Among his other laws there is a very peculiar and surprising one which ordains that he shall be disfranchised who, in time of faction, takes neither side.1
He wishes, probably, that a man should not be insensible or indifferent to the common weal, arranging his private affairs securely and glorying in the fact that he has no share in the distempers and distresses of his country, but should rather espouse promptly the better and more righteous cause, share its perils and give it his aid, instead of waiting in safety to see which cause prevails.
That law, too, seems absurd and ridiculous, which permits an heiress in case the man under whose power and authority she is placed by law is himself unable to consort with her, to be married by one of his next of kin. Some, however, say that this was a wise provision against those who are unable to perform the duties of a husband, and yet, for the sake of their property, marry heiresses, and so under cover of law, do violence to nature. For when they see that the heiress can consort with whom she pleases, they will either desist from such a marriage, or make it to their shame, and be punished for their avarice and insolence.
It is a wise provision, too, that the heiress may not choose her consort at large, but only from the kinsmen of her husband, that her offspring may be of his family and lineage. Conformable to this, also, is the requirement that the bride eat a quince and be shut up in a chamber with the bridegroom; and that the husband of an heiress shall approach her thrice a month without fail. For even though they have no children, still, this is a mark of esteem and affection which a man should pay to a chaste wife; it removes many of the annoyances which develop in all such cases and prevents their being altogether estranged by their differences.
In all other marriages he prohibited dowries; the bride was to bring with her three changes of raiment, household stuff of small value, and nothing else. For he did not wish that marriage should be a matter of profit or price, but that man and wife should dwell together for the delights of love and the getting of children. Dionysius, indeed, when his mother asked him to give her in marriage to one of his citizens, said that, although he had broken the laws of the city by being its tyrant, he could not outrage the laws of nature by giving in marriage where age forbade.
And so our cities should not allow this irregularity, nor tolerate which age forbids and love does not invite, which do not fulfil the function of marriage, and defeat its object. Nay, to an old man who is marrying a young wife, any worthy magistrate or lawgiver might say what is said to Philoctetes2
Indeed, poor wretch, thou art in fine state for marrying!
And if he discovers a young man in the house of a rich and elderly woman, waxing fat, like a cockpartridge, in her service, he will remove him and give him to some marriageable maid that wants a husband. Thus much, then, on this head.