Athenians on Marriage

Three passages on marriage from fourth century B.C. Athens.

One anonymous:

Poor men! We sold away our freedom of speech and our comfort and lead the life of slaves with our wives. We’re not free. We can’t say we don’t pay a price for their dowries: bitterness and women’s anger. Compared to that, a man’s is honey, for men forgive when someone does them wrong, but women do you wrong and keep on recriminating. They control what doesn’t belong to them and neglect what they should control. They break their promises. When there’s nothing wrong, they say they’re sick every time.

One from a lost play by Eubulus:

I wish the second man who took a wife would die an awful death. I don’t blame the first man; he had no experience of that evil. The second man knew what kind of evil a wife was! Oh honoured Zeus, shall I ever say something unkind about women. By Zeus, may I perish then. They are the best possessions one can have. Medea was an evil woman, but Penelope was a good thing; some might criticise Clytemnestra, but I’ll set Alcestis against her. Maybe someone else will criticise Phaedra – but, by Zeus, there must be another good wife! Who? Oh, poor me, I’ve run out of good women, and I still have so many more bad ones to talk about.

And one from Demosthenes on the purpose of marriage:

Mistresses we keep for the sake of pleasure, concubines for the daily care of our persons, but wives to bear us legitimate children and to be faithful guardians of our households.


About Pechorin

A Hero of Our Time
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One Response to Athenians on Marriage

  1. Columnist says:

    Mistresses and concubines, polygamy? [No, but less than strict male fidelity, and institutions ranging from prostitution up through “kept woman” status. The different categories aren’t necessarily employed simultaneously.]

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