Printer Friendly



One of the less expected treatises included in Plutarch's Moralia consists of the nine books of `Table-talk' or topics suitable for discussion by the participants at the strictly male and private drinking party or symposium (612C ff.). But even when the association of symposium and the erotic is acknowledged or we note the interest of ancient philosophers in the general area of eugenics (e.g., Arist. Pol. 1334629 ff. and Plutarch on the Spartan marriage, Lyc. 15.3-9) or we identify the type of prejudice which later led Christians to believe that a child conceived on a Sunday will be a leper or epileptic, the sixth question analysed in Book 3, `the right time to make love' (653B ff.), is perhaps considerably more surprising. The conclusion eventually reached, however, will occasion no alarm: the right time for men and women to sleep together would appear to be at night when it is dark (cf. 654D-E) - after all, we are busy and preoccupied throughout the day and are not animals like the cock eager for sex first thing in the morning. But in the evening we are relaxed and at our ease, and so the time is right provided, of course, we have neither eaten nor drunk to excess. This is hardly a conclusion, however, to be warmly welcomed by the sexually liberated for whom intercourse is there to be enjoyed wherever, and at whatever time of night or day, excitement mounts. But when it comes to sex, Plutarch is no revolutionary keen to experiment. In fact he clearly shares the long-established and common Greek prejudice whereby sexual activities are thought something essentially `dirty', forced upon man by a combination of biological necessity and an inability to resist feminine wiles, and something, therefore, to be experienced rather than enjoyed, not spontaneously but at a set and regular time, in total privacy and without excessive passion. In his account of the symposium in which the Seven Wise Men participated, Plutarch has Cleodorus deliver the opinion that the most just pleasure for the body is that derived from food and drink, as is proved by a common and open participation in the symposium. Compare sex - this is performed at night and shrouded in great darkness, since we regard the sharing of such a pleasure to be shameless and animal-like (158F). Apparently Cleodorus would have us believe that sex is to be endured as much as it is to be a source of pleasure - as it still is to be endured today among the Sarakatsan shepherds of contemporary Greece for whom `it must be performed in the utmost secrecy, without speech, and the woman must remain motionless and passive. It is thought shameful for a husband to gaze on his wife's body.'(2)

Such a description of the sexual mores of the Sarakatsan shepherds, and especially the final remark, that it is thought shameful for a husband to gaze on his wife's body, makes one think at once of a reference made by Plutarch to female nudity and the sense of shame it caused. The reference is to be found in his story about the young women of Miletus, included in his collection of tales about valiant women (249B-D; see also Fr. 175). Here we learn that these women, for some unknown reason, started to hang themselves and could not be deterred from suicide until a proposal was advanced that women who hanged themselves should be carried out for burial through a public place, the agora or market (cf. 291F for the agora as the place where the `guilty' are exposed), in the nude. The effect was immediate: the disgrace which would now follow their deaths soon put an end to the spate of suicides, for Greek women were required to be decorous in death and certainly not to be conveyed naked where all might see them - so much so that, for example, in Euripides' Hecuba Talthybius the herald reports how, when Polyxena was slaughtered, this woman `even in death had the great foresight to fall decently, concealing what ought to be concealed from the eyes of males' (568-70).(3) We might think such a comment incongruous, even absurd, but not an ancient Greek: thus, in his biography of Cleomenes, Plutarch is careful to describe how the wife of Panteus did her best to lay out her executed companions and only then did she let down her own garment and gallantly died needing no one to cover her up after death (Cleom. 38.5-6; cf. also 253E and Agis 20.4). According to the Moralia, the most serious consequences followed the death of the virgin Helvia who was struck by lightning when riding a horse and subsequently found naked, her tunic having been pulled up as if on purpose from her `privy parts' (284A-C). An exception, as so often, is offered by Sparta, an exception to test the rule that the female body was viewed with horror, since Spartan girls, like the young men of that state, paraded in the nude and with the young men looking on (Lye. 14.2 and 15.1; see also Comp. Lyc. and Num. 3.3-4 and 227E), but there was nothing, we are assured, disgraceful in this particular display of the female body (cf. 14.4). A visitor to Greece today, especially to Athens or some other major centre, may well be surprised by the contrast in dress between the young and obviously unmarried woman and the mature matron, a difference also marked in ancient Sparta where girls went unveiled in public but married women veiled, the former in order to find husbands and the latter to keep husbands (232C). In spite of draped female but nude male statues, even naked men are not acceptable when there are women present to see them: among the many concessions recorded by Plutarch as allowed the Sabine women by their Roman captors was included a provision that no man be seen naked by them (Rom. 20.3; see also on male nudity Dio 35.4, Cat. Ma. 20.5-6, and Aem. 31.6), and that a male body when it is that of an old man and, furthermore, befouled with slime should be exposed without any form of covering is a deep humiliation (cf. Mar. 38.2). And what is it that ought not to be on view? The answer is supplied by an anecdote about Philip of Macedon preserved by Plutarch: once, while prisoners were being sold off, Philip was sitting with his tunic pulled up `in an unseemly manner'; one of the prisoners asked to be spared as a friend of Philip's father and when Philip proceeded to question him, requested a private word with the king and then told Philip to pull his clothes down for, by sitting this way, he was exposing himself, and this piece of advice won the captive his freedom (178C-D). One is immediately reminded of the approval of the youths of yesteryear voiced by the Just Argument in Aristophanes' Clouds: they used to sit modestly exposing nothing and when they got up, they took care to leave behind no impression of their genitals to excite their lovers (973-6).

The strength of the pollution associated with women's sexual organs is revealed by Bellerophon's retreat because of aischyne ('shame') back to the sea when approached by women who were exposing themselves (248B). Is it also significant that men, but not women, are liable to search (cf. 248F)? Plutarch's contemporary and fellow Greek, Dio Chrysostom, in illustrating the good order and sobriety (sophrosyne) for which the city of Tarsus and its citizens were celebrated in earlier days, points out that many traces of such behaviour still survive and cites one example, the clothing adopted by women: apparently the women of Tarsus wore clothes of such a kind that no one saw any single part of them, any part of their face or the rest of their body, nor did the women themselves see anything `off the road', and there is no suggestion that this was an `oriental' rather than a Greek mode of attire (33.48). And in considering this a Greek style I have in mind a statement made by a pupil of Aristotle and an author who had no mean influence on Plutarch, Dicaearchus of Messana, a statement that the women of Thebes veiled their heads in such a way that only their eyes were visible, the rest of the face being covered.(4) Equally Greek, I would suggest, is the best-known story related by any Greek about the sense of shame aroused if a man saw a woman naked. I refer to Herodotus' story of king Candaules, a monarch so smitten by his wife's beauty that he insisted that his bodyguard Gyges conceal himself so as to be able to see the queen in the nude. The story is too well known to demand more than the briefest of summaries: Gyges protested but was forced to agree; he saw the queen naked but she also saw him; she thereupon gave Gyges a choice - kill Candaules, become king in his place, and marry her or die -and Gyges preferred to live. Ironically, the queen repeated her husband's trick of concealing Gyges and in the same place, thereby securing her revenge (1.8-12).

As Gyges said, `a woman sheds her modesty when she sheds her clothes' (1.8.3). But we have yet to consider what evidence there is for Plutarch's attitude to sex in the discussion of the fight time for intercourse from the third book of `Table-talk'. In what way does the Moralia passage reveal a conviction that sex is `bad', sex is `dirty'? Our passage begins with a report that some young men were pulling Epicurus to pieces for having introduced into his work the Symposium `an ignoble and unnecessary debate' about the right time for sexual intercourse. `For, they maintained, that an older man should talk about sex at dinner in the presence of young men and assess whether love was to be made after or before the meal, was the height of licentiousness' (653B-C). But a defender of the philosopher and an expert on his writings, the physician Zopyrus, pointed out that Epicurus was attempting to check young men from their passions on the grounds that sex is always (mis)leading us into disaster and is worst when you are eating and drinking. In fact, the symposium is just the appropriate occasion to discuss this kind of question: the philosopher to be blamed is the one who considers such a subject during day-time teaching when a large and diverse audience is present. But at the symposium, held among intimates and friends, how is it shameful to say or to hear anything helpfully expressed on the topic of intercourse? For Zopyrus medical opinion supported Epicurus in the belief that to rush into sex after dinner is not without danger: the combination of undigested food and agitation resulting from intercourse threatens to double the harm (653C-654B). The discussion continued with Olympichus quoting the Pythagorean Clinias who, when asked the best time to approach a woman, replied `whenever you most happen to want to suffer harm (654B). When it comes to sex, it seems, it is best to claim it's too early when you go to bed and too late when you get up! But, another speaker argued (654C ff.), there has to be sex and night is the time for Aphrodite or intercourse, since it is a good thing to draw darkness as a veil over such an activity and not to expel modesty by performing in the light (cf. 1129B); sight, it would seem, is the sharpest of sensations (cf. 681A-D; see also Fr. 138 and cf. Crass. 23.7), whereas `night divers by removing the insatiate and craziest of deeds and lugs one's natural inclination' (654E) or, as the Cyrenaic philosopher believed according to Plutarch, one ought not to indulge in love-making when there is a light but to draw forth a veil of darkness in order to curb the frequent appetite of the mind inflamed by receiving distinct images of the deed through sight (1089A; see also 1129B). To prefer sex with a wife during the day in the middle of business or in the morning is senseless as evening is when work ends and we can relax whereas work begins in the morning. No, sex after dinner is the answer, given a modest meal and not too much wine (cf. 1D-2A), a word of wisdom put into practice, for example, by the Spartans (cf. Lyc. 15.3) but not by Alexander the Great whose excessive imbibing did not benefit his love life (cf. 623E)! Such arguments can also be reinforced by a `scientific' gloss, and so it is claimed that heat enhances generative power but wine is cold with the result that heavy drinkers are poorer lovers and their seed weak (652D; cf. 653F-654A); and, it must not be forgotten, it is uncontrolled intercourse which follows a lawless meal (997C)! There is the further point that it is when you are busy that sex can be harmful. We are not all like Epicurus, that is, at peace and ease. You ought not to expose your body to life's trials when it is weakened by the madness of sex. Have sex and then, after a good night's sleep, get up refreshed and restored, ready to face a new day. And we ought to remember from elsewhere in the Moralia the salutary example offered by the Roman Lucullus: in his old age he surrendered himself to soft, and therefore the wrong kind of, living, and what did this comprise? Baths, banquets, and sex `in daylight hours' (785F; see also Afar. 6.5). Nor should we also forget, by way of contrast, Plutarch's story of how a virgin belonging to a distinguished family was ordered to his bed by the Spartan king Pausanias, and how the girl approached the bed of the sleeping monarch `in darkness and in silence' after she had asked for the light to be removed (Cim. 6.4). The Sarakatsan shepherds would approve the woman's action if not that of the unscrupulous Pausanias!

As one reads through this somewhat pompous debate or notes the lurid language in which much of this discussion is couched, one is less and less persuaded to describe Plutarch's attitude to sex as anything other than heavily prejudiced and grossly inhibited. Nowhere is an impression conveyed that sex is there to be thoroughly enjoyed rather than a danger inviting inevitable disaster. One thinks of Plutarch's reference to the athlete Clitomachus who was admired because, at the mention of sex, he got up and left (710D-E). What a splendid example of self-control! The authority of Homer is cited when daytime sex is condemned: just a single hero is depicted by the poet as making love during the day, the despicable Paris, and that, moreover, after the goddess Aphrodite, his protectress, had had to intervene and rescue her favourite from the cuckolded husband Menelaus (Iliad 3.373 ff.), `implying that lack of self-control during the day is characteristic not of the husband but of the insane adulterer' (655A; see also 18F). A reference to Homer, firstly, suggests what a wider examination will soon show to be true, that Plutarch's inhibition towards sex represents a common attitude on the part of the Greek male and, secondly, it reveals that it is an attitude which can be traced back as far as our earliest source. That this is indeed the case may be seen from the Iliad: in that poem Hera `seduces' her husband Zeus (14. 292 ff.), but when the king of the gods demands immediate sex, Hera expresses horror that Zeus should be contemplating intercourse `on the crests of Ida with everything in plain view' (332). The dilemma is nearly solved - Zeus' insistence is met and Hera's modesty safeguarded - when Zeus wraps the pair of them in a substitute for night, a golden cloud which even the Sun cannot penetrate (343-4 and 350-1). Comparable is the story known from a fragment of Plutarch according to which Zeus abducted the maiden Hera and Cithaeron, presumably the mountain of that name, provided as a natural bedroom a `shady recess', another location removed from spying eyes and protected by secrecy (Fr. 157.3). In fact, whatever the circumstances, sex is likely to be thought unclean by a Greek: according to the poet Hesiod, one ought not to expose genitals, when befouled with semen, inside the house near the sacred hearth (Works and Days, 733-4); Plutarch's Soclarus warns us against sacrificing only shortly after having had sex (655D). But much dirtier is sex which is `open' in the sense that no effort is made to observe the proprieties and to perform behind closed, if not locked, doors. The unknown author of the Dissoi Logoi or `Twofold Arguments' writing about 400 B.C. tells us that sex `outside' where someone will see you is foul (2.4 Diels). After all, it is barbarians or non-Greeks who flaunt their sexuality quite shamelessly: and so Herodotus reports that the natives of the Caucasus region copulate in the open like animals (1.203.2), while the Auses of North Africa hold women in common and intercourse is casual and, again, like that of animals (4.180.5). If we may believe Xenophon's Anabasis, it was normal among the Mossynoeci to indulge in intercourse publicly, this being a people reputed to be the most barbarous and most unlike Greeks, who in a crowd did as men would do when alone but, when alone, what men would do when with others (5.4.33-4; see also Apoll. Rhod. 2.1015-25; Dio. Sic. 14.30.7; Artem. Onir. 1.8). But not all non-Greeks were quite as bad, however outlandish their sexual habits: discussing the `asexual' Amazons, the geographer Strabo claims that for two special months in the spring, they go up into the mountains with the Gargarians and have intercourse - but in secret and in darkness (11.5.1). And some Greeks could behave no better than barbarians: denouncing his opponent Aeschines, Demosthenes, understandably, attacks his mother as this was the deadliest of insults, and, in doing so, asks whether he should mention how Aeschines' mother practised daylight `nuptials', i.e., prostitution, though he does add `in an outhouse' (18.129). Apollodorus, too, claims that Phrynio brought the notorious Neaera to Athens, lived with her in the most indecent and reckless way, and took her everywhere with him to dinners where there was drinking; she was with him at all the riotous parties and he had sex with her openly whenever and wherever he fancied ([Dem.] 59.33). Then again, according to the Platonic Greater Hippias, everyone admits that intercourse ought to be enjoyed only where there is no one to see because it is most disgraceful when on public display (299a5-6). Significantly Theophrastus' Slanderer's insults include the accusations that women snatch men off the streets and, even more to the point, that the saying is not nonsense, the saying that they have intercourse in the streets just: like bitches (Char. 28.3). After all, a distinction is to be drawn when it comes to sex between animals and sex between humans: the former feel no shame and are willing whereas the latter both feel shame and are unwilling (cf. Dio Chrysostom 7.134).

Equation with animals (cf. also Plut. 338C where we have not only a comparison with horses but also a reference to `days being spent' among `herds' of women) and heavy emphasis, all make for forcible language but the views expressed from Homer on are in no way out of step with the views which we encounter in the third book of Plutarch's `Table-talk', and, as we shall now proceed to see, these views are also to be found in other parts of Plutarch's writings, the Lives as well as the Moralia. A casual comment can sometimes be especially significant as when, in his advice to bridegroom and bride, Plutarch urges the couple to keep their differences to themselves and not to rehearse them in public just as they are to keep their sexual activities and feelings of affection secret (139E-F). Plutarch's opinion of sex is neither enlightened nor liberated and in being neither enlightened nor liberated is typical of classical antiquity. Sex is thought to be a trap set for men by women, and a very dangerous trap at that, and its tendency is to corrupt. Commenting on Theseus' harsh treatment of his son Hyppolytus, Plutarch refers to very few having escaped the effects of love, jealousy, and a woman's slanders (Comp. Thes. and Rom. 3.2); better presumably is the Spartan custom reported by Plutarch whereby the Spartan visited his new bride secretly, and time - even considerable time - will have passed before the Spartan saw his wife by daylight (Lyc. 15.4-5). Too much sex, it seems, just dulls the appetite.


In his `Roman Questions' (263D ff.) Plutarch attempts to explain a variety of Roman customs including the practice by which the husband first has sexual relations with his bride not `with a light' but in darkness (279E-F). Is it, Plutarch asks, because he feels shame, reckoning his wife to belong to another before they have slept together? Or is it because he is accustoming himself to approach even his own wife with aidos or a sense of shame? Or is it in case there is something peculiar or offensive about her body and one wants it concealed? Or is it a condemnation of unlawful sex since aischyne or shame, disgrace, attaches itself even to legitimate intercourse? All these suggested answers are significant: sex involves aides or shame; a wife is an `outsider'; the female body may be offensive; sex is bad whether outside or inside marriage. But more evidence is to follow when different prohibitions associated with the Flamen Dialis or High Priest of Jupiter are considered: why is the priest, for example, forbidden to touch or even name the dog and goat (290A-C)? Loathing for the goat may be because of its lack of sexual restraint (or evil odour or its proneness to disease). Perhaps the dog is less active sexually, but there are some, we are told, who maintain that a dog may enter neither the Acropolis of Athens nor the sacred island of Delos because it engages in open intercourse. In fact, Plutarch rejects this explanation, preferring to argue that the dog is savage and therefore likely to deter suppliants seeking a place of refuge or sanctuary (see also Comp. Demetr. and Ant. 4.2).

But what is sex really like in the opinion of Plutarch? One of the slighter pieces featured in the Moralia is an amusing discussion between Odysseus the Greek hero and a certain Gryllus, a man transformed into a pig by the witch Circe, a discussion in which Gryllus roes to convince Odysseus that his present existence as an animal is better than his previous life as a human (985D ff.). It is the opinion of Gryllus that, whereas the desire to eat and drink is at the same time natural and necessary, the pleasures of sex, while they find their beginnings in nature, have been called natural but not essential (989B-C). Elsewhere in the Moralia we find listed as `unnatural' acts (18A-B) Medea's murder of her children, Orestes' murder of his mother, the pseudo-madness of Odysseus, and the unrestrained association of women with men. Women and sex can appear in lists coupled with wine, foolish talk, licentiousness, sloth, failure to take exercise, and too many baths or too much unseasonable food (52D-E and 69B; cf. 136D). Eros or sexual desire is madness and love blind as we are repeatedly informed (cf. 43D and 54C; 48F, 90A, 92F, and 1000A = Plato, Laws 731E). Sophocles, Plutarch relates, said that, in his old age, he was glad to have escaped aphrodisia or sexual pleasures, a savage and crazy tyrant (788E; see also 525A and 1094E). Lovers lose all judgement, even converting disadvantages into merits, for love, like ivy, is terrible at attaching itself to any excuse (44F-45A; cf. 56D-E and 84F). The pleasures bestowed by love may be exaggerated (cf. 1094A and C) and, as the experience of Sophocles shows, eventually wither away (cf. 525A) or, as Euripides puts it, `Aphrodite is vexed with the old' (285B, 786A, and 1094F). At the same time we also read elsewhere that eros, when it has gripped the soul, long remains there; it does not relax in some grown old but still flourishes and is fresh and youthful when hairs are grey (Fr. 137).

Eros may assume a variety of shapes and Plutarch's knowledge of the byways of sex is impressive: thus he refers to love bites and their effect - they arouse and titillate one's sense of pleasure by pretending to cause pain (61B), though I suspect that actual pain was not always absent (cf. Pomp. 2.2); to sex stimulants (126B); to obscene letters (Pomp. 37.2) and pornography carried in the luggage of Roman officers on active service (Crass. 32.3; see also 19A-20A); to a parent prepared to act as pimp (Thes. 3.4 and Pomp. 36.3-6) and a husband also (759F-760B; cf. 860D); to possible incest (cf. Cim. 4.5-7, Per. 13.11, and C/c. 10.3 and 29.4-5) and actual incest (cf. 310B-C, 311A-B, 312C-D, and 736E-F); to wife swapping (Cat. Mi. 25 and 52.3-4 and Lyc. 15.6-7); to toy boys (Sol. 20.40-5); to homosexual marriage (Galba 9.3); to a menage at trois (144B-C and Dio 3.1-2); to lesbianism (cf. Lyc. 18.4); to sadomasochism (cf. 972E-F); to anal penetration (126A and 705E; cf. 858C and 863B); to buggery (cf. 149C-E, 312D-E, and 990F); to masturbation (cf. 1044B); to Oedipal dreams (Caes. 32.9; cf. 364A); and even, possibly, to foot massage (Ant. 58.5). Is a touch of male bravado on Plutarch's part being displayed when it is pointed out how very tempting it is for us to enjoy what is denied to others as in the case of `notorious' women? Even though men's bodies may not be up to it, a high-class prostitute or hetaira like Phryne or Lais is preferred to a beautiful and loving wife because of an empty reputation: Phryne, in fact, now an old woman, used to claim she sold the dregs at a higher price on account of her reputation (124F-125B). The spurious biography of Hyperides provides an apposite example, since it relates how this orator was partial to sex to the extent that he threw his son out of the house and brought in Myrrhine the most expensive hetaira, kept Aristagora in Piraeus and the Theban Phila on his estate at Eleusis (849D; cf. 839A-B on Isocrates, who did not marry when young, kept a hetaira when an old man but subsequently married). He seems to have been no less a sexual athlete than the legendary Theseus (see Comp. Thes. and Rom. 6.1-2)! Hyperides also defended Phryne against a charge of impiety, presumably because he had been her lover, and when she was on the point of being found guilty, he brought her forward into the middle of the court and, tearing off her clothes, exposed her breasts. And when the jurymen gazed at her `beauty', she was acquitted (849E), a verdict which will not surprise us when we remember how, according to Euripides' Andromache (629), Menelaus threw away his sword when his treacherous wife Helen exposed her breasts.

We learn from the biography of Alcibiades how the Athenian, in spite of his wife being virtuous and loving, was always carrying on with hetairai - to such an extent that she left him and went to live with her brother. Alcibiades was happy enough until the wife tried for a divorce. He then carried her off back home (Alc. 8.3-4). This, of course, was typical of his scandalous behaviour at all times (cf. Alc. 23.7 and Ages. 3.1-2). Also, according to his biography, notorious for his mistresses (Demetr. 14) was Demetrius, the son of Antigonus, his major passion being reserved, somewhat perversely, for the appreciably older Lamia (16.4), though whether she was old enough to qualify as his mother is another matter (cf. 27.3-4). Ambassadors sent by Demetrius to his fellow-king Lysimachus were treated to the sight of scars from wounds inflicted on Lysimachus by a caged lion, but reacted with laughter, declaring that their own monarch carried on his neck the bites of a fearful wild beast, a Lamia (27.3) or ghoul, that is, a mythological monster which fed on man's flesh. There is also the story of how Antigonus went to visit his supposedly sick son Demetrius and encountered a beautiful woman at the door; he went in, took a seat beside his son, and felt his pulse; when Demetrius said that his fever had now left him, Antigonus replied, `No doubt - I met it departing at your door' (Demetr. 19.5). Equally dissolute sexually, even as an old man, was the Roman Sulla (Sull. 2.3-4). When he married Valeria, it was not from any temperate or worthy motive - he was led astray like a stripling, by looks and impertinence, through which the most disgraceful and shameless emotions are naturally aroused or so Plutarch would have us believe (35.5; see also 36.1). But among the Romans, as lover and as adulterer, Antony was very much in a class of his own even before he met the Egyptian queen Cleopatra (see Ant. 4.3; 6.5; 9.3, and 24.1), though it will be noted how he exploited a double standard, one for himself and the exact opposite for his wife, from whom absolute fidelity was demanded (9.1-2; cf. Rom. 22.3), and, strangely perhaps, how he showed himself to be at the beck and call of a strong woman (see 10.3), first of all his wife Fulvia, who was `by nature' an interfering and forceful woman (Ant. 30.2) and later Cleopatra. Certainly Cleopatra was considerably more than a pretty face or even a woman practised in the art of seduction; her linguistic ability also suggests no mean intellect (Ant. 27.2-4), and she needed all her gifts in order to compete against the very different Octavia, a woman of beauty, presence, and intelligence (Ant. 31.2), the sister of the future emperor and inferior to Cleopatra neither in beauty nor in youthfulness (Ant. 57.3). Comparing Demetrius and Antony, Plutarch states that the former did not allow his pleasures to prevent him from undertaking necessary action, whereas Antony neglected everything so that he might `wander about and sport' with Cleopatra. `And, in the end, like Paris (see p. 171), he ran away from battle and sank into her bosom' (Comp. Demetr. and Ant. 3.3-4). Not untypically, Antony could quote his `ancestor' Heracles who was not content with one woman but gave free rein to `nature' (36.4), and this was a not inappropriate comparison, since Cleopatra played the role of the dominant queen Omphale to Antony's version of the Greek hero.

Surveying the evidence offered by the Lives we should finally ask whether Plutarch does dwell a little too longingly on, or betrays too great an interest in, the sex lives of his subjects in general or, in particular, the admittedly exotic marriage practices of the Spartans as instituted by Lycurgus (Lyc. 15.3-10). Is this the fascination of the prurient? The Spartan bridegroom, it will be noted, came to his bride at night `not drunk nor shattered but sober, having dined as always among his messmates' and then quickly returned to his bachelor quarters, and continued to follow this practice (15.3-4). Sexual relations as a kind of reward for initiative would, obviously, restrict opportunities or, as Plutarch expresses it, `meetings in this way not only allowed the exercise of self-control and restraint (= sophrosyne), but led husband and wife into partnership when their bodies were fertile and their affection fresh and not stale, not when they were satiated and pale from unrestrained sexual activity' (15.5), an observation reminiscent of Victorian warnings against indulging in sex on too regular or frequent a basis. Just as Victorian is the opinion advanced slightly later that, generally, the seed of those uncontrolled in their enjoyment of sex is sterile and fruitless (19.1). `Prudery, a repugnance for sexual contact, the denial of female sexual pleasure, cold functional sexual relations inside the bourgeois marriage, complemented for men by necessary liaisons with mistresses or prostitutes, comical efforts to mask public sexuality and nudity' have been claimed to form part of a perception of Victorian life,(5) and it is clearly a perception which finds abundant echoes in the Moralia and the Lives.


The evidence provided by anecdotes, and there are plenty of anecdotes in the Moralia as well as in Plutarch's Lives, is to be handled with discretion, and we must always take into consideration the reasons why anecdotes have been cited by an author. The anecdote is not so much a source of positive information as an example of illustrative material serving a moral purpose.(6) Originating often as gossip, it is more indicative of attitudes or prejudices than it is of hard fact; it will hardly be a surprise then that, like gossip, many anecdotes illustrate an individual's sexual habits. The impossibility of resisting the trap set by women and sex, whatever the male victim's age, experience, or station in life, is heavily stressed in anecdotes throughout the Moralia. Even the innocent woman may cause disaster. One such story, a famous one apparently, tells how a living virgin was to be offered as a sacrifice to the sea-goddess Amphitrite and the Nereids (163B-C). The sacrifice was duly chosen and lavishly bedecked; but a not ignoble youth happened to be in love with the girl and he, in a desperate desire to help her in her present misfortune, seized her in his arms and threw himself into the sea with her (cf. 984E). There is also the legendary Solois who fell in love with Antiope the Amazon, and when Antiope failed to respond, drowned himself in his despair (Thes. 26.3-4), while Cyanippus and Aemilius committed suicide when their wives were torn apart by their dogs (310E-F). Suicide can in fact either be a way out, an escape mechanism as it is here or might have been for the son of Seleucus who fell in love with his father's wife (cf. Demetr. 38.2), or a means of avoiding disgrace, the `fate worse than death' say, and there are examples of this too in Plutarch (e.g., Demetr. 24.2-3). More elaborate, and so more informative, is an account of what befell a young man appointed priest at a shrine in Phocis of Heracles `the woman-hater' (403F-404A). The choice broke a rule by which, to avoid any trouble, an older man was selected as priest, being less likely to succumb to temptations of the flesh (see p. 174), for such a priest was required not to consort with a woman during the year of the appointment. But the young man, not wicked but ambitious, accepted the office although in love with a girl. At first he controlled himself and kept clear of her until, when he was resting after drinking and dancing, they met and he `had his way with her'. Scared and confused, he consulted the god about his sin and received the oracular response, `God allows everything inevitable'. Apparently a young man's inability to resist passion is a fact of life about which no one, not even a god, can do anything, and love's symptoms are well known - hesitant speech, flushes like fire, failure of vision, sudden sweating, irregular heartbeat, and, finally, distress, amazement, and loss of colour (Demetr. 38.4). A practical demonstration of love's `sickness' is furnished by Cleopatra when she thought Anthony to be slipping from her grasp (Ant. 53.3-4), and a convincing act she certainly made of it.

Precautions are a good idea where young men are involved (cf. 12A-D), and precautions were taken by Antigonus when he discovered his son Philip eager to take up lodgings with a widow and her three attractive daughters. Summoning the officer responsible he asked, `Will you not remove my son from so confined a space?' (182B and Demetr. 23.4). Plutarch quotes Menander who refers to the self-discipline of some young men `who bent down their heads and ate up their dessert', taking precautions and being too scared to spy when a pimp introduced some lovely (and expensive!) hetairai (133B). The young Crassus was once hidden away in a cave by a friend, who also supplied his guest with what youth enjoys, a pair of attractive slave girls (Crass. 5). It seems that, in the opinion of the elder Cato, slaves did the greatest wrong for the sake of sex (Cat. Ma. 21.2). Even a good soldier might be persuaded by love to abandon his duties, to go absent from camp, as did a soldier in the army of Fabius Maximus (195E-F and Fab. 20.4-6); the combination of being both a mercenary and a lover made it easy for a Bruttian appointed commander by Hannibal to change sides, and there were also the great gifts held out as an inducement (Fab. 21.1-3). There is, further, the story about a veteran soldier of Alexander the Great who attempted to join the ill or wounded, who were being repatriated to Macedonia (339C-D; see also 180F-181A and Alex. 41.9-10). Why? He was undoubtedly a stout warrior whose body was covered with wounds though there was nothing wrong with him now. Questioned by the king, the soldier confessed a passion for the hetaira Telesippa and would not be separated from her if she were sent back. Few, it seems, are likely to possess such strength of character when faced with a woman as to follow the example of Antiochus III, who removed himself at once from Ephesus on seeing the outstandingly beautiful priestess of Artemis, thereby eliminating temptation and the danger of committing an unholy deed (183F). As has already been said, since prevention is so much better than cure, it is advisable to anticipate trouble and to take necessary precautions; the amorous certainly ought to guard against the onset of passion as, to add even more examples, did the Spartan king Agesilaus and Xenophon's Cyrus (31C; for Cyrus see also 521F-522A and 1093C).

It would appear that Alexander the Great refused to see the wife of his defeated foe Darius though she was reputed to be devastatingly beautiful, but he did visit her elderly mother (522A; see also Alex. 21.1-6). Alexander, we read in Plutarch's biography of the Macedonian king, reckoned self-control more kingly than the defeat of his enemies (Alex. 21.7); and he also said that it was sleep and sex above all which made him distrust those proclaiming his godhead and made him realise he was mortal (65F; see also 717F) `as if tiredness and pleasure arise from a single natural weakness' (Alex. 22.6). Certainly it is not to Cimon's credit that he was entangled with many women (Cim. 4.3 and 8), while, as the lover of the hetaira Aspasia, the Athenian statesman Pericles went to the, by Greek standards, grotesque length of kissing the woman whenever he went out and came in from the agora (Per. 24.6). It needed a Cynic philosopher like Diogenes to comment ironically when he spotted the Olympic victor Dioxippus incapable of dragging his eyes away from a beautiful woman among the spectators: `Do you see how our athlete is being throttled by a tiny little girl?' (521B). But the picture is not completely bleak: thus in Plutarch's version of the dinner of the Seven Wise Men, Mnesiphilus argues that the `work' of Aphrodite is not intercourse but the result of intercourse - friendliness, longing, togetherness, and intimacy - for this is the goddess who produces harmony and friendship between men and women and who, by means of their bodies, through pleasure mingles and fuses together their souls (156C-D). And elsewhere it is claimed that the muse Erato, whose name, it is implied, is linked to the verb eran, `to have sexual desires', when accompanied by reasoned persuasion, eliminates the mad, frenzied element in the pleasure which thus culminates not in violence and licentiousness but in affection and trust (746F). You can even joke with lovers though you had better be careful (633E-634A and Ant. 4.3), and the possibility of a `good' hetaira, our prostitute `with a heart of gold', is admitted (cf. Fr. 85). And so we have Timandra who did her very best to organize an appropriate burial for Alcibiades (Ak. 39.4), and the concubine of the Numidian king who was touched to see the handsome young Marius treated badly by the king; her pity eventually became love and Marius, when he saw she was motivated by something more serious than pleasure and lust (and there was no other way to escape!), accepted her help and got away with his friends (Mar. 40.5-6). But we are still left with a Plutarch closely approaching, if not actually reaching, the status of prig when it comes to sexual relations. What are we to make, for instance, of the comment which follows his statement that, according to Heraclides of Pontus, Solon did not require sons born to a hetaira to support their fathers? `For the man who ignores the honourable state of matrimony is clearly taking a woman to himself not because of children but because of pleasure' (Sol. 22.4). Very different in content perhaps but not so very different in tone, and equally patronizing, is Plutarch's description of Pompey's wife Cornelia: `She had many charms apart from those arising from her youth. She was excellently educated in letters, in the lyre, and in geometry, and was used to listening, to her profit, to philosophical discussion. She also had a disposition free from that unpleasantness and pettiness which such studies encourage in young women' (Pomp. 55.1-2). The concluding words of this extract surely condemn Plutarch and make him a prime example of the male chauvinist pig. Another reference will leave no doubt, and this time it is a passage from Plutarch's essay on brotherly love and concerns the fight attitude to adopt towards a brother's wife, a person to be revered as the most holy of all things sacred: `If her husband honors her we should applaud him, if he neglects her we should share her annoyance, if she is cross we should calm her, if she makes some slight mistake we should exhort and help to reconcile husband and wife, and if you have a quarrel with a brother make your accusations to her and put an end to the complaint' (491D-E). The assumption that a woman can be manipulated in these ways, and is there to be manipulated, is really quite monstrous. Finally, there are those typically chauvinist jokes at the expense of women which, it is to be suspected, Plutarch thoroughly enjoyed repeating such as that said to have been aimed by Cicero at a son of Crassus thought to look like a man named Axius (= `Worthy') and, therefore, really Axius' son: when this son had delivered a good speech in the Senate, Cicero was asked his opinion and replied in Greek, axios Crassou, that is `worthy of Crassus' or, if the first word is taken as a proper noun, `Axius the son of Crassus', a reference to the son's suspect parentage and so a gratuitous slur on Crassus' wife (Cic. 25.5). Even less subtle and no more humorous is Cicero's reputed response to Metellus Nepos when he was repeatedly asked `Who is your father?' and Cicero replied, `Your mother, in your own case, has made an answer to such a question rather difficult' (26.9). Nepos' mother, it need hardly be added, did not enjoy the best of reputations (26.10).


The fifth question considered in the first book of Plutarch's `Table-talk' is why is it said that Eros teaches a poet (622C-623D) and here we learn something about eros, sexual desire. More information is at our disposal elsewhere in the writings of Plutarch. Stobaeus preserves in his anthology of excerpts (4.20.34 and 67-9 and 4.21.25) scraps of a treatise Peri Erotos or `On Sexual Desire' attributed to Plutarch but not listed in the Lamprias Catalogue, though inclusion in that compilation is no guarantee of a work's being either authentic or spurious (= Fr. 134-8). Fragments, inevitably, yield little more than desultory remarks and seldom present an argument which is comprehensive or continuously developed; this is only too plain with the fragmentary remains of the Peri Erotos. But let us consider what these fragments do have to offer. Commenting on a passage from Menander, an especial worshipper and celebrant of the god Eros, the author of the first fragment finds the force of passion rooted not in physical attraction or intercourse, though both may serve as an incentive to sexual desire; crucial for the couple involved, the lover and the loved, the active and the passive, is the right moment of time (Fr. 134). Ergs is not a question of judgement but, according to some, a disease or, in the opinion of others, in an ascending order of intensity, a passion, a madness, a divine and demonic excitement of the soul, or simply a god; typically, poets and artists depict Eros bearing a torch since the splendour of fire confers the greatest pleasure but its power to burn the greatest pain (Fr. 135). It is best to treat those suffering from ergs with understanding as if they are sick, and best from the beginning to avoid it, but if this is not possible, `drive out the wild beast before it acquires claws and teeth' or you will find yourself in combat not with a child but with a full-grown evil. But what are the claws and teeth of Eros? Nothing but suspicion and jealousy. However attractive, Eros is wheedling and seductive, stopping you of livelihood, household, marriage, and authority; Eros is a riddle difficult of solution - `what hates and loves, flees and pursues, threatens and begs, feels anger and pity, wishes to stop but doesn't wish to stop, rejoices and grieves most over the same thing, hurts and helps alike?' Lovers are a mass of similar contradictions and they express real but contrary emotions, so that, for example, they want to be rulers and endue being slaves. Hence this emotion is thought a madness (Fr. 136). Somewhat surprisingly, a further snippet claims that ergs is slow to develop and, less unexpectedly, slow to disappear; when the passage of time or reason causes it to cease, smouldering embers remain (Fr. 137). A final extract (Fr. 138) preserved by Stobaeus warns of the dangers of touching and seizing the beautiful, here actually males; even those standing well clear, according to Xenophon, may be affected `for sight affords passion a hold' (see p. 170).

These fragments do not provide a systematic survey of ergs though they do repeatedly emphasize the dangers to be associated with sexual desire. If one is asked how great are such dangers, the obvious reply is `extremely great indeed'. But we are in the fortunate position of being able to supplement the fragmentary material with the full discussion of a clearly complex emotion provided by Plutarch's version of Plato's Symposium, his dialogue on eros or the Erotikos (748Eff.).(7) In the dialogue Autobulus, the son of Plutarch, reports to Flavian a conversation between a group of friends, including Plutarch himself, reputed to have been held early in Plutarch's marriage at a shrine of the Muses on Mount Helicon. A background to the discussion is supplied by the story of the young man Bacchon `the handsome' and Ismenodora, a widow from Thespiae celebrated because of her wealth and family, and respectable as well (749C-F), Ismenodora clearly enjoyed the kind of reputation not shared by all widows in antiquity, who might well be the subject of disparaging comments (cf. Cat. Ma. 21.8) or thought, like the Widow of Ephesus (see Petronius, Sat. 111-12), to be only too ready to forget their first husband (but, for an exception, see Cleom. 1.1-2).(8) Although a widow, Ismenodora was still young and not unattractive. In arranging the marriage of Bacchon and one of her relatives, the widow had many meetings with the bridegroom-to-be and fell in love with him herself. Her intentions were strictly honourable, and she desired to marry and spend her life with Bacchon. There were, however, difficulties: Bacchon's mother was unhappy that Ismenodora was too grand for her son, and there was also, as some of Bacchon's friends observed, the discrepancy in age: Ismenodora was in her early thirties (cf. 753A) whereas Bacchon was an ephebe in his late teens (cf. 754E). Thus marriage norms - the man as the initiator and the older partner - were being totally reversed and Bacchon exposed to the ridicule of his companions, and ridicule was proving a more effective deterrent than serious objections - not that that should startle us in any way as the force of ridicule is very evident thoughout Plutarch's writings (e.g., Dio 39.3; Cleom. 12.2 and 26.2-3; Sull. 6.12 and 13.1; Crass. 26.4 and 32.3; and 10C). There is much truth in a remark passed in Plutarch's Timoleon: `it is natural for most men to be more distressed by words than by wicked deeds, since hybris or arrogant behaviour is more difficult to tolerate than injury' (Tim. 32.2).

Plutarch's readers in antiquity must have felt the sort of suspicion to which the widow was always inclined to be exposed as a potential predator who fastened upon innocent young men as her victims, being herself already sexually aroused and sexually experienced. The story of Bacchon and Ismenodora is too good to drop and is exploited throughout the Erotikos. Fresh warnings are given about the widow's wealth: `she's a woman determined', we are told, `to rule and command', and wealth is said to make women wanton, vain, and pretentious. Once again ridicule and sarcasm are deployed: if Ismenodora feels sexual desire for him, let her act out the role of the true lover singing songs and crowning portraits of him (753B; for the role of the lover, see 455B and 759B). `If she does really feel shame and is modest', an admittedly prejudiced speaker says, `let her sit respectably at home and wait for serious suitors; a man would have to flee in disgust any woman claiming to be in love; in no way could he entertain the idea of a marriage based on such a lack of self-control' (753B). The case in support of Ismenodora is put by Plutarch when he joins in the discussion (753Cff.), asking whether we can really complain about the widow's love, wealth, beauty, youth, and birth. In fact even women who have been slaves can dominate husbands who are weak and, on the contrary, poor men of no distinction have married wealthy women and been in no respect compromised. In brief, it is dishonourable and mean to prefer a woman's wealth to her goodness and birth but, at the same time, stupid to reject it if added to goodness and birth. Age does not matter provided the couple are able to have children, and Plutarch believes Ismenodora to be `in her prime' (754C). No one is his own master: what's so terrible about a sensible older woman directing the life of a young man? Such an assertion is made by someone who is to be suspected of having his tongue set firmly in his cheek, and equally ironic, and perhaps even more so, is what follows (754E-756A): a report that Ismenodora had organized her friends, both male and female, laid an ambush and had Bacchon abducted from the street, and carried him into her house where the doors were at once locked. Marriage preparations were put in hand and, despite protests that the laws of nature were being violated and women taking over the state, the dialogue concludes with the news that the actual marriage is on the point of taking place (771D). It is evident that this story of Bacchon and Ismenodora is one huge joke, so much so that, at the end, all are prepared to accept the marriage, even Bacchon himself, as is made perfectly clear when earlier Soclarus, another participant in the conversation, asks, with the suggestion of a smile, `Do you think there have been a kidnapping and rape? Isn't this the excuse and stratagem of an intelligent young man who has escaped the clutches of his male lovers and deserted into the arms of a beautiful and rich woman?' (755C-D; cf. also 754E). But it is a joke tinged with a frisson of fear, a thrill at female domination of the male (cf., for example, 752E and 753D-F) or a reversal in the accepted relationship between man and woman, for a man, we read, must maintain his position and be no slave (754B). Reversal of norms characterizes this amusing story of love and violence which, however, finds deadly serious parallels in the first two of the love stories related in the Moralia's five brief `Tales of Love' (771E-773B). Yet, at the same time, by its process of reversal Plutarch's Erotikos does plainly delineate those norms - the respective ages at which man and woman should marry, the role of male and female during courtship and during marriage, and the qualifies, however idealized, demanded of bride and, to an appreciably lesser extent, of bridegroom. Jokes fall flat unless underpinned by some degree of earnestness.

It can scarcely be expected that the views canvassed in the Erotikos, a philosophical work, will represent common opinion. Particular, and extreme, positions are adopted: one speaker Daphnaeus, as the most favoured of the suitors of the woman Lysandra, understandably supports heterosexual love, but Anthemion and Pisias, both linked to Bacchon, though the former is much the more sympathetic to Ismenodora, advocate homosexual love; and Protogenes is even more vehemently anti-feminine. Arguments in support of their different positions are advanced with a vigour which may degenerate into violence. While Daphnaeus regards marriage as a sacred bond between man and woman (750C), Protogenes denies such a pair true love: marriage is necessary in order to produce children and so it must be recommended to the masses but this, he maintains, is not genuine love. We may need sex between female and male much as we need food but only in moderation. Actual ergs attaches itself to a well-formed, young soul and leads it through philia or affection to virtue. Love of a woman is an effeminate and bastard variety - the only legitimate love is that of boys (750C-75 IA). There is much more in the same vein - for example, philia is said to be beautiful but pleasure inferior and as for relations with young slaves, this species of ergs is just intercourse like sleeping with women (751B). All of this meets with an indignant rebuttal from Daphnaeus (751B-752B) for whom passion directed at boys and at women is one and the same; ergs and Eros cannot exist without Aphrodite or sex. But Daphnaeus' defence of marital love enrages Pisias (752B-C) who believes sex to be undoubtedly `dirty', reducing us to the level of dogs, a remark reminiscent of those comments on the sexual habits of barbarians passed by Xenophon and others (see p. 172). According to Pisias, `it's not decent for respectable women either to give or to receive ergs' (752C). It needs Plutarch himself to launch a full-scale defence of Eros (756A ff.), the deity without whom the work of Aphrodite is available for a drachrma and without whose inspiration the favours of the goddess are weak and quickly satisfied (759E-F). And so on ... However philosophically adroit, or self-consciously clever, or replete with examples and quotations, this speech has little relationship to everyday life or thought, and becomes increasingly `Platonic' (see 758Dff. and 765Aff.) and, therefore, increasingly less and less relevant to any consideration of Plutarch on the subject of sex as a fact of life rather than the subject of intellectual debate.(9)


(1.) Jeffrey Henderson provides a concise account, and bibliography, of `Greek attitudes towards sex' in Michael Grant and Rachel Kitzinger (edd.), Civilization of the Ancient Mediterranean: Greece and Rome vol. II (New York, 1988), 1249-63. Little profit is to be gamed from France le Corsu, Plutarque et les Femmes dans les Vies Paralleles (Paris, 1981), but much more informative are Philip Stadter, `"Subject to the Erotic": Male Sexual Behaviour in Plutarch' in Doreen Innes, Harry Hine, and Christopher Pelling (edd.), Ethics and Rhetoric: Classical Essays for Donald Russell on his Seventy-Fifth Birthday (Oxford, 1995), 221-36 and K. Blomqvist, `From Olympias to Aretaphila: Women in Politics in Plutarch' in Judith Mossman (ed.), Plutarch and his Intellectual World (London, 1997), 73-97. The latter considers the attitude of Plutarch's Contemporary Dio Chrysostom in Myth and Moral Message in Dio Chrysostom. A Study in Dio's Moral Thought, with a Particular Focus on his Attitudes towards Women (Lund, 1989). The views of Latin authors on the topic of women (Tacitus, Suetonius, the younger Pliny) from the period of the Early Empire and, therefore, contemporary with Plutarch are discussed by Gunhild Viden, Women in Roman Literature, Studia Graeca et Latina Gothoburgensia LVII (Goteborg, 1993) and, in summary form, in Jan Bouzek and Ira Ondrejova (edd.), Roman Portraits, Artistic and Literary (Mainz, 1997), 106-8; see also Catharine Edwards, The Politics of Immorality in Ancient Rome (Cambridge, 1993). An effective analysis of the way in which a woman might be judged by ancient authors, and the validity of the judgement, is provided by Elizabeth D. Carney, `Olympias and the Image of the Virago', Phoenix 47 (1993), 29-55, who concludes: `It is time to recognize the witchy, bitchy caricature of Olympias we have inherited from antiquity as the antique it is and put it where it belongs - in the attic' (55).

The Loeb Classical Library offers the most convenient text of the Moralia (1927-1976), including F. H. Sandbach's edition of the fragments (vol. 15, 1969 = Teubner, Moralia vol. VII, 1967), and of the Lives.

(2.) J. K. Campbell, Honour, Family and Patronage: a Study of Institutions and Moral Values in a Greek Mountain Community (Oxford, 1964), 277.

(3.) For nudity and the Greek woman, see, most recently, the papers by Beth Cohen, John G. Younger, Nanette Salomon, and Aileen Ajootian in Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow and Claire L. Lyons (edd.), Naked Truths: Women, Sexuality, and Gender in Classical Art and Archaeology (London and New York, 1997), 66-92, 120-53, 197-219, and 220-42. Cf. also C. Nadia Seremetakis, The Last Word: Women, Death, and Divination in Inner Mani (Chicago, 1991): `Nakedness implies the isolate.... Nakedness also evokes the cold, the damp, and winter.... The naked death is also a symbol of "poverty".... Nakedness as a contrasocial and as linked to solitary conditions implies the uncovered, the unsheltered, the outside, the abandoned, the unprotected. Uncovered flesh is embarrassing, as is the unattended ceremony. Both are the exposure of the inside to the outside' (76). Practical consequences are the subject of comment from Campbell: `The shame which is felt at the exposure of the body, even when no other person is present, means that undergarments are not changed for long periods and the body between the neck and ankles is never washed' (287).

(4.) Muller, FHG 2.259.

(5.) James Walvin, Victorian Values (Cardinal, 1988), 120.

(6.) Cf. Richard Saller, G&R 27 (1980), 69 ff.

(7.) An edition of the Erotikos by Frederick E. Brenk is forthcoming in the Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics, Imperial Library series. Brenk has already considered the dialogue in Illinois Classical Studies 13 (1988), 457-71.

(8.) On widows and their reputation, see Walcot, SO 66 (1991), 5-26.

(9.) Not without interest to the student of Plutarch on sex and women is `evidence' presented by Paul Ferris in his `twentieth-century history', Sex and the British (London, 1993): `A. Dennison Light, editor of Health and Vim magazine, and devoted to fitness - he said the best time to conceive a child was between eleven and twelve in the morning, when people felt at their best' (116); `Sir Kingsley Amis was once quoted as saying, "The end of the urge to have sex is an enormous relief. Someone, I think it was Sophocles, said it was like being chained to a lunatic"' (172); `As for the sexual guilt that pornography was supposed to assuage, Dr Sim said bleakly that "if you take guilt out of sex, you take guilt away from society, and I do not think society could function without guilt"' (233); and, `Woody Allen observed that "sex shouldn't be dirty, but it is if you're doing it right"' (279). The reason why I quote Ferns is to stress that there is nothing outlandish or bizarre in the general Greek, or in Plutarch's personal, evaluation of sex.


JOAN BURTON: Associate Professor of Classical Studies, Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas.

PETER WALCOT: Professor Emeritus, School of History and Archaeology, University of Wales College of Cardiff.

JULIAN WARD JONES JR.: Chancellor Professor of Classical Studies, College of William and Mary, Virginia.

JAMES MORWOOD: Fellow in Classics, Wadham College, Oxford.

ALISON COOLEY: Murray Research Fellow, Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

JENNIFER WALLACE: Lecturer and Director of Studies in English, Peterhouse, Cambridge.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Cambridge University Press
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Greece & Rome
Article Type:Biography
Date:Oct 1, 1998

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |