THE PYTHAGOREAN SOURCEBOOK AND LIBRARY
PHYNTIS, DAUGHTER OF CALLICRATES:
ON WOMAN'S TEMPERANCE
A WOMAN OUGHT TO BE WHOLLY GOOD AND MODEST; but she will never be a character of this kind without virtue, which renders precious whatever contains it. The eye's virtue is sight, the ear's hearing. A horse's virtue makes it good, while the virtue of man or woman makes them worthy. A woman's principal virtue is temperance, by means of which she will be able to honor and love her husband.
Some, perhaps, may not think that it becomes a woman to philosophize, any more than it is suitable for her to ride on horseback, or to harangue in public. But I think that while there are certain employments specialized to each sex, that there are some common to both man and woman. Male avocations are to lead an army, to govern, and to harangue in public. Female avocations are to guard the house, to stay at home, to receive and minister to her husband. Her particular virtues are fortitude, justice and prudence. Both husband and wife should achieve the virtues of the body and the soul; for as bodily health is beneficial to both, so also is health of the soul. The bodily virtues, however, are health, strength, vigor of sensation, and beauty. With respect to the virtues, also, some are peculiarly suitable to men, and some to women. Fortitude and prudence regard the man more than they do the woman both on account of the bodily habits and the power of the soul, but temperance peculiarly belongs to the woman.
It would be well to know the number and quality of the things through which this virtue is acquirable by women. I think that they are five. First, temperance comes through the sanctity and piety of the marriage bed. Second, through body-adornments; third, through trips outside the house. Fourth, through refraining from celebrating the rites and mysteries of the Mother of the Gods [i.e., Cybele]. Fifth, in being cautious and moderate in sacrifices to the divinities. Of these, however, the greatest and most comprehensive cause of temperance is undefiledness of the marriage bed and to have connexion with none but her husband.
By such lawlessness she acts unjustly toward the Gods who preside over nativities, changing them from genuine to spurious assistants to her family and kindred. In the second place, she acts unjustly towards the Gods who preside over Nature, by whom she and all her kindred solemnly swore that she would lawfully associate with her husband in the association of life and the procreation of children. Third, she injures her country in not observing its decrees. It is frivolous and unpardonable, for the sake of pleasure and wayward insolence, to offend in a matter where the crime is so great that the greatest punishment, death, is ordained. All such insolent conduct ends in death. Besides, for this offence there has been discovered no purifying remedy which might turn such guilt into purity beloved by divinity, for God is most averse to the pardoning of this crime. The best indication of a woman's chastity towards her husband is her children's resemblance to their father. This suffices about the marriage bed.
As to body-ornaments, a woman's garments should be white and simple and not superfluous. They will be so if they are neither transparent nor variegated, nor woven from silk, inexpensive, and white. This will prevent excess ornamentation, luxury, and superfluity of clothes, and will avoid the imitation of depravity by others. Neither gold nor emeralds should ornament her body for they are very expensive and exhibit pride and arrogance toward the vulgar. Besides, a city governed by good laws and well organized should adjust all its interests in an equable legislation, which therefore would expel from the city the jewelers who make such things.
A woman should, besides, illuminate her face, not by powder or rouge, but by the natural glow from the towel, adorning herself with modesty rather than by art. Thus she will reflect honor both on herself and her husband.
The lower class of women should chiefly go out of their houses to sacrifice to the municipal tutelary divinity for the welfare of her husband and her kindred. Neither should a woman go out from her house at dawn or dusk, but openly when the forum is full of people, accompanied by one or at the most two servants, to see something or to shop.
As to sacrifices of the Gods, they should be frugal and suited to her ability; she should abstain from celebration of the rites and the Cybelean sacrifice performed at home, for the municipal law forbids them to women. Moreover, these rites lead to intoxication and insanity. A family mistress, presiding over domestic affairs, should be temperate and undefiled.