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‘The body is in its prime from 30 to 35 (years of age), the soul (i.e. the intellectual and moral faculties) about nine and forty’ (50 minus one: δεῖν is δέον, wanting 50 much).

Two of the numbers here mentioned are multiples of seven. The stages of life are determined by a septenary theory, the earliest record of which is an elegiac fragment of doubtful genuineness (Porson), attributed to Solon (ap. Clemen. Alexandr. Strom., Bergk, Lyr. Gr. p. 332 [346, ed. 2], Sol. Fragm. 25), in which the seventy years allotted to human life, and its successive stages of growth, development and decay, are divided into ten periods of seven years each. The dates here given by Aristotle for the prime of body and mind, agree tolerably well with the verses of the fragment. τῇ δὲ τετάρτῃ πᾶς τις ἐν ἑβδομάδι μέγ᾽ ἄριστος ἰσχύν ἥν τ̓ ἄνδρες σήματ̓ ἔχους᾿ ἀρετῆς. The fifth septenary is the marriageable age. In the seventh the intellect and powers of speech have reached their prime. ἑπτὰ δὲ (49) νοῦν καὶ γλῶσσαν ἐν ἑβδομάσιν μέγ᾽ ἄριστος κ.τ.λ.

The same theory, whether derived from Solon or not, which seems to have been generally current, reappears in Polit. IV (VII) 16, 1335 b 32, κατὰ τὴν τῆς διανοίας ἀκμήν: αὕτη δ᾽ ἐστὶν ἐν τοῖς πλείστοις ἥνπερ τῶν ποιητῶν τινὲς εἰρήκασιν οἱ μετροῦντες ταῖς ἑβδομάσι τὴν ἡλικίαν, περὶ τὸν χρόνον τὸν τῶν πεντήκοντα ἐτῶν (i.e. 7 x 7 = 49): and again Polit. ib. c. 17, 1336 b 37, δύο δ᾽ εἰσὶν ἡλικίαι πρὸς ἃς ἀναγκαῖον διῃρῆσθαι τὴν παιδείαν, μετὰ τὴν ἀπὸ τῶν ἑπτὰ μεχρὶ ἥβης καὶ πάλιν μετὰ τὴν ἀφ̓ ἥβης μεχρὶ τῶν ἑνὸς καὶ εἴκοσιν ἐτῶν. οἱ γὰρ ταῖς ἑβδομάσιν διαιροῦντες τὰς ἡλικίας ὡς ἐπὶ τὸ πολὺ λέγουσιν οὐ καλῶς (leg. κακῶς, Spengel), δεῖ δὲ τῇ διαιρέσει τῆς φύσεως ἐπακολουθεῖν. Nevertheless the theory is departed from in assigning the proper age of marriage in the two sexes; ib. c. 16, 1335 a 28, the woman is to marry at 18, the man at 37 ‘or thereabouts’; neither of them divisible by seven; ἐν τοσούτῳ γὰρ ἀκμάζουσι τε τοῖς σώμασι σύζευξις ἔσται κ.τ.λ. And in line 35, the term of human life is again fixed at 70 years. So the Psalmist [xc. 10], “The days of our years are threescore years and ten.”

And to the same theory (the number seven, marking a crisis, or stage of growth, in the life of an animal,) reference is frequently made, in the Hist. Anim., as VII 1. 2, 16, 18, c. 12. 2, and elsewhere: from all which it may be concluded that Aristotle was a believer in it. Plato, Rep. V 460 E, fixes the prime of life in a woman at the age of 20, in a man at 30: in Legg. IV 721 A, and in three other places, the age of marriage is fixed from 30 to 35, though in one of them (VI 772 E) 25 is also named. Compare on this subject Hes. Opp. et D. 695 seq. Xenoph. de Rep. Lac. I 6, (Stallbaum's note on Plato l c).

But the theory of the virtues of the number seven was carried to a far greater extent, as may be seen in I 6 of Macrobius' Commentary on Cicero's Somnium Scipionis, of which the sum is given in a quotation from the Somnium Scipionis:—Cicero de septenario dicit, Qui numerus rerum omnium fere nodus est. Everything in nature is determined by the number seven. Near the end of the chapter, we are told, in conformity with Aristotle's statement, Notandum vero quod, cum numerus se multiplicat (at the age of 49, 7 x 7), facit aetatem quae proprie perfecta et habetur et dicitur: adeo ut illius aetatis homo, utpote qui perfectionem et attigerit iam, et necdum praeterierit, et consilio aptus sit, nec ab exercitio virium alienus habeatur. This is the prime of mind and body together. Quinta (hebdomas) omne virium (strength and powers of body alone), quanta esse unicuique, possunt, complet augmentum. All this came no doubt originally from the Pythagoreans; as may be inferred from Arist. Met. N 6, 1093 a 13, where this number seven, is said to be assigned by them as the cause of everything that happened to have this number of members; seven vowels, seven chords or harmonies, seven Pleiads; animals shed their teeth in seven years—yes, says Ar., some do, but some don't—and seven champions against Thebes. And from this and similar considerations they inferred some mysterious virtue in the number; and identified it with νοῦς and καιρός. (Ritter and Preller, Hist. Phil. c. 2, Pythag. § 102, note a.)

‘So for youth and age and prime of life, the kind of characters, that is to say, that belong to each, let thus much suffice’ (to have been said).

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