On Curiosity by Plutarch

Story type: Essay

On Curiosity.[608]

Sec. I. If a house is dark, or has little air, is in an exposed position, or unhealthy, the best thing will probably be to leave it; but if one is attached to it from long residence in it, one can improve it and make it more light and airy and healthy by altering the position of the windows and stairs, and by throwing open new doors and shutting up old ones. So some towns have been altered for the better, as my native place,[609] which did lie to the west and received the rays of the setting sun from Parnassus, was they say turned to the east by Chaeron. And Empedocles the naturalist is supposed to have driven away the pestilence from that district, by having closed up a mountain gorge that was prejudicial to health by admitting the south wind to the plains. Similarly, as there are certain diseases of the soul that are injurious and harmful and bring storm and darkness to it, the best thing will be to eject them and lay them low by giving them open sky, pure air and light, or, if that cannot be, to change and improve them some way or other. One such mental disease, that immediately suggests itself to one, is curiosity, the desire to know other people’s troubles, a disease that seems neither free from envy nor malignity.

“Malignant wretch, why art so keen to mark
Thy neighbour’s fault, and seest not thine own?”[610]

Shift your view, and turn your curiosity so as to look inwards: if you delight to study the history of evils, you have copious material at home, “as much as there is water in the Alizon, or leaves on the oak,” such a quantity of faults will you find in your own life, and passions in your soul, and shortcomings in your duty. For as Xenophon says[611] good managers have one place for the vessels they use in sacrificing, and another for those they use at meals, one place for their farm instruments, and another for their weapons of war, so your faults arise from different causes, some from envy, some from jealousy, some from cowardice, some from meanness. Review these, consider these; bar up the curiosity that pries into your neighbours’ windows and passages, and open it on the men’s apartments, and women’s apartments, and servant’s attics, in your own house. There this inquisitiveness and curiosity will find full vent, in inquiries that will not be useless or malicious, but advantageous and serviceable, each one saying to himself,

“What have I done amiss? What have I done?
What that I ought to have done left undone?”

Sec. II. And now, as they say of Lamia that she is blind when she sleeps at home, for she puts her eyes on her dressing-table, but when she goes out she puts her eyes on again, and has good sight, so each of us turns, like an eye, our malicious curiosity out of doors and on others, while we are frequently blind and ignorant about our own faults and vices, not applying to them our eyes and light. So that the curious man is more use to his enemies than to himself, for he finds fault with and exposes their shortcomings, and shows them what they ought to avoid and correct, while he neglects most of his affairs at home, owing to his excitement about things abroad. Odysseus indeed would not converse with his mother till he had learnt from the seer Tiresias what he went to Hades to learn; and after receiving that information, then he turned to her, and asked questions about the other women, who Tyro was, and who the fair Chloris, and why Epicaste[612] had died, “having fastened a noose with a long drop to the lofty beam.”[613] But we, while very remiss and ignorant and careless about ourselves, know all about the pedigrees of other people, that our neighbour’s grandfather was a Syrian, and his grandmother a Thracian woman, and that such a one owes three talents, and has not paid the interest. We even inquire into such trifling matters as where somebody’s wife has been, and what those two are talking in the corner about. But Socrates used to busy himself in examining the secret of Pythagoras’ persuasive oratory, and Aristippus, meeting Ischomachus at the Olympian games, asked him how Socrates conversed so as to have so much influence over the young men, and having received from him a few scraps and samples of his style, was so enthusiastic about it that he wasted away, and became quite pale and lean, thirsty and parched, till he sailed to Athens and drew from the fountain-head, and knew the wonderful man himself and his speeches and philosophy, the object of which was that men should recognize their faults and so get rid of them.

Sec. III. But some men cannot bear to look upon their own life, so unlovely a spectacle is it, nor to throw and flash on themselves, like a lantern, the reflection of reason; but their soul being burdened with all manner of vices, and dreading and shuddering at its own interior, sallies forth and wanders abroad, feeding and fattening its malignity there. For as a hen, when its food stands near its coop,[614] will frequently slip off into a corner and scratch up,

“Where I ween some poor little grain appears on the dunghill,”

so curious people neglecting conversation or inquiry about common matters, such as no one would try and prevent or be indignant at their prying into, pick out the secret and hidden troubles of every family. And yet that was a witty answer of the Egyptian, to the person who asked him, “What he was carrying wrapped up;” “It was wrapped up on purpose that you should not know.” And you too, Sir, I would say to a curious person, why do you pry into what is hidden? If it were not something bad it would not be hidden. Indeed it is not usual to go into a strange house without knocking at the door, and nowadays there are porters, but in old times there were knockers on doors to let the people inside know when anyone called, that a stranger might not find the mistress or daughter of the house en deshabille, or one of the slaves being corrected, or the maids bawling out. But the curious person intrudes on all such occasions as these, although he would be unwilling to be a spectator, even if invited, of a well-ordered family: but the things for which bars and bolts and doors are required, these he reveals and divulges openly to others. Those are the most troublesome winds, as Aristo says, that blow up our clothes: but the curious person not only strips off the garments and clothes of his neighbours, but breaks through their walls, opens their doors, and like the wanton wind, that insinuates itself into maidenly reserve, he pries into and calumniates dances and routs and revels.

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Sec. IV. And as Cleon is satirized in the play[615] as having “his hands among the AEtolians, but his soul in Peculation-town,” so the soul of the curious man is at once in the mansions of the rich, and the cottages of the poor, and the courts of kings, and the bridal chambers of the newly married; he pries into everything, the affairs of foreigners, the affairs of princes, and sometimes not without danger. For just as if one were to taste aconite to investigate its properties, and kill oneself before one had discovered them, so those that pry into the troubles of great people ruin themselves before they get the knowledge they desire; even as those become blind who, neglecting the wide and general diffusion all over the earth of the sun’s rays, impudently attempt to gaze at its orb and penetrate to its light. And so that was a wise answer of Philippides the Comic Poet, when King Lysimachus asked him on one occasion, “What would you like to have of mine?” “Anything, O king, but your secrets.” For the pleasantest and finest things to be got from kings are public, as banquets, and riches, and festivities, and favours: but come not near any secret of theirs, pry not into it. There is no concealment of the joy of a prosperous monarch, or of his laugh when he is in a playful mood, or of any tokens of his goodwill and favour; but dreadful is what he conceals, his gloominess, his sternness, his reserve, his store of latent wrath, his meditation on stern revenge, his jealousy of his wife, or suspicion of his son, or doubt about the fidelity of a friend. Flee from this cloud that is so black and threatening, for when its hidden fury bursts forth, you will not fail to hear its thunder and see its lightning.

Sec. V. How shall you flee from it? Why, by dissipating and distracting your curiosity, by turning your soul to better and pleasanter objects: examine the phenomena of sky, and earth, and air, and sea. Are you by nature fond of gazing at little or great things? If at great, turn your attention to the sun, consider its rising and setting: view the changes of the moon, like the changes of our mortal life, see how it waxes and wanes,

“How at the first it peers out small and dim
Till it unfolds its full and glorious Orb,
And when its zenith it has once attained,
Again it wanes, grows small, and disappears.”[616]

These are indeed Nature’s secrets, but they bring no trouble on those that study them. But if you decline the study of great things, inspect with curiosity smaller matters, see how some plants flourish, are green and gay, and exhibit their beauty, all the year round, while others are sometimes gay like them, at other times, like some unthrift, run through their resources entirely, and are left bare and naked. Consider again their various shapes, how some produce oblong fruits, others angular, others smooth and round. But perhaps you will not care to pry into all this, since you will find nothing bad. If you must then ever bestow your time and attention on what is bad, as the serpent lives but in deadly matter, go to history, and turn your eye on the sum total of human misery. For there you will find “the falls of men, and murders of their lives,”[617] rapes of women, attacks of slaves, treachery of friends, mixing of poisons, envyings, jealousies, “shipwrecks of families,” and dethroning of princes. Sate and cloy yourself on these, you will by so doing vex and enrage none of your associates.

Sec. VI. But it seems curiosity does not rejoice in stale evils, but only in fresh and recent ones, gladly viewing the spectacle of tragedies of yesterday, but backward in taking part in comic and festive scenes. And so the curious person is a languid and listless hearer to the narrator of a marriage, or sacrifice, or solemn procession, he says he has heard most of all that before, bids the narrator cut it short and come to the point; but if his visitor tell him of the violation of some girl, or the adultery of some married woman, or the disputes and intended litigation of brothers, he doesn’t go to sleep then, nor pretend want of leisure,

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“But he pricks up his ears, and asks for more.”

And indeed those lines,

“Alas! how quicker far to mortals’ ears
Do ill news travel than the news of good!”

are truly said of curious people. For as cupping-glasses take away the worst blood, so the ears of curious people attract only the worst reports; or rather, as cities have certain ominous and gloomy gates, through which they conduct only condemned criminals, or convey filth and night soil, for nothing pure or holy has either ingress into or egress from them, so into the ears of curious people goes nothing good or elegant, but tales of murders travel and lodge there, wafting a whiff of unholy and obscene narrations.

“And ever in my house is heard alone
The sound of wailing;”

this is to the curious their one Muse and Siren, this the sweetest note they can hear. For curiosity desires to know what is hidden and secret; but no one conceals his good fortune, nay sometimes people even pretend to have such advantages as they do not really possess. So the curious man, eager to hear a history of what is bad, is possessed by the passion of malignity, which is brother to envy and jealousy. For envy is pain at another’s blessings, and malignity is joy at another’s misfortunes: and both proceed from the same savage and brutish vice, ill-nature.

Sec. VII. But so unpleasant is it to everybody to have his private ills brought to light, that many have died rather than acquaint the doctors with their secret ailments. For suppose Herophilus, or Erasistratus, or even AEsculapius himself during his sojourn on earth, had gone with their drugs and surgical instruments from house to house, to inquire what man had a fistula in ano, or what woman had a cancer in her womb;–and yet their curiosity would have been professional[618]–who would not have driven them away from their house, for not waiting till they were sent for, and for coming without being asked to spy out their neighbours’ ailments? But curious people pry into these and even worse matters, not from a desire to heal them, but only to expose them to others, which makes them deservedly hated. For we are not vexed and mortified with custom-house officers when they levy toll on goods bona fide imported, but only when they seek for contraband articles, and rip up bags and packages: and yet the law allows them to do even this, and sometimes it is injurious to them not to do so. But curious people abandon and neglect their own affairs, and are busy about their neighbours’ concerns. Seldom do they go into the country, for they do not care for its quiet and stillness and solitude, but if once in a way they do go there, they look more at their neighbours’ vines than their own, and inquire how many cows of their neighbour have died, or how much of his wine has turned sour, and when they are satisfied on these points they soon return to town again. But the genuine countryman does not willingly listen to any rumour that chances to come from the town, for he quotes the following lines,

“Even with spade in hand he’ll tell the terms
On which peace was concluded: all these things
The cursed fellow walks about and pries into.”

Sec. VIII. But curious people shun the country as stale and dull and too quiet, and push into warehouses and markets and harbours, asking, “Any news? Were you not in the market in the forenoon?” and sometimes receiving for answer, “What then? Do you think things in the town change every three hours?” Notwithstanding if anyone brings any news, he’ll get off his horse, and embrace him, and kiss him, and stand to listen. If however the person who meets him says he has no news, he will say somewhat peevishly, “No news, Sir? Have you not been in the market? Did you not pass by the officers’ quarters? Did you exchange no words with those that have just arrived from Italy?” To stop such people the Locrian authorities had an excellent rule; they fined everyone coming from abroad who asked what the news was. For as cooks pray for plenty of meat, and fishmongers for shoals of fish, so curious people pray for shoals of trouble, and plenty of business, and innovations and changes, that they may have something to hunt after and tittle-tattle about. Well also was it in Charondas, the legislator of the people of Thurii,[619] to forbid any of the citizens but adulterers and curious persons to be ridiculed on the stage. Adultery itself indeed seems to be only the fruit of curiosity about another man’s pleasures, and an inquiring and prying into things kept close and hidden from the world; while curiosity is a tampering with and seduction of and revealing the nakedness of secrets.[620]

Sec. IX. As it is likely that much learning will produce wordiness, and so Pythagoras enjoined five years’ silence on his scholars, calling it a truce from words,[621] so defamation of character is sure to go with curiosity. For what people are glad to hear they are glad to talk about, and what they eagerly pick up from others they joyfully retail to others. And so, amongst the other mischiefs of curiosity, the disease runs counter to their desires; for all people fight shy of them, and conceal their affairs from them, and neither care to do or say anything in their presence, but defer consultations, and put off investigations, till such people are out of the way; and if, when some secret is just about to be uttered, or some important business is just about to be arranged, some curious man happen to pop in, they are mum at once and reserved, as one puts away fish if the cat is about; and so frequently things seen and talked about by all the rest of the world are unknown only to them. For the same reason the curious person never gets the confidence of anybody. For we would rather entrust our letters and papers and seals to slaves and strangers than to curious friends and intimates. The famous Bellerophon,[622] though he carried letters against his life, opened them not, but abstained from reading the letter to the king, as he had refused to sell his honour to Proetus’ wife, so great was his continence.[623] For curiosity and adultery both come from incontinence, and to the latter is added monstrous folly and insanity. For to pass by so many common and public women, and to intrude oneself on some married woman,[624] who is sure to be more costly, and possibly less pretty to boot, is the acme of madness. Yet such is the conduct of curious people. They neglect many gay sights, fail to hear much that would be well worth hearing, lose much fine sport and pastime, to break open private letters, to put their ears to their neighbour’s walls, and to whisper to their slaves and women-servants, practices always low, and frequently dangerous.

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Sec. X. It will be exceedingly useful, therefore, to deter the curious from these propensities, for them to remember their past experience. Simonides used to say that he occasionally opened two chests for rewards and thanks that he had by him, and found the one full for rewards, but the one for thanks always empty.[625] So if anyone were to open occasionally the stores that curiosity had amassed, and observe what a cargo there was of useless and idle and unlovely things, perhaps the sight of all this poor stuff would inspire him with disgust. Suppose someone, in studying the writings of the ancients, were to pick out only their worst passages, and compile them into a volume, as Homer’s imperfect lines, and the solecisms of the tragedians, and Archilochus’ indecent and bitter railings against women, by which he so exposed himself, would he not be worthy of the curse of the tragedian,

“Perish, compiler of thy neighbours’ ills?”

And independently of such a curse, the piling up of other people’s misdoings is indecent and useless, and like the town which Philip founded and filled with the vilest and most dissolute wretches, and called Rogue Town. Curious persons, indeed, making a collection of the faults and errors and solecisms, not of lines or poems but of people’s lives, render their memory a most inelegant and unlovely register of dark deeds. Just as there are in Rome some people who care nothing for pictures and statues, or even handsome boys or women exposed for sale, but haunt the monster-market, and make eager inquiries about people who have no calves, or three eyes, or arms like weasels, or heads like ostriches, and look about for some

“Unnatural monster like the Minotaur,”[626]

and for a time are greatly captivated with them, but if anyone continually gazes at such sights, they will soon give him satiety and disgust; so let those who curiously inquire into the errors and faults of life, and disgraces of families, and disorders in other people’s houses, first remember what little favour or advantage such prying has brought them on previous occasions.

Sec. XI. Habit will be of the utmost importance in stopping this propensity, if we begin early to practise self-control in respect to it, for as the disease increases by habit and degrees, so will its cure, as we shall see when we discuss the necessary discipline. In the first place, let us begin with the most trifling and unimportant matters. What hardship will it be when we walk abroad not to read the epitaphs on graves, or what detriment shall we suffer by not glancing at the inscriptions on walls in the public walks? Let us reflect that there is nothing useful or pleasant for us in these notices, which only record that so-and-so remembered so-and-so out of gratitude, and, “Here lies the best of friends,” and much poor stuff of that kind;[627] which indeed do not seem to do much harm, except indirectly, to those that read them, by engendering the practice of curiosity about things immaterial. And as huntsmen do not allow the hounds to follow any scent and run where they please, but check and restrain them in leashes, keeping their sense of smell pure and fresh for the object of their chase, that they may the keener dart on their tracks, “following up the traces of the unfortunate beasts by their scent,” so we must check and repress the sallies and excursions of the curious man to every object of interest, whether of sight or hearing, and confine him to what is useful. For as eagles and lions on the prowl keep their claws sheathed that they may not lose their edge and sharpness, so, when we remember that curiosity for learning has also its edge and keenness, let us not entirely expend or blunt it on inferior objects.

Sec. XII. Next let us accustom ourselves when we pass a strange house not to look inside at the door, or curiously inspect the interior, as if we were going to pilfer something, remembering always that saying of Xenocrates, that it is all one whether one puts one’s feet or eyes in another person’s house. For such prying is neither honourable, nor comely, nor even agreeable.

“Stranger, thou’lt see within untoward sights.”

For such is generally the condition inside houses, utensils kicking about, maids lolling about, no work going on, nothing to please the eye; and moreover such side glances, and stray shots as it were, distort the soul, and are unhandsome, and the practice is a pernicious one. When Diogenes saw Dioxippus, a victor at Olympia, driving up in his chariot and unable to take his eyes off a handsome woman who was watching the procession, but still turning round and casting sheep’s eyes at her, he said, “See you yon athlete straining his neck to look at a girl?” And similarly you may see curious people twisting and straining their necks at every spectacle alike, from the habit and practice of turning their eyes in all directions. And I think the senses ought not to rove about, like an ill-trained maid, when sent on an errand by the soul, but to do their business, and then return quickly with the answer, and afterwards to keep within the bounds of reason, and obey her behests. But it is like those lines of Sophocles,

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“Then did the AEnianian’s horses bolt,
Unmanageable quite;”[628]

for so the senses not having, as we said, right training and practice, often run away, and drag reason along with them, and plunge her into unlawful excesses. And so, though that story about Democritus is false, that he purposely destroyed his eyesight by the reflection from burning-glasses (as people sometimes shut up windows that look into the street), that they might not disturb him by frequently calling off his attention to external things, but allow him to confine himself to purely intellectual matters, yet it is very true in every case that those who use the mind most are least acted upon by the senses. And so the philosophers erected their places for study as far as possible from towns, and called Night the time propitious to thought,[629] thinking quiet and withdrawal from worldly distractions a great help towards meditating upon and solving the problems of life.

Sec. XIII. Moreover, when men are abusing and reviling one another in the market-place, it is not very difficult or tiresome not to go near them; or if a tumultuous concourse of people crowd together, to remain seated; or to get up and go away, if you are not master of yourself. For you will gain no advantage by mixing yourself up with curious people: but you will derive the greatest benefit from putting a force upon your inclinations, and bridling your curiosity, and accustoming it to obey reason. Afterwards it will be well to extend the practice still further, and not to go to the theatre when some fine piece is performing, and if your friends invite you to see some dancer or actor to decline, and, if there is some shouting in the stadium and hippodrome, not even to turn your head to look what is up. For as Socrates advised people to abstain from food that made them eat when they were not hungry, and from drinks that made them drink when they were not thirsty, so ought we also to shun and flee from those objects of interest, whether to eye or ear, that master us and attract us when we stand in no need of them. Thus Cyrus would not look at Panthea, but when Araspes told him that her beauty was well worth inspection, he replied, “For that very reason must I the more abstain from seeing her, for if at your persuasion I were to pay her a visit, perhaps she would persuade me to visit her again when I could ill spare the time, so that I might neglect important business to sit with her and gaze on her charms.”[630] Similarly Alexander would not see the wife of Darius, who was reputed to be very beautiful, but visited her mother who was old, and would not venture to look upon the young and handsome queen. We on the contrary peep into women’s litters, and hang about their windows, and think we do no harm, though we thus make our curiosity a loop-hole[631] for all manner of vice.

Sec. XIV. Moreover, as it is of great help to fair dealing sometimes not to seize some honest gain, that you may accustom yourself as far as possible to flee from unjust gains, and as it makes greatly for virtue to abstain sometimes from your own wife, that you may not ever be tempted by another woman, so, applying the habit to curiosity, try not to see and hear at times all that goes on in your own house even, and if anyone wishes to tell you anything about it give him the go-by, and decline to hear him. For it was nothing but his curiosity that involved Oedipus in his extreme calamities: for it was to try and find out his extraction that he left Corinth and met Laius, and killed him, and got his kingdom, and married his own mother, and when he then seemed at the acme of felicity, he must needs make further inquiries about himself; and though his wife tried to prevent him, he none the less compelled the old man that had been an eye-witness of the deed to tell him all the circumstances of it, and though he long suspected how the story would end, yet when the old man cried out,

“Alas! the dreadful tale I must then tell,”

so inflamed was he with curiosity and trembling with impatience, that he replied,

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“I too must hear, for hear it now I will.”[632]

So bitter-sweet and uncontrollable is the itch of curiosity, like a sore, shedding its blood when lanced. But he that is free from this disease, and calm by nature, being ignorant of many unpleasant things, may say,

“Holy oblivion of all human ills,
What wisdom dost thou bring!”[633]

Sec. XV. We ought therefore also to accustom ourselves, when we receive a letter, not to be in a tremendous hurry about breaking the seal, as most people are, even tearing it open with their teeth if their hands are slow; nor to rise from our seat and run up to meet him, if a messenger comes; and if a friend says, “I have some news to tell you,” we ought to say, “I had rather you had something useful or advantageous to tell me.” When I was on one occasion lecturing at Rome, one of my audience was the well-known Rusticus, whom the Emperor Domitian afterwards had put to death through envy of his glory, and a soldier came in in the middle and brought him a letter from the Emperor, and silence ensuing, and I stopping that he might have time to read his letter, he would not, and did not open it till I had finished my lecture, and the audience had dispersed; so that everybody marvelled at his self-control. But whenever anyone who has power feeds his curiosity till it is strong and vehement, he can no longer easily control it, when it hurries him on to illicit acts, from force of habit; and such people open their friends’ letters, thrust themselves in at private meetings, become spectators of rites they ought not to witness, enter holy grounds they ought not to, and pry into the lives and conversations of kings.

Sec. XVI. Indeed tyrants themselves, who must know all things, are made unpopular by no class more than by their spies[634] and talebearers. Darius in his youth, when he mistrusted his own powers, and suspected and feared everybody, was the first who employed spies; and the Dionysiuses introduced them at Syracuse: but in a revolution they were the first that the Syracusans took and tortured to death. Indeed informers are of the same tribe and family as curious people. However informers only investigate wicked acts or plots, but curious people pry into and publish abroad the involuntary misfortunes of their neighbours. And it is said that impious people first got their name from curiosity, for it seems there was a mighty famine at Athens, and those people that had wheat not producing it, but grinding it stealthily by night in their houses, some of their neighbours went about and noticed the noise of the mills grinding, and so they got their name.[635] This also is the origin of the well-known Greek word for informer, (Sycophant, quasi Fig-informer), for when the people were forbidden to export figs, those who informed against those who did were called Fig-informers. It is well worth the while of curious people to give their attention to this, that they may be ashamed of having any similarity or connection in habit with a class of people so universally hated and disliked as informers.


[608] Jeremy Taylor has largely borrowed from this

Treatise in his “Holy Living,” chap. ii. Sec. v. Of


[609] Chaeronea in Boeotia.

[610] Lines from some comic poet, no doubt.

[611] “Oeconomicus,” cap. viii.

[612] The mother of Oedipus, better known as “Jocasta.”

[613] Homer, “Odyssey,” xi. 278. Epicaste hung herself.

[614] “[Greek: oikisko] corrigit Valekenarius ad Herodot.
p. 557.”– Wyttenbach.

[615] Aristophanes, “Equites,” 79.

[616] Sophocles, Fragm. 713. The lines are quoted more
fully by our author in his “Lives,” p. 911. There are
there four preceding lines that compare human life to
the moon’s changes.

[617] AEschylus, “Supplices,” 937.

[618] All three being eminent doctors.

[619] “Intelligo Charondam.”– Xylander.

[620] Plutarch wants to show that curiosity and adultery
are really the same vice in principle. Hence his imagery
here. Jeremy Taylor has very beautifully dealt with this
passage, “Holy Living,” chap. ii. Sec. v. I cannot pretend
to his felicity of language. Thus Plutarch makes
adultery mere curiosity, and curiosity a sort of
adultery in regard to secrets. A profoundly ethical and
moral view. Compare Sec. ix.

[621] Compare Lucian’s [Greek: echeglottia], after
[Greek: echecheiria] ( armistice ), Lexiph. 9.

[622] See the story in Homer, “Iliad,” vi. 155 sq.

[623] Or self-control.

[624] Literally, some woman shut up, or enclosed.

[625] See also our author’s “On those who are punished
by the Deity late,” Sec. xi.

[626] See Euripides, Fragm., 389. Also Plutarch’s
“Theseus,” cap. xv.

[627] Plutarch rather reminds one, in his evident
contempt for Epitaphs, of the cynic who asked, “Where
are all the bad people buried?” Where indeed?

[628] Sophocles, “Electra,” 724, 725.

[629] euphrone, a stock phrase for night, is here

[630] “Historia exstat initio libri quinti
Cyropaediae.”– Reiske.

[631] Literally, “slippery and prone to.” For the
metaphor of “slippery” compare Horace, “Odes,” i. 19-8,
“Et vultus nimium lubricus adspici.”

[632] This and the line above are in Sophocles, “Oedipus
Tyrannus,” 1169, 1170.

[633] Euripides, “Orestes,” 213.

[634] Literally, ears.

[635] The paronomasia is as follows. The word for
impious people is supposed to mean listeners to mills


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