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Conjugal Precepts
by [?]

Sec. XXIV. Olympias, on another occasion, when a young courtier had married a wife who was very handsome, but whose reputation was not very good, remarked, “This fellow has no sense, or he would not have married with his eyes.” We ought neither to marry with our eyes, nor with our fingers, as some do, who reckon up on their fingers what dowry the wife will bring, not what sort of partner she will make.

Sec. XXV. It was advice of Socrates, that when young men looked at themselves in the mirror, those who were not handsome should become so through virtue, and those who were so should not by vice deform their beauty. Good also is it for the matron, when she has the mirror in her hands, if not handsome to say to herself, “What should I be, if I were not virtuous?” and if handsome to say to herself, “How good it were to add virtue to beauty!” for it is a feather in the cap of a woman not handsome to be loved for herself and not for good looks.

Sec. XXVI. Dionysius, the tyrant of Sicily, sent some costly dresses and necklaces to the daughters of Lysander, but he would not receive them, and said, “These presents will bring my daughters more shame than adornment.” And Sophocles said still earlier than Lysander, “Your madness of mind will not appear handsome, wretch, but most unhandsome.” For, as Crates says, “that is adornment which adorns,” and that adorns a woman that makes her more comely; and it is not gold or diamonds or scarlet robes that make her so, but her dignity, her correct conduct, and her modesty.

Sec. XXVII. Those who sacrifice to Hera as goddess of marriage,[171] do not burn the gall with the other parts of the victim, but when they have drawn it throw it away beside the altar: the lawgiver thus hinting that gall and rage have no place in marriage. For the austerity of a matron should be, like that of wine, wholesome and pleasant, not bitter as aloes, or like a drug.

Sec. XXVIII. Plato advised Xenocrates, a man rather austere but in all other respects a fine fellow, to sacrifice to the Graces. I think also that a chaste wife needs the graces with her husband that, as Metrodorus said, “she may live agreeably with him, and not be bad-tempered because she is chaste.” For neither should the frugal wife neglect neatness, nor the virtuous one neglect to make herself attractive, for peevishness makes a wife’s good conduct disagreeable, as untidiness makes one disgusted with simplicity.

Sec. XXIX. The wife who is afraid to laugh and jest with her husband, lest she should appear bold and wanton, resembles one that will not anoint herself with oil lest she should be thought to use cosmetics, and will not wash her face lest she should be thought to paint. We see also in the case of those poets and orators, that avoid a popular illiberal and affected style, that they artificially endeavour to move and sway their audience by the facts, and by a skilful arrangement of them, and by their gestures. Consequently a matron will do well to avoid and repudiate over-preciseness meretriciousness and pomposity, and to use tact in her dealings with her husband in every-day life, accustoming him to a combination of pleasure and decorum. But if a wife be by nature austere and apathetic, and no lover of pleasure, the husband must make the best of it, for, as Phocion said, when Antipater enjoined on him an action neither honourable nor becoming, “You cannot have me as a friend and flatterer both,” so he must say to himself about his strict and austere wife, “I cannot have in the same woman wife and mistress.”

Sec. XXX. It was a custom among the Egyptian ladies not to wear shoes, that they might stay at home all day and not go abroad. But most of our women will only stay at home if you strip them of their golden shoes, and bracelets, and shoe-buckles, and purple robes, and pearls.