previous next

SOME think that the famous answer of the wise and noble Bias, like that of Protagoras of which I have just spoken, was ἀντιστρέφον. 1 For Bias, being asked by a certain man whether lie should marry or lead a single life, said: “You are sure to marry a woman either beautiful or ugly; and if beautiful, you will share her with others, but if ugly, she will be a punishment. 2 But neither of these things is desirable; therefore do not marry.”

[p. 411] Now, they turn this argument about in this way. “If I marry a beautiful woman, she will not be a punishment; but if an ugly one, I shall be her sole possessor; therefore marry.” But this syllogism does not seem to be in the least convertible, since it appears somewhat weaker and less convincing when turned into the second form. For Bias maintained that one should not marry because of one of two disadvantages which must necessarily be suffered by one who took a wife. But he who converts the proposition does not defend himself against the inconvenience which is mentioned, but says that he is free from another which is not mentioned. But to maintain the opinion that Bias expressed, it is enough that a man who has taken a wife must necessarily suffer one or the other of two disadvantages, of having a wife that is unfaithful, or a punishment.

But our countryman Favorinus, when that syllogism which Bias had employed happened to be mentioned, of which the first premise is: “You will marry either a beautiful or an ugly woman,” declared that this was not a fact, and that it was not a fair antithesis, since it was not inevitable that one of the two opposites be true, which must be the case in a disjunctive proposition. For obviously certain outstanding extremes of appearance are postulated, ugliness and beauty. 3 “But there is,” said he, “a third possibility also, lying between those two opposites, and that possibility Bias did not observe or regard. For between a very beautiful and a very ugly woman there is a mean in appearance, which is free from the danger to which an excess of beauty is exposed, and also from the feeling of repulsion [p. 413] inspired by extreme ugliness. A woman of that kind is called by Quintus Ennius in the Melanippa 4 by the very elegant term ' normal,' and such a woman will be neither unfaithful nor a punishment.” This moderate and modest beauty Favorinus, to my mind most sagaciously, called “conjugal.” Moreover Ennius, in the tragedy which I mentioned, says that those women as a rule are of unblemished chastity who possess normal beauty.

1 The “convertible” argument described in x.

2 In the Greek there is a word-play on κοινή and ποινή, which it does not seem possible to reproduce in English. Perhaps, a flirt or a hurt, or, a harlot or a hard lot.

3 That is, in Bias' syllogism.

4 253, Ribbeck3.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Introduction (John C. Rolfe, 1927)
load focus Latin (John C. Rolfe, 1927)
hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: