Athens, 4th/3rd cent. B.C.
(Anon., in Menander, ed. Sandbach, p. 328, GLP 185-7.. Tr. H. Lloyd-Jones. G)
A daughter tries to persuade her father not to make her marry a man richer than her present husband.
Father, you ought to be making the speech that I am now making, because you ought to have more sense than I have and to do any speaking that is needed. But since you have given me permission, maybe all I can do is to say what is right myself, since I must. If my husband has done great wrong I am not the one that ought to punish him. If he has offended against me, I should take note of it. But I know nothing of it; perhaps I am stupid, I couldn’t deny that. Yet, father, even if a woman is a silly creature when it comes to judging other matters, about her own affairs perhaps she has some sense. Explain to me how by whatever he has done he has done me wrong.
There is a covenant between man and wife; he must love her, always, until the end, and she must never cease to do what gives her husband pleasure. He was all that I wished with regard to me, and my pleasure is his pleasure, father. But suppose he is satisfactory as far as I am concerned but is bankrupt, and you, as you say, now want to give me to a rich man to save me from living out my life in distress. Where does so much money exist, father, that having it can give me more pleasure than my husband can? How can it be just or honourable that I should take a share in any good things he has, but take no share in his poverty? Tell me, if the man you now want me to marry–may that never happen, dear Zeus, nor shall it ever happen, at least if I can help it–if this man in turn loses his property, will you give me to another husband? How long will you go on tempting fortune in the matter of my life, father? When I was a young girl, you had to find a husband to whom to give me. when the choice was yours. But once you had given me to a husband, from that moment this responsibility belonged to me, naturally, because if I make a mistake in judgment, it’s my own life that I shall ruin. So in the name of Hestia don’t rob me of the husband to whom you have married me; the favour that I ask of you, father, is just and humane. If you refuse it, you will be enforcing your will and I shall try to bear my fate properly and avoid disgrace.
1 On the authorship and date, see Bühler 1963.
2 In order to preserve the family property, fathers (or guardians) had the right to determine whom their daughters should marry; see no. 52. The plot of Menander’s Epitrepontes concerns a similar situation.
3 On the presumption that the male is naturally more intelligent, see Schaps 1979, p. xx 92.