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The previous post in this series may be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/plutarchs-marriage-advice-section-44-cats-bees-wives/

This section concerns wives who have taken up a foreign religion which annoys their husband. As such, it helps inform our understanding of 1 Peter 3:1-6[1]. Peter writes to wives generally, but has in made women who are married to husbands who do not share their new and foreign religion, Christianity. Peter instructs the wives to be respectful and kind with their husbands despite the religious differences.  He in particular commends the wives to be quiet and gentle.

Plutarch speaks of wives who have taken up a new religion and are noisy  and apparently ungentle. Plutarch asks why would a wife seek to enrage her husband. Peter instructs wives not to use Christianity as a cudgel, but rather as a means of demonstrating a better way of living in marriage (among other things).

Peter also commends wives to be careful of they dress. Plutarch speaks of husbands who lose it when see certain colors. I don’t know the reference, but in light noise reference having a religious implication, it may be that certain clothing was required by some cults. Peter, again, tells the wives not to make clothing the point of contention.

Section 45

Those who approach elephants don’t wear flashy clothes, nor red those who approach bulls; because these colors drive the animals absolutely insane. They say that tigers go completely berserk and tear themselves apart when surrounded with drums. 

Some husbands become quite vexed seeing red or purple clothes, others are weighed down by the drums and cymbals.

Really, how hard would it be for their wives to simply abstain and not to do such things and not provoke their husbands? Rather, shouldn’t they live with them in quiet and gentleness?


Greek Text and Translation Notes:


οἱ προσιόντες ἐλέφασιν ἐσθῆτα λαμπρὰν ουʼ λαμβάνουσιν, οὐδὲ φοινικίδας οἱ ταύροις· διαγριαίνεται γὰρ ὑπὸ τῶν χρωμάτων τούτων μάλιστα τὰ ζῷα· τὰς δὲ τίγρεις φασὶ περιτυμπανιζομένας ἐκμαίνεσθαι παντάπασι καὶ διασπᾶν ἑαυτάς. ἐπεὶ τοίνυν καὶ τῶν ἀνδρῶν οἱ μὲν ἐσθῆτας κοκκίνας; καὶ πορφυρᾶς ὁρῶντες δυσανασχετοῦσιν, οἱ δὲ κυμβάλοις καὶ τυμπάνοις ἄχθονται, τί δεινὸν ἀπέχεσθαι τούτων τὰς γυναῖκας καὶ μὴ ταράττειν μηδὲ παροξύνειν τοὺς ἄνδρας, ἀλλὰ συνεῖναι μετʼ εὐσταθείας καὶ πραότητος;


οἱ προσιόντες ἐλέφασιν

Those coming near elephants

Substantive participle, the actors are defined by their conduct.

The dative is locative.

ἐσθῆτα λαμπρὰν ουʼ λαμβάνουσιν

clothing bright no do they receive

They don’t wear bright clothes.

This exact phrase is used in James 2:2, “fine clothing” (ESV). “2 ἐὰν γὰρ εἰσέλθῃ εἰς συναγωγὴν ὑμῶν ἀνὴρ χρυσοδακτύλιος ἐν ἐσθῆτι λαμπρᾷ, εἰσέλθῃ δὲ καὶ πτωχὸς ἐν ῥυπαρᾷ ἐσθῆτι,”.

οὐδὲ φοινικίδας οἱ ταύροις

neither red those [approaching] bulls

Ellipsis to push the point along and draw the examples together.

φοινῑκίς, ίδος, ἡ, (φοῖνιξ) a red or purple cloth, Ar., Xen.

2. a red cloak, Ar.; φοινικίδʼ ὀξεῖαν πάνυ a red cloak as bright as bright can be, Id.

3. a red curtain or carpet, Aeschin.

4. a red flag, Lys., Polyb.


H.G. Liddell, A Lexicon: Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996), 868.

διαγριαίνεται γὰρ ὑπὸ τῶν χρωμάτων τούτων μάλιστα τὰ ζῷα

For they are made furious by means these colors especially, the animals

The animals are made furious.

διαγριαίνω , strengthd. for ἀγριαίνω, Plu.Ant.86, Brut.20 (Pass.). Agriaino was used of women presented with perfumes in section 44.

Hupo + genitive: agency, by means of.

τὰς δὲ τίγρεις φασὶ

Now concerning tigers they say

Phasein is the idiomatic verb rather than legein when one speaks of a general statement or an indefinite speaker. See, e.g., Romans 1:22:  φάσκοντες εἶναι σοφοὶ ἐμωράνθησαν


περιτυμπανιζομένας ἐκμαίνεσθαι παντάπασι καὶ διασπᾶν ἑαυτάς

being maddened by drums to be driven mad they tear apart themselves

This is an interesting clause made up of extraordinarily emphatic forms.

περιτυμπα^νίζομαι , Pass.,

A.to be maddened by drums, Plu.2.144d, 167c.

ἐκ-μαίνω, f. ᾰνῶ, to drive mad with passion, Eur., Theocr.; ἐκμῆναί τινα δωμάτων to drive one raving from the house, Eur.:—Pass., with pf. 2 act. ἐκμέμηνα, to go mad with passion, be furious, Hdt.

2. c. acc. rei, ἐκμῆναι πόθον to kindle mad desire, Soph.

παντά-πᾱσι or (before a vowel) -ιν, Adv. all in all, altogether, wholly, absolutely, Hdt., Att.; οὐ π. οὕτως ἀλόγως not so absolutely without reason, Thuc.:—with the Art., τὸ π. Id.

2. in replying, it affirms strongly, by all means, quite so, undoubtedly, Plat., Xen.

ἐπεὶ τοίνυν καὶ τῶν ἀνδρῶν οἱ μὲν ἐσθῆτας κοκκίνας

since this also of men those on one hand clothing scarlet

The phrase ἐπεὶ τοίνυν καὶ is occasionally used. For instance Plutarch also uses in in section 3 of his essay on how to listen to poetry ἐπεὶ τοίνυν καὶ ποιητικὴ πολλάκις ἔργα φαῦλα καὶ πάθη μοχθηρὰ καὶ ἤθη μιμητικῶς ἀπαγγέλλει. And in the papyri “ἐκ πολλοῦ γ̣εωργεῖ, ἐκ πατρὸς γῆν ἄδε̣ιαν π̣αραλαβ̣ὼν ἢ ἄ[λλ]ωσ̣ ἐκληρονόμησεν· ἐπεὶ τοίνυν καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν ὁριοδείκτ[ων]” Chrest.Mitt.: Grundzge Und Chrestomathie Der Papyruskunde, Duke Data Bank of Documentary Papyri (Perseus Digital Library, n.d.).


καὶ πορφυρᾶς ὁρῶντες δυσανασχετοῦσιν

and purple seeing they are vexed

The participle sets forth when the men are vexed.

δυ^σανα-σχετέω ,

A.bear ill, Th.7.71; to be greatly vexed, ἐπί τινι, πρός τι, Plu.Cam.35, Plb.16.12.5; “περί τινος” Phalar.Ep.37; “τοῖς γενομένοις” J.AJ13.16.2: abs., Eus.Mynd.59, Aët.8.44.

οἱ δὲ κυμβάλοις καὶ τυμπάνοις ἄχθονται

On the other hand by cymbals and drums they are weighed down.

κύμβα^λον , τό, (κύμβος)

A.cymbal, X.Eq.1.3: mostly in pl., Pi.Fr.79 B., A.Fr.451 G, Men.245.3, PHib.1.54.13 (iii B.C.), LXX 1 Ki.18.6, Phld.Mus.p.49 K., D.S.2.38, Plu.2.144e, etc.

Babbitt has this footnote for this clause, “An indication that the wife was interested in some foreign religion like the worship of Cybele.”

ἌΧΘΟΜΑΙ, Pass.: f. ἀχθεσθήσομαι or (in med. form) ἀχθέσομαι: aor. I ἠχθέσθην:—to be loaded, νηῦς ἤχθετο Od.

II. of mental oppression, to be weighed down, vexed, annoyed, grieved, Hom.; τινι at a thing, or with a person, Hdt., etc.; so, ἐπί τινι Xen.; περί τινος Hdt.; ὑπέρ τινος Plat.:—also c. acc., ἄχθομαι ἕλκος Il.;—also c. part., either of subject, as ἄχθομαι ἰδών Soph.; or of object, ἤχθετο δαμναμένους at their being conquered, Il.; but the object is also in gen., οὐδὲν ἤχθετο αὐτῶν πολεμούντων he had no objection to going to war, Xen.


τί δεινὸν ἀπέχεσθαι τούτων τὰς γυναῖκας

What terrible to abstains from these the wives

How hard could it be for wives to abstain from these things.

καὶ μὴ ταράττειν μηδὲ παροξύνειν τοὺς ἄνδρας

and not to practice neither to provoke their husbands

ἀλλὰ συνεῖναι μετʼ εὐσταθείας καὶ πραότητος;

But to dwell with them in tranquility and gentleness

εὐστάθ-εια [α^] (also εὐσταθ-ία IPE12.91.11 (Olbia, ii/iii A.D.), poet. εὐσταθ-ίη AP12.199 (Strat.)), ἡ,

A.stability, tranquillity, coupled with εὐνομία, Ph. 1.248; κατὰ τὰς πόλεις ib.680; “ὑπὲρ εὐσταθείας τῆς πόλεως” IPE12.94.11 (Olbia); “τὴν Αἴγυπτον ἐν εὐ. διάγουσαν” OGI669.4 (Egypt, i A.D.); “εὐστάθειαν τῷ Βακχείῳ” SIG1109.15 (ii A.D.).

2. esp. of bodily health, “εὐ. σαρκός” Epicur. Fr.8, 424, Olympic. ap. Gal.10.56.

3. of persons, εὐσταθίη ἡ ἐν ἑωυτῷ self-possession, Hp. Decent.12; stedfastness, tranquillity, Phld.Mus.p.33K., Ph.1.231, al.; “ἐν βουλαῖς” Plu.2.342f, al.; “τῆς ψυχῆς” Ath.Med. ap. Orib.inc.21.20, cf. Ptol. Tetr.11; steadiness, “ὁρμῶν” Stoic.3.65.



[1] 1 Peter 3:1–6 (ESV)

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.