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Chap. XIX.—Women as well as Men Capable of Perfection.
In this perfection it is possible for man and woman equally to share. It is not only Moses, then, that heard from God, “I have spoken to thee once, and twice, saying, I have seen this people, and lo, it is stiff-necked. Suffer me to exterminate them, and blot out their name from under heaven; and I will make thee into a great and wonderful nation much greater than this;” who answers not regarding himself, but the common salvation: “By no means, O Lord; forgive this people their sin, or blot me out of the book of the living.”28632863 Ex. xxxii. 9, 10, 32. How great was his perfection, in wishing to die together with the people, rather than be saved alone!
But Judith too, who became perfect among women, in the siege of the city, at the entreaty of the elders went forth into the strangers’ camp, despising all danger for her country’s sake, giving herself into the enemy’s hand in faith in God; and straightway she obtained the reward of her faith,—though a woman, prevailing over the enemy of her faith, and gaining possession of the head of Holofernes. And again, Esther perfect by faith, who rescued Israel from the power of the king and the satrap’s cruelty: a woman alone, afflicted with fastings,28642864 So rendered by the Latin translator, as if the reading were τεθλιμμένη. held back ten thousand armed28652865 Sylburguis’ conjecture of ὡπλισμένας instead of ὁπλισαμένας is here adopted. hands, annulling by her faith the tyrant’s decree; him indeed she appeased, Haman she restrained, and Israel she preserved scathless by her perfect prayer to God. I pass over in silence Susanna and the sister of Moses, since the latter was the prophet’s associate in commanding the host, being superior to all the women among the Hebrews who were in repute for their wisdom; and the former in her surpassing modesty, going even to death condemned by licentious admirers, remained the unwavering martyr of chastity.
Dion, too, the philosopher, tells that a certain woman Lysidica, through excess of modesty, bathed in her clothes; and that Philotera, when she was to enter the bath, gradually drew back her tunic as the water covered the naked parts; and then rising by degrees, put it on. And did not Leæna of Attica manfully bear the torture? She being privy to the conspiracy of Harmodius and Aristogeiton against Hipparchus, uttered not a word, though severely tortured. And they say that the Argolic women, under the guidance of Telesilla the poetess, turned to flight the doughty Spartans by merely showing themselves; and that she produced in them fearlessness of death. Similarly speaks he who composed the Danais respecting the daughters of Danaus:—
“And then the daughters of Danaus swiftly armed themselves,
and so forth.
And the rest of the poets sing of Atalanta’s swiftness in the chase, of Anticlea’s love for children, of Alcestis’s love for her husband, of the courage of Makæria and of the Hyacinthides. What shall I say? Did not Theano the Pythagorean make such progress in philosophy, that to him who looked intently at her, and said, “Your arm is beautiful,” she answered “Yes, but it is not public.” Characterized by the same propriety, there is also reported the following reply.28672867 [Theano. See, also, p. 417. Elucidation II.] When asked when a woman after being with her husband attends the Thesmophoria, said, “From her own husband at once, from a stranger never.” Themisto too, of Lampsacus, the daughter of Zoilus, the wife of Leontes of Lampsacus, studied the Epicurean philosophy, as Myia the daughter of Theano the Pythagorean, and Arignote, who wrote the history of Dionysius.
And the daughters of Diodorus, who was called Kronus, all became dialecticians, as Philo the dialectician says in the Menexenus, whose names are mentioned as follows—Menexene, Argia, Theognis, Artemesia, Pantaclea. I also recollect a female Cynic,—she was called Hipparchia, a Maronite, the wife of Crates,—in whose case the so-called dog-wedding was celebrated in the Pœcile. Arete of Cyrene, too, the daughter of Aristippus, educated her son Aristippus, who was surnamed Mother-taught. Lastheneia of Arcis, and Axiothea of Phlius, studied philosophy with Plato. Besides, Aspasia of Miletus, of whom the writers of comedy write much, was trained by Socrates in philosophy, by Pericles in rhetoric. I omit, on account of the length of the discourse, the rest; enumerating neither the poetesses Corinna, Telesilla, Myia, and Sappho; nor the painters, as Irene the daughter of Cratinus, and Anaxandra the daughter of Nealces, according to the account of 432Didymus in the Symposiaci. The daughter of Cleobulus, the sage and monarch of the Lindii, was not ashamed to wash the feet of her father’s guests. Also the wife of Abraham, the blessed Sarah, in her own person prepared the cakes baked in the ashes for the angels; and princely maidens among the Hebrews fed sheep. Whence also the Nausicaä of Homer went to the washing-tubs.
The wise woman, then, will first choose to persuade her husband to be her associate in what is conducive to happiness. And should that be found impracticable, let her by herself earnestly aim at virtue, gaining her husband’s consent in everything, so as never to do anything against his will, with exception of what is reckoned as contributing to virtue and salvation. But if one keeps from such a mode of life either wife or maid-servant, whose heart is set on it; what such a person in that case plainly does is nothing else than determine to drive her away from righteousness and sobriety, and to choose to make his own house wicked and licentious.
It is not then possible that man or woman can be conversant with anything whatever, without the advantage of education, and application, and training; and virtue, we have said, depends not on others, but on ourselves above all. Other things one can repress, by waging war against them; but with what depends on one’s self, this is entirely out of the question, even with the most strenuous persistence. For the gift is one conferred by God, and not in the power of any other. Whence licentiousness should be regarded as the evil of no other one than of him who is guilty of licentiousness; and temperance, on the other hand, as the good of him who is able to practice it.
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