσωπον λευκαίνουσα ἢ ἐρυθραίνουσα τοῦτο ἢ μελαίνουσα ὀφρύας τε καὶ ὀφθαλμοὺς καὶ τὴν πολιὴν τρίχα βαφαῖσι τεχνεωμένη, οὐδὲ λούσεται θαμινά. ἡ γὰρ ταῦτα ζητέουσα θηητῆρα ζητεῖ ἀκρασίης γυναικηίης.

κάλλος γὰρ τὸ ἐκ φρονήσιος, οὐκὶ δὲ τὸ ἐκ τούτων, ἁνδάνει ταῖς γινομέναισιν εὖ. ἀναγκαῖα δὲ μὴ  ἡγεέσθω εὐγενηίην καὶ πλοῦτον καὶ μεγάλης πόλιος πάντως γενέσθαι καὶ δόξαν καὶ φιλίην ἐνδόξων καὶ βασιληίων ἀνδρῶν· ἢν μὲν γὰρ ἔῃ, οὐ λυπέει· ἢν δὲ μὴ ἔῃ, ἐπιζητέειν οὐ ποιέει· τούτων γὰρ δίχα φρονίμη  γυνὴ ζῆν οὐ κωλύεται. κἢν ἔῃ δὲ ταῦτα ἅπερ λελάχαται, τὰ μεγάλα καὶ θαυμαζόμενα μή ποτε διζέσθω ψυχή, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἄπωθεν αὐτῶν βαδιζέτω· βλάπτει γὰρ μᾶλλον ἐς ἀτυχίην ἕλκοντα ἢ ὠφελέει. τούτοισι γὰρ ἐπιβουλή τε καὶ φθόνος καὶ βασκανίη προσκέεται, ὥστε ἐν ἀταραξίῃ  οὐκ ἂν γένοιτο ἡ τοιήδε. θεοὺς δὲ σέβειν δεῖ ἐς εὐελπιστίην εὐδαιμονίης,  νόμοισί τε καὶ θεσμοῖσι πειθομένην πατρίοισι.

μετὰ δὲ τούτους μυθεύομαι [τοὺς θεοὺς] γονέας τιμᾶν καὶ σέβειν· οὗτοι γὰρ ἴσα θεοῖσι πάντα  πέλουσι καὶ πρήσσουσι τοῖς ἐγγόνοισι. πρὸς δὲ τὸν ἄνδρα τὸν ἑαυτῆς ζώειν ὧδε δεῖ νομίμως καὶ κρηγύως, μηδὲν ἐννενωμένην ἰδίῃ, ἀλλ’ εὐνὴν τηρεῦσαν καὶ φυλάσσουσαν· ἐν τούτῳ γάρ ἐστι τὰ ξύμπαντα. φέρειν δὲ χρὴ τῶ ἀνδρὸς πάντα, κἢν ἀτυχῇ, κἢν ἁμάρτῃ κατ’ ἄγνοιαν ἢ νοῦσον ἢ μέθην, ἢ ἄλλῃσι γυναιξὶ συγγένηται· ἀνδράσι μὲν γὰρ ἐπιχωρέεται ἁμαρτίη αὕτη· γυναιξὶ δὲ οὔκοτε, τιμωρίη δ’ ἐφέστηκεν.

σώσασθαι ὦν τὸν νόμον δεῖ καὶ μὴ ζηλοτυπέειν· φέρειν δὲ καὶ ὀργὴν καὶ φειδωλίην καὶ μεμψιμοιρίην καὶ ζηλοτυπίην καὶ κακηγορίην καὶ ἤν τι ἄλλο ἔχῃ ἐκ φύσιος, καὶ τούτω θήσεται πάντα ὅκως φίλον ἐστὶν αὐτέῳ σωφρονέουσα. γυνὴ γὰρ ἀνδρὶ φίλη οὖσα καὶ τἀνδρὸς πρήσσουσα κρηγύως, ἁρμονίη ὑπάρχει, καὶ οἶκον τὸν ξύμπαντα φιλέει καὶ τοὺς θύρηθεν εὐνόους τῇ οἰκίῃ ποιέει· ἐπὴν δὲ μὴ φιλέῃ, οὔτε οἶκον οὔτε παῖδας τοὺς ἑωυτῆς οὔτε θεράποντας οὔτε οὐσίην ἡντιναῶν ἐθέλει σῴαν ἐσιδέειν, φθορὴν δὲ πᾶσαν ἀρεῖται καὶ εὔχεται εἶναι, ὡς πολεμίη ἐοῦσα, καὶ τὸν ἄνδρα εὔχεται τεθνάναι ὡς ἐχθρόν, ὅπως ἄλλοισιν ὁμουρέῃ, καὶ ὁκόσοι ἁνδάνουσι τουτέῳ ἐχθαίρει.

ἁρμονίην δὲ αὐτὴν ὧδε δοκέω, εἰ πλεῖος τελέθει φρονήσιός τε καὶ σωφροσύνης. οὐ γὰρ μοῦνον ὠφελήσει τὸν ἄνδρα, ἀλλὰ καὶ παῖδας καὶ συγγενέας καὶ δούλως καὶ τὴν οἰκίην ξύμπασαν, ἐν ᾗ καὶ κτήματα καὶ φίλοι πολιῆταί τε καὶ ξένοι εἰσί· καὶ ἀπεριεργίῃ τὸ σκῆνος διάξει τουτέων, λεσχαίνουσά τε καὶ ἀκούουσα καλά, καὶ ἀκολουθέουσά τε αὐτέῳ καθ’ ὁμοδοξίην τῆς ξυνῆς βιοτῆς, καὶ οἷς ἐκεῖνος αὔξει ξυγγενέσι τε καὶ φίλοισι ξυνομαρτέουσα, καὶ ταὐτὰ ἡγεομένη γλυκέα τε καὶ πικρὰ τὠνδρί, ἢν μὴ ἀναρμόνιος εἰς τὸ πᾶν ἔῃ.

NOT for a ‘harmonious woman’. A Make-up pot from Paestum.