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Chapter XXXIII.—Vindication of Christian Women.

Therefore I have been desirous to prove from the things which are esteemed honourable among you, that our institutions are marked by sober-mindedness, but that yours are in close affinity with madness.504504    [See note 2, next page.] You who say that we talk nonsense among women and boys, among maidens and old women, and scoff at us for not being with you, hear what silliness prevails among the Greeks. For their works of art are devoted to worthless objects, while they are held in higher estimation by you than even your gods; and you behave yourselves unbecomingly in what relates to woman. For Lysippus cast a statue of Praxilla, whose poems contain nothing useful, and Menestratus one of Learchis, and Selanion one of Sappho the courtezan, and Naucydes one of Erinna the Lesbian, and Boiscus one of Myrtis, and Cephisodotus one of Myro of Byzantium, and Gomphus one of Praxigoris, and Amphistratus one of Clito. And what shall I say about Anyta, Telesilla, and Mystis? Of the first Euthycrates and Cephisodotus made a statue, and of the second Niceratus, and of the third Aristodotus; Euthycrates made one of Mnesiarchis the Ephesian, Selanion one of Corinna, and Euthycrates one of Thalarchis the Argive. My object in referring to these women is, that you may not regard as something strange what 79you find among us, and that, comparing the statues which are before your eyes, you may not treat the women with scorn who among us pursue philosophy. This Sappho is a lewd, love-sick female, and sings her own wantonness;505505    [St. Chrysostom speaks of the heathen as ὁι ταῖς σατανικαῖς ῷδαῖς κατασηπόμενοι. In Psalmum, cxvii. tom. v. p. 533. Ed. Migne.] but all our women are chaste, and the maidens at their distaffs sing of divine things506506    [Such as the Magnificat of the Virgin, the Twenty-third Psalm, or the Christian Hymn for Eventide, which they learned in the Christian schools (cap. xxxii. p. 78). Cold is the heart of any mother’s son that does not warm over such a chapter as this on the enfranchisement of womanhood by Christ. Observe our author’s scorn for the heathen “affinity with unreason” (this chapter, supra), and then enjoy this glimpse of the contrast afforded by the Gospel in its influence upon women. Intensely should we delight in the pictures of early Christian society, of which the Fathers give us these suggestive outlines. Rejecting the profane and wanton songs they heard around them,— “Satanic minstrelsies,” as St. Chryosostom names them,—they beguiled their toils and soothed their sorrows with “Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” As St. Jerome relates, “You could not go into the field, but you might hear the ploughman’s hallelujahs, the mower’s hymns, and the vine-dresser’s chant of the Psalms of David.” See Cave’s Primitive Christianity, p. 132.] more nobly than that damsel of yours. Wherefore be ashamed, you who are professed disciples of women yet scoff at those of the sex who hold our doctrine, as well as at the solemn assemblies they frequent.507507    [Such as the Magnificat of the Virgin, the Twenty-third Psalm, or the Christian Hymn for Eventide, which they learned in the Christian schools (cap. xxxii. p. 78). Cold is the heart of any mother’s son that does not warm over such a chapter as this on the enfranchisement of womanhood by Christ. Observe our author’s scorn for the heathen “affinity with unreason” (this chapter, supra), and then enjoy this glimpse of the contrast afforded by the Gospel in its influence upon women. Intensely should we delight in the pictures of early Christian society, of which the Fathers give us these suggestive outlines. Rejecting the profane and wanton songs they heard around them,—“Satanic minstrelsies,” as St. Chryosostom names them,—they beguiled their toils and soothed their sorrows with “Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” As St. Jerome relates, “You could not go into the field, but you might hear the ploughman’s hallelujahs, the mower’s hymns, and the vine-dresser’s chant of the Psalms of David.” See Cave’s Primitive Christianity, p. 132.] What a noble infant did Glaucippé present to you, who brought forth a prodigy, as is shown by her statue cast by Niceratus, the son of Euctemon the Athenian! But, if Glaucippé brought forth an elephant, was that a reason why she should enjoy public honours? Praxiteles and Herodotus made for you Phryné the courtezan, and Euthycrates cast a brazen statue of Panteuchis, who was pregnant by a whoremonger; and Dinomenes, because Besantis queen of the Pæonians gave birth to a black infant, took pains to preserve her memory by his art. I condemn Pythagoras too, who made a figure of Europa on the bull; and you also, who honour the accuser of Zeus on account of his artistic skill. And I ridicule the skill of Myron, who made a heifer and upon it a Victory because by carrying off the daughter of Agenor it had borne away the prize for adultery and lewdness. The Olynthian Herodotus made statues of Glycera the courtezan and Argeia the harper. Bryaxis made a statue of Pasiphaë; and, by having a memorial of her lewdness, it seems to have been almost your desire that the women of the present time should be like her.508508    [St. Paul’s spirit was stirred within him, beholding the abominable idolatries of the Athenians; and who can wonder at the loathing of Christians, whose wives and children could not escape from these shameful spectacles. The growing asceticism and fanatical views of sexual relations, which were now rising in the Church, were a morbid but virtuous revolt of faith against these impurities.] A certain Melanippë was a wise woman, and for that reason Lysistratus made her statue. But, forsooth, you will not believe that among us there are wise women!


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