Gold THE GEOFFREY CHAUCER PAGE


St. Jerome (A.D. 340?-420)

Against Jovinianus -- Book I (Selections)

 

 

Good Women from Pagan and Foreign History

41. I have given enough and more than enough illustrations from the divine writings of Christian chastity and angelic virginity. But as I understand that our opponent in his commentaries summons us to the tribunal of worldly wisdom, and we are told that views of this kind are never accepted in the world, and that our religion has invented a dogma against nature, I will quickly run through Greek and Roman and Foreign History, and will show that virginity ever took the lead of chastity.

Fable relates that Atalanta, the virgin of Calydonian fame, lived for the chase and dwelt always in the woods; in other words that she did not set her heart on marriage with its troubles of pregnancy and of sickness, but upon the nobler life of freedom and chastity. Harpalyce too, a Thracian virgin, is described by the famous poet; and so is Camilla, queen of the Volsci, on whom, when she came to his assistance, Turnus had no higher praise which he could bestow than to call her a virgin. "O Virgin, Glory of Italy!"

And that famous daughter of Leos, the lady of the brazen house, ever a virgin, is related to have freed her country from pestilence by her voluntary death; and the blood of the virgin Iphigenia is said to have calmed the stormy winds. What need to tell of the Sibyls of Erythrae and Cumoe, and the eight others? for Varro asserts there were ten whose ornament was virginity, and divination the reward of their virginity. But if in the Eolian dialect "Sibyl" is represented by . . . , we must understand that a knowledge of the Counsel of God is rightly attributed to virginity alone.

We read, too, that Cassandra and Chryseis, prophetesses of Apollo and Juno, were virgins. And there were innumerable priestesses of the Taurian Diana, and of Vesta. One of these, Munitia, being suspected of unchastity was buried alive, which would be in my opinion an unjust punishment, unless the violation of virginity were considered a serious crime. At all events how highly the Romans always esteemed virgins is clear from the fact that consuls and generals even in their triumphal chariots and bringing home the spoils of conquered nations, were wont to make way for them to pass. And so did men of all ranks. When Claudia, a Vestal Virgin, was suspected of unchastity, and a vessel containing the image of Cybele was aground in the Tiber, it is related that she, to prove her chastity, with her girdle drew the ship which a thousand men could not move. Yet, as the uncle of Lucan the poet says, it would have been better if this circumstance had decorated a chastity tried and proved, and had not pleaded in defence of a chastity equivocal.

No wonder that we read such things of human beings, when heathen error also invented the virgin goddesses Minerva and Diana, and placed the Virgin among the twelve signs of the Zodiac, by means of which, as they suppose, the world revolves. It is a proof of the little esteem in which they held marriage that they did not even among the scorpions, centaurs, crabs, fishes, and Capricorn, thrust in a husband and wife.

When the thirty tyrants of Athens had slain Phidon at the banquet, they commanded his virgin daughters to come to them, naked like harlots, and there upon the ground, red with their father's blood, to act the wanton. For a little while they hid their grief, and then when they saw the revellers were intoxicated, going out on the plea of easing nature, they embraced one another and threw themselves into a well, that by death they might save their virginity.

The virgin daughter of Demotion, chief of the Areopagites, having heard of the death of her betrothed, Leosthenes, who had originated the Lamian war, slew herself, for she declared that although in body she was a virgin, yet if she were compelled to accept another, she should regard him as her second husband, when she had given her heart to Leosthenes. So close a friendship long existed between Sparta and Messene that for the furtherance of certain religious rites they even exchanged virgins.

Well, on one occasion when the men of Messene attempted to outrage fifty Lacedmmonian virgins, out of so many not one consented, but they all most gladly died in defence of their chastity. Whence there arose a long and grievous war, and in the long run Mamertina was destroyed.

Aristoclides, tyrant of Orchomenos, fell in love with a virgin of Stymphalus, and when after the death of her father she took refuge in the temple of Diana, and embraced the image of the goddess and could not be dragged thence by force, she was slain on the spot. Her death caused such intense grief throughout Arcadia that the people took up arms and avenged the virgin's death.

Aristomenes of Messene, a just man, at a time when the Lacedmmonians, whom he had conquered, were celebrating by night the festival called the Hyacinthia, carried off from the sportive bands fifteen virgins, and fleeing all night at full speed got away from the Spartan territory. His companions wished to outrage them, but he admonished them to the best of his power not to do so, and when certain refused to obey, be slew them, and restrained the rest by fear. The maidens were afterwards ransomed by their kinsmen, and on seeing Aristomenes condemned for murder would not return to their country until clasping the knees of the judges they beheld the protector of their chastity acquitted.

How shall we sufficiently praise the daughters of Scedasus at Leuctra in Boeethia? It is related that in he absence of their father they hospitably entertained two youths who were passing by, and who having drunk to excess violated the virgins in the course of the night. Being unwilling to survive the loss of their virginity, the maidens inflicted deadly wounds on one another.

Nor would it be right to omit mention of the Locrian virgins. They were sent to Ilium according to custom which had lasted for nearly a thousand years, and yet not one gave occasion to any idle tale or filthy rumour of virginity defiled.

Could any one pass over in silence the seven virgins of Miletus who, when the Gauls spread desolation far and wide, that they might suffer no indignity at the hands of the enemy, escaped disgrace by death, and left to all virgins the lesson of their example that noble minds care more for chastity than life?

Nicanor having, conquered and overthrown Thebes was himself overcome by a passion for one captive virgin whose voluntary self-surrender he longed for. A captive maid, he thought, must be only too glad. But he found that virginity is dearer to the pure in heart than a kingdom, when with tears and grief he held her in his arms slain by her own hand.

Greek writers tell also of another Theban virgin who had been deflowered by a Macedonian foe, and who, hiding her grief for a while, slew the violator of her virginity as he slept, and then killed herself with the sword, so that she would neither live when her chastity was lost, nor die before she had avenged herself.

 

Virginity Esteemed Among the Pagans

42. To come to the Gymnosophists of India, the opinion is authoritatively handed down that Buddha, the founder of their religion, had his birth through the side of a virgin. And we need not wonder at this in the case of Barbarians when cultured Greece supposed that Minerva at her birth sprang from the head of Jove, and Father Bacchus from his thigh.

Speusippus also, Plato's nephew, and Clearchus in his eulogy of Plato, and Anaxelides in the second book of his philosophy, relates that Perictione, the mother of Plato, was violated by an apparition of Apollo, and they agree in thinking that the prince of wisdom was born of a virgin.

Timaeus writes that the virgin daughter of Pythagoras was at the head of a band of virgins, and instructed them in chastity. Diodorus, the disciple of Socrates, is said to have had five daughters skilled in dialectics and distinguished for chastity, of whom a full account is given by Philo the master of Carneades.

And mighty Rome cannot taunt us as though we had invented the story of the birth of our Lord and Saviour from a virgin; for the Romans believe that the founders of their city and race were the offspring of the virgin Ilia and of Mars.

 

Second Marriages Repudiated Even by the Heathen

43. Let these allusions to the virgins of the world, brief and hastily gathered from many histories, now suffice. I will proceed to married women who were reluctant to survive the decease or violent death of their husbands for fear they might be forced into a second marriage, and who entertained a marvelous affection for the only husbands they had. This may teach us that second marriage was repudiated among the heathen.

Dido, the sister of Pygmalion, having collected a vast amount of gold and silver, sailed to Africa, and there built Carthage. And when her hand was sought in marriage by Iarbas, king of Libya, she deferred the marriage for while until her country was settled. Not long after, having raised a funeral pyre to the memory of her former husband Sichaeus, she preferred to "burn rather than to marry." Carthage was built by a woman of chastity and its end was a tribute to the excellence of the virtue.

For the wife of of Hasdrubal, when the city was captured and set on fire, and she saw that she could not herself escape capture by the Romans, took her little children in either hand and leaned into the burning ruins of her house.

 

Examples of Greek Women Who Refused Remarriage

44. What need to tell of the wife of Niceratus, who, not enduring to wrong her husband, inflicted death upon herself rather than subject herself to the lust of the thirty tyrants whom Lysander had set over conquered Athens?

Artemisia, also, wife of Mausolus, is related to have been distinguished for chastity. Though she was queen of Caria, and is extolled by great poets and historians, no higher praise is bestowed upon her than that when her husband was dead she loved him as much as when he was alive, and built a tomb so great that even to the present day all costly sepulchres are called after his name, mausoleums.

Teuta, queen of the Illyrians, owed her long sway over brave warriors, and her frequent victories over Rome, to her marvelous chastity. The Indians and almost all the Barbarians have a plurality of wives.

It is a law with them that the favourite wife must be burned with her dead husband. The wives therefore vie with one another for the husband's love, and the highest ambition of the rivals, and the proof of chastity, is to be considered worthy of death. So then she that is victorious, having put on her former dress and ornaments, lies down beside the corpse, embracing and kissing it, and to the glory of chastity despises the flames which are burning beneath her. I suppose that she who dies thus, wants no second marriage.

The famous Alcibiades, the friend of Socrates, when Athens was conquered, fled to Pharnabazus, who took a bribe from Lysander the Lacedmmonian leader and ordered him to be slain. He was strangled, and when his head had been cut off it was sent to Lysander as proof of the murder, but the rest of his body lay unburied. His concubine, therefore, all alone, in defiance of the command of the cruel enemy, in the midst of strangers, and in the face of peril, gave him due burial, for she was ready to die for the dead man whom she had loved when living.

Let matrons, Christian matrons at all events, imitate the fidelity of concubines, and exhibit in their freedom what she in her captivity preserved.

 

Further Examples of Pagan Chastity

45. Strato, ruler of Sidon, thought of dying by his own hand, that he might not be the sport of the Persians, who were close by and whose alliance he had discarded for the friendship of the king of Egypt. But he drew back in terror, and eying, the sword which he had seized, awaited in alarm the approach of the enemy. His wife, knowing that he must be immediately taken, wrested the weapon from his hand, and pierced his side. When the body was properly laid out she lay down upon it in the agony of death, that she might not violate her virgin troth in the embraces of another.

Xenophon, in describing the early years of the elder Cyrus, relates that when her husband Abradatas was slain, Panthea who had loved him intensely, placed herself beside the mangled body, then stabbed herself, and let her blood run into her husband's wounds.

The queen whom the king her husband had shewn naked and without her knowledge to his friend, thought she had good cause for slaying the king. She judged that she was not beloved if it was possible for her to be exhibited to another.

Rhodogune, daughter of Darius, after the death of her husband, put to death the nurse who was trying to persuade her to marry again.

Alcestis is related in story to have voluntarily died for Admetus, and Penelope's chastity is the theme of Homer's song.

Laodamia's praises are also sung by the poets, because, when Protesilaus was slain at Troy, she refused to survive him.

 

Roman Women Who Chose Death over Remarriage

46. I may pass on to Roman women; and the first that I shall mention is Lucretia, who would not survive her violated chastity, but blotted out the stain upon her person with her own blood.

Duilius, the first Roman who won a naval triumph, took to wife a virgin, Bilia, of such extraordinary chastity that she was an example even to an age which held unchastity to be not merely vicious but monstrous. When he was grown old and feeble he was once in the course of a quarrel taunted with having bad breath. In dudgeon he betook himself home, and on complaining to his wife that she had never told him of it so that he might remedy the fault, he received the reply that she would have done so, but she thought that all men had foul breath as he had. In either case this chaste and noble woman deserves praise, whether she was not aware there was anything wrong with her husband, or if she patiently endured, and her husband discovered his unfortunate condition not by the disgust of a wife, but by the abuse of an enemy. At all events the woman who marries a second time cannot say this.

Marcia, Cato's younger daughter, on being asked after the loss of her husband why she did not marry again, replied that she could not find a man who wanted her more than her money. Her words teach us that men in choosing their wives look for riches rather than for chastity, and that many in marrying use not their eyes but their fingers. that must be an excellent thing which is won by avarice! When the same lady was mourning the loss of her husband, and the matrons asked what day would terminate her grief, she replied, "The same that terminates my life." I imagine that a woman who thus followed her husband in heart and mind had no thought of marrying again.

Porcia, whom Brutus took to wife, was a virgin; Cato's wife, Marcia, was not a virgin; but Marcia went to and fro between Hortensius and Cato, and was quite content to live without Cato; while Porcia could not live without Brutus; for women attach themselves closely to particular men, and to keep to one is a strong link in the chain of affection.

When a relative urged Annia to marry a man (she was of full age and a goodly person), she answered, "I shall certainly not do so, For. if I find a good man, I have no wish to be in fear of losing him; if a bad one, why must I put up with a bad husband after having had a good one?

Porcia the younger, on hearing a certain lady of good character, who had a second husband, praised in her house, replied, "A chaste and happy man never marries more than once."

Marcella the elder, on being asked by her mother if he was glad she was married, answered, "So much so that I want nothing more."

Valeria, sister of the Messalas, when she lost her husband Servius, would marry no one else. On being asked why not, she said that to her, her husband Servius was ever alive.

 

Theophrastus' Golden Book of Marriage

47. I feel that in giving this list of women I have said far more than is customary in illustrating a point, and that I might be justly censured by my learned reader. But what am I to do when the women of our time press me with apostolic authority, and before the first husband is buried, repeat from morning to night the precepts which allow a second marriage? Seeing they despise the fidelity which Christian purity dictates, let them at least learn chastity from the heathen.

A book On marriage, worth its weight in gold, passes under the name of Theophrastus. In it the author asks whether a wise man marries. And after laving down the conditions that the wife must be fair, of good character, and honest parentage, the husband in good health and of ample means, and after saying that under these circumstances a wise man sometimes enters the state of matrimony, he immediately proceeds thus:

"But all these conditions are seldom satisfied in marriage. A wise man therefore must not take a wife. For in the first place his study of philosophy will be hindered, and it is impossible for anyone to attend to his books and his wife. Matrons want many things, costly dresses, gold, jewels, great outlay, maid-servants, all kinds of furniture, litters and gilded coaches. Then come curtain-lectures the livelong night: she complains that one lady goes out better dressed than she; that another is looked up to by all; `I am a poor despised nobody at the ladies assemblies.' `Why did you ogle that creature next door?' `Why were you talking to the maid?' `What did you bring from the market?' `I am not allowed to have a single friend, or companion.' She suspects that her husband's love goes the same way as her hate.

There may be in some neighbouring city the wisest of teachers; but if we have a wife we can neither leave her behind, nor take the burden with us. To support a poor wife, is hard; to put up with a rich one, is torture.

Notice, too, that in the case of a wife you cannot pick and choose: you must take her as you find her. If she has a bad temper, or is a fool, if she has a blemish, or is proud, or has bad breath, whatever her fault may be -- all this we learn after marriage. Horses, asses, cattle, even slaves of the smallest worth, clothes, kettles, wooden seats, cups, and earthenware pitchers, are first tried and then bought; a wife is the only thing that is not shown before she is married, for fear she may not give satisfaction.

Our gaze must always be directed to her face, and we must always praise her beauty: if you look at another woman, she thinks that she is out of favour. She must be called my lady, her birth-day must be kept, we must swear by her health and wish that she may survive us, respect must be paid to the nurse, to the nursemaid, to the father's slave, to the foster-child, to the handsome hanger-on, to the curled darling who manages her affairs, and to the eunuch who ministers to the safe indulgence of her lust; names which are only a cloak for adultery. Upon whomsoever she sets her heart, they must have her love though they want her not.

If you give her the management of the whole house, you must yourself be her slave. If you reserve something for yourself, she will not think you are loyal to her; but she will turn to strife and hatred, and unless you quickly take care, she will have the poison ready.

If you introduce old women, and soothsayers, and prophets, and vendors of jewels and silken clothing, you imperil her chastity; if you shut the door upon them, she is injured and fancies you suspect her. But what is the good of even a careful guardian, when an unchaste wife cannot be watched, and a chaste one ought not to be? For necessity is but a faithless keeper of chastity, and she alone really deserves to be called pure, who is free to sin if she chooses. if a woman be fair, she soon finds lovers; if she be ugly, it is easy to be wanton. It is difficult to guard what many long for. It is annoying to have what no one thinks worth possessing.

But the misery of having an ugly wife is less than that of watching a comely one. Nothing is safe, for which a whole people sighs and longs. One man entices with his figure, another with his brains, another with his wit, another with his open hand. Somehow, or sometime, the fortress is captured which is attacked on all sides.

Men marry, indeed, so as to get a manager for the house, to solace weariness, to banish solitude; but a faithful slave is a far better manager, more submissive to the master, more observant of his ways, than a wife who thinks she proves herself mistress if she acts in opposition to her husband, that is, if she does what pleases her, not what she is commanded. But friends, and servants who are under the obligation of benefits received, are better able to wait upon us in sickness than a wife who makes us responsible for her tears (she will sell you enough to make a deluge for the hope of a legacy), boasts of her anxiety, but drives her sick husband to the distraction of despair. But if she herself is poorly, we must fall sick with her and never leave her bedside.

Or if she be a good and agreeable wife (how rare a bird she is!), we have to share her groans in childbirth, and suffer torture when she is in danger.

A wise man can never be alone. He has with him the good men of all time, and turns his mind freely wherever he chooses. What is inaccessible to him in person he can embrace in thought. And, if men are scarce. he converses with God. He is never less alone than when alone.

Then again, to marry for the sake of children, so that our name may not perish, or that we may have support in old age, and leave our property without dispute, is the height of stupidity. For what is it to us when we are leaving the world if another bears our name, when even a son does not all at once take his father's title, and there are countless others who are called by the same name. Or what support in old age is he whom you bring up, and who may die before you, or turn out a reprobate? Or at all events when he reaches mature age, you may seem to him long in dying.

Friends and relatives whom you can judiciously love are better and safer heirs than those whom you must make your heirs whether you like it or not. Indeed, the surest way of having a good heir is to ruin your fortune in a good cause while you live, not to leave the fruit of your labour to be used you know not how."

 

Examples Showing Why Men Should Not Marry

48. When Theophrastus thus discourses, are there any of us, Christians, whose conversation is in heaven and who daily say "I long to be dissolved, and to be with Christ," whom he does not put to the blush? Shall a joint-heir of Christ really long for human heirs ? And shall he desire children and delight himself in a long line of descendants, who will perhaps fall into the clutches of Antichrist, when we read that Moses and Samuel preferred other men to their own sons, and did not count as their children those whom they saw to be displeasing to God?

When Cicero after divorcing Terentia was requested by Hirtius to marry his sister, he set the matter altogether on one side, and said that be could not possibly devote himself to a wife and to philosophy. Meanwhile that excellent partner, who had herself drunk wisdom at Tully's fountains, married Sallust his enemy, and took for her third husband Messala Corvinus, and thus, as it were, passed through three degrees of eloquence.

Socrates had two wives, Xantippe and Myron, grand-daughter of Aristides. They frequently quarreled, and he was accustomed to banter them for disagreeing about him, he being the ugliest of men, with snub nose, bald forehead, rough-haired, and bandylegged. At last they planned an attack upon him, and having punished him severely, and put him to flight, vexed him for a long time.

On one occasion when he opposed Xantippe, who from above was heaping abuse upon him, the termagant soused him with dirty water, but he only wiped his head and said, "I knew that a shower must follow such thunder as that." '

Metella, consort of L. Sulla the Fortunate (except in the matter of his wife) was openly unchaste. It was the common talk of Athens, as I learnt in my youthful years when we soon pick up what is bad, and yet Sulla was in the dark, and first got to know the secrets of his household through the abuse of his enemies.

Cn. Pompey had an impure wife Mucia, who was surrounded by eunuchs from Pontus and troops of the countrymen of Mithridates. Others thought that he knew all and submitted to it; but a comrade told him during the campaign, and the conqueror of the whole world was dismayed at the sad intelligence.

Cato, the Censor, had a wife Actoria Paula, a woman of low origin, fond of drink, violent, and (who would believe it?) haughty to Cato. I say this for fear anyone may suppose that in marrying a poor woman he has secured peace.

When Philip king of Macedon, against whom Demosthenes thundered in his Philippics, was entering his bed-room as usual, his wife in a passion shut him out. Finding himself excluded he held his tongue, and consoled himself for the insult by reading, a tragic poem.

Gorgias the Rhetorician recited his excellent treatise on Concord to the Greeks, then at variance among themselves, at Olympia. Whereupon Melanthius his enemy observed: "Here is a man who teaches us concord, and yet could not make concord between himself, his wife, and maid-servant, three persons in one house." The truth was that his wife envied the beauty of the girl, and drove the purest of men wild with daily quarrels.

Whole tragedies of Euripides are censures on women. Hence Hermione says, "The counsels of evil women have beguiled me."

In the semibarbarous and remote city Leptis it is the custom for a daughter-in-law on the second day to beg the loan of a jar from her mother-in-law. The latter at once denies the request, and we see how true was the remark of Terence, ambiguously expressed on purpose -- "How is this? do all mothers-in-law hate their daughters-in-law?"

We read of a certain Roman noble who, when his friends found fault with him for having divorced a wife, beautiful, chaste, and rich, put out his foot and said to them, "And the shoe before you looks new and elegant, yet no one but myself knows where it pinches."

Herodotus tells us that a woman puts off her modesty with her clothes. And our own comic poet thinks the man fortunate who has never been married.

Why should I refer to Pasiphaë, Clytemnestra, and Eriphyle, the first of whom, the wife of a king and swimming in pleasure, is said to have lusted for a bull, the second to have killed her husband for the sake of an adulterer, the third to have betrayed Amphiaraus, and to have preferred a gold necklace to the welfare of her husband.

In all the bombast of tragedy and the overthrow of houses, cities, and kingdoms, it is the wives and concubines who stir up strife. Parents take up arms against their children; unspeakable banquets are served; and on account of the rape of one wretched woman Europe and Asia are involved in a ten years' war.

We read of some who were divorced the day after they were married, and immediately married again. Both husbands are to blame, both he who was so soon dissatisfied, and he who was so soon pleased.

Epicurus the patron of pleasure (though Metrodorus his disciple married Leontia) says that a wise man can seldom marry, because marriage has many drawbacks. And as riches, honours, bodily health, and other things which we call indifferent, are neither good nor bad, but stand as it were midway, and become good and bad according to the use and issue, so wives stand on the border line of good and ill.

It is, moreover, a serious matter for a wise man to be in doubt whether he is going to marry a good or a bad woman.

Chrysippus ridiculously maintains that a wise man should marry, that he may not outrage Jupiter Gamelius and Genethlius. For upon that principle the Latins would not marry at all, since they have no Jupiter who presides over marriage. But if, as he thinks, the life of men is determined by the names of gods, whoever chooses to sit will offend Jupiter Stator.

 

The Snares of Marital Love; Chastity Recommended to Women

49. Aristotle and Plutarch and our Seneca have written treatises on matrimony, out of which we have already made some extracts and now add a few more. "The love of beauty is the forgetting of reason and the near neighbour of madness; a foul blot little in keeping with a sound mind. It confuses counsel, breaks high and generous spirits, draws away men from great thoughts to mean ones; it makes men querulous, ill-tempered, foolhardy, cruelly imperious, servile flatterers, good for nothing, at last not even for love itself. For although in the intensity of passion it burns like a raging fire, it wastes much time through suspicions, tears, and complaints: it begets hatred of itself, and at last hates itself."

The course of love is laid bare in Plato's Phaedrus from beginning to end, and Lysias explains all its drawbacks -- how it is led not by reason, but by frenzy, and in particular is a harsh gaoler over lovely wives.

Seneca, too, relates that he knew an accomplished man who before going out used to tie his wife's garter upon his breast, and could not not bear to be absent from her for a quarter of an hour; and this pair would never take a drink unless husband and wife alternately put their lips to the cup; and they did other things just as absurd in the extravagant outbursts of their warm but blind affection. Their love was of honourable birth, but it grew out of all proportion. And it makes no difference how honourable may be the cause of a man's insanity. Hence Xystus in his Sentences tells us that "He who too ardently loves his own wife is an adulterer." It is disgraceful to love another man's wife at all, or one's own too much. A wise man ought to love his wife with judgment, not with passion. Let a man govern his voluptuous impulses, and not rush headlong into intercourse.

There is nothing blacker than to love a wife as if she were an adulteress. Men who say they have contracted marriage and are bringing up children, for the good of their country and of the race, should at least imitate the brutes, and not destroy their offspring in the womb; nor should they appear in the character of lovers, but of husbands. In some cases marriage has grown out of adultery; and, shameful to relate! men have tried to teach their wives chastity after having taken their chastity away. Marriages of that sort are quickly dissolved when lust is satiated. The first allurement gone, the charm is lost.

What shall I say, says Seneca, of the poor men who in numbers are bribed to take the name of husband in order to evade the laws promulgated a against bachelors ? How can he who is married under such conditions be a guide to morality, teach chastity, and maintain the authority of a husband?

It is the saying of a very learned man, that chastity must be preserved at all costs, and that when it is lost all virtue falls to the ground. This holds the primacy of all virtues in woman. This it is that makes up for a wife's poverty, enhances her riches, redeems her deformity, gives grace to her beauty; it makes her act in a way worthy of her forefathers whose blood it does not taint with bastard offspring; of her children, who through it have no need to blush for their mother, or to be in doubt about their father; and above all, of herself, since it defends her from external violation. There is no greater calamity connected with captivity than to be the victim of another's lust.

The consulship sheds lustre upon men; eloquence gives eternal renown; military glory and a triumph immortalise an obscure family. Many are the spheres ennobled by splendid ability. The virtue of woman is, in a special sense, purity. It was this that made Lucretia the equal of Brutus, if it did not make her his superior, since Brutus learnt from a woman the impossibility of being a slave. It was this that made Cornelia a fit match for Gracchus, and Porcia for a second Brutus.

Tanaquil is better known than her husband. His name, like the names of many other kings, is lost in the mists of antiquity. She, through a virtue rare among women, is too deeply rooted in the hearts of all ages for her memory ever to perish.

Let my married sisters copy the examples of Theano, Cleobuline, Gorgente, Timoclia, the Claudias and Cornelias; and when they find the Apostle conceding second marriage to depraved women, they will read that before the light of our religion shone upon the world wives of one husband ever held high rank among matrons, that by their hands the sacred rites of Fortuna Muliebris were performed, that a priest or Flamen twice married was unknown, that the high priests of Athens to this day emasculate themselves by drinking hemlock, and once they have been drawn in to the pontificate, cease to be men.

 

From The Principle Works of St. Jerome, tr. W.H. Fremantle, A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Vol. VI. New York, 1893, pp. 379-386 (paragraphing and chapter titles supplied) [Hilles 281.7.VI]

 

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