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The previous entry for this translation will be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/translation-and-notes-plutarchs-marriage-advice-6/


It’s quick and easy to catch fish with poison – but then you’ll have nasty, poisonous fish.  And women who use charms and spells to entangle a man, controlling him through pleasure, will live with with stupid, mindless, ruined men. It’s like Circe: She couldn’t enjoy the men she’d bewitched: she couldn’t even use the men she’d turned to pigs and donkeys. – But Odysseus! The one who kept his wits and could still think: she was crazy in love for him.

Babbitt translation:

Fishing with poison is a quick way to catch fish and an easy method of taking them, but it makes the fish inedible and bad. In the same way women who artfully employ love-potions and magic spells upon their husbands, and gain the mastery over them through pleasure, find themselves consorts of dull-witted, degenerate fools. The men bewitched by Circe were of no service to her, nor did she make the least use of them after they had been changed into swine and asses, while for Odysseus, who had sense and showed discretion in her company, she had an exceeding great love.

Greek Text:

ἡ διὰ τῶν φαρμάκων θήρα ταχὺ μὲν αἱρεῖ καὶ λαμβάνει ῥᾳδίως τὸν ἰχθύν, ἄβρωτον δὲ ποιεῖ καὶ φαῦλον· οὕτως αἱ φίλτρα τινὰ καὶ γοητείας ἐπιτεχνώμεναι τοῖς ἀνδράσι καὶ χειρούμεναι διʼ ἡδονῆς αὐτοὺς ἐμπλήκτοις καὶ ἀνοήτοις, καὶ διεφθαρμένοις συμβιοῦσιν. οὐδὲ γὰρ τὴν Κίρκην ὤνησαν οἱ καταφαρμακευθέντες, οὐδʼ ἐχρήσατο πρὸς οὐδὲν αὐτοῖς ὑσὶ καὶ ὄνοις γενομένοις, τὸν δʼ Ὀδυσσέα νοῦν ἔχοντα καὶ συνόντα φρονίμως ὑπερηγάπησεν.

Plutarch, vol. 1, Moralia, ed. Gregorius N. Bernardakis (Medford, MA: Teubner, 1888), 339.

Translation notes and comments:

ἡ διὰ τῶν φαρμάκων θήρα

ἡ θήρα: the net, trap

διὰ + genitive: by means of, through

τῶν φαρμάκων: of the drugs, medicines, poison. The word also has a connotation of magic or charm.

By means of the trap of poison; i.e., by using poison to trap/catch/hunt

ταχὺ μὲν αἱρεῖ

one quickly captures, snags.

The men (μὲν) sets up the contrast, pointing ahead to a corresponding de. Altogether, “Even though you’ll quickly catch a fish with poison ….”

καὶ λαμβάνει ῥᾳδίως τὸν ἰχθύν

And easily [one] lays hold of a fish

ἄβρωτον δὲ ποιεῖ καὶ φαῦλον

uneatable it makes them – and nasty.

The ease of capture (marked with men) must be balanced with the inedible quality of poisoned fish.

οὕτως αἱ φίλτρα τινὰ καὶ γοητείας

Thus, certain love potions (philtra) and witchcraft (magic spells?)

The nouns and the adjective (certain, tina) are all accusative plural. The direct objects are brought first in the sentence to mark the parallel with the poison used to catch fish.

ἐπιτεχνώμεναι τοῖς ἀνδράσι

scheming/contriving against their husbands.

The word “husbands” can also men their “men”.

καὶ χειρούμεναι διʼ ἡδονῆς αὐτοὺς

and overpowering them through pleasure

dia + genitive: by means of/through – the agency of pleasure

ἐμπλήκτοις καὶ ἀνοήτοις  διεφθαρμένοις συμβιοῦσιν

stupefied (like one who has been beaten in a boxing match) and mindless (a-noema) and thoroughly corrupted/ruined they will live with

οὐδὲ γὰρ τὴν Κίρκην ὤνησαν οἱ καταφαρμακευθέντες,

For not to Circe they were enjoyed – those (men) who were bewitched.

Interesting that he uses the story to illustrate the point: as if it were true.

ὤνησαν  third person aorist plural:

ὀνίνημι (Hom. et al.; TestSol 13:14 C [?]; Jos., Ant. 16, 242) mid.-pass. 2 aor. sg. ὠνάσθης Tob 3:8. …to be the recipient of a favor or benefit or to have someth. for one’s use, have benefit of, enjoy.


William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 711.

οὐδʼ ἐχρήσατο πρὸς οὐδὲν αὐτοῖς ὑσὶ καὶ ὄνοις γενομένοις

neither were they of use to (her) not at all (after) they had become pigs and asses.

τὸν δʼ Ὀδυσσέα νοῦν ἔχοντα

But Odysseus having a mind (as contrasted to the mindless men)

τὸν Ὀδυσσέα: The Odysseus: the “well known, celebrity” use of the article; Wallace, 225.  Accusative: the object loved by Circe.

καὶ συνόντα φρονίμως: and possessing prudence, thoughtfulness

ὑπερηγάπησεν: she had exceedingly great love. 

Interesting word: it takes the favored word for love in the NT (agapao) and intensives it with the prefix: hyper (huper). “Hyper-love” (hyper as over, great, not agitated) would be the kind of idea – except it doesn’t look so silly in Greek.  The unusual word does not seem to a generally positive connotation.

Aristotle uses the word in Nicomachean  Ethics: “This is perhaps especially true of poets, who have an exaggerated affection for their own poems and love them as parents love their children.” 1168a1. (μάλιστα δ᾽ ἴσως τοῦτο περὶ τοὺς ποιητὰς συμβαίνει: ὑπεραγαπῶσι γὰρ οὗτοι τὰ οἰκεῖα ποιήματα, στέργοντες ὥσπερ τέκνα.)

Demonsthenes: Against Aristocrates: Our ancestors did not put up bronze statues of these men, nor did they carry their regard for them to extremes. 23.196. οὐκ ἴσα τοῖς νῦν στρατηγοῖς ἀγάθ᾽ εἰργασμένους, οὐ χαλκοῦς ἵστασαν οὐδ᾽ ὑπερηγάπων.

However, Plutarch is writing at a much later time, so perhaps the word has less of a negative ring – he is certainly using it to be positive.