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The Trojans as it seems, being sensible of the strait they were in, and having also made some experience of the natives entertaining them with much bounty and humanity, applauded the exploit of the women, and sat down by the Latins.
He addressed his Virtues of Women to her as an extended treatment of a philosophical position he had posited for her consideration, namely "that man's virtues and women's virtues are one and the same." It was, at the time, a somewhat unorthodox position for a Greek philosopher to take.
But Plutarch was once again, as his did with his organization of the Lives, breaking with classical tradition and anticipating modern thought which finds the inner workings of the psyche more revelatory of the man (or woman) than does the accidents of birth on which the ancients placed inordinate value.
And although it be not composed for the tickling of the ear, yet if there be jucundity in the nature of an example to him that is persuaded of the truth of it, my narration fails not of that grace which works conviction; neither is it ashamed of commixing the Graces with the Muses in the sweetest harmony (as Euripides saith), while it engageth confidence especially through that part of the soul which is studious of grace and beauty.
For surely, if, whilst we asserted the art of painting to be the same, whether performed by men or women, we produced the same sort of draughts wrought by women which Apelles, Zeuxis, or Nicomachus hath left, is there any one who would reprehend us as attempting rather to humor and cajole men than to convince them? Moreover, if, whilst we go to make appear that the poetic or comic art is not one thing in men and another in women, we compare Sapphos verses with Anacreons, or the Sibylline oracles with those of Bacis, can any one justly blame this way of argumentation, because it insinuates a credence into the pleased and delighted hearers? Neither can a man truly any way better learn the resemblance and the difference between feminine and virile virtue than by comparing together lives with lives, exploits with exploits, as the products of some great art; duly considering whether the magnanimity of Semiramis carries with it the same character and impression with that of Sesostris, or the cunning of Tanaquil the same with that of King Servius, or the discretion of Porcia /3/ the same with that of Brutus, or that of Pelopidas with Timoclea, regarding that quality of these virtues wherein lie their chiefest point and force.
For he would prove that she is the best woman concerning whom there is the least discourse made by people abroad, either to her praise or dispraise; judging that, as the person, so the very name of a good woman ought to be retired and not gad abroad /1/.
But to us Gorgias seems more accurate, who requires that not only the face but the fame of a woman should be known to many.
By Isaac Chauncy, of the College of Physicians, London. Plutarch had carried on a long and satisfying intellectual exchange with his close friend and female academic colleague Clea.
Introduction and annotation of text copyright 2006 David Trumbull, Agathon Associates. (a word various translated as "virtue" "excellence" or "bravery") of Women, setting forth 28 specific historical instances of women founding cities, defeating enemies in battle, establishing justice and restoring domestic tranquility.
¶ Plutarch begins with fifteen tales of great deeds done by women working together.
Concerning the virtues of women, O Clea, I am not of the same mind with Thucydides.