LCL 467: 4-5
Nulla Lacedaemoni vidua tam est nobilis, quae 5non ad cenam1 eat mercede conducta. Magnis in laudibus tota fere fuit Graecia victorem Olympiae citari; in scaenam vero prodire ac populo esse spectaculo nemini in eisdem gentibus fuit turpitudini. Quae omnia apud nos partim infamia, partim humilia atque ab honestate remota ponuntur.
6Contra ea pleraque nostris moribus sunt decora quae apud illos turpia putantur. Quem enim Romanorum pudet uxorem ducere in convivium? Aut cuius non mater familias primum locum tenet aedium 7atque in celebritate versatur? Quod multo fit aliter in Graecia; nam neque in convivium adhibetur nisi propinquorum, neque sedet nisi in interiore parte aedium, quae gynaeconitis appellatur, quo nemo accedit nisi propinqua cognatione coniunctus.
8Sed hic plura persequi cum magnitudo voluminis prohibet, tum festinatio ut ea explicem quae exorsus sum. Qua re ad propositum veniemus et in hoc exponemus libro de vita excellentium imperatorum.
At Lacedaemon no woman without a husband, however distinguished she may be, refuses to go to a dinner-party as a hired entertainer.1 Almost everywhere in Greece it was deemed a high honour to be proclaimed victor at Olympia; even to appear on the stage and exhibit oneself to the people was never regarded as shameful by those nations. With us, however, all those acts are classed either as disgraceful, or as low and unworthy of respectable conduct.
On the other hand, many actions are seemly according to our code which the Greeks look upon as shameful. For instance, what Roman would blush to take his wife to a dinner-party? What matron does not frequent the front rooms2 of her dwelling and show herself in public? But it is very different in Greece; for there a woman is not admitted to a dinner-party, unless relatives only are present, and she keeps to the more retired part of the house called “the women’s apartment,” to which no man has access who is not near of kin.
But further enlargement of this topic is impossible, not only because of the extent of my proposed work, but also by my haste to treat the subject that I have chosen. I shall therefore come to the point and shall write in this book of the lives of celebrated commanders.
- 1Cenam is probably corrupt, but no satisfactory emendation has been proposed. The suggestion of Wagner, “to indulge in promiscuous intercourse,” seems the best one; see the critical note.
- 2The reference is primarily to the atrium, but also to other rooms to which guests were admitted; primum locum is contrasted with interiore parte.