"If each of us, citizens, had determined to assert his rights and dignity as a husband with respect to his own spouse, we should have less trouble with the sex as a whole;
as it is, our liberty, destroyed at home by female violence, even here in the Forum is crushed and trodden underfoot, and because we have not kept them individually under control, we dread them collectively.
For my part, I thought it a fairy-tale and a piece of fiction that on a certain island all the men were destroyed, root and branch, by a conspiracy of women;1
but from no class is there not the greatest danger if you permit them meetings and gatherings and secret consultations.
And I can scarcely decide in my own mind whether the act itself or the precedent it sets is worse; the act concerns us consuls and other magistrates; the example, citizens, rather concerns you.2
For whether the proposal which is laid before you is in the public interest or not is a question for you who are soon to cast your votes; but this female madness, whether it is spontaneous or due to your instigation, Marcus Fundanius and Lucius Valerius, but which beyond question brings discredit upon the magistrates —I
do not know, I say, whether this madness is more shameful for you, tribunes, [p. 417]
or for the consuls: for you, if you have brought3
these women here to support tribunicial seditions; for us, if we must accept laws given us by a secession of women, as formerly by a secession of plebeians.4
For myself, I could not conceal my blushes a while ago, when I had to make my way to the Forum through a crowd of women.
Had not respect for the dignity and modesty of some individuals among them rather than of the sex as a whole kept me silent, lest they should seem to have been rebuked by a consul, I should have said, 'What sort of practice is this, of running out into the streets and blocking the roads and speaking to other women's husbands?
Could you not have made the same requests, each of your own husband, at home? Or are you more attractive outside and to other women's husbands than to your own?
And yet, not even at home, if modesty would keep matrons within the limits of their proper rights, did it become you to concern yourselves with the question of what laws should be adopted in this place or repealed.'
Our ancestors permitted no woman to conduct even personal business without a guardian to intervene in her behalf;5
they wished them to be under the control of fathers, brothers, husbands; we (Heaven help us!) allow them now even to interfere in public affairs, yes, and to visit the Forum and our informal and formal sessions.6
What else are they doing now on the streets and at the corners except urging the bill of the tribunes and voting for the repeal of the law?
Give loose rein to their uncontrollable nature and to this untamed creature and expect that they will themselves set bounds to their licence;
unless you act, this is the least of the things enjoined [p. 419]
upon women by custom or law and to which they7
submit with a feeling of injustice.
It is complete liberty or, rather, if we wish to speak the truth, complete licence that they desire.