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(The previous entry in this series may be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/translation-and-notes-plutarchs-marriage-advice-the-drunk-husband/

Plutarch 17:


Kings who love music make musicians;

            word-lovers, wordsmiths;

            sports-lovers, athletes.


In the same way, a man who loves physical appearance,

                        makes his woman something to see;

            pleasure-lovers: sluts and whores –


the one who loves the good and beautiful …

                        wise and right.




Greek Text, Translation and Notes:


οἱ φιλόμουσοι τῶν βασιλέων πολλοὺς μουσικοὺς ποιοῦσιν, οἱ φιλόλογοι λογίους, οἱ φιλαθληταὶ γυμναστικούς. οὕτως ἀνὴρ φιλοσώματοςγυμναστικούς. οὕτως ἀνὴρ φιλοσώματος καλλωπίστριαν γυναῖκα ποιεῖ, φιλήδονος ἑταιρικὴν καὶ ἀκόλαστον, φιλάγαθος καὶ φιλόκαλος σώφρονα καὶ κοσμίαν.



οἱ φιλόμουσοι τῶν βασιλέων:

Those who love music (those of the kings)


The genitive, ton baileon (of the kings) creates a subset of the nominative: those who love music. Thus, those kings who love music.


πολλοὺς μουσικοὺς ποιοῦσιν

many musicians they make


The accusative (many musicians) marks the direct object of the verb.

The present tense verb does not reference present time, but rather refers to what happens as a matter of course.


The object embedded in the nominative: lovers of X is repeated in the accusative. Loves of X make X.  In the next two clauses, the verb is omitted to create a rapid movement. This makes for a “of course it’s true” argument.


οἱ φιλόλογοι λογίους,

The word-lovers, wordsmiths.

logious: one who is  able-with words; thus, sometimes “elegant” or “cultured”. I used “wordsmith” in the translation to emphasis the sound of Plutarch’s wordplay.


οἱ φιλαθληταὶ γυμναστικούς

those who love the contest, athletes.


Athleo and the related words emphasize more struggle or contest rather than sport, per se.  In the NT see 2 Timothy 2:15 or Hebrews 10:32.

Gymastikous refers generally to training — hence, to those who train, athletes. See, e.g., 1 Timothy 4:8.






The general proposition that one creates what one loves now applies to the narrow circumstance of a husband


ἀνὴρ φιλοσώματος καλλωπίστριαν γυναῖκα ποιεῖ,

a man/husband who is a body-lover, the most beautiful woman/wife makes


While the words refer to husband and wife, I think the nature of Plutarch’s argument works better with man-woman.  The woman here is an object of the man’s desire and thus lacks the independent existence which “wife” conveys to our ears.


Philo-somatos is a lover of body.

kallopistrian (feminine kallopistes): one who adorns himself. This is an unusual word.


φιλήδονος ἑταιρικὴν καὶ ἀκόλαστον,

the pleasure-lover a concubine and undisciplined (sexually)


While one could translate the final words as “girlfriends and undisciplined ones”, Plutarch’s purpose is plainly negative and sharp.


φιλάγαθος καὶ φιλόκαλος σώφρονα καὶ κοσμίαν.

the lover of good and the lover of beauty [not necessarily physical] the prudent/wise & well ordered.


Plutarch slows down the speed of his argument designating the final husband/man not merely by a single attribute. The words chosen: good and beautiful designate a man of great virtue, who seeks and (makes) a wife of equal virtue.




Kings fond of the arts make many persons incline to be artists, those fond of letters make many want to be scholars, and those fond of sport make many take up athletics. In like manner a man fond of his personal appearance makes a wife all paint and powder ; one fond of pleasure makes her meretricious and licentious, while a husband who loves what is good and honourable makes a wife discreet and well-behaved.



Princes that be addicted to music increase the number of excellent musicians; if they be lovers of learning, all men strive to excel in reading and in eloquence; if given to martial exercises, a military ardor rouses straight thedrowsy sloth of all their subjects. Thus husbands effeminately finical only teach their wives to paint and polish themselves with borrowed lustre. The studious of pleasure render them immodest and whorish. On the other side, men of serious, honest, and virtuous conversations make sober, chaste, and prudent wives.