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Socrates,” exclaimed Critobulus on hearing this, “I don't intend to let you go now, until you have proved to my satisfaction what you have promised in the presence of our friends here to prove.”

“Well then,” said Socrates, “what if I prove to your satisfaction, Critobulus, to begin with, that some men spend large sums in building houses that are useless, while others build houses perfect in all respects for much less? Will you think that I am putting before you one of the operations that constitute estate management?”

“Yes, certainly.” [2]

“And what if I show you next the companion to this—that some possess many costly belongings and cannot use them at need, and do not even know whether they are safe and sound, and so are continually worried themselves and worrying their servants, whereas others, though they possess not more, but even less, have whatever they want ready for use?”

“What is the reason of this, then, Socrates? [3] Is it not simply this, that the former stow their things away anywhere and the latter have everything neatly arranged in some place?”

“Yes, of course, arranged carefully in the proper place, not just anywhere.”

“Your point, I take it, is that this too is an element in estate management.” [4]

“Then what if I show you besides that in some households nearly all the servants are in fetters and yet continually try to run away, whereas in others they are under no restraint and are willing to work and to stay at their posts? Won't you think that here too I am pointing out to you a notable effect of estate management?”

“Yes, of course; very much so.” [5]

“And that when men farm the same kind of land, some are poverty-stricken and declare that they are ruined by farming, and others do well with the farm and have all they want in abundance?”

“Yes, of course; for maybe some spend money not on necessary purposes only but on what brings harm to the owner and the estate.”

“Perhaps there are such people. [6] But I am referring rather to those who haven't the money to meet even the necessary expenses, though professing to be farmers.”

“Now what can be the reason of that, Socrates?”

“I will take you to these too; and when you watch them, you will find out, I fancy.”

“Of course; that is, if I can.” [7]

“Then you must watch, and try by experiment whether you are capable of understanding. At present I observe that when a comedy is to be seen, you get up very early and walk a very long way and press me eagerly to go to the play with you. But you have never yet invited me to see a drama of real life like this.”

“You think me ridiculous, don't you, Socrates?”

“You think yourself far more so, I am sure. [8] And suppose I show you that some have been brought to penury by keeping horses, while others prosper by doing so, and moreover glory in their gain?”

“Well, I too see and know instances of both; I am not one of the gainers for all that.” [9]

“The fact is you watch them just as you watch the actors in tragedy or comedy, not, I suppose, to become a playwright, but for the pleasure of seeing and hearing something. And perhaps there is no harm in that, because you don't want to write plays; but seeing that you are forced to meddle with horses, don't you think that common-sense requires you to see that you are not ignorant of the business, the more so as the self-same horses are both good to use and profitable to sell?” [10]

“Would you have me break in colts, Socrates?”

“Of course not, no more than I would have you buy children to train as agricultural labourers; but horses and human beings alike, I think, on reaching a certain age forthwith become useful and go on improving. I can also show you that husbands differ widely in their treatment of their wives, and some succeed in winning their co-operation and thereby increase their estates, while others bring utter ruin on their houses by their behaviour to them.” [11]

“And ought one to blame the husband or the wife for that, Socrates?”

“When a sheep is ailing,” said Socrates, “we generally blame the shepherd, and when a horse is vicious, we generally find fault with his rider. In the case of a wife, if she receives instruction in the right way from her husband and yet does badly, perhaps she should bear the blame; but if the husband does not instruct his wife in the right way of doing things, and so finds her ignorant, should he not bear the blame himself? [12] Anyhow, Critobulus, you should tell us the truth, for we are all friends here. Is there anyone to whom you commit more affairs of importance than you commit to your wife?”

“There is not.”

“Is there anyone with whom you talk less?”

“There are few or none, I confess.” [13]

“And you married her when she was a mere child and had seen and heard almost nothing?”


“Then it would be far more surprising if she understood what she should say or do than if she made mistakes.” [14]

“But what of the husbands who, as you say, have good wives, Socrates? Did they train them themselves?”

“There's nothing like investigation. I will introduce Aspasia to you, and she will explain the whole matter to you with more knowledge than I possess. [15] I think that the wife who is a good partner in the household contributes just as much as her husband to its good; because the incomings for the most part are the result of the husband's exertions, but the outgoings are controlled mostly by the wife's dispensation. If both do their part well, the estate is increased; if they act incompetently, it is diminished. [16] If you think you want to know about other branches of knowledge, I fancy I can show you people who acquit themselves creditably in any one of them.”

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