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Conjugal Precepts
by [?]

Sec. XVII. As kings make[162] if fond of music many musicians, if lovers of learning many men of letters, and many athletes if fond of gymnastics, so the man who has an eye for female charms teaches his wife to dress well, the man of pleasure teaches his meretricious tricks and wantonness, while the true gentleman makes his virtuous and decorous.

Sec. XVIII. A Lacedaemonian maiden, when someone asked her if she had yet had dealings with a man, replied, “No, but he has with me.” This methinks is the line of conduct a matron should pursue, neither to decline the embraces of a husband when he takes the initiative, nor to provoke them herself, for the one is forward and savours of the courtesan, the other is haughty and unnatural.

Sec. XIX. The wife ought not to have her own private friends, but cultivate only those of the husband. Now the gods are our first and greatest friends, so the wife ought only to worship and recognize her husband’s gods, and the door ought to be shut on all superfluous worship and strange superstitions, for none of the gods are pleased with stealthy and secret sacrifices on the part of a wife.

Sec. XX. Plato says that is a happy and fortunate state, where the words Meum and Tuum are least heard,[163] because the citizens regard the common interest in all matters of importance. Far more essential is it in marriage that the words should have no place. For, as the doctors say, that blows on the left shoulders are also felt on the right,[164] so is it good[165] for husband and wife to mutually sympathize with one another, that, just as the strength of ropes comes from the twining and interlacing of fibres together, so the marriage knot may be confirmed and strengthened by the interchange of mutual affection and kindness. Nature itself teaches this by the birth of children, which are so much a joint result, that neither husband nor wife can discriminate or discern which part of the child is theirs. So, too, it is well for married persons to have one purse, and to throw all their property into one common stock, that here also there may be no Meum and Tuum. And just as we call the mixture of water and wine by the name of wine, even though the water should preponderate,[166] so we say that the house and property belongs to the man, even though the wife contribute most of the money.

Sec. XXI. Helen was fond of wealth, Paris of pleasure, whereas Odysseus was prudent, Penelope chaste. So the marriage of the last two was happy and enviable, while that of the former two brought an Iliad of woe on Greeks and barbarians alike.

Sec. XXII. The Roman who was taken to task by his friends for repudiating a chaste wealthy and handsome wife, showed them his shoe and said, “Although this is new and handsome, none of you know where it pinches me.”[167] A wife ought not therefore to put her trust in her dowry, or family, or beauty, but in matters that more vitally concern her husband, namely, in her disposition and companionableness and complaisance with him, not to make every-day life vexatious or annoying, but harmonious and cheerful and agreeable. For as doctors are more afraid of fevers that are generated from uncertain causes, and from a complication of ailments, than of those that have a clear and adequate cause, so the small and continual and daily matters of offence between husband and wife, that the world knows nothing about, set the household most at variance, and do it the greatest injury.

Sec. XXIII. King Philip was desperately enamoured of a Thessalian woman,[168] who was accused of bewitching him; his wife Olympias therefore wished to get this woman into her power. But when she came before her, and was evidently very handsome, and talked to her in a noble and sensible manner, Olympias said, “Farewell to calumny! Your charms lie in yourself.”[169] So invincible are the charms of a lawful wife to win her husband’s affection by her virtuous character, bringing to him in herself dowry, and family, and philtres, and even Aphrodite’s cestus.[170]