Τίνας οὖν, ἔφη, ὑπὸ τίνων εὕροιμεν ἂν μείζω εὐηργετημένους ἢ παῖδας ὑπὸ γονέων; οὓς οἱ γονεῖς ἐκ μὲν οὐκ ὄντων ἐποίησαν εἶναι, τοσαῦτα δὲ καλὰ ἰδεῖν καὶ τοσούτων ἀγαθῶν μετασχεῖν, ὅσα οἱ θεοὶ παρέχουσι τοῖς ἀνθρώποις· ἃ δὴ καὶ οὕτως ἡμῖν δοκεῖ παντὸς ἄξια εἶναι ὥστε πάντες τὸ καταλιπεῖν αὐτὰ πάντων μάλιστα φεύγομεν, καὶ αἱ πόλεις ἐπὶ τοῖς μεγίστοις ἀδικήμασι ζημίαν θάνατον πεποιήκασιν ὡς οὐκ ἂν μείζονος κακοῦ φόβῳ τὴν ἀδικίαν παύσαντες. καὶ μὴν οὐ τῶν γε ἀφροδισίων ἕνεκα παιδοποιεῖσθαι τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ὑπολαμβάνεις, ἐπεὶ τούτου γε τῶν ἀπολυσόντων μεσταὶ μὲν αἱ ὁδοί, μεστὰ δὲ τὰ οἰκήματα. φανεροὶ δ’ ἐσμὲν καὶ σκοπούμενοι ἐξ ὁποίων ἂν γυναικῶν βέλτιστα ἡμῖν τέκνα γένοιτο· αἷς συνελθόντες τεκνοποιούμεθα. καὶ ὁ μέν γε ἀνὴρ τήν τε συντεκνοποιήσουσαν ἑαυτῷ τρέφει καὶ τοῖς μέλλουσιν ἔσεσθαι παισὶ προπαρασκευάζει πάντα, ὅσα ἂν οἴηται συνοίσειν αὐτοῖς πρὸς τὸν βίον, καὶ ταῦτα ὡς ἂν δύνηται πλεῖστα· ἡ δὲ γυνὴ ὑποδεξαμένη τε φέρει τὸ φορτίον τοῦτο, βαρυνομένη τε καὶ κινδυνεύουσα περὶ τοῦ βίου καὶ μεταδιδοῦσα τῆς τροφῆς, ᾗ καὶ αὐτὴ τρέφεται, καὶ σὺν πολλῷ πόνῳ διενεγκοῦσα καὶ τεκοῦσα τρέφει τε καὶ ἐπιμελεῖται, οὔτε προπεπονθυῖα οὐδὲν ἀγαθὸν οὔτε γιγνῶσκον τὸ βρέφος ὑφ’ ὅτου εὖ πάσχει, οὐδὲ σημαίνειν δυνάμενον ὅτου δεῖται, ἀλλ’ αὐτὴ στοχαζομένη τά τε συμφέροντα καὶ τὰ κεχαρισμένα πειρᾶται ἐκπληροῦν, καὶ τρέφει πολὺν χρόνον καὶ ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτὸς ὑπομένουσα πονεῖν, οὐκ εἰδυῖα εἴ τινα τούτων χάριν ἀπολήψεται.
(Xenophon, Mem. 2.2.3-5)

Now what deeper obligation can we find than that of children to their parents? To their parents children owe their existence and their portion of all fair sights and all blessings that the gods bestow on humanity—gifts we prize so highly that all will sacrifice anything rather than lose them; and the reason why governments have made death the penalty for the greatest crimes is that the fear of it is the strongest deterrent against crime. Of course you don’t suppose that lust provokes men to beget children, when the streets and the brothels are full of means to satisfy that? We obviously select for wives the women who will bear us the best children, and then marry them to raise a family. The man supports the woman who is to share with him the duty of parentage and provides for the expected children whatever he thinks will contribute to their benefit in life, and accumulates as much of it as he can. The woman conceives and bears her burden in travail, risking her life, and giving of her own food; and, with much labor, having endured to the end and brought forth her child, she rears and cares for it, although she has not received any good thing, and the baby neither recognizes its benefactress nor can make its wants known to her: still she guesses what is good for it and what it likes, and seeks to supply these things, and rears it for a long season, enduring toil day and night, nothing knowing what return she will get. (tr. Edgar Cardew Marchant, revised by Jeffrey Henderson)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: