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[1]

A good wife should be the mistress of her home, having under her care all that is within it, according to the rules we have laid down. She should allow none to enter without her husband's knowledge, dreading above all things the gossip of gadding women, which tends to poison the soul. She alone should have knowledge of what happens within, whilst if any harm is wrought by those from without, her husband will bear the blame. She must exercise control of the money spent on such festivities as her husband has approved, keeping, moreover, within the limit set by law upon expenditure, dress, and ornament; [10] and remembering that beauty depends not on costliness of raiment, nor does abundance of gold so conduce to the praise of a woman as self-control in all that she does, and her inclination towards an honorable and well-ordered life.1 For such adornment of the soul as this is in truth ever a thing to be envied, and a far surer warrant for the payment, to the woman herself in her old age and to her children after her, of the due meed of praise.

This, then, is the province over which a woman should be minded to bear an orderly rule; for it seems not fitting that a man should know all that passes within the house. But in all other matters, let it be her aim to obey her husband; giving no heed to public affairs, nor desiring any part in arranging the marriages of her children. [20] Rather, when the time shall come to give or receive in marriage sons or daughters, let her even then hearken to her husband in all respects, and agreeing with him obey his behest; considering that it is less unseemly for him to deal with a matter within the house than it is for her to pry into those outside its walls. Nay, it is fitting that a woman of well-ordered life should consider that her husband's uses are as laws appointed for her own life by divine will, along with the marriage state and the fortune she shares. If she endures them with patience and gentleness, she will rule her home with ease; otherwise, not so easily. Wherefore not only when her husband is in prosperity [30] and good report does it beseem her to be in modest agreement with him, and to render him the service he wills, but also in times of adversity. If, through sickness or fault of judgement, his good fortune fails, then must she show her quality,2 encouraging him ever with words of cheer and yielding him obedience in all fitting ways; only let her do nothing base or unworthy of herself, or remember any wrong her husband may have done her through distress of mind. Let her refrain from all complaint, nor charge him with the wrong, but rather attribute everything of this kind to sickness or ignorance or accidental errors. For the more sedulous her service herein, the fuller will be his gratitude [40] when he is restored, and freed from his trouble; and if she has failed to obey him when he commanded aught that is amiss, the deeper will be his recognition <of her loyalty> when health returns. Wherefore, whilst careful to avoid such <misplaced obedience>, in other respects she will serve him more assiduously than if she had been a bondwoman bought and taken home. For he has indeed bought her with a great price—with partnership in his life and in the procreation of children; than which things nought could be greater or more divine. And besides all this, the wife who had only lived in company with a fortunate husband would not have had the like opportunity to show her true quality. For though there be no small merit in a right and noble use of prosperity, still the right endurance of adversity justly receives an honor greater by far. [50] For only a great soul can live in the midst of trouble and wrong without itself committing any base act. And so, while praying that her husband may be spared adversity, if trouble should come it beseems the wife to consider that here a good woman wins her highest praise. Let her bethink herself how Alcestis would never have attained such renown nor Penelope have deserved all the high praises bestowed on her had not their husbands known adversity; whereas the troubles of Admetus and Ulysses have obtained for their wives a reputation that shall never die. For because in time of distress they proved themselves faithful and dutiful to their husbands, the gods have bestowed on them the honor they deserved. To find partners in prosperity is easy enough; [60] but only the best women are ready to share in adversity. For all these reasons it is fitting that a woman should <in time of adversity> pay her husband an honor greater by far, nor feel shame on his account even when, as Orpheus says,“Holy health of soul, and wealth, the child of a brave spirit, companion him no more.”

1 Cf. 1 Peter 3.3.4.

2 Or (if manifestam esse represents δηλονότι) "then plainly it is her part to encourage . . . and to yield . . ."

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  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
    • New Testament, 1 Peter, 3.3
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