Innumeros inter laqueos quos callidus hostis
omnes per mundi colles camposque tetendit
maximus est, et quem vix quisquam fallere possit,
femina, triste caput, mala stirps, vitiosa propago,
plurima quae totum per mundum scandala gignit;
quae lites, rixas, et duras seditiones
excitat, et veteres bello committit amicos,
separat affectus, natos ciet atque parentes:
parva loquor, reges solio movet atque tetrarchas,
gentes collidit, quatit oppida, diruit urbes,
caedes multiplicat, letalia pocula miscet;
per villas agrosque furens incendia iactat.
dedique nulla mali species grassatur in orbe,
in qua non aliquam sibi sumat femina partem.
(Marbod of Rennes, Liber Decem Capitulorum 3.1-14)

Countless are the traps which the scheming enemy has set throughout the world’s paths and plains: but among them the greatest – and the one scarcely anybody can evade – is woman. Woman the unhappy source, evil root, and corrupt offshoot, who brings to birth every sort of outrage throughout the world. For she instigates quarrels, conflicts, dire dissensions; she provokes fighting between old friends, divides affections, shatters families. But these are trivia I speak of: she dislodges kings and princes from the throne, makes nations clash, convulses towns, destroys cities, multiplies slaughters, brews deadly poisons. She hurls conflagration as she rampages through farmsteads and fields. In sum, there lurks in the universe no manifestation of evil which woman does not claim some part for herself. (tr. Alcuin Blamires)


Clytemnestra incites Aegisthus to kill Agamemnon

“Sors pariter nos una manet: iubeoque rogoque,
pastorem regina monens; formidine mortis
territa sollicitor miserandi femina sexus,
conveniens tamen hortor opus, dum congrua vitae
impero, ne moriar tecum peritura cruente;
nam mecum miser ipse cades Agamemnone viso,
impie. funereis nos casibus eripe sollers;
nec labor ullus erit victorem sternere ferro:
semper iners, securus agit, qui perculit hostem,
et patet insidiis nullo terrente quietus.
non est quem metuas: brevis est et parvus Orestes,
unaque natarum cinis est per templa Dianae,
altera sexus iners, recidens, miseranda – quid audet?”
(Dracontius, Orestis Tragoedia 183-195)

“One and the same fate awaits the both of us. I order and beseech you, a queen exhorting a herdsman; I, a woman, belonging to the pitiable sex, am tormented and afflicted by the fear of death. Yet it is a fitting deed to which I urge, a deed wholly agreeing with life which I demand, so that I may not die a bloody death with you. For you, godless one, will perish miserably with me when Agamemnon appears. Save us from these fatal events through your shrewdness. It will be no great trouble to slay the conqueror with your sword. He who has struck down his enemy is always lazy and feels secure; nobody scares him, and in his peace of mind he is easy to deceive. You don’t have anyone to fear. Orestes is but a small child, and of my two daughters one is mere ashes in the temple of Diana; the other one is weak, frail, pitiable – what’s she going to do?” (tr. David Bauwens)



Κυπρογενὲς Κυθέρεια δολοπλόκε, σοὶ τί περισσὸν
Ζεὺς τόδε τιμήσας δῶρον ἔδωκεν ἔχειν;
δαμνᾷς δ’ ἀνθρώπων πυκινὰς φρένας, οὐδέ τίς ἐστιν
οὕτως ἴφθιμος καὶ σοφὸς ὥστε φυγεῖν.
(Theognis, Eleg. 1386-1389)

Bred on Cyprus, Cytherean, weaver of deceptions, what is this extraordinary gift that Zeus, showing you honour, has bestowed upon you? You overwhelm the high-mindedness of mankind and there is no one in existence who has the strength or wisdom enough to elude you. (tr. Marguerite Johnson & Terry Ryan)



Quintia formosa est multis, mihi candida, longa,
recta est: haec ego sic singula confiteor.
totum illud formosa nego: nam nulla venustas,
nulla in tam magno est corpore mica salis.
Lesbia formosa est, quae cum pulcherrima tota est,
tum omnibus una omnis surripuit Veneres.
(Catullus 86)

Many find Quintia beautiful. For me she’s fair-complexioned,
tall, of good carriage. These few points I concede.
But overall beauty – no. There’s no genuine attraction
in that whole long body, not one grain of salt.
It’s Lebia who’s beautiful, and, being wholly lovely,
has stolen from all of the others their every charm.
(tr. Peter Green)



τοῦτον οὖν ἔχει τὸν λόγον ὁ θεὸς ἐν κόσμῳ, συνέχων τὴν τῶν ὅλων ἁρμονίαν τε καὶ σωτηρίαν, πλὴν οὔτε μέσος ὤν, ἔνθα ἡ γῆ τε καὶ ὁ θολερὸς τόπος οὗτος, ἀλλ’ ἄνω καθαρὸς ἐν καθαρῷ χωρῷ βεβηκώς, ὃν ἐτύμως καλοῦμεν οὐρανὸν μὲν ἀπὸ τοῦ ὅρον εἶναι εἶναι τὸν ἄνω, Ὄλυμπον δὲ οἷον ὁλολαμπῆ τε καὶ παντὸς ζόφου καὶ ἀτάκτου κινήματος κεχωρισμένον, οἷα γίνεται παρ’ ἡμῖν διὰ χειμῶνος καὶ ἀνέμων βίας, ὥσπερ ἔφη καὶ ὁ ποιητὴς
Οὔλυμπόνδ’, ὅθι φασὶ θεῶν ἕδος ἀσφαλὲς αἰεὶ
ἔμμεναι· οὔτ’ ἀνέμοισι τινάσσεται οὔτε ποτ’ ὄμβρῳ
δεύεται, οὔτε χιὼν ἐπιπίλναται, ἀλλὰ μάλ’ αἴθρη
πέπταται ἀνέφελος, λευκὴ δ’ ἐπιδέδρομεν αἴγλη. [Homer, Od. 6.42-45]
(Pseudo-Aristotle, Peri Kosmou 400a3-14)

And this is the position held in the cosmos by God, who maintains the orderliness and preservation of the whole: except that he is not in the centre – for there lies the earth, this turbulent, troubled place – but high aloft, pure in a pure region, which we rightly call “heaven” (οὐρανός) because it forms the uppermost boundary (ὅρος… ἄνω) or “Olympus” because it shines brightly all over (ὁλολαμπής) and is removed from all darkness and disorderly motion such as occurs among us when there is a storm or a violent wind; as the poet says,
To Olympus, where they say the gods’ dwelling stands
always safe; it is not shaken by winds, nor drenched
by showers of rain, nor does snow come near it; always unclouded
the air spreads out, and a white radiance lies upon it.
(tr. D.J. Furley)



Jacopo Zucchi

ἓν ἀνδρῶν, ἓν θεῶν γένος· ἐκ μιᾶς δὲ πνέομεν
ματρὸς ἀμφότεροι· διείργει δὲ πᾶσα κεκριμένα
δύναμις, ὡς τὸ μὲν οὐδέν, ὁ δὲ χάλκεος ἀσφαλὲς αἰὲν ἕδος
μένει οὐρανός. ἀλλά τι προσφέρομεν ἔμπαν ἢ μέγαν
νόον ἤτοι φύσιν ἀθανάτοις,
καίπερ ἐφαμερίαν οὐκ εἰδότες οὐδὲ μετὰ νύκτας ἄμμε πότμος
ἅντιν’ ἔγραψε δραμεῖν ποτὶ στάθμαν.
(Pindarus, Nem. 6.1-7)

There is one
race of men, one race of gods; both have breath
of life from a single mother. But sundered power
holds us divided, so that the one is nothing, while for the
other the brazen sky is established
their sure citadel forever. Yet we have some likeness in great
intelligence, or strength, to the immortals,
though we know not what the day will bring, what course
after nightfall
destiny has written that we must run to the end.
(tr. Richard Lattimore)



Haud secus ac si olim per sudum lactea forte
lapsa columbarum nubes descendat in arvum
ruris frugiferi, laqueos ubi callidus auceps
praetendit lentoque illevit vimina visco,
sparsit et insidias siliquis vel farre doloso,
illiciunt alias fallentia grana, gulamque
innectunt avidam tortae retinacula saetae,
molle vel implicitas gluten circumligat alas,
ast aliae, quas nullus amor prolectat edendi,
gressibus innocuis sterili spatiantur in herba
suspectamque cavent oculos convertere ad escam;
mox ubi iam caelo revolandum, pars petit aethram
libera sideream plaudens super aëra pinnis,
pars captiva iacet laceris et saucia plumis
pugnat humi et volucres nequiquam suspicit auras;
sic animas caeli de fontibus unicoloras
infundit natura solo, sed suavibus istic
devinctae illecebris retinentur, et aethera paucae
conscendunt reduces, multas viscosus inescat
pastus et ad superas percurrere non sinit auras.
(Prudentius, Hamartigenia 804-823)

Just as sometimes doves in a milk-white cloud,
descending through the bright and lucid sky,
settle in a wheat field, where a clever
fowler set his snares and smeared the twigs
with sticky lime, baiting his traps with peas
and poisoned grain, and some are tempted by
the treacherous grain and caught by nets of woven
cord that choke their greedy throats, or else
soft glue traps and binds their wings: but others,
not seduced by love of eating, stroll
at ease, unharmed, about the barren grass
and take good care not to turn their eyes
toward the suspect food. Soon, when it comes
time to fly back toward the sky, some freely
seek the starry heaven and clap their wings
above the clouds, while others, taken captive,
lie wounded, struggling on the ground, their feathers
torn, looking up in vain at the passing
breezes. In just this way, nature showers
spotless souls from heaven onto earth,
but there they are retained, entrapped by sweet
delights, and very few ascend again
to heaven; the sticky food entices many
and keeps them from advancing to the upper
(tr. Martha A. Malamud)