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Conjugal Precepts
by [?]

PLUTARCH SENDS GREETING TO POLLIANUS AND EURYDICE.

After the customary marriage rites, by which, the Priestess of Demeter has united you together, I think that to make an appropriate discourse, and one that will chime in with the occasion, will be useful to you and agreeable to the law. For in music one of the tunes played on the flute is called Hippothorus,[154] which is a tune that excites fierce desire in stallions to cover mares; and though in philosophy there are many goodly subjects, yet is there none more worthy of attention than that of marriage, on which subject philosophy spreads a charm over those who are to pass life together, and makes them gentle and mild to one another. I send therefore as a gift to both of you a summary of what you have often heard, as you are both well versed in philosophy, arranging my matter in a series of short observations that it may be the more easily remembered, and I pray that the Muses will assist and co-operate with Aphrodite, so that no lyre or lute could be more harmonious or in tune than your married life, as the result of philosophy and concord. And thus the ancients set up near Aphrodite statues of Hermes, to show that conversation was one of the great charms of marriage, and also statues of Peitho[155] and the Graces, to teach married people to gain their way with one another by persuasion, and not by wrangling or contention.

Sec. I. Solon bade the bride eat a quince the first night of marriage, intimating thereby, it seems, that the bridegroom, was to expect his first pleasure from the bride’s mouth and conversation.

Sec. II. In Boeotia they dress up the bride with a chaplet of asparagus, for as the asparagus gives most excellent fruit from a thorny stalk, so the bride, by not being too reluctant and coy in the first approaches, will make the married state more agreeable and pleasant. But those husbands who cannot put up with the early peevishness of their brides, are not a whit wiser than those persons who pluck unripe grapes and leave the ripe grapes for others.[156] On the other hand, many brides, being at first disgusted with their husbands, are like those that stand the bee’s sting but neglect the honey.

Sec. III. Married people should especially at the outset beware of the first quarrel and collision, observing that vessels when first fabricated are easily broken up into their component parts, but in process of time, getting compact and firmly welded together, are proof against either fire or steel.

Sec. IV. As fire gets kindled easily in chaff or in a wick or in the fur of hares, but is easily extinguished again, if it find no material to keep it in and feed it, so we must not consider that the love of newly-married people, that blazes out so fiercely in consequence of the attractions of youth and beauty, will be durable and lasting, unless it be fixed in the character, and occupy the mind, and make a living impression.[157]

Sec. V. As catching fish by drugged bait is easy, but makes the fish poor to eat and insipid, so those wives that lay traps for their husbands by philtres and charms, and become their masters by pleasure, have stupid senseless and spoiled husbands to live with. For those that were bewitched by Circe did her no good, nor could she make any use of them when they were turned into swine and asses, but she was greatly in love with the prudent Odysseus who dwelt with her sensibly.

Sec. VI. Those women who would rather lord it over fools than obey sensible men, resemble those people who would rather lead the blind on a road, and not people who have eyesight and know how to follow.

Sec. VII. Women disbelieve that Pasiphaee, a king’s wife, was enamoured of a bull, although they see some of their sex despising grave and sober men, and preferring to associate with men who are the slaves of intemperance and pleasure, and like dogs and he-goats.