Plutarch's Virtues of Women

By Isaac Chauncy, of the College of Physicians, London. Edition by William W. Goodwin, Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1878.
Introduction and annotation of text copyright ©2006 David Trumbull, Agathon Associates. All Rights Reserved.

Introduction by David Trumbull and Patrick McNamara. In this tract Plutarch discusses and gives examples of areth (a word various translated as "virtue" "excellence" or "bravery") of Women, setting forth 28 specific historical instances of women founding cities, defeating enemies in battle, establishing justice and restoring domestic tranquility. Plutarch had carried on a long and satisfying intellectual exchange with his close friend and female academic colleague Clea. He addressed his Virtues of Women to her as an extended treatment of a philosophical position he had posited for her consideration, namely "that man's virtues and women's virtues are one and the same." It was, at the time, a somewhat unorthodox position for a Greek philosopher to take. But Plutarch was once again, as his did with his organization of the Lives, breaking with classical tradition and anticipating modern thought which finds the inner workings of the psyche more revelatory of the man (or woman) than does the accidents of birth on which the ancients placed inordinate value.

¶ He addresses this essay to his friend Clea whom he recently consoled upon the death of Leontis, a most excellent woman.

¶ As woman can, as well as men, excel in the arts, so likewise in the exercise of public virtues can women hold their own with men.

¶ As he did for men in his parallel Lives of Greeks and Romans, Plutarch will teach virtue by telling the episodes from the lives of virtuous women.

¶ He will leave out the most well-known stories unless he has some commonly overlooked detail to recite.

¶ Plutarch begins with fifteen tales of great deeds done by women working together.

Here Begins Plutarch's Virtues of Women.

Concerning the virtues of women, O Clea, I am not of the same mind with Thucydides. For he would prove that she is the best woman concerning whom there is the least discourse made by people abroad, either to her praise or dispraise; judging that, as the person, so the very name of a good woman ought to be retired and not gad abroad /1/. But to us Gorgias seems more accurate, who requires that not only the face but the fame of a woman should be known to many. For the Roman law seems exceeding good, which permits due praises to be given publicly both to men and women after death /2/. Wherefore when Leontis, a most excellent woman, departed this life, immediately we made a long oration to thee about her, and truly not devoid of philosophical consolation; and now (as thou didst desire) I send thee in writing the rest of my speech and conversation, carrying with it an historical demonstration that the virtue of a man and woman is one and the same. And although it be not composed for the tickling of the ear, yet if there be jucundity in the nature of an example to him that is persuaded of the truth of it, my narration fails not of that grace which works conviction; neither is it ashamed of commixing the Graces with the Muses in the sweetest harmony (as Euripides saith), while it engageth confidence especially through that part of the soul which is studious of grace and beauty. For surely, if, whilst we asserted the art of painting to be the same, whether performed by men or women, we produced the same sort of draughts wrought by women which Apelles, Zeuxis, or Nicomachus hath left, is there any one who would reprehend us as attempting rather to humor and cajole men than to convince them? Verily I do not think it. Moreover, if, whilst we go to make appear that the poetic or comic art is not one thing in men and another in women, we compare Sappho’s verses with Anacreon’s, or the Sibylline oracles with those of Bacis, can any one justly blame this way of argumentation, because it insinuates a credence into the pleased and delighted hearers? No one surely would say this. Neither can a man truly any way better learn the resemblance and the difference between feminine and virile virtue than by comparing together lives with lives, exploits with exploits, as the products of some great art; duly considering whether the magnanimity of Semiramis carries with it the same character and impression with that of Sesostris, or the cunning of Tanaquil the same with that of King Servius, or the discretion of Porcia /3/ the same with that of Brutus, or that of Pelopidas with Timoclea, — regarding that quality of these virtues wherein lie their chiefest point and force. Moreover, virtues do admit some other differences, like peculiar colors, by reason of men’s dispositions, and are assimilated to the manners and temperaments of the bodies wherein they are, yea, to the education and manner of diet. Achilles was courageous in one manner, Ajax in another; the subtlety of Ulysses was not like that of Nestor, neither were Cato and Agesilaus just after the same manner; neither was Eirene a lover of her husband as Alcestis was; neither was Cornelia magnanimous in the same way with Olympias. But, for all this, we do not say that there are many kinds of fortitude, prudence, and justice specifically distinct, so long as their individual dissimilitudes exclude none of them from the specific definitions.

Those things now which are very commonly discoursed of, and of which I know thou hast had the exact history and knowledge from solid books, I will at present omit, unless there be some public and recorded matters worth your hearing, which have escaped the historians of former times.

And seeing that many worthy things, both public and private, have been done by women, it is not amiss to give a brief historical account of those that are public, in the first place.


¶ Of the part the women played in founding Rome.

[1] Of those that escaped at the taking of Troy the most part were exercised with much tempestuous weather, and being inexperienced in navigation and unacquainted with the sea, they were wafted over into Italy; and about the river Tiber they made a very narrow escape by putting into such ports and havens as they could meet with. Whilst the men went about the country to enquire after pilots, there fell out a discourse among the women, that for a people as fortunate and happy as they had been, any fixed habitation on the land was better than perpetual wandering over the sea; and that they must make a new country for themselves, seeing it was impossible to recover that which they had lost. Upon this, complotting together, they set fire on the ships, Roma (as they say) being one of the first in the attempt. But having done these things, they went to meet their husbands, who were running towards the sea to the relief of the ships; and fearing their indignation, they laid hold some of them on their husbands, and some on their kinsfolk, and fell a kissing them soundly; by which carriage they obtained their charitable reception. Wherefore it hath been formerly, and now remains to be a custom among the Romans, for the women to salute their kinsfolk that come unto them by kissing.

The Trojans as it seems, being sensible of the strait they were in, and having also made some experience of the natives entertaining them with much bounty and humanity, applauded the exploit of the women, and sat down by the Latins. /4/


¶ Of the vote of the women to die rather than fall into enemy hands.

[2] The action of the women of Phocis hath not fallen under the cognizance of any noted writer of that age, and yet there was never a more memorable deed of virtue wrought by women, — the which is attested by those famous sacred rites performed by the Phocians at Hyampolis, and by ancient decrees. The total history of the transaction is particularly recorded in the Life of Daiphantus.

The story of those women is this. There was an implacable war between the Thessalians and the Phocians. For these (the Phocians) slew all the Thessalian governors and magistrates in the cities of Phocis in one day. Whereupon they (the Thessalians) slew two hundred and fifty Phocian hostages, and with their whole host marched up against them through Locris, publishing their resolution to spare no men that were of age, and to sell the women and children for slaves. Daiphantus therefore, the son of Bathyllius, a triumvir, governor of Phocis, persuaded the Phocian men themselves to go to meet the Thessalians in battle; but as for the women, together with their children, that they should assemble them from all the parts of Phocis into one place, which they should pile round with combustible matter, and should leave a watch, to whom they should give in charge, that if he perceived that the men were conquered, he should immediately set fire to the pile and burn all the bodies to ashes. The counsels were agreed to by some, but one stands up and saith: It is just that these things be consented to by the women also, and if they do not cheerfully submit to it, they should have no force offered to them. The account of this discourse being come to the women, they assembled together by themselves, and carried it by vote, and applauded Daiphantus as a man that best consulted the affairs of Phocis; they say also, that the children meeting together privately voted the same things. These matters being thus settled, the Phocians joining battle at Cleonae, a town of Hyampolis, got the victory. Hence the Grecians call this vote of the Phocian women Aponoia (the desperate resolve). And of all the festivals this of the Elaphebolia is the greatest, which they observe to Diana in Hyampolis to this day, in remembrance of this victory.

¶ THE WOMEN OF CHIOS. [3] The people of Chios possessed themselves of Leuconia upon this occasion following. A certain famous man of the nobles of Chios was married; whilst the bride was drawn in her chariot, King Hippoclus, an intimate friend of the bridegroom’s, being present with the rest, and also fuddled and merry, leaped into the chariot, not designing any incivility, but only to keep up the usual custom and to make sport. However, the bridegroom’s friends slew him. The effects of divine displeasure appearing against the people of Chios, and the oracle commanding them to slay the slayers of Hippoclus, they replied, We have all of us slain Hippoclus. The oracle commanded them all therefore to depart the city, if all did partake of the guilt. So that at length the principals, accessories, and abettors of the murder by any means whatsoever, being not a few in number nor feeble for strength, transplanted themselves into Leuconia, which the Chians had once taken from the Coroneans by the aid of the Erythraeans. Afterward a war arising between them and the Erythraeans, by far the most potent people among the Ionians, when the latter invaded Leuconia, the men of Chios were not able to defend themselves and came to an agreement to depart upon these terms that every one should take with him only one cloak and one coat, and nothing else. But the women of Chios upbraided them as mean-spirited men, that they would lay down their weapons and go naked men through their enemies. And when they made answer that they were sworn so to do, they charged them not to leave their weapons behind them, but to say to their adversaries, that the spear is a cloak and the buckler a coat to every man of courage. The men of Chios being persuaded to these things, and emboldening themselves courageously against the Erythraeans, and showing their weapons, the Erythraeans were amazed at their audacity, and none opposed or hindered them, but were glad of their departure. These men therefore, being taught courage by the women in this manner, made a safe escape.

Many years after this there was another exploit, nothing inferior to this in fortitude, performed by the women of Chios. When Philip, the son of Demetrius, besieged the city, he set forth a barbarous and insolent proclamation, inviting the servants to a defection upon promise of liberty and marriage of their mistresses, saying that he would give them their masters’ wives into their possession. At this the women were dreadfully and outrageously incensed; and also the servants were no less provoked to indignation, and were ready to assist. Therefore they rushed forth furiously and ascended the wall, bringing stones and darts, encouraging and animating the soldiers; so that in the end these women discomfited and repulsed the enemy, and caused Philip to raise his siege, while not so much as one servant fell off to him.

¶ THE WOMEN OF ARGOS. [4] Of all the renowned actions performed by women, none was more famous than the fight with Cleomenes in the country of Argos, whom Telesilla the poetess by her influence defeated. This woman they say was of an honorable family, but had a sickly body; she therefore sent to consult the oracle concerning her health. Answer was made, that she must be a servant to the Muses. Accordingly she becomes obedient to the Goddess, applying herself to poetry and music; her distempers left her, and she became the mirror of women in the art of poetry. Now when Cleomenes, king of the Spartans, having slain many Argives (but not so many as some fabulously reported, to wit, 7,777), marched up against the city, the youthful women were (as it were) divinely inspired with desperate resolution and courage to repulse the enemies out of their native country.

They take arms under the conduct of Telesilla, they place themselves upon the battlements, they crown the walls, even to the admiration of the enemy; they by a sally beat off Cleomenes, with the slaughter of many of his men; and as for the other king, Demaratus (as Socrates saith), he having entered the city and possessed him of the socalled Pamphyliacum, they beat him out. In this manner the city being preserved, those women that were slain in the engagement they buried by the Argive road; to them that escaped they gave the honor of erecting the statue of Mars, in perpetual memorial of their bravery. Some say this fight was on the seventh day of the month; others say it was on the first day of the month, which is now called the fourth and was anciently called Hermaeus by the Argives; upon which day, even to this time, they perform their Hybristica (i.e., their sacred rites of incivility), clothing the women with men’s coats and cloaks, but the men with women’s veils and petticoats. To repair the scarcity of men, they admitted not slaves, as Herodotus saith, but the best sort of the adjacent inhabitants to be citizens, and married them to the widows; and these the women thought meet to reproach and undervalue at bed and board, as worse than themselves; whence there was a law made, that married women should wear beards when they lay with their husbands.

¶ THE PERSIAN WOMEN. [5] Cyrus, causing the Persians to revolt from King Astyages and the Medes, was overcome in battle; and the Persians retreating by flight into the city, the enemy pursued so close that they had almost fallen into the city with them. The women ran out to meet them before the city, plucking up their petticoats to their middle, saying, Ye vilest varlets among men, whither so fast? Ye surely cannot find a refuge in these parts, from whence ye came forth. The Persians blushing for shame at the sight and speech, and rebuking themselves, faced about, and renewing the fight routed their enemies. Hence a law was enacted, that when the king enters the city, every woman should receive a piece of gold; and this law Cyrus made. And they say that Ochus, being in other kinds a naughty and covetous king, would always, when he came, compass the city and not enter it, and so deprive the women of their largess; but Alexander entered twice, and gave all the women with child a double benevolence /5/
¶ THE CELTIC WOMEN. [6] There arose a very grievous and irreconcilable contention among the Celts, before they passed over the Alps to inhabit that tract of Italy which now they inhabit, which proceeded to a civil war. The women placing themselves between the armies, took up the controversies, argued them so accurately, and determined them so impartially, that an admirable friendly correspondence and general amity ensued, both civil and domestic. Hence the Celts made it their practice to take women into consultation about peace or war, and to use them as mediators in any controversies that arose between them and their allies. In the league therefore made with Hannibal, the writing runs thus: If the Celts take occasion of quarrelling with the Carthaginians, the governors and generals of the Carthaginians in Spain shall decide the controversy; but if the Carthaginians accuse the Celts, the Celtic women shall be judges.
¶ THE WOMEN OF MELOS. [7] The Melians standing in need of a larger country constituted Nymphaeus, a handsome man and marvellously comely, the commander for the transplanting of the colony. The oracle enjoined them to continue sailing till they cast away their ships, and there to pitch their colony. It happened that, when they arrived at Caria and went ashore, their ships were broken to pieces by a storm. Some of the Carians which dwelt at Cryassus, whether commiserating their distressed condition or dreading their resolution, invited them to dwell in their neighborhood, and bestowed upon them a part of their country; but then observing their marvellous increase in a little time, they conspired to cut them off by treachery, and provided a feast and great entertainment for that end and purpose. But it came to pass that a certain virgin in Caria, whose name was Caphene, fell in love with Nymphaeus. While these things were in agitation, she could not endure to connive at the destruction of her beloved Nymphaeus, and therefore acquainted him privately with the conspiracy of the citizens against him. When the Cryassians came to invite them, Nymphaeus made this answer: It is not the custom of the Greeks to go to a feast without their wives. The Carians hearing this requested them also to bring their wives; and so explaining the whole transaction to the Melians, he charged the men to go without armor in plain apparel, but that every one of the women should carry a dagger stuck in her bosom, and that each should take her place by her husband. About the middle of supper, their signal token was given to the Carians; the point of time also the Grecians were sensible of. Accordingly the women laid open their bosoms, and the men laid hold of the daggers, and sheathing them in the barbarians, slew them all together. And possessing themselves of the country, they overthrew that city, and built another, which they called New Cryassus. Moreover, Caphene being married to Nymphaeus received due honor and grateful acknowledgments becoming her good services. Here the taciturnity and courage of women is worthy of admiration, that none of them among so many did so much as unwittingly, by reason of fear, betray their trust.
¶ THE ETRUSCAN WOMEN. [8] At the time when the Tyrrhenians inhabited the islands Lemnos and Imbros, they violently seized upon some Athenian women from Brauron, on whom they begat children, which children the Athenians banished from the islands as mixed barbarians. But these arriving at Taenarum were serviceable to the Spartans in the Helotic war, and therefore obtained the privilege of citizens and marriage, but were not dignified with magistracies or admitted to the senate; for they had a suspicion that they would combine together in order to some innovation, and conceived they might shake the present established government. Wherefore the Lacedaemonians, seizing on them and securing them, shut them up close prisoners, seeking to take them off by evident and strong convictions. But the wives of the prisoners, gathering together about the prison, by many supplications prevailed with the jailers that they might be admitted to go to salute their husbands and speak with them. As soon as they came in, they required them to change their clothes immediately and leave them to their wives; while the men, apparelled in their wives’ habits, should go forth. These things being effected, the women stayed behind, prepared to endure all hard usages of the prison, but the deluded keepers let out the men as if they had been their wives. Whereupon they seized upon Taygeta, exciting the Helotic people to revolt, and taking them to their aid; but the Spartans, alarmed by these things into a great consternation, by a herald proclaimed a treaty of peace. And they were reconciled upon these conditions, that they should receive their wives again, and furnished with ships and provisions should make an expedition by sea, and possessing themselves of a land and a city elsewhere should be accounted a colony and allies of the Lacedaemonians. These things did the Pelasgians, taking Pollis for their captain and Crataedas his brother, both Lacedaemonians, and one part of them took up their seat in Melos; but the most part of them, which were shipped with Pollis, sailed into Crete, trying the truth of the oracles, by whom they were told that, when they should lose their Goddess and their anchor, then they should put an end to their roving and there build a city. Wherefore, putting into harbor on that part of Crete called Chersonesus, panic fears fell upon them by night, at which coming under a consternation, they leaped tumultuously on board their ships, leaving on shore for haste the statue of Diana, which was their patrimony brought from Brauron to Lemnos, and from Lemnos carried about with them wherever they went. The tumult being appeased, when they had set sail, they missed this statue; and at the same time Pollis, finding that his anchor had lost one of its beards (for the anchor, having been dragged, as appeared, through some rocky place, was accidentally torn), said that the oracular answer of the Pythia was accomplished. Therefore he gave a sign to tack about, and accordingly made an inroad into that country, conquered those that opposed him in many battles, sat down at Lyctus, and brought many other cities to be tributary to him. And now they repute themselves to be akin to the Athenians on their mothers’ side, and to be Spartan colonies.
¶ THE LYCIAN WOMEN. [9] That which is reported to have fallen out in Lycia, although it be fabulous, hath yet common fame attesting it. Amisodarus, as they say, whom the Lycians call Isaras, came from a colony of the Lycians about Zeleia, bringing with him pirate ships, which Chimarrhus, a warlike man, who was also savage and brutish, was commander of. He sailed in a ship which had a lion carved on her head and a dragon on her stern. He did much mischief to the Lycians, so that they could not sail on the sea nor inhabit the towns nigh the sea-coast.

This man Bellerophon pursued with his Pegasus and slew him, and also defeated the Amazons, for which he obtained no due requital, but Iobates the king was most unjust to him; upon which Bellerophon went to the seashore, and made earnest supplication by himself to Neptune that he would render that country barren and unfruitful; and having said his prayers, he faced about. Upon which the waves of the sea arose and overwhelmed the land, and it was a dreadful sight to behold the lofty billows following Bellerophon and drowning the plain. And now, when the men by their deprecation, laboring to put a stop to Bellerophon, availed nothing at all, the women plucking up their petticoats met him full butt; upon which confounded with shame he turned back again, and the flood, as they say, returned with him. But some unriddle the fabulous part of this story, by telling us that it was not by execrations that he brought up the sea; but the fattest part of the plain lying lower than the sea, and a certain ridge extending itself all along the shore which beat off the sea, Bellerophon broke through this, so that the sea forcibly flowed in and overwhelmed the plain; and when the men by their humble addresses obtained nothing, the women assembling about him in multitudes gained respect from him and pacified his wrath. Some tell us that the celebrated Chimaera was a mountain opposite to the sun, which caused reflections of the sun’s beams, and in summer ardent and fiery heats, which spread over the plain and withered the fruits; and Bellerophon, finding out the reason of the mischief, cut through the smoothest part of the cliff, which especially caused these reflections. But on seeing that he was treated ungratefully, his indignation was excited to take vengeance on the Lycians, but was appeased by the women. The reason which Nymphis (in the fourth book concerning Heraclea) doth assign is to me not at all fabulous; for he saith, when Bellerophon slew a certain wild boar, which destroyed the cattle and fruits in the province of the Xanthians, and received no due reward of his service, he prayed to Neptune for vengeance, and obtained that all the fields should cast forth a salt dew and be universally corrupted, the soil becoming bitter; which continued till he, condescendingly regarding the women suppliants, prayed to Neptune, and removed his wrath from them. Hence there was a law among the Xanthians, that they should not for the future derive their names from their fathers, but from their mothers.

¶ THE WOMEN OF SALMANTICA. [10] When Hannibal, the son of Barca, besieged the great city Salmantica in Spain, before he fought against the Romans, at the first assault the besieged citizens were surprised with fear, insomuch that they consented to grant him his demands, and to give him three hundred talents of silver and three hundred hostages. Upon which he raised his siege; when they changed their minds, and would not perform any thing that they had promised. Wherefore returning again to his siege, he gave command to his soldiers to take the city by storm, and fall to the plundering their goods. At this the barbarians, struck universally into a panic fear, came to terms of composition, for the free citizens to depart the city with their clothes to their backs, but to leave their weapons, goods, slaves, and city behind them. Now the women supposed that, although the enemies would strictly search every man as he departed, yet the women would go untouched. Accordingly, taking scimitars and hiding them under their coats, they fell in with the men as they marched out. When they were all gone out of the city, Hannibal sets a guard of Masaesylian soldiers, fixing their post without the gate, but the rest of his army fell promiscuously into the city to plunder. But the Masaesylians, seeing them busy in carrying away much spoil, were not able any longer to refrain or to mind the charge of their watch, taking it heinously that that was their lot, and therefore left their post and went to take their share of the booty. Upon this the women raised a shout to animate their husbands, and delivered the scimitars into their hands, and they themselves some of them fell upon the sentinels; insomuch that one of them, snatching away the spear of Banon the interpreter, smote him with it, though he was armed with a breastplate. And as for the rest, the men routed and put some to flight and slew others, making their escape by charging through them in a great body together with the women. Hannibal, being made acquainted with these things, pursued them, and those he took he slew; but some betaking themselves to the mountains easily made their escape, and afterwards, sending in their humble supplications, were admitted by him into the city, obtaining indemnity and civil usage.
¶ THE WOMEN OF MILETUS. [11] A certain dreadful and monstrous distemper did seize the Milesian maids, arising from some hidden cause. It is most likely the air had acquired some infatuating and venomous quality, that did influence them to this change and alienation of mind; for all on a sudden an earnest longing for death, with furious attempts to hang themselves, did attack them, and many did privily accomplish it. The arguments and tears of parents and the persuasion of friends availed nothing, but they circumvented their keepers in all their contrivances and industry to prevent them, still murdering themselves. And the calamity seemed to be an extraordinary divine stroke and beyond human help, until by the counsel of a wise man a decree of the senate was passed, enacting that those maids who hanged themselves should be carried naked through the market-place. The passage of this law not only inhibited but quashed their desire of slaying themselves. Note what a great argument of good nature and virtue this fear of disgrace is; for they who had no dread upon them of the most terrible things in the world, death and pain, could not abide the imagination of dishonor and exposure to shame even after death.
¶ THE WOMEN OF CEOS. [12] It was a custom among the maids of Cios to assemble together in the public temples, and to pass the day together in good fellowship; and there their sweethearts had the felicity to behold how prettily they sported and danced about. In the evening this company went to the house of every particular maid in her turn, and waited upon each other’s parents and brethren very officiously, even to the washing of their feet. It oftentimes so fell out that many young men fell in love with one maid; but they carried it so decently and civilly that, when the maid was espoused to one, the rest presently gave off courting of her. The effect of this good order among the women was that no mention was made of any adultery or fornication among them for the space of seven hundred years.
¶ THE WOMEN OF PHOCIS. [13] When the tyrants of Phocis had taken Delphi, and the Thebans undertook that war against them which was called the Holy War, certain women devoted to Bacchus (which they call Thyades) fell frantic and went a gadding by night, and mistaking their way they came to Amphissa; and being very much tired and not as yet in their right wits, they flung down themselves in the market-place, and fell asleep as they lay scattered up and down here and there. But the wives of the Amphisseans, fearing, because that city was engaged to aid the Phocians in the war and abundance of the tyrants’ soldiery were present in the city, the Thyades might have some indignity put upon them, ran forth all of them into the market-place and stood silently round about them, neither would offer them any disturbance whilst they slept; but when they were awake, they attended their service particularly and brought them refreshments; and in fine, by persuasions obtained leave of their husbands to accompany them and escort them in safety to their own borders.
¶ VALERIA AND CLOELIA. [14] The injury done to Lucretia and her great virtue were the causes of banishing Tarquinius Superbus, the seventh Roman king from Romulus, she being married to an illustrious man, one of the royal race. She was ravished by one of Tarquin’s sons, who was in a way of hospitality entertained by her; and after she had acquainted her friends and family with the abuse offered her, she immediately slew herself. Tarquinius having fallen from his dominion, after many battles that he fought in attempting to regain his kingly government, at last prevailed with Porsena, prince of the Etrurians, to encamp against Rome with a powerful army. Whereupon the Romans, being pressed with war and famine at the same time, likewise knowing that Porsena was not only a great soldier but a just and civil person, resolved to refer the matters against Tarquinius to him as a judge. This proposal Tarquinius obstinately refused to consent unto, saying that Porsena could not be a just arbitrator if he did not remain constant to his military alliance. Whereupon Porsena left him to himself, and made it his endeavor to depart a friend to the Romans, on condition of having restored to him the tracts of land they had cut off from the Etrurians and the captives they had taken. Upon these accepted conditions hostages being given, — ten male children, and ten females (among whom was Valeria, the daughter of Publicola the consul), — he immediately ceased his warlike preparations before the articles of agreement were quite finished. Now the virgin hostages going down to the river, as if they intended only to wash themselves a little further than ordinary from the camp, there, by the instigation of one of them whose name was Cloelia, wrapping their garments about their heads, they cast themselves into that great river Tiber, and assisting one another, swam through those vast depths with much labor and difficulty. There are some who say that Cloelia compassing a horse got upon him, and passing over gently before, the rest swimming after her, conducted, encouraged, and assisted them; the argument they use for this we shall declare anon.

As soon as the Romans saw the maids had made such a clever escape, they admired indeed their fortitude and resolution, but did not approve of their return, not abiding to be worse in their faith than any one man; therefore they charged the maids to return back, and sent them away with a safe conduct. Tarquinius laid wait for them as they passed the river, and wanted but little of intercepting the virgins. But Valeria with three of her household servants made her flight to the camp of Porsena; and as for the rest, Aruns, Porsena’s son, gave them speedy help and delivered them from the enemies. When they were brought, Porsena looking upon them commanded them to tell him which of them advised and first attempted this enterprise; all of them being surprised with fear, except Cloelia, were silent, but she said, that she was the author of it; at which Porsena, mightily surprised, commanded an horse curiously adorned with trappings should be brought, which he gave to Cloelia, and dismissed them all with much generosity and civility; and this is the ground which many make of saying that Cloelia passed through the river on horseback. Others deny this story, but yet say that Porsena admiring the undauntedness and confidence of the maid, as being beyond what is commonly in a woman, bestowed a present on her becoming a man champion. It is certain that there is the statue of a woman on horseback by the side of the Sacred Way, which some say represents Cloelia, others, Valeria. /6/.

¶ MICCA AND MEGISTO. [15] Aristotimus having usurped tyranny over the people of Elis in Peloponnesus, against whom he prevailed by the aid of King Antigonus, used not his power with any meekness or moderation. For he was naturally a savage man; and being in servile fear of a band of mixed barbarians, who guarded his person and his government, he connived at many injurious and cruel things which his subjects suffered at their hands, among which was the calamity of Philodemus. This man had a beautiful daughter, whose name was Micca. This maid one of the tyrant’s captains of auxiliaries, called Lucius, attempted to lie with, more out of a design to debauch her than for any love he had to her; and for this end he sent to fetch her to him. The parents verily seeing the strait they were in advised her to go; but the maid, being of a generous and courageous spirit, clasped about her father, beseeching him with earnest entreaties that he would rather see her put to death than that her virginity should be filthily and wickedly violated. Some delay being made, Lucius himself starts up in the midst of his cups, enraged with wrath and lust, and drunk with wine; and finding Micca laying her head on her father’s knees, he instantly commanded her to go along with him; but she refusing, he rent off her clothes, and whipped her stark naked, she stoutly enduring the smart in silence. When her father and mother perceived that by their tears they could not avail or bring any succor to her, they turned to imploring the help of both Gods and men, as persons that were oppressed by the most cruel and unrighteous proceedings. But this barbarous fellow, drunk and raging every way with madness, ran the maid through as she lay with her face in her father’s bosom. Neither was the tyrant affected with these cruelties, but slew many and sent more into exile; for they say eight hundred took their flight into Aetolia, petitioning the tyrant that their wives and children might come to them. A little after he made proclamation, permitting the women that would to go to their husbands, carrying with them all their household goods that they pleased; but when he perceived that all the women received the proclamation with pleasure (for the number was above six hundred), he charged them all to go in great companies on the appointed day, as if he intended to consult for their safety. When the day came, they crowded at the gates with their goods packed up, carrying their children, some in their arms and some in carts, and stayed for one another. All on a sudden many of the tyrant’s creatures made towards them in great haste, crying aloud to them to stay, while they were yet at great distance from them; and as they approached, they charged the women to return back. Likewise turning about their chariots and carts, they forced them upon them, drove the horses through the midst of them without fear or wit, suffering the women neither to follow nor to stay, nor to reach forth any help to the perishing infants, some of whom were killed falling out of the carts, others run over by the carts. So they drove them in (as so many sheep which butchers drive along), hauling and whipping them as they thronged upon one another, till they had crowded them all into a prison; but their goods they returned to Aristotimus. The people of Elis taking these things very heinously, the priestesses devoted to Bacchus (which they call the Sixteen), taking with them their suppliant boughs and wreaths belonging to the service of their God, went to meet Aristotimus in the market-place; the guards, out of a reverential awe, stood off and gave way to their approach. These priestesses stood still at first with silence, solemnly reaching forth their supplicatory rods; but as soon as they appeared as petitioners and deprecators of his wrath against the women, he fell into a great rage at the guards, exclaiming against them that they had suffered the priestesses to approach his presence, and he caused some to be thrust away, others to be beaten and dragged through the market-place, and fined them two talents apiece.

These things being transacted in this manner, one Hellanicus moved a conspiracy against this tyrant. He was a man who, by reason of old age and the loss of two sons by death, was unsuspected of the tyrant, as being altogether unlikely for action. In the mean time also the exiles waft themselves over from Aetolia, and take Amymona, a very convenient place on the borders to entrench a camp in, where they received great numbers of the citizens who made their escape by flight from Elis. Aristotimus being startled at these things went in to the imprisoned women, and thinking to work them to his pleasure more by fear than by favor, charged them to send letters to their husbands, enjoining them to depart out of the coasts; if they would not write, he threatened them to slay their children before their eyes, and then put them (the mothers) to death by torments. Whilst he was long provoking and urging them to declare whether they would obey his mandates or not, most of them answered him nothing, but looked with silence one upon another, signifying by nods and gestures that they were not at all affrighted at his threat. But Megisto the wife of Timocleon, who both in respect of her husband and her own excellent accomplishments carried the port of a princess among them, would not vouchsafe to rise off her seat to him nor permit the rest so to do, but as she sat, she gave him this answer: —

“Verily if thou wert a discreet man, thou wouldst not after this manner discourse with women about their husbands, but wouldst send to them as to our lords, finding out better language than that by which thou hast deluded us. But if thou thyself despairest to prevail with them, and therefore undertakest to trepan them by our means, do not hope to put a cheat upon us again. And may they never be guilty of such baseness, that for the saving their wives and little ones they will desert that liberty of their native country; for it is not so great a prejudice to them to lose us, whom even now they are deprived of, as it will be benefit to set the subjects at liberty from thy cruelty and oppression.”

Aristotimus, being not able to refrain himself at this speech of Megisto, required that her son should be brought, as if it were to slay him before her eyes; but whilst the officer was seeking out the child, that was in the company of other children playing and wrestling together, his mother called him by his name, and said: Come hither, my child; before thou hast any sense and understanding, be thou delivered from bitter tyranny; for it would be much more grievous to me to see thee basely enslaved than to see thee die. At which Aristotimus drawing his sword upon the mother herself, and transported with rage, was going to fall upon her, when one of his favorites, Cylon by name (esteemed his trusty confidant, but in reality a hater of him, and a confederate with Hellanicus in the conspiracy), put a stop to him, and averted him in an humble manner, telling him: This is an ignoble and woman-like carriage, not at all becoming a person of a princely mind and a statesman. Hereupon Aristotimus scarcely coming to his senses departed. Now observe what an ominous prodigy happened to him. It was about noon, when he was taking some repose, his wife sitting by; and whilst his servants were providing dinner, an eagle was seen in the air floating over the house, which did, as it were considerately and on purpose, let fall a stone of an handsome bigness upon that part of the roof of the house which was over the apartment where Aristotimus lay. At the same time there was also a great rattling from above, together with an outcry made by the people that were abroad looking upon the bird. Upon which Aristotimus, falling into a great consternation and examining the matter, sent and called his soothsayer which he usually consulted in his public concerns, and being in great perplexity, desired to be satisfied what that prodigy meant. The soothsayer bade him be of good cheer, for it signified that Jupiter now wakened and assisted him. But to the citizens that he could confide in he said, that vengeance would no longer be delayed from falling on the tyrant’s head. Wherefore it was concluded by Hellanicus and his friends not to defer any longer, but to bring matters to an issue the next day. At night Hellanicus imagined in his sleep that he saw one of his dead sons stand by him saying, What is the matter with thee, O father! that thou sleepest? To-morrow thou shalt be governor of this city. Being animated by his vision, he encouraged the rest concerned with him. Now Aristotimus was informed that Craterus, coming to his aid with great forces, was encamped in Olympia; upon which he became so confidently secure, that he ventured to go without his guards into the market-place, Cylon only accompanying him. Wherefore Hellanicus, observing this opportunity, did not think good to give the signal to those that were to undertake the enterprise with him, but with a clear voice and lifting up both his hands, he spake saying: O ye good men! why do ye delay? Here is a fair theatre in the midst of your native country for you to contend in for the prize of valor. Whereupon Cylon in the first place drawing his sword smote one of Aristotimus’s waiting gentlemen; but Thrasybulus and Lampis making a brisk opposition, Aristotimus escaped by flight into the temple of Jupiter. Here slaying him, they dragged forth his corpse into the market-place, and proclaimed liberty to the citizens. Neither were the men there much before the women, who immediately ran forth with joyful acclamations, environing the men and binding triumphant garlands about their heads. The multitude presently rushed on upon the tyrant’s palace, where his wife shutting herself into her bed-chamber hanged herself. He had also two daughters, maidens of most beautiful complexions, ripe for marriage. Those they laid hands on, and haled forth, with a desperate resolution to slay them, but first to torment and abuse them. But Megisto, with the rest of the women, meeting them called out with a loud voice: Will they perpetrate such enormities who reckon themselves a free people, in imitation of the practices of audacious and libidinous tyrants? The multitude reverencing the gravity of this matron, pleading with them so undauntedly as also affectionately with tears, they resolved to lay aside this opprobrious way of proceeding, and to cause them to die by their own hands. As they were therefore returned into the chamber, they required the maids immediately to be their own executioners. Muro, the eldest, untying her girdle and tying it about her neck, saluted her sister, and exhorted her to be careful and do whatever she saw her do; lest (as she said) we come to our death in a base and unworthy manner. But the younger desiring it might be her lot to die first, she delivered her the girdle, saying: I did never deny thee any thing thou didst ever desire, neither will I now; take this favor also. I am resolved to bear and endure that which is more grievous than death to me, to see my most dear sister die before me. Upon this, when she had instructed her sister how to put the girdle so as to strangle her, and perceived her dead, she took her down and covered her. And now the eldest sister, whose turn was next, besought Megisto to take care of her, and not suffer her to lie indecently after she was dead. So that there was not any one present that was so bitter and vehement a tyrant-hater that he did not lament and compassionate these maidens upon their brave and virtuous behavior.

¶ Plutarch now turns to the tales of women who, acting alone, did great deeds. Of the innumerable famous exploits performed by women, these examples may suffice. But as for their particular virtues, we will describe them according as they offer themselves scattered here and there, not supposing that our present history doth necessarily require an exact order of time.
¶ PIERIA. [16] Some of the Ionians who came to dwell at Miletus, falling into contention with the sons of Neleus, departed to Myus, and there took up their situation, where they suffered many injuries from the Milesians; for they made war upon them by reason of their revolt from them. This war was not indeed without truces or commerce, but upon certain festival days the women of Myus went to Miletus. Now there was at Myus Pythes, a renowned man among them, who had a wife called Iapygia, and a daughter Pieria. Pythes, when there was a time of feasting and sacrificing to Diana among the Milesians, which they called Neleis, sent his wife and daughter, who desired to participate of the said feast; when one of the most potent sons of Neleus, Phrygius by name, fell in love with Pieria. He desired to know what service he could do which might be most acceptable to her. She told him, that he should bring it to pass that she with many others might have their frequent recourse thither. Hence Phrygius understood that she desired friendship and peace with the citizens of Miletus; accordingly he finished the war. Whence arose that great honor and renown of Pieria in both cities; insomuch that the Milesian women do to this day make use of this benediction to new married wives, that their husbands may love them so as Phrygius loved Pieria.
¶ POLYCRITE. [17] A war arose between the Naxians and Milesians upon the account of Neaera, the wife of Hypsicreon, a Milesian. For she fell in love with Promedon a Naxian, who was Hypsicreon’s guest. Promedon lies with his beloved Neaera; and she, fearing her husband’s displeasure, took shipping with her Promedon, who carried her over into Naxos and placed her a supplicant to Vesta. The Naxians not restoring her upon demand, for the sake of Promedon and making her devotion to Vesta their pretence, a war arose. To the assistance of the Milesians came in many others; and of the Ionians the Erythraeans were most ready. So that this war was of long continuance, and had great calamities attending it. But as it was begun by the lewdness of a woman, so it was ended by a woman’s policy. Diognetus, a colonel of the Erythraeans, holding a fortification committed to his keeping, which was cast up against the Naxians, lying naturally to great advantage and well furnished with ammunition, took great spoils from the Naxians; yea, he captivated both free married women and virgins; with one of which, called Polycrita, he fell in love, and treated her not as a captive but after the manner of a married wife. Now a festival coming in turn to be celebrated among the Milesians in the camp, and all of them given to their cups and luxury, Polycrita petitioned Diognetus that he would be pleased to permit her to send some part of the cakes to her brethren. He permitting and bidding her do it, she thrust into a cake a piece of lead engraven with writing, and commanded the bearer to say to her brethren that they alone by themselves should eat up what she had sent. Accordingly they met with the plate of lead, and read Polycrita’s hand-writing, advising them that night to fall upon their enemies, who, by reason of excess caused by their feastings, were overcome with wine and therefore in a careless secure condition. They acquainted the officers with it, and urged them to accompany them forth against the enemies. Upon engagement the stronghold being gotten and many slain, Polycrita by entreaty of her countrymen obtained the life of Diognetus and preserved him. But she being met by her countrymen at the gate, who received her with acclamations of joy and garlands, and greatly applauded her deed, could not bear the greatness of the joy, but died, falling down at the gate of the citadel, where she was buried; and it is called the Sepulchre of Envy, as though some envious fortune had grudged Polycrita the fruition of so great honor. And thus do the Naxian writers declare the history. But Aristotle saith, that Polycrita was not taken captive, but that by some other way or means Diognetus seeing her fell in love with her, and was ready to give and do all that he could for the enjoying her. Polycrita promised to consent to him, provided she might obtain one only thing of him; concerning which, as the philosopher saith, she required an oath of Diognetus. When he had sworn, she required Delium to be delivered up to her (for the stronghold was called Delium), otherwise she would not yield to go with him. He, being besotted with lust and for his oath’s sake, delivered up the place into the hands of Polycrita, and she to her countrymen. From henceforward they adjusted matters so equally, that the Naxians had free converse, as they pleased, with the Milesians.
¶ LAMPSACE. [18] There were two brethren, Phobus and Blepsus, twins of the stock of Codrus, natives of Phocaea; of which two Phobus, the elder, threw himself from the Leucadian rocks into the sea, as Charon of Lampsacus hath told us in history. This Phobus, having potency and royal dignity, took a voyage into Parium upon the account of his own private concerns; and becoming a friend and guest to Mandron king of the Bebrycians, the same that were called Pituoëssans, he aided and assisted him in the war against those of the bordering inhabitants that molested him. So that when Phobus was returning back by sea, Mandron showed great civility to him, promising to give him a part of his country and city, if he would bring over the Phocaeans and plant them as inhabitants in Pituoëssa. Phobus therefore persuading his countrymen sent his brother to conduct them over as planters, and likewise the obligation was performed on Mandron’s part according to expectation. But the Phocaeans taking great booty, prey, and spoils from the neighboring barbarians, were first envied, and afterwards became a terror to the Bebrycians; and therefore they desired to be rid of them. As for Mandron, being an honest and righteous person, they could not possess him against the Grecians; but he taking a long journey, they provided to destroy the Phocaeans by treachery. Mandron had a daughter called Lampsace, a virgin, who was acquainted with the plot; and first she endeavored to take off her friends and familiars from it, admonishing them what a dreadful and ungodly enterprise they were going upon, — to murder men that were benefactors, military auxiliaries, and now citizens. But when she could not prevail with them, she declared to the Grecians secretly what was plotting, and wished them to stand upon their guard. Upon this, the Phocaeans provided a sacrifice and feast, and invited the Pituoëssans into the suburbs; on which, dividing themselves into two parts, with one they surprised the walls of the city, with the other they slew the men. Thus taking the city, they sent to Mandron, desiring him to join with their own rulers in the government. As for Lampsace, she died of a sickness, and they buried her sumptuously, and called the city Lampsace after her name. But when Mandron, avoiding all suspicion of betraying his people, refused to come to dwell among them, and desired this favor at their hands, that they would send him the wives and children of the deceased, the Phocaeans most readily sent them, offering them no injury at all. And ascribing in the first place heroic renown to Lampsace, in the last place they decreed a sacrifice to her as a Goddess, which they continue yearly to offer.
¶ ARETAPHILA. [19] Aretaphila, a Cyrenaean, was not of ancient time, but lived in the time of the Mithridatic war. She arrived at such a degree of fortitude and experience in counsel as might be compared with the conduct of any heroic ladies. She was the daughter of Aeglator and the wife of Phaedimus, both renowned men. She was a great beauty, excelling in discretion, and was not unacquainted with the most knotty pieces of policy; but the common disasters of her native country rendered her famous. Nicocrates, having then usurped the tyranny over the Cyrenaeans, not only murdered many other citizens, but also assassinated Melanippus, a priest of Apollo, with his own hand, and held the priesthood himself. He slew also Phaedimus, the husband of Aretaphila, and married Aretaphila against her will. Unto a thousand other villanies he added this, that he set guards at the gates, who mangled the dead corpses as they were carrying forth, pricking them with their daggers and clapping hot irons to them, lest any citizen should be carried out privily under pretence of being a dead corpse. Aretaphila’s own proper calamities were very grievous to her, although the tyrant, for the love that he bare to her, suffered her to enjoy a great part of his regal power; for his love had subdued him unto her, and to her alone was he gentle and manageable, being very rude and savage in his behavior to others. But that which troubled her more than other things was to see her miserable country suffering such horrid things in so base a manner; one citizen being slaughtered after another, without any hopes of a vindictive justice from any. The exiles also were altogether enfeebled, affrighted, and scattered here and there. Aretaphila therefore supposed herself to be the only hope remaining for the state; and emulating the famous and brave enterprises of Thebe of Pherae, although she was destitute of the faithful friends and helpers which circumstances afforded to Thebe, she laid a plan to despatch her husband by poison. But in setting herself about it, providing the materials, and trying many experiments with poisons, the matter could not be hid, but was discovered; and there being proof made of the attempt, Calbia, Nicocrates’s mother, being naturally of a murdering implacable spirit, presently adjudged Aretaphila to torments and then to death. But love abated the rage of Nicocrates, and put him upon delay; and the vigorous manner in which Aretaphila met the accusation and defended herself gave some plausible ground for his hesitation. But when she was convicted by the clearest proofs, and the preparation she had made for the poison was even in sight, admitting no denial, she confessed that she provided poison, but not deadly poison. But truly, O sir, she said, I am contending for matters of great concern, no less indeed than the honor and power which by thy gracious favor I reap the fruit of. I am maligned by many ill women, whose poisons and treacheries I stand in fear of, and therefore have been persuaded to contrive something on the other side in my own defence. These are haply foolish and woman-like plots, but not such as deserve death, unless it seem good to thee as judge to take away thy wife’s life on account of love-potions and charms, which she has used because she wishes to be loved by thee more than thou wouldst have her. Notwithstanding this defence which Aretaphila had made for herself, Nicocrates thought good to commit her to torments; and Calbia presided in the judicature, rigid and inexorable. But Aretaphila bore up invincibly under her tortures, till Calbia herself was tired, sore against her will. But Nicocrates being pacified discharged her, and was sorry he had tortured her. And it was not very long ere he went in again unto her, being highly transported with affection, renewing his favor towards her with honors and courteous behavior. But she would not be brought under by flattery, who had held out so stoutly under tortures and pains; and an emulation of victory, conjoined with the love of honesty, made her betake herself to other measures.

She had a daughter marriageable, an excellent beauty. Her she presented for a bait to the tyrant’s brother, a young stripling and lasciviously addicted. There was a report, that Aretaphila used such enchantments and witchcrafts towards the maid, that she plainly charmed and destroyed the young man’s reason. He was called Leander. After he was entangled, he petitioned his brother and accomplished the marriage. Now the maid, being instructed by her mother, instigated and persuaded him to set the city at liberty, insinuating that he himself could not live long free under an arbitrary government, nor could he marry a wife or reserve her to himself. Also some friends, Aretaphila’s favorites, suggested to him continually some accusations or surmises concerning his brother. But as soon as he perceived that Aretaphila was counselling and aiding in these matters, he undertook the business, and excited Daphnis a household servant, who slew Nicocrates by his command. In what followed, he attended not so much to Aretaphila, but presently manifested by his actions that he was rather a fratricide than a tyrannicide; for he managed his affairs perversely and foolishly. But yet he had some honor for Aretaphila, and she had some influence with him; neither did she manage any enmity or open opposition against him, but ordered her affairs privily. First of all, she stirred up an African war against him, and incited Anabus, a certain duke, to invade his borders and approach the city; and then she buzzed into Leander’s head suspicions against the favorites and officers, saying that they were not forward to fight but rather ambitious of peace and tranquillity, which indeed (she said) the state of affairs and the security of his dominion required of him if he would hold his subjects in firm subjection; and she would effect a cessation of arms and bring Anabus to a parley with him, if he would permit it, before an incurable war should break forth. Leander gave her commission. First she treated with the African, and with the promise of great presents and treasures begged that he would seize Leander when he came to treat with him. The African was persuaded, but Leander was backward to it; only for the respect that he bore to Aretaphila, who said that she would be present, he went unarmed and unguarded. But as he came nigh and saw Anabus, he made a halt, and would have waited the coming of his guards; only Aretaphila being present sometimes encouraged him, sometimes reviled him. But at last, when he still hesitates, she undauntedly lays hold on him, and dragging him resolutely along, delivers him to the barbarian. He was immediately seized, confined, and bound, and kept prisoner by the African, until Aretaphila’s friends, with other citizens, procured the treasures promised. Many people acquainted with this ran forth to the parley; and as soon as they saw Aretaphila, they were so transported that they had like to have forgot their indignation against the tyrant, and reckoned the punishing him of no great concern. But the first work after the enjoyment of their liberty was the saluting Aretaphila, between acclamations of joy and weeping, and falling down before her, as before the statue of one of the Gods. And the people flocked in one after another, so that they scarcely had time that evening to receive Leander again and return into the city. When they had satisfied themselves in honoring and applauding Aretaphila, they turned themselves to the tyrants; and Calbia they burnt alive, Leander they sewed up in a sack and threw him into the sea, but they voted that Aretaphila should bear her share in the government together with the statesmen, and be taken into counsel. But she, by great sufferings having acted a tragi-comedy consisting of various parts, and at last obtained the reward of the garland, as soon as she saw the city set at liberty, betook herself to her private apartment; and casting off all multiplicity of business, she led the rest of her time in spinning, and finished her days in tranquillity among her friends and acquaintance.

¶ CAMMA. [20] There were two most potent persons among the tetrarchs of Galatia, allied by kin to each other, Sinatus and Synorix; one of which, Sinatus, took a maid to wife, Camma by name, very comely to behold for person and favor, but principally to be admired for virtue. For she was not only modest and loving to her husband, but discreet and of a generous mind. And by reason of her gentle and courteous behavior she was extremely acceptable to her inferiors; yea, that which rendered her more eminently renowned was, that being a priest of Diana (for the Galatians worship that goddess most) she did always appear magnificently adorned in all sacred processions and at the sacrifices. Wherefore Synorix, falling in love with her, could not prevail either by persuasions or violence, whilst her husband lived. He commits a horrid crime, — he slays Sinatus treacherously, — and not long after accosts Camma, whilst she abode within the temple, and bore Synorix’s crime not in an abject and despondent manner, but with a mind intent upon revenge on Synorix, and only waiting an opportunity. He was importunate in his humble addresses, neither did he seem to use arguments that were without all show of honesty. For as in other things he pretended that he far excelled Sinatus, so he slew him for the love he bare to Camma and for no other wicked design. The woman’s denials were at first not very peremptory, and then by little and little she seemed to be softened towards him. Her familiars and friends also lay at her in the service and favor of Synorix, who was a man of great power, persuading and even forcing her. In fine therefore she consented, and accordingly sent for him to come to her, that the mutual contract and covenant might be solemnized in the presence of the Goddess. When he came, she received him with much courtesy, and bringing him before the altar and pouring out some of the drink-offering upon the altar out of the bowls, part of the remainder she drank herself and part she gave him to drink. The cup was poisoned mead. As she saw him drink it all up, she lifted up a shrill loud voice, and fell down and worshipped her Goddess, saying: I call thee to witness, O most reverend Divinity! that for this very day’s work’s sake I have over-lived the murder of Sinatus, no otherwise taking any comfort in this part of my life but in the hope of revenge that I have had. And now I go down to my husband. And for thee, the lewdest person among men, let thy relations prepare a sepulchre, instead of a bride-chamber and nuptials. When the Galatian heard these things, and perceived the poison to wamble up and down and indispose his body, he ascended his chariot, hoping to be relieved by the jogging and shaking. But he presently alighted, and put himself into a litter, and died that evening. Camma continued all that night, and being told that he had ended his life, she comfortably and cheerfully expired.
¶ STRATONICE. [21] Galatia also produced Stratonica the wife of Deiotarus, and Chiomara the wife of Ortiagon, both of them women worth remembrance. Stratonica knowing that her husband wanted children of his own body to succeed in his kingdom, she being barren persuaded him to beget a child on another woman, and subject it to her tutelage. Deiotarus admiring her proposal, committed all to her care upon that account. She provided a comely virgin for him from among the captives, Electra by name, and brought her to lie with Deiotarus. The children begotten of her she educated very tenderly and magnificently, as if they had been her own.
¶ CHIOMARA. [22] It fell out that Chiomara, the wife of Ortiagon, was taken captive with other women, in the time when the Romans under Cneus Manlius overcame the Galatians of Asia in battle. The centurion that took her made use of his fortune soldier-like and defiled her; for he was, as to voluptuousness and covetousness, an ill-bred and insatiable man, over whom avarice had gotten an absolute conquest. A great quantity of gold being promised by the woman for her ransom, in order to her redemption he brought her to a certain bank of a river. As the Galatians passed over and paid him the money in gold, and received Chiomara into their possession, she gave an intimation of her pleasure to one of them by nod, — to smite the Roman while he was kissing and taking his leave of her. He obeyed her commands and cut off his head. She takes it, wraps it up in her apron, and carries it with her; and as she comes to her husband, she casts down the head before him, at which being startled he said, O wife! thy fidelity is noble. Yea, verily, replied she, it is a nobler thing that there is now but one man alive that hath ever lain with me. Polybius saith that he discoursed with this woman at Sardis, and admired her prudence and discretion.
¶ A WOMAN OF PERGAMUM. [23] When Mithridates sent for sixty noblemen of Galatia as friends, he seemed to carry himself abusively and imperiously towards them, which they were all mightily provoked at. Poredorix, a man of a robust body and lofty mind, who was no less than tetrarch of the Tosiopae, designed to lay hold on Mithridates, seizing him when he should be determining causes on the bench of judicature in the gymnasium, and to force him bench and all into the ditch; but by a certain chance he went not up to the place of judicature that day, but sent for the Galatians to come home to him to his house. Poredorix encouraged them all to be of good courage, and when they should be all come together there, to fall upon him on every side, slay him, and cut his body in pieces. This conspiracy was not unknown to Mithridates, an intimation of it being given him; accordingly he delivers up the Galatians one by one to be slain. But calling to mind a young man among them, who excelled in comeliness and beauty all whom he knew, he commiserated him and repented himself and was apparently grieved, supposing him slain among the first, and also sent his command, that if he were alive he should remain so. The young man’s name was Bepolitanus. There was a strange accident befell this man. When he was apprehended, he had on very gay and rich apparel, which the executioner desired to preserve clean from being stained with blood; and undressing the young man leisurely, he saw the king’s messengers running to him and calling out the name of the youth. So that covetousness, which is the ruin of many, unexpectedly saved the life of Bepolitanus. But Poredorix being slain was cast forth unburied, and none of his friends did dare to come near him; only a certain woman of Pergamus, that was conversant with him while he lived at Galatia, attempted to cover his corpse and bury it. But when the guards perceived her, they laid hold on her and brought her before the king. And it is reported that Mithridates was much affected at the sight of her, the young maid seeming altogether harmless, and the more so, as it seemed, because he knew that love was the reason of her attempt. He gave her leave therefore to take away the corpse and bury it, and to take grave-clothes and ornaments at his cost.
¶ TIMOCLEA. [24] Theagenes the Theban, who held the same sentiments with regard to his country’s welfare with Epaminondas, Pelopidas, and the other most worthy Thebans, was slain in Chaeronea, in the common disaster of Greece, even then when he had conquered his enemies and was in pursuit of them. For it was he that answered one who cried out aloud to him, How far wilt thou pursue? Even (saith he) to Macedonia. When he was dead, his sister survived him, who gave testimony that he was nobly descended, and that he was naturally a great man and excellently accomplished. Moreover, this woman was so fortunate as to reap a great benefit by her prowess, so that the more public calamities fell upon her, so much the easier she bore them. For when Alexander took Thebes and the soldiers fell a plundering, some in one part and some in another, it happened that a man, neither civil nor sober but mischievous and mad, took up his quarters in Timoclea’s house. He was a captain to a Thracian company, and the king’s namesake, but nothing like him; for he having no regard either to the family or estate of this woman, when he had swilled himself in wine after supper, commanded her to come and lie with him. Neither ended he here, but enquired for gold and silver, whether she had not some hid by her; sometimes threatening as if he would kill her, sometimes flattering as if he would always repute her in the place of a wife. She, taking the occasion offered by him, said: “Would God I had died before this night came, rather than lived to it; that though all other things had been lost, I might have preserved my body free from abuse. But now seeing it is thus come to pass, and Divine Providence hath thus disposed of it that I must repute thee my guardian, lord, and husband, I will not hold any thing from thee that is thine own. And as for myself, I see I am at thy disposition. As for corporeal enjoyments, the world was mine, I had silver bowls, I had gold, and some money; but when this city was taken, I commanded my maids to pack it up altogether, and threw it, or rather put it for security, into a well that had no water in it. Neither do many know of it, for it hath a covering, and nature hath provided a shady wood round about it. Take then these things, and much good may they do thee; and they shall lie by thee, as certain tokens and marks of the late flourishing fortune and splendor of our family.” When the Macedonian heard these things, he stayed not for day, but presently went to the place by Timoclea’s conduct, commanding the garden-door to be shut, that none might perceive what they were about. He descended in his morning vestment. But the revengeful Clotho brought dreadful things upon him by the hand of Timoclea, who stood on the top of the well; for as soon as she perceived by his voice that he reached the bottom, she threw down abundance of stones upon him, and her maids rolled in many and great ones, till they had dashed him to pieces and buried him under them. As soon as the Macedonians came to understand this and had taken up the corpse, there having been late proclamation that none of the Thebans should be slain, they seized her and carried her before the king and declared her audacious exploit; but the king, who by the gravity of her countenance and stateliness of her behavior did perceive in her something that savored of the greatest worth and nobility, asked her first, What woman art thou? She courageously and undauntedly answered: Theagenes was my brother, who was a commander at Chaeronea, and lost his life fighting against you in defence of the Grecian liberty, that we might not suffer any such thing; and seeing I have suffered things unworthy of my rank, I refuse not to die; for it is better so to do than to experience another such a night as the last, which awaits me unless thou forbid it. All the most tender-spirited persons that were present broke out into tears; but Alexander was not for pitying her, as being a woman above pity. But he admired her fortitude and eloquence, which had taken strong hold on him, and charged his officers to have a special care and look to the guards, lest any such abuse be offered again to any renowned family; and dismissed Timoclea, charging them to have a special regard to her and all that should be found to be of her family. /7/
¶ ERYXO. [25] Arcesilaus was the son of Battus who was surnamed Felix, not at all like to his father in his conversation. His father, when he lived, laid a fine of a talent upon him for making fortifications about his house. After his father’s death he being of a rugged disposition (therefore surnamed the Severe), and following the counsels of Laarchus, an ill friend, became a tyrant instead of a king. For Laarchus affecting the government for himself, either banished or slew the noblemen of Cyrene, and charged the fault upon Arcesilaus; and at last casting him into a wasting and grievous disease, by giving him the sea-hare in his drink, he deprived him of his life. So that Laarchus assumed the government, under pretence of being protector to Arcesilaus’s young son Battus; but the youth, by reason either of his lameness or youthful age, was contemned. As for his mother, many made addresses to her, being a modest and courteous woman, and she had many of the commons and nobility at her devotion. Therefore Laarchus, pretending to be her humble servant, would needs marry her, and thereby take Battus to the dignity of being son and then allow him a share in the government. But Eryxo (for that was the woman’s name), taking counsel of her brethren, bade Laarchus treat with them as if she had designed marriage; Laarchus accordingly treating with Eryxo’s brethren, they on purpose delay and prolong the business. Eryxo sends one of her maid-servants acquainting him, that for the present her brethren did oppose the match, but if they could but accomplish it so as to lie together once, her brethren would cease arguing the matter any farther, and would give their consent. He should therefore come to her by night, if he pleased; an entrance being once made in a business, the rest will succeed well enough. These things were mighty pleasing to Laarchus, and he was much inflamed by the woman’s obliging carriage towards him, and declared that he would come to whatever place she should command him. These things Eryxo transacted with the privity of Polyarchus, her eldest brother. A time being now appointed for the congress, Polyarchus placed himself in his sister’s bed-chamber, together with two young men that were sword-men, all out of sight, to revenge the death of his father, whom Laarchus had lately murdered. Eryxo sending at the time to acquaint him, he entered without his guard, and the young men falling upon him, he was wounded with the sword and died; the corpse immediately they threw over the wall. Battus they brought forth and proclaimed king over his father’s dominions, and Polyarchus restored to the Cyrenaeans their ancient constitution of government. There were present at that time many soldiers of Amasis, the Egyptian king; whom Laar chus had employed and found faithful, and by whose means he had been not a little formidable to the citizens. These sent messengers to accuse Polyarchus and Eryxo to Amasis. At this the king was greatly incensed, and determined to make war upon the Cyrenaeans. But it happened that his mother died, and while he was solemnizing her funeral, ambassadors came and brought the news of his intentions to Cyrene. Wherefore it was thought best by Polyarchus to go and apologize for himself. Eryxo would not desert him, but was resolved to accompany him and run the same hazard with him. Nor would his mother Critola leave him, though she was an old woman; for great was her dignity, she being the sister of old Battus, surnamed Felix. As soon as they came into Egypt, as others with admiration approved of the exploit, so even Amasis himself did not a little applaud the chastity and fortitude of Eryxo, honoring her with presents and royal attendance, with which he sent back Polyarchus and the ladies into Cyrene.
¶ XENOCRITE. [26] Xenocrita of Cumae deserves no less to be admired for her exploits against Aristodemus the tyrant, whom some have supposed to be surnamed the Effeminate, being ignorant of the true story. He was called by the barbarians Malakos (that is soft and effeminate) with regard merely to his youth; because, when he was a mere stripling, with other companions of the same age who wore long hair (whence they were called Coronistae, as it seems from their long hair), he became famous in the war against the barbarians. He was also not only renowned for resolution and activity, but very exceedingly remarkable for his discretion and providence; insomuch that being admired by the citizens he proceeded to the highest dominion among them. He was to bring aid to the Romans when they were in war with the Etrurians, who engaged to restore Tarquinius Superbus to his kingdom; in all which expedition, that was very long, he managed all affairs so as to ingratiate himself with the military part of the citizens, aiming more at the making himself head of a popular faction than general of the army. He accordingly prevails with them to join with him in attacking the senate, and in casting out the citizens of highest rank and most potent into exile. Afterwards becoming tyrant, he was flagitious in his carriage towards women and free-born youth, and exceeded even himself in vileness. For history reports of him how that he accustomed the boys to wear their hair long and set with golden ornaments, and the girls he compelled to be polled round, and to wear youths’ jerkins and short-tailed petticoats. Notwithstanding, he had a peculiar affection for Xenocrita, a girl of Cumae, left behind by her exiled father. Her he kept, but could not bring over to his humor by any insinuations or persuasions, neither had he gained her father’s consent; however, he reckoned the maid would be brought to love him by constant conversation with him, since she would be envied and reputed very happy by the citizens. But these things did not at all besot the maid; but she took it heinously that she must be constrained to dwell with him, not espoused or married. Neither did she less long for the liberty of her native country than did those who were hated by the tyrant.

It happened about that time that Aristodemus was casting up an entrenchment about the borders of Cumae, a work neither necessary nor profitable, only because he was resolved to tire out the citizens with hard toil and labor; for every one was required to carry out a stinted number of baskets of earth daily, in order to the delving this ditch. A certain maid, as she saw Aristodemus approaching, ran aside and covered her face with her apron; but when Aristodemus was withdrawn, the young men would sport and jest with her, asking her whether out of modesty she avoided only the sight of Aristodemus and was not so affected towards other men. She made answer designedly, rather than otherwise, that of the Cumaeans Aristodemus was the only man. This sentence thus spoken verily touched them all very near, for it provoked the generousminded men among them for very shame to the recovering of their liberties. And it is said that Xenocrita was heard to say, that she had rather carry earth for her father, if he were at home, than participate in the great luxury and pomp of Aristodemus. These things added courage to them that were about to make an insurrection against Aristodemus, which Thymoteles had the chief management of; for Xenocrita providing them safe admittance, they easily rushed in upon Aristodemus, unarmed and unguarded, and slew him. In this manner the city of Cumae gained its liberty, by the virtue of two women; one by suggesting and invigorating the enterprise, the other by bringing it to an issue. When honors and great presents were tendered to Xenocrita, she refused all; but requested one thing, that she might bury the corpse of Aristodemus. This they delivered her, and made her a priestess of Ceres; reckoning that, as it was a deserved honor bestowed on her, so she would be no less acceptable to the Goddess.

¶ THE WIFE OF PYTHES. [27] It is reported that the wife of Pythes, who lived at the time of Xerxes, was a wise and courteous woman. Pythes, as it seems, finding by chance some gold mines, and falling vastly in love with the riches got out of them, was insatiably and beyond measure exercised about them; and he brought down likewise the citizens, all of whom alike he compelled to dig or carry or refine the gold, doing nothing else; many of them dying in the work, and all being quite worn out. Their wives laid down their petition at his gate, addressing themselves to the wife of Pythes. She bade them all depart and be of good cheer; but those goldsmiths which she confided most in she required to wait upon her, and confining them commanded them to make up golden loaves, all sorts of junkets and summer-fruits, all sorts of fish and flesh meats, in which she knew Pythes was most delighted. All things being provided, Pythes coming home then (for he happened to go a long journey) and asking for his supper, his wife set a golden table before him, having no edible food upon it, but all golden. Pythes admired the workmanship for its imitation of nature. When, however, he had sufficiently fed his eyes, he called in earnest for something to eat; but his wife, when he asked for any sort, brought it of gold. Whereupon being provoked, he cried out, I am an hungered. She replied: Thou hast made none other provisions for us; every skilful science and art being laid aside, no man works in husbandry; but neglecting sowing, planting, and tilling the ground, we delve and search for useless things, killing ourselves and our subjects. These things moved Pythes, but not so as to give over all his works about the mine; for he now commanded a fifth part of the citizens to that work, the rest he converted to husbandry and manufactures. But when Xerxes made an expedition into Greece, Pythes, being most splendid in his entertainments and presents, requested a gracious favor of the king, that since he had many sons, one might be spared from the camp to remain with him, to cherish his old age. At which Xerxes in a rage slew this son only which he desired, and cut him in two pieces, and commanded the army to march between the two parts of the corpse. The rest he took along with him, and all of them were slain in the wars. At which Pythes fell into a despairing condition, so that he fell under the like suffering with many wicked men and fools. He dreaded death, but was weary of his life; yea, he was willing not to live, but could not cast away his life. He had this project. There was a great mound of earth in the city, and a river running by it, which they called Pythopolites. In that mound he prepared him a sepulchre, and diverted the stream so as to run just by the side of the mound, the river lightly washing the sepulchre. These things being finished, he enters into the sepulchre, committing the city and all the government thereof to his wife; commanding her not to come to him, but to send his supper daily laid on a sloop, till the sloop should pass by the sepulchre with the supper untouched; and then she should cease to send, as supposing him dead. He verily passed in this manner the rest of his life; but his wife took admirable care of the government, and brought in a reformation of all things amiss among the people.

Here Ends Plutarch's Virtues of Women.


/1/ For Pericles' Funeral Oration see Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, II, 34.

/2/ Cf. Plutarch, Life of Camillus, 8 and Life of Caesar, 5

/3/ Cf. Plutarch, Life of Brutus, 13

/4/ Cf. Plutarch, Life of Romulus, 1

/5/ Cf. Plutarch, Life of Alexander, 12

/6/ Cf. Plutarch, Life of Poplicola, 18-19

/7/ Cf. Plutarch, Life of Alexander, 69