Plutarch’s Moralia

(987) ἐπάγεται1 καὶ ἀγαπᾷ θάνατον· νεοσσοῖς δὲ καὶ σκύμνοις τούτων, δι᾿ ἡλικίαν εὐαγώγοις καὶ ἁπαλοῖς οὖσιν, πολλὰ καὶ ἀπατηλὰ μειλίγματα καὶ ὑποπεττεύματα2 προφέροντες καὶ καταφαρμάττοντες, ἡδονῶν παρὰ φύσιν γευόμενα καὶ διαίτης ἀδρανῆ χρόνῳ κατειργάσαντο, ἕως3 προσεδέξαντο καὶ ὑπέμειναν τὴν καλουμένην ἐξημέρωσιν ὥσπερ Fἀπογυναίκωσιν τοῦ θυμοειδοῦς.

Οἷς δὴ4 μάλιστα δῆλον ὅτι τὰ θηρία πρὸς τὸ θαρρεῖν εὖ πέφυκε. τοῖς δ᾿ ἀνθρώποις ἡ παρρησία5 καὶ παρὰ φύσιν ἐστίν· ἐκεῖθεν δ᾿ ἄν, ὦ βέλτιστ᾿ Ὀδυσσεῦ, μάλιστα καταμάθοις· ἐν γὰρ τοῖς θηρίοις ἰσορροπεῖ πρὸς ἀλκὴν ἡ φύσις καὶ τὸ θῆλυ τοῦ ἄρρενος οὐδὲν ἀποδεῖ πονεῖν τε τοὺς ἐπὶ τοῖς ἀναγκαίοις πόνους ἀγωνίζεσθαί τε τοὺς ὑπὲρ τῶν τέκνων ἀγῶνας. ἀλλά που6 Κρομμυωνίαν τινὰ σῦν ἀκούεις,7 ἣ πράγματα πολλά, θῆλυ θηρίον οὖσα, 988τῷ Θησεῖ παρέσχε· καὶ τὴν Σφίγγα ἐκείνην οὐκ ἂν ὤνησεν ἡ σοφία περὶ τὸ Φίκιον ἄνω καθεζομένην, αἰνίγματα καὶ γρίφους πλέκουσαν, εἰ μὴ ῥώμῃ καὶ ἀνδρείᾳ πολὺ τῶν Καδμείων ἐπεκράτει. ἐκεῖ δέ που καὶ Τευμησίαν8 ἀλώπεκα “μέρμερον χρῆμα” καὶ πλησίον ὄφιν τῷ Ἀπόλλωνι περὶ τοῦ


Beasts are Rational

induce and embrace death in place of slavery.a But nestlings and cubs, which by reason of age are tender and docile, are offered many beguiling allurements and enticements that act as drugs. These give them a taste for unnatural pleasures and modes of life, and in time make them spiritless to the point where they accept and submit to their so-called “taming,” which is really an emasculation of their fighting spirit.

These facts make it perfectly obvious that bravery is an innate characteristic of beasts, while in human beings an independent spirit is actually contrary to nature. The point that best proves this, gentle Odysseus, is the fact that in beasts valour is naturally equal in both sexesb and the female is in no way inferior to the male. She takes her part both in the struggle for existence and in the defence of her brood.c You have heard, I suppose, of the sow of Crommyond which, though a female beast, caused so much trouble to Theseus. That famous Sphinxe would have got no good of her wisdom as she sat on the heights of Mt. Phicium, weaving her riddles and puzzles, if she had not continued to surpass the Thebans greatly in power and courage. Somewhere thereabouts lived also the Teumesianf vixen, a “thing atrocious”g; and not far away, they say, was the Pythoness who

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.plutarch-beasts_are_rational.1957