“Moralia: III. Advice to Husband and Wife” by Plutarch

Fishers of Men

Fishing with poison is a quick way to catch fish and an easy method of taking them, but it makes the fish inedible and bad. In the same way women who artfully employ love-potions and magic spells upon their husbands, and gain the mastery over them through pleasure, find themselves consorts of dull-witted, degenerate fools. The men bewitched by Circe were of no service to her, nor did she make the least use of them after they had been changed into swine and asses, while for Odysseus, who had sense and showed discretion in her company, she had an exceeding great love.


Men who through weakness or effeminacy are unable to vault upon their horses teach the horses to kneel of themselves and crouch down. In like manner, some who have won wives of noble birth or wealth, instead of making themselves better, depress and degrade their wives, with the idea that they shall have more authority over their wives if these are reduced to a state of humility, thus vaunting in domestic tyranny. Whereas in this case it becomes a man to use the reins of government with as equal regard to the quality and dignity of the woman as to the stature of the horse.

The Pinching Shoe

A Roman, on being admonished by his friends for having divorced a virtuous, wealthy, lovely and fruitful wife, reached out his shoe and said, ‘Yes, this is beautiful to look at, well-made and new, but nobody knows where it pinches me.’ A wife, then, ought not to rely on her dowry or birth or beauty, but on things in which she gains the greatest hold on her husband, namely conversation, character, and comradeship, which she must render not perverse or vexatious day by day, but accommodating, inoffensive, and agreeable. For, as physicians have more fear of fevers that originate from obscure causes and gradual accretion than of those which may be accounted for by manifest and weighty reasons, so it is the petty, continual, daily clashes between man and wife, unnoticed by the great majority, that disrupt and mar married life, whereas great and open faults have often led to no separation.

Against Gift-giving

Solon promulgated a law that the bequests of the deceased should be valid unless a man were constrained by force or persuaded by his wife, whereby he excepted force as overriding the free will, and pleasure as misleading the judgement, in this way the bequests of wives and husbands became suspect.

Giving is an utterly worthless token of affection (for even strangers and persons with no kindly feelings give gifts). The marriage relationship is deprived of this mode of giving pleasure, so that mutual affection might be unbought and free, existing for its own sake and for no other reason.

Both the husbands’ property should be held in common with their wives and the wives’ with their husbands. For anyone who accepts what is given learns to regard what is not given to him as belonging to another, with the result that by giving a little to each other they deprive each other of all else that they own.


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