The Roman and Greek Questions, by Plutarch, tr. Frank Cole Babbitt, , at sacred-texts.com
30. Why do they, as they conduct the bride to her home, bid her say, "Where you are Gaius, there am I Gaia" a?
Is her entrance into the house upon fixed terms, as it were, at once to share everything and to control jointly the household, and is the meaning, then, "Wherever you are lord and master, there am I lady and mistress"? These names are in common use also in other connexions, just as jurists speak of Gaius Seius and Lucius Titius, b and philosophers of Dion and Theon. c
Or do they use these names because of Gaia Caecilia, d consort of one of Tarquin's sons, a fair and virtuous woman, whose statue in bronze stands in the temple of Sanctus? e And both her sandals and her spindle were, in ancient days, dedicated there as tokens of her love of home and of her industry respectively.
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31. Why is the far-famed "Talassio" a sung at the marriage ceremony? b
Is it derived from talasia (spinning)? For they call the wool-basket (talaros) talasus. When they lead in the bride, they spread a fleece beneath her; she herself brings with her a distaff and her spindle, and wreaths her husband's door with wool.
Or is the statement of the historians true? They relate that there was a certain young man, brilliant in military achievements and valuable in other ways, whose name was Talasius; and when the Romans were carrying off the daughters of the Sabines who had come to see the games, a maiden of particularly beautiful appearance was being carried off for him by some plebeian retainers of his. To protect their enterprise and to prevent anyone from approaching and trying to wrest the maiden from them, they shouted continually that she was being brought as a wife for Talasius (Talasio). Since, therefore, everyone honoured Talasius, they followed along and provided escort, joining in the good wishes and acclamations. Wherefore since Talasius's marriage was happy, they became accustomed to invoke Talasius in other marriages also, even as the Greeks invoke Hymen.
32. Why is it that in the month of May at the time of. the full moon they throw into the river from the Pons Sublicius figures of men, calling the images thrown Argives? c
Is it because in ancient days the barbarians who
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lived in these parts used to destroy thus the Greeks whom they captured? But Hercules, who was much admired by them, put an end to their murder of strangers and taught them to throw figures into the river, in imitation of their superstitious custom. The men of old used to call all Greeks alike Argives; unless it be, indeed, since the Arcadians regarded the Argives also as their enemies because of their immediate proximity, that, when Evander and his men a fled from Greece and settled here, they continued to preserve their ancient feud and enmity.
33. Why in ancient days did they never dine out without their sons, even when these were still but children?
Did Lycurgus introduce this custom also, and bring boys to the common meals that they might become accustomed to conduct themselves toward their pleasures, not in a brutish or disorderly way, but with discretion, since they had their elders as supervisors and spectators, as it were? No less important is the fact that the fathers themselves would also be more decorous and prudent in the presence of their sons; for "where the old are shameless," as Plato b remarks, "there the young also must needs be lost to all sense of shame."
34. Why is it that while the other Romans make libations and offerings to the dead in the month of February, Decimus Brutus, as Cicero c has recorded, used to do so in the month of December? This was
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the Brutus who invaded Lusitania, and was the first to visit those remote places, and cross the river Lethê with an army. a
Since most peoples are accustomed to make offerings to the dead at the close of the day and at the end of the month, is it not reasonable also to honour the dead in the last month b at the turn of the year? And December is the last month.
Or do these honours belong to deities beneath the earth, and is it the proper season to honour these deities when all the crops have attained consummation?
Or is it most fitting to remember those below when men are stirring the earth at the beginning of seed-time?
Or is it because this month has been consecrated to Saturn by the Romans, and they regard Saturn as an infernal, not a celestial god?
Or is it that then their greatest festival, the Saturnalia, is set; and it is reputed to contain the most numerous social gatherings and enjoyments, and therefore Brutus deemed it proper to bestow upon the dead first-fruits, as it were, of this festival also?
Or is this statement, that Brutus alone sacrificed to the dead in this month, altogether a falsehood? For it is in December that they make offerings to Larentia and bring libations to her sepulchre.
35. And why do they thus honour Larentia who was at one time a courtesan?
They record that there was another Larentia, Acca, c the nurse of Romulus, whom they honour in
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the month of April. But they say that the surname of the courtesan Larentia was Fabula. She became famous for the following reason a: a certain keeper of the temple of Hercules enjoyed, it seems, considerable leisure and had the habit of spending the greater part of the day at draughts and dice; and one day, as it chanced, there was present no one of those who were wont to play with him and share the occupation of his leisure. So, in his boredom, he challenged the god to throw dice with him on fixed terms, as it were: if he should win, he was to obtain some service from the god; but if he should lose, he was to furnish a supper for the god at his own expense and provide a comely girl to spend the night with him. Thereupon he brought out the dice, and threw once for himself and once for the god, and lost. Abiding, therefore, by the terms of his challenge he prepared a somewhat sumptuous repast for the god and fetched Larentia, who openly practised the profession of courtesan. He feasted her, put her to bed in the temple, and, when he departed, locked the doors. The tale is told that the god visited her in the night, not in mortal wise, and bade her on the morrow go into the forum, and pay particular attention to the first man she met, and make him her friend. Larentia arose, therefore, and, going forth, met one of the wealthy men that were unwed and past their prime, whose name was Tarrutius. With this man she became acquainted, and while he lived she presided over his household, and when he died, she inherited his estate; and later, when she herself
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died, she left her property to the State; and for that reason she has these honours.
36. Why do they call one of the gates the Window, for this is what fenestra means; and why is the so-called Chamber of Fortune beside it? a
Is it because King Servius, the luckiest of mortals, was reputed to have converse with Fortune, who visited him through a window?
Or is this but a fable, and is the true reason that when King Tarquinius Priscus died, his wife Tanaquil, a sensible and a queenly woman, put her head out of a window and, addressing the citizens, persuaded them to appoint Servius king, and thus the place came to have this name? b
37. Why is it that of all the things dedicated to the gods it is the custom to allow only spoils of war to disintegrate with the passage of time, and not to move them beforehand c nor repair them?
Is it in order that men may believe that their repute deserts them at the same time with the obliteration of their early memorials, and may ever seek to bring in some fresh reminder of valour?
Or is it rather that, as time makes dim the memorials of their dissension with their enemies, it would be invidious and malicious to restore and renew them? Nor among the Greeks, either, do
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they that first erected a trophy of stone or of bronze a stand in good repute.
38. Why did Quintus Metellus, b when he became pontifex maximus, with his reputation for good sense in all other matters as well as in his statesmanship, prevent divination from birds after the month Sextilis, which is now called August?
Is it that, even as we attend to such matters in the middle of the day or at dawn, or in the beginning of the month when the moon is waxing, and avoid the declining days and hours as unsuitable for business, so likewise did Metellus regard the period of time after the first eight months as the evening or late afternoon, so to speak, of the year, since then it is declining and waning?
Or is it because we should observe birds when they are in their prime and in perfect condition? And this they are before the summer-time; but towards autumn some are weak and sickly, others but nestlings and not full-grown, and still others have vanished completely, migrating because of the time of year.
39. Why were men who were not regularly enlisted, but merely tarrying in the camp, not allowed to throw missiles at the enemy or to wound them?
This fact Cato the Elder c has made clear in one of his letters to his son, in which he bids the young man to return home if he has completed his term of service and has been discharged; or, if he should
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stay over, to obtain permission from his general to wound or slay an enemy.
Is it because sheer necessity alone constitutes a warrant to kill a human being, and he who does so illegally and without the word of command is a murderer? For this reason Cyrus also praised Chrysantas a who, when he was about to kill an enemy, and had his weapon raised to strike, heard the recall sounded and let the man go without striking him, believing that he was now prevented from so doing.
Or must he who grapples with the enemy and fights not be free from accountability nor go unscathed should he play the coward? For he does not help so much by hitting or wounding an enemy as he does harm by fleeing or retreating. He, therefore, who has been discharged from service is freed from military regulations; but he who asks leave to perform the offices of a soldier renders himself again accountable to the regulations and to his general.
53:a p. 52 "Ubi tu Gaius, ego Gaia."
53:b "John Doe and Richard Roe."
53:c Cf. Moralia, 1061 C.
53:d Probably not the same as Tanaquil, wife of Tarquinius Priscus; but cf. Pliny, Natural History, viii. 48 (194).
53:e We should probably emend to Sancus; the same mistake is made in the MSS. of Propertius, iv. 9. 71–74, where see the excellent note of Barber and Butler.
55:a p. 54 The traditional Roman spelling seems to be with -ss-.
55:b Cf. Life of Romulus, xv. (26 C), Life of Pompey, iv. (620 F); Livy, i. 9. 12.
55:c Cf. 285 A, infra, and Ovid, Fasti, v. 621 ff.; Varro, De Lingua Latina, v. 45; Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, i. 3S. 2–3. Plutarch means the Argei, the origin and meaning of which is a mystery (see V. Rose's edition, pp. 98 ff.).
57:a Who were Arcadians; cf. Virgil, Aeneid, viii. 52–151.
57:b Laws, 729 C; also cited or referred to Moralia, 14 B, 71 B, 144 F.
57:c De Legibus, ii. 21. 54.
59:a p. 58136 B.C. Cf. Appian, Spanish Wars (72), 74; and Florus, Epitome, ii. 17. 12.
59:b That is, according to Brutus's reckoning. For the common people February continued to be the month of the p. 59 Parentalia, and February was once the last month (cf. 268 B, supra).
59:c Cf. W. F. Otto, Wiener Studien, xxxv. 62 ff.
61:a Cf. Life of Romulus, chap. v. (19 F ff.); Macrobius, Saturnalia, i. 10. 11–17; Augustine, De Civitate Dei, vi. 7; Tertullian, Ad Nationes, ii. 10.
63:a Cf. 322 F, infra; Ovid, Fasti, vi. 569 ff.
63:b Cf. 323 D infra; Livy, i. 41.
63:c That is, to move them away before they fell to pieces; for the ancients used to clear out their temples periodically.
65:a p. 64 As did the Boeotians after Leuctra: Cicero, De Inventione, ii. 23 (69); cf. Diodorus, xiii. 24. 5–6. Of course this means substituting for the impromptu suit of armour, set on a stake, a permanent replica; but memorials of p. 65 battles had been popular for many years before this time. Cf. Moralia, 401 C-D.
65:b Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius, consul 80 B.C.
65:c Cf. Cicero, De Officiis, i. 11 (37).
67:a p. 66 Cf. Xenophon, Cyropaedia, iv. 1. 3; and the note on Moralia, 236 E (Vol. III. p. 420).