Solon, wisdom, and men’s sexual welfare

ancient Greek legislator Solon studying book

The ancient Athenian legislator Solon (no relation to Solomon) is famous for his wisdom. Solon broadened political representation in Athens, provided debt relief for the enslaved poor, and limited the political power of women’s wailing.[1] Those are important democratic initiatives, particularly the third. But none of those initiatives are as important as addressing sexual inequality and promoting men’s sexual welfare. The crown jewel in Solon’s reputation for wisdom is his credit for founding public brothels serving all men at a fixed, affordable price.

Free sexual market competition produces enormous sexual welfare inequalities. An experiment on an online dating site showed that women received roughly a hundred times more messages than men did. Across five women and five men with profiles active for four months, the least attractive woman received about the same or more messages than all but one man. The two most attractive women each were sent roughly fifty times more messages than the most attractive man received.[2] Three men received in total only three messages from women across four months. In short, the free sexual market generates large sexual inequality, greatly disadvantages men relative to women, and leaves a large share of men sexually impoverished.

Solon reportedly was the first public official to establish publicly owned and operated brothels. A Greek poet writing probably early in the third century BGC praised Solon’s action:

You invented something for the use of all men, Solon. Because they say you were the first person to see this — a thing democratic and salutary, Zeus is my witness. Yes, it is fitting that I should say this, Solon. Seeing our city full of young men, seeing too that they had urges that couldn’t be controlled and that they they went their erring way in a direction that they should not, you purchased and stationed women in various quarters, and got them ready and gave everyone access to them. [3]

Men’s wrong direction was to impoverish themselves by giving private-enterprising women expensive gifts in the vain hope that the women would then have sex with them. One man in ancient Athens complained about Phryne:

I fell in love with Phryne … and even through I spent enormous amounts, whenever I visited, her door was locked. [4]

Solon established affordable, tariffed rates for the public prostitutes: one obol per session. The public sex workers worked with the efficiency and dedication that characterizes many public servants:

There isn’t a bit of prudishness or nonsense, nor does she snatch herself away, but straight to it, as you wish and in whatever way you wish. [5]

Public provision of goods and services tends to be associated with lack of options and inconvenience. That, however, wasn’t the case for prostitutes in ancient Athens:

A man can pick whichever one he likes —
thin, fat, round, tall, withered up,
young, old, middle-aged, ancient —
without setting up a ladder and entering the house secretly,
or getting in through a peep-hole beneath the roof,
or being carried in sneakily in a heap of bran. [6]

Public sex services in Athens were more convenient than private alternatives. Honoring and celebrating the great benefits of the public prostitution service to Athens, Solon established a temple of Aphrodite Pandemos – the goddess of love belonging to all the people.[7]

Free sexual market competition generates large sexual welfare inequalities. Almost all men are sexually disadvantaged relative to women. Today’s democracies should recognize the wisdom of the ancient Athenian legislator Solon by establishing public prostitution services. Sex is too important to be left to free market competition. Public provision of prostitution can ensure that sex is available to all equitably and affordably. In a truly just and democratic society, such policy would be a worthy complement to compensating men for their erection labor.[8]

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[1] Plutarch wrote a detailed biography of Solon about the year 100 GC. Here’s a modern biography of Solon.

[2] The figures above refer to results after four months of activity. In computing the sex ratios, one must recognized that the top two women’s figures are greatly under-reported:

The two most attractive women probably would have received several thousand more if their inboxes hadn’t have reached maximum capacity.

See Jon Millward’s post. That suggests that the top two women were sent about four thousand messages in four months. The top man in the period received only 38 messages.

[3] Philemon, Brothers, fragment quoted in Athenaeus, The Learned Banqueters 13.569d, trans. from Greek adapted from Olson (2010) p. 301 and Rosenzweig (2004) p. 17. The original Greek text was in verse.

[4] Timocles, Neaera, quoted in Athenaeus 13.567e, trans. Olson (2010) pp. 289, 291. Anaxilas states in Neottis:

And isn’t Phryne behaving just like Charybdis,
by grabbing the ship-owner and gulping him down, boat and all?

Athenaeus 13.558c, trans. id. p. 239.

[5] Philemon, Brothers, fragment quoted in Athenaeus, 13.569d trans. Rosenzweig (2004) p. 17. The courtesan Clepsydra reportedly regulated her sessions meticulously:

she had sex with a water-clock (klepsudra) running, and stopped once it was empty

Athenaeus 13.567d, citing Asclepiades, son of Areius, in On Demetrius of Phaleron. From Greek trans. Olson (2010) p. 289. Publicly provided brothels probably provided similarly well-regulated service.

[6] Xenarchus, The Pentathlete, quoted in Athenaeus, 13.569b, from Greek trans. Olson (2010) p. 299.

[7] Athenaeus 13.569d states that Nicander of Colophon in History of Colophon, Book 3, provides the information about Solon’s founding of the temple of Aphrodite Pandemos.

[8] Lacking appreciation for law and comedy, a learned scholar declared in a scholarly article:

May we finally declare Solon innocent of founding public brothels in Athens? This charge was stated as fact by a distinguished historian a quarter-century ago. The hoary old canard has just been repeated in a Greek history textbook written by the same author and three additional well-known scholars and therefore has the potential to mislead a whole generation of young students who consider Oxford University Press publications authoritative. In fact, almost the only reference to Solon and public brothels in all extant ancient literature is a passage in Philemon’s Adelphoi. Philemon was a famous playwright of New Comedy. … He might indeed have died from laughing too hard had he known serious scholars were going to base a Solonian law on his play.

Frost (2002) p. 34. Frost argues against Solon founding public brothels with little more than an earnest claim of improbability:

As improbable as laws regulating male sexual activity may be, so much more incredible would be Solonian laws about prostitutes in the early sixth century

Id. p. 41. Consider some factual legal farces today: men are forced to pay “child support” to women who raped them and bore a child from that crime. Men’s sexual activity is severely regulating, and has long been severely regulated. Today men aren’t permitted to have consensual sex of reproductive type for pleasure, free of ensuing legal obligations, even if they sign a contract to that effect. Men in U.S. colleges and universities today face draconian sex regulations far beyond anything Draco would have imagined. Based on fact-based understanding of law and comedy, Solon founding public brothels is not improbable.

[image] Solon reading a book. Woodcut print from Liber Chronicarum (Book of Chronicles / Nuremberg Chronicles), printed in Nuremberg in 1493. Detail from folio 59r in University of Cambridge Library, classmark Inc.0.A.7.2[888]. Thanks to University of Cambridge Digital Library.


Frost, Frank. 2002. “Solon Pornoboskos and Aphrodite Pandemos.” Syllecta Classica. 13 (1): 34-46.

Olson, S. Douglas, ed. and trans. 2010. Athenaeus VI, the learned banqueters. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Rosenzweig, Rachel. 2004. Worshipping Aphrodite: art and cult in classical Athens. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

advances in philology: punctuation saves lives

Greek and Latin texts about two millennia ago were commonly written in all capital letters, without any spaces between words and without punctuation. Scholars call that textual form scriptio continua. Ancient readers, taught through recitation and oral instruction, learned how to read such texts correctly.

Grandmother and two daughters eating

Recently in a shopping mall parking lot, I saw a bumper sticker that challenged the complexity and obscurity of scriptio continua. The bumper sticker declared:

Let’s eat grandma!
Let’s eat, grandma!
Punctuation saves lives!

That’s a compelling claim about the importance of advances in philology. Here are seventeen additional examples of the lifesaving importance of punctuating texts.

Philology now tends to be associated with cranky old men academics. Old men have made many contributions to human welfare. Disparagement and harassment of philologists shouldn’t be supported and encouraged.

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While riding my bike one day, I pulled up at a stoplight to a guy on a Harley. On his helmet were two stickers. One said, “Loud pipes save lives.” The other said, “Dip me in honey and throw me to the lesbians.” The scholarly field of sticker studies still awaits development.

[image] At grandmother’s house. Oil painting. Adolph Artz, 1883. Held in Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. Thanks to Wikimedia Commons.

Athenaeus Deipnosophists intertextual with Eve & Adam

Written about 200 GC, Athenaeus’s sprawling work Deipnosophists (The Learned Banqueters) has been in modern scholarship mainly a source for literary grazing. The literary design of Deipnosophists, however, is beginning to be recognized. Athenaeus created a subtle, complex matrix for intratextual, intertexual, and creative intertexual readings.[1] The brilliance of Athenaeus’s work is exemplified in its deft relations with the story of Eve and Adam.

Erato, Muse of Athenaeus

Athenaeus begins “my account of our discussion of matters relating to love” with a wry reference to offering his report to experts. Athenaeus notes that “our noble host” Larensius, a learned man with a large library, has been praising married women.[2] Popular literature has always tended toward praiseful gynocentrism. Athenaeus invokes the muse Erato. She is the muse of lyrical poetry. She is associated with carnal desire. There is nothing bitter about her. Athenaeus prays that she will tell him about love. That’s a literary move like Jerome’s creation of Theophrastus’s Golden Book on Marriage.

After Larensius favorably compares “our married women” to cosmetic-caked women and rapacious courtesans, a dinner guest speaks more bluntly about the position of married men. The very term “married women” is misleading. The guest quotes verses from Alexis’s Seers:

Miserable us! … We’ve sold
our right to speak freely in our day-to-day life and to have a good time,
and we live as women’s slaves instead of free men!
So do we claim we’ve been awarded a dowry, and not a penalty?
Yes — a bitter one full of female gall! [3]

He further explains by quoting Philetaerus’s The Whore-Monger:

It’s no wonder there are temples of the Courtesan everywhere,
but not a single one dedicated to the Married Woman anyplace in Greece.

The temple of Aphrodite Courtesan was probably that of Aphrodite Pandemos, Aphrodite Public Whore. She was celebrated along with Solon’s fine wisdom.

The Hebrew Book of Genesis tells of the fall of the first man Adam after the serpent tricked Eve. According Eubulus in Chrysilla as quoted by a deipnosophist, Adam shouldn’t be blamed:

I hope
the bastard who was the second man to get married gets
what he deserves! Because I won’t say anything bad about the first guy —
since he lacked experience of the trouble he was getting into, I think,
whereas the second one had heard what sort of problem a wife was. [4]

As is common among men considering sexed protest, Eubulus was reluctant to  criticize women:

Oh much-honoured Zeus! Then am I ever going to say
anything nasty about women? By Zeus, I hope I die if I do;
they’re the best possession there is! If Medea
was a bad woman, Penelope was
something great. Someone’ll say Clytemenstra was bad;
I counter her with the excellent Alcestis. Maybe someone’ll
speak badly of Phaedra; but, by Zeus,
there’s the marvelous … Who was there? Who? Oh, miserable me —
I ran out of good women right away,
and I still have lots of lousy ones to mention!

But for less foolish men coming after Adam, the deipnosophist immediately offers Genesis learning again, this time quoted from Aristophon in Callonides:

I hope the bastard who was the second person to marry gets
what he deserves! The first guy wasn’t doing anything wrong,
since he didn’t know what kind of problem a wife was
when he got married. But the next one to do it
knew, and threw himself in obvious danger.

Do you get it now? Are you incapable of learning from literature? Or is it that you have contempt for Jewish belief, just as Galen rejected Moses’s knowledge of God? Ok, you know Menander. He is the most revered ancient Athenian comic playwright. Learn then from Menander’s The Girl Who Was Set on Fire:

Damn to hell whoever
the first guy was who got married — and then the second one,
and the third, and the fourth one, and whoever came after him!

Whether following Jewish scripture’s account of Eve and Adam, or the traditional Greek authority of Menander, these literary quotes concern woman, man, and marriage at their origins. The tragic author Carcinus in Semele tragically wrote:

O Zeus, why do I need to say that women are trouble?
It would be enough, if you simply said “a woman.”

Those who understand the origins of woman, man, and marriage don’t take multiple wives.

Modern readers have largely failed to read Athenaeus’s Deipnosophists as imaginative literature. Part of the problem seems to be that readers tend to approach Athenaeus from the literary perspective of earlier Greek and Roman literature. Athenaeus is best appreciated with study of medieval Latin literature.

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[1] Paulas (2012). That is a leading scholarly work on reading Deipnosophists as literature.

[2] All the quotes in this post, unless otherwise noted, are from Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 13.555a-9f, from Greek trans. Olson (2010) pp. 223-47.

[3] Athenaeus’s citations should be interpreted as part of his literary significations. The word seers is revealing in context.

[4] Chrysilla was a well-known name for a courtesan.

[image] The muse Erato. Marble statue from Monte Calvo, Italy, 2nd century GC.  Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, Denmark, Item number IN 1566. Thanks to Wikimedia Commons.


Olson, S. Douglas, ed. and trans. 2010. Athenaeus VI, the learned banqueters. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Paulas, John. 2012. “How to Read Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists.” American Journal of Philology. 133 (3): 403-439.

Hippolytus described narrow vagina as heaven’s gateway

narrow path is heaven's gateway

The eminent, early third-century Christian theologian Hippolytus of Rome described a narrow, tight vagina as the path of greater mysteries and heaven’s gateway. Yet many women and men today think that the Christian concept of mercy has little relevance to them. That’s a mistake. Whatever your trauma, whatever your condition of brokenness, despite your sense of the impossible, mercy is for everyone.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, Christian men should seek to enter a narrow gate. The Gospel text contrasts a narrow, scarcely trodden gate with a wide, popular gate:

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it. [1]

Hippolytus interpreted that text with the help of ancient Greek poetry. To a “wide and spacious road” associated with death Hippolytus contrasted another road as described by an (ancient Greek) poet:

But below it there is a rugged path,
enclosed and muddy, which is the best one for leading
to the delightful grove of greatly honored Aphrodite. [2]

Within this literary figure, “the delightful grove of greatly honored Aphrodite” indicates a vagina. The narrow, hard, rugged path is a narrow, tight vagina. The larger sense of Hippolytus’s figure is ventral-dorsal heterosexual sex of reproductive type. Hippolytus explained:

For those who have obtained their “deaths” in that place, he says, “obtain greater destinies.” This, he says, is “heaven’s gateway,” and this is the “house of God,” where only the good God dwells. [3]

Gynocentric scholarship, always seeking to increase solicitousness toward women, has made well-known Tertullian’s rhetorical invocation of the “devil’s gateway.” Mercy and salvation for men deserves more attention.

An epic Greek poem, probably from the seventh or sixth century BGC, shows compassion for a man having difficulty finding that way. In this poem, Margites, apparently confused or perhaps desperate, thrust his penis into a pot. His penis got caught in the pot. He couldn’t get it out. After having to piss into the pot, he ran outside, picked up a stone, and smashed the pot to liberate his member. That was probably a scarring experience.[4]

Apparently subsequently marrying, Margites was reluctant to have sex with his wife. The twelfth-century Greek Archbishop Eustathius of Thessalonica, a church leader who wrote an important commentary on Homer, reported on Margites’s marital situation:

when he married he did not fall upon his bride until she, at her mother’s instigation, pretended to have suffered a wound in her lower parts, and said that no remedy would be of any help except for a male member being fitted to the place: so it was that he made love to her, for therapeutic purposes. [5]

Most husbands will do anything to please their wives. Do you think Margites’s wife understood how much his life experience had traumatized him? Do you think she realized how much he was suffering for her? Women in all circumstances should show appreciation for men’s efforts.

Pope Francis has declared the year 2016 a jubilee of mercy. Men and women should ask for mercy (confidently, not with courtly self-contempt) and should be merciful. Calabre, a woman physician in fourteenth-century Paris, promoted corporal works of mercy by making vaginas small again and perking up breasts. Persons today can bring enlightenment to our benighted age by vigorously practicing life-giving acts of mercy.

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[1] Matthew 7:13-4. In medieval Latin literature of men’s sexed protest, the wide gate and easy road is associated with publica janua (“a public doorway”) and portus publicus (“a public port”).

[2] Hippolytus of Rome, Refutation of All Heresies 5.8.43, from Greek trans. West (2008) p. 371, with “greatly honored Aphrodite” (Litwa (2016) p. 257) replacing “much-esteemed Aphrodite.” The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5, provides an earlier English translation of Refutation of All Heresies by Rev. J. H. MacMahon. In that edition, the relevant text is in Book 5, Ch. 3 (search for “Highly-honoured Aphrodite’s lovely grove”). These poetic lines use similar figuration to the marital consummation section of Ausonius’s Cento Nuptialis (ll. 110–19). West (2008), pp. 372-3. Id. doesn’t recognize the larger figure described above.

[3] Hippolytus, Refutation 5.8.44, from Greek trans. Litwa (2016) p. 257. In the translation, I’ve replace “the gate of heaven” with “heaven’s gateway. ” The focus is a path, not a barrier.

[4] Described in Oxyrhynchus papyrus (first century BGC or GC) P.Oxy. 2309, from Greek trans. West (2003) p. 251. Here’s an image of a related papyrus. West classifies the poem about Margites as being Homeric apocrypha from the late sixth-century BGC. Gostoli (2007) suggests earlier. The Smithsonian Magazine in 2011 ranked “Homer’s Margites” as one of the “Top 10 Books Lost to Time.”

[5] Eustathius, Commentary on Odyssey 10.552, from Greek trans. West (2003) p. 249. Hesychius of Alexandria, a Greek grammarian from the fifth or sixth century GC, declared that Margites “did not know about copulation”:

His wife encouraged him by saying that a scorpion had bitten her and that she had to be healed by means of intercourse.

Hesychius, Lexicon μ 267 (supplemented from Cyril’s Lexicon), from Greek trans. West (2003) p. 247, 249.

[image] Narrow path, Rea’s Wood, Antrim, UK. Thanks to Albert Bridge and Wikimedia Commons.


Gostoli, Antonietta, ed. and trans. (Italian). 2007. Homer. Margite. Pisa: F. Serra. (Chad Matthew Schroeder’s review in English).

Litwa, M. David, ed. and trans. 2016. Refutation of All Heresies. SBL Press: Atlanta.

West, Martin L. 2003. Homeric hymns, Homeric apocrypha, lives of Homer. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

West, Martin L. 2008. “A Vagina in Search of an Author.” The Classical Quarterly. 58 (1): 370-375.

Fulvia: female tyrant amid collapsing Roman Republic

Bitter political struggles, gang violence, and then civil war transformed the Roman Republic into an autocratic empire. Within that representative collapse, Fulvia rose to power by marrying a charismatic politician. She subsequently continued to cultivate political power through her personal relationships. Fulvia was corrupt, greedy, cruel, and bloodthirsty.[1] If Octavian, the future Caesar Augustus, hadn’t rejected her sexual tyranny, Fulvia may well have become effectively the supreme ruler of the Roman Empire.

Fulvia abusing decapitated head of Cicero

Fulvia’s marriage to Publius Clodius Pulcher positioned her among elite Roman rulers. A strong proponent of ordinary men’s interests, Clodius in 62 BGC had dared to violate the privilege of women meeting in the women-only sacred society known as Bona Dea. Not surprisingly, Clodius was then elected Roman Tribune of the Plebs in 58 BGC. That was an office that guarded plebeian interests. Fulvia, however, seems not to have shared Clodius’s concern for ordinary men and his political commitment to challenging exclusion of men from important groups. As has been common throughout history, Fulvia used men in wars and contributed to violence against men.

Fulvia’s husband Clodius came into conflict with gynocentric conservatives known in medieval and modern times as “white knights.” One such white knight, Titus Annius Milo, vociferously opposed Clodius’s actions on behalf of ordinary men.[2] On 18 January 52 BGC, Clodius accompanied by about thirty men with swords encountered his enemy Milo, who had with him an entourage that included gladiators and many other men. Men-on-men violence broke out between the two groups. Milo’s group prevailed, and Milo had Clodius killed.[3]

Fulvia first achieved broad political notice when she incited mob violence that burned down the Roman Senate. When Clodius’s dead body was brought to her, Fulvia didn’t properly dress it for a dignified burial. Instead, she kept her husband’s wounded body “nude and barefoot” and put it on public display in the atrium of their home. There, wailing and pointing out the wounds on her husband’s corpse, she attracted a crowd to that gruesome display. Ordinary men became furious at what Milo had done to their champion Clodius:

{Clodius’s supporters} carried the corpse of Publius Clodius into the Senate House. There they cremated it, using the Senate benches and risers and tables and books of the stenographers. Thanks to this fire the Roman Curia itself also burned down. The Basilica Porcia, which was attached to it, was burned. That same Clodian multitude attacked the residence of Marcus {Aemilius} Lepidus, the Interrex {a temporary Roman official}. He had been named the Curule Magistrate. Clodius’s supporters also attacked the absent Milo’s residence, but they were driven off from there by arrows. [4]

At the subsequent trial of Milo for killing Clodius, Fulvia with her tears greatly moved the audience. Her testimony, reserved for the final position of the trial, help to secure the conviction and exiling of Milo.

While Fulvia grieved extremely, publicly, and influentially over the death of her husband Clodius, she remarried less than two years after his death. Fulvia’s second husband was Gaius Scribonius Curio. Curio had been a close friend of Cicero, who was in turn a staunch enemy of Fulvia’s first husband Clodius. Fulvia’s marriages seem to have been a matter of political and sexual instrumentality, rather than love. Shortly after Fulvia married him, Curio became the Roman Tribune of the Plebs. The next year Curio held another high Roman office, that of Praetor. Through her quick second marriage, Fulvia retained her position among the ruling Roman elite. Curio died fighting for Rome in Africa in 49 BGC.[5] Fulvia as a woman among the Roman elite faced much less risk of violent death, just as all women do relative to all men today.

Two or three years after her second husband’s death, Fulvia again married an elite Roman politician. Fulvia’s third husband was Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony). Antony had been Tribune of the Plebs in 49 BGC. Two years later he had been Magister Equitum (Master of the Horse). The Magister Equitum was the Roman official second in command to Caesar. Fulvia married Antony shortly after he became Magister Equitum.[6] A commonplace today is that a man can achieve nothing without a woman, and that the credit for a husband’s success is owed to his wife.[7] Apart from such current banalities, an ancient Roman source testified to Fulvia’s political power:

She {Fulvia} took no thought for spinning or housekeeping, nor did she deem it worthy to have power over an ordinary man, but she wished to rule a ruler and command a commander, so that Cleopatra {Antony’s mistress} was indebted to Fulvia for teaching Antony to obey a woman’s nature, since she took him over accustomed and trained to listen to the rule of women. [8]

While married to Fulvia, Antony had a variety of mistresses. Men suffering from dominant and abusive wives commonly seek warm, receptive, loving embraces in bed with mistresses.

Fulvia was cruel, greedy, and bloodthirsty. The historical record doesn’t specifically mention Fulvia engaging in domestic violence against Antony. Women’s domestic violence against men is also scarcely acknowledge today. The evidence of Fulvia’s cruelty, however, is clear. She apparently enjoyed seeing men kill other men. Cicero noted that her face was “notoriously besprinkled with the blood of men dying at her feet.”[9] Fulvia corrupted the law for her own material interests:

In the inner chambers of his {Antony’s} home, markets of the whole Republic thrived. His wife, more solicitous for herself than for her husbands, was holding an auction of provinces and kingdoms. Exiles were restored without any law, as if by law. Unless all these acts are rescinded by the authority of the Senate, now that we have again arrived at a hope of recovering the Republic, there will be no likeness of a free city left to us. [10]

She even had a man murdered so that she could acquire his house:

As for Rufus, he possessed a handsome mansion near that of Fulvia, the wife of Antony. She wanted to buy, but he would not sell it. Although he then offered it to her as a free gift, he was proscribed {sentenced to death}. His head was brought to Antony. He said it did not concern him and sent it to his wife Fulvia. She ordered that it be fastened to the front of Rufus’s own house instead of the rostra. [11]

Cicero described Fulvia as “not only most avaricious but also most cruel.”[12] Cicero’s dead head subsequently experienced her cruelty:

Fulvia also caused the death of many, both to satisfy her enmity and to gain their wealth. In some cases, the men killed were persons with whom her husband was not even acquainted … the head of Cicero was brought to them one day (he had been overtaken and slain in flight). Antony uttered many bitter reproaches against it. He then ordered it to be exposed on the rostra more prominently than the rest. … Fulvia took the head into her hands before it was removed. After abusing it spitefully and spitting upon it, she set it on her knees, opened the mouth, and pulled out the tongue. Then she pierced the tongue with the pins that she used for her hair and uttered many brutal jests. [13]

Anthony was cruel. But most of the credit for his cruelty should be declared to belong to his wife Fulvia.

Fulvia’s sexual ultimatum to the competing Roman leader Octavian plunged the Roman Republic into civil war. Fulvia’s husband Antony was enjoying sexual consolation with his mistress Glaphyra. He probably didn’t find Fulvia sexually attractive. For her, sex seems to have been as much a matter of politics as pleasure. Depraved of Antony’s marital soldiering, Fulvia issued her sexual ultimatum to Octavian, the future Caesar Augustus. Octavian refused to perform according to demand. He explained his position in a memorable epigram:

Because Antony fucks Glaphyra, Fulvia has passed sentence of punishment
on me: I in turn have to fuck her.
Me, fuck Fulvia? What if Manius begged me
to bugger him? Would I? I don’t think so, not in my right mind.
“Fuck me, or it’s war between us,” she says. But how could life itself
be dearer to me than than my cock? Let the trumpets sound!
{Quod futuit Glaphyran Antonius, hanc mihi poenam
Fulvia constituit, se quoque uti futuam.
Fulviam ego ut futuam? quid si me Manius oret
Pedicem, faciam? non puto, si sapiam.
“Aut futue, aut pugnemus” ait. Quid, quod mihi vita
Carior est ipsa mentula? Signa canant!} [14]

So much for today’s “social scientific” theories of sexual selection. Octavian’s respect for his penis signaled the start of the Perusine War in 41 BGC. That war pitted the forces of Octavian against those of Fulvia. She had at her immediate command Lucius Antonius, the brother of Mark Antony. Since Fulvia had Mark Antony in her non-sexual command, both she and Lucius expected his forces to help them.

Ordinary men’s rallied to Octavian’s courageous sexual rejection of Fulvia. The ensuing battle at Perusia was both verbal and physical. Octavian’s forces fired lead sling bullets (glandes) that asserted men’s sexual freedom and initiative. The bullets were shaped like a penis’s head (glans). They featured, in addition to sketches of a penis, inscriptions that referred to stimulating Fulvia’s clitoris and anally penetrating her.

Fulvia’s forces fired back bullets describing Octavian engaging in homosexual acts.[15] Accusing a man of homosexuality is a common response to men rejecting and protesting gynocentrism. Octavian’s forces probably laughed off those taunts rather than reporting them as hate crimes.

In any case, Octavian’s forces besieged Lucius and other men fighting for Fulvia. Lucius was forced to surrender by starvation in about two months. Octavian’s forces killed many men in Perusia and confiscated many families’ lands. Lucius was sent far away to a Spanish province. Fulvia avoided suffering the siege. After her men surrendered, she fled with her and Antony’s children to Greece. Political and sexual tyranny under the Roman rule of Fulvia had been averted, but at a large cost in men’s lives.

While Fulvia soon died, men could only celebrate events not turning out worse. Of course, Antony was blamed for his wife Fulvia’s death:

It was said that she was dispirited by Antony’s reproaches and fell sick. It was thought that she had become a willing victim of disease on account of the anger of Antony. He had left her while she was sick and had not visited her even when he was going away. The death of this turbulent woman, who had stirred up so disastrous a war on account of her jealousy of Cleopatra {another of Antony’s mistresses}, seemed extremely fortunate to both of the parties who were rid of her. [16]

After failing in his efforts to fight for his mistress Cleopatra, Antony and Cleopatra fled to Egypt. There, mistakenly thinking that Cleopatra had committed suicide, Antony committed suicide. At least his wife Fulvia’s death didn’t prompt Antony to commit suicide.

As for Roman men generally, the Roman Republic effectively ceased to exist.  Octavian became Caesar Augustus, the Roman Emperor. Fulvia hadn’t become supreme tyrant of the Roman Empire. But the Roman culture that accepted the demands of the Sabine women and believed unquestioningly Lucretia’s claim of rape permitted Fulvia’s rise to power. That same culture implied the death of the Roman Republic.

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[1] Providing a vitally important woman’s perspective on Roman history, an early twentieth-century classical scholar observed of Fulvia:

she was the quintessence of almost all the passions that were swaying women of that day — greed, selfishness, thirst for power.

Wieand (1917) p. 430. About ninety years later, another woman classicist who wrote a thorough study of ancient texts concerning Fulvia summarized:

Fulvia played a significant role in events, particularly from Antony’s consulship onwards, and that her actions were deliberate and politically motivated. Moreover, while these actions were done on her husbands’ behalf, she nevertheless exhibited a remarkable degree of independence. … she was a remarkable woman who played no small part in the history of her time.

Weir (2007) pp.  iii., 143. The difference between these two women’s perspectives reflects at least in part the intensification of gynocentrism and greater hostility toward independent, critical thought.

[2] The white knight Titus Annius Milo is in no way a forefather of leading journalist Milo Yiannopoulos. The latter is a courageous, fearless, and loving muckraker on behalf of men.

[3] The most detailed account of the fatal encounter between Milo and Clodius is that of Asconius, On Cicero’s Pro Milone 27-8 KS, from Latin trans. Adams (1996). Cicero’s speech at Milo’s trial for Clodius includes almost nothing about Fulvia.

[4] Asconius, On Cicero’s Pro Milone 29KS, trans. Adams (1996), adapted for ease of reading. The description of Fulvia testifying at the trial is from id. For a detailed timeline of the trial, Ruebel (1979).

[5] On Curio’s life, Babcock (1965) pp. 9-19, Weir (2007) pp. 6-7. Clodius was killed on January 18, 52 BGC. Cicero gave his speech at Milo’s trial for that killing on April 7, 52 BGC. The required period of mourning for a Roman widow was 10 months. Fulvia probably married Curio in the spring of 51 BGC. For review of the evidence, Babcock (1965) p. 9, n. 19.

[6] On Antony’s biography in relation to Fulvia, Babcock (1965), esp. p. 15.

[7] Consider this analysis of “the early career of Fulvia”:

{Fulvia} may have played a vital if not publicly recognized part in all three careers {of her husbands}. … Fulvia’s politics were personally oriented, we can see. I wonder, however, if the fairly consistent Caesarian position of the three husbands cannot have been in some part the effort of Fulvia to steer them along the path best calculated to lead them to prominence and power. … Fulvia may well have been as much the agent of her husbands’ success as the instrument of their destruction.

Babcock (1965) pp. 20, 31, 32.

[8] Plutarch, Lives, Antony 10.3, from Greek trans. trans. Bernadotte Perrin (1920) for the Loeb Classical Library, adapted Weir (2007) p. 127. Writing from a gynocentric perspective, Babcock celebrated Fulvia’s achievement:

Fulvia was apparently a woman of some personal charm. … Consider then Fulvia’s achievement: she attached herself legally to the three most promising young populares of their generation at just about the time when that promise was being realized.

Babcock (1965) pp. 12, 25.

[9] Cicero, Philippics 5.22, from Latin trans. Yonge (1903):, adapted slightly. The Latin: quorum ante pedes eius morientium sanguine os uxoris respersum esse constabat. With apparent incredulity, Yonge translated pedes eius as “his and her feet.” A better translation in context is “her feet.”

[10] Cicero, Philippics 5.11, from Latin trans. Yonge (1903), adapted slightly for readability. Subsequent translations are similarly non-substantially adapted for readability.

[11] Appian, Civil Wars 4.4.29, from Greek trans. Horace White (1913) for the Loeb Classical Library.

[12] Cicero, Philippics 13.18, trans. Yonge (1903).

[13] Cassius Dio, Roman History 47.8.4, from Greek trans. by Earnest Cary (1917) for the Loeb Classical Library.

[14] Preserved in Martial, Epigrams 11.20, from Latin trans. adapted from Nisbet (2015) p. 193. Here’s the Latin text and an alternate translation by Nigel Kay.

[15] On the lead sling bullets (glandes), Hallet (2006) pp. 150-1, Weir (2007) pp. 74-6.

[16] Appian, Civil Wars 5.6.59, trans White (1913). Cassius Dio also reports blaming Antony for Fulvia’s death: “Antony was held responsible for her death because of his passion for Cleopatra and her wantonness.” Roman History 48.28.3.

[image] Fulvia abusing the dead head of Cicero. Oil painting. Pavel Svedomsky (1849-1904), Russia. Thanks to Wikimedia Commons.


Adams, John Paul, trans. 1996. Asconius. On Cicero’s Pro Milone. Internet: Worldwide.

Babcock, Charles L. 1965. “The Early Career of Fulvia.” The American Journal of Philology. 86 (1): 1-32.

Hallett, Judith P. 2006. “Fulvia, Mother of Iullus Antonius: New Approaches to the Sources on Julia’s Adultery at Rome.” Helios: Journal of the Classical Association of the Southwest. 33 (2): 149-164.

Nisbet, Gideon, trans. 2015. Martial. Epigrams. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ruebel, James S. 1979. “The Trial of Milo in 52 B.C.: A Chronological Study.” Transactions of the American Philological Association. 109: 231-249.

Weir, Allison Jean. 2007. A study of Fulvia. M.A., Classics. Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Wieand, Helen E. 1917. “The Position of Women in the Late Roman Republic.” The Classical Journal. 12 (6): 378-392 (Part I), 2 (7): 423-437 (Part II).

four seas law of cuckoldry in Osborne’s 17th-century Advice

Cultural and legal circumstances affect the extent of cuckoldry. The four seas doctrine of English common law provided for legally recognized cuckoldry.  Francis Osborne’s Advice to a Son, a serious 17th-century English work that circulated widely among the English elite, addressed the four seas doctrine. Since then, deliberative democracy has evolved to largely suppress serious discussion of important legal and policy issues associated with cuckoldry.

Men commonly have deep affection and loving care for their children. According to evolutionary-biological understanding, men have good reason to be interested in who their biological children are. Moreover, men have huge financial obligations under law to children legally declared to be theirs.

The four seas doctrine legally declares a man to be the father of a child in cases in which he was obviously cuckolded. Specifically, the four seas doctrine states that if a husband was anywhere under the jurisdiction of the King of England, evidence that the husband could not and did not have sex with his wife is irrelevant to determining paternity. So, for example, a man imprisoned in early twentieth-century British South Africa would be legally declared to be the father of any children his wife in London might have during his absence.

The four seas doctrine is as reasonable as much of current law on reproductive rights, child support, and child custody. Deprived of any reproductive rights whatsoever, men today are subject to forced financial fatherhood for children who are their biological children. Under state-institutionalized practices of legal cuckolding, men are also subject to forced financial fatherhood for children who aren’t their biological children. Moreover, men seeking custody of children legally declared to be theirs face acute anti-men bias in child custody and child support decisions.

men discussing political matters

Unlike much of family law today, the four seas doctrine wasn’t publicly obscure. Men of broad learning knew and discussed the four seas doctrine in seventeenth-century England. For example, in Oxford in 1656, Francis Osborne had printed his 150-page book, Advice to a Son. Regarding English law concerning love and marriage, Osborne declared:

The English Laws are composed so far in favor of Wives, as if our Ancestors had sent Women to their Parliaments, whilst their Heads were a wool-gathering at home; allowing no abusing of husbands Capital, nor marriage dissolvable, but in case of Adultery, not subject to proof but under the attests of two witnesses at one and the same time [1]

In other words, husband weren’t legally permitted to divorce wives for squandering their husband’s assets. Husbands also faced a high burden in proving adultery. Modern no-fault divorce now allows either spouse to trigger law on division and re-assignment of assets and income among ex-spouses. That change in law probably favors women even more, because women tend to be more oriented to valuing economic status in men than men do in women. Osborne immediately continued with observations on the four seas doctrine:

Nor is non-cohabitation a sufficient discharge from his keeping all such children, as her lust shall produce during his abode between the four English Seas; so as if his wife be a Strumpet, he must banish himself, or deal his bread and clothes to the Spurious issue of a stranger; a thraldom no wise man would sell himself to for the fairest inheritance, much less for trouble, vexation and want during life.

In other words, Osborne protested law making men legally into cuckolds. Law and policies continue to impose legal fatherhood on men in defiance of clear facts.

Osborne’s Advice to a Son circulated widely among the English elite. A historian present in Oxford at the time of Osborne’s publication reported that it was “greedily bought up, and admired in Oxon {Oxford}, especially by young scholars.”[2] Within two years of its first publication, five printings of it were issued. Samuel Pepys was reading Osborne’s work in London on January 23, 1661. Pepys was then a member of the Naval Board and Justice of the Peace. He went on to become a Member of Parliament. Pepys greatly admired Osborne’s Advice to a Son and referred to Osborne as “my father.” Three years after Pepys read Osborne’s Advice, it was still a subject of discussion:

Up and to the office, and at noon to the Coffeehouse, where I sat with Sir G. Ascue and Sir William Petty, who in discourse is, methinks, one of the most rational men that ever I heard speak with a tongue, having all his notions the most distinct and clear, and, among other things (saying, that in all his life these three books were the most esteemed and generally cried up for wit in the world “Religio Medici,”Osborne’s Advice to a Son,” and “Hudibras”), did say that in these — in the two first principally — the wit lies, and confirming some pretty sayings [3]

Sir William Petty was a leading intellectual and political figure. An economist, scientist, philosopher, and politician, he was a founding member of the Royal Society and served as a Member of Parliament. Osborne also became friends with the prominent English philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Osborne’s blunt words for men about love, marriage, and English law were seriously discussed among leading English public intellectuals of the seventeenth century.[4]

As knowledgeable persons would expect, Osborne faced a sharp backlash for his blunt, acerbic counsel. About two years after Osborne published his Advice to a Son, John Heydon in London had printed his opposing publication, Advice to a Daughter in Opposition to the Advice to a Son. Heydon countered Osborne’s advice point by point. For example, Osborne, following the wisdom of Juvenal, suggested adopting children as a single man. Osborne then charitably added:

But if this savors too much of the Stoic, You may qualify it as you please; For I doubt not but the zeal your youth does yet retain towards the Creed and Practise of others (possibly not so well taught) may at present make much of This look like Blasphemy; But when so many winters have snowed on your Head, as on your Father’s, you will think it Canonical, and fit to be read to Posterity. [5]

Heydon countered this with the sort of name-calling and pedestalization that has now become common:

He speaks still but faintly as a man out of breath; I’ll give him a serious reproof, and let him take rest a while: Oh vain man, be advised, approach not the presence of such Angelical Creatures (as women) upon pain of my displeasure, and their frowns, which frowns alone are able to destroy a woman-hater. [6]

With regard to men bragging about having sex with various women, Osborne advised the son:

If it be Levity and Ostentation, to boast when you do well, in what Class of Folly must they be ranked, that brag of the Favours of Women? rendering themselves, by this, no less frail, then they; It being more shame for a man to be leaky & incontinent at the mouth, then for a woman to scatter her favours. [7]

Heydon countered with claims that have now become commonplaces:

I answer; Friend, why may he not be emblem’d {symbolized} by the cozening fig-tree that our Saviour cursed, never to bear fruit after? So I pronounce that it’s worthy his deserts to be hated of Ladies for ever after who boasts of their favours that perhaps never enjoyed any [8]

In modern terms, pick-up artists who share their expertise in having sex with various women are accused of never having sex. That’s just not a credible accusation. Pick-up artist are also accused of wanting to have sex without having children. That accusation might be related to the suppression of birth-control technologies that men can use. With respect to Osborne’s serious criticism of the ridiculous four seas legal doctrine, Heydon countered with irrelevant claims of NAWALT and gibberish:

I answer; Pigwiggin Myrmidon you are severe against the sex, and so uncharitable, as you think all women bad; yet others, I have heard dared affirm they are all good; sure though you speak as you find, there is reason to direct your opinion, without experience of the whole sex, which in a strict examination makes more for their honour then you have acknowledged. At first she was created his equal, only the difference was in the sex: otherwise they both were man. If I must box you to the Text, and there argue, both male and female made man; so the man being put first was worthier. I answer, you (flea-bitten canonic weed) so the evening and the morning was the first day, yet few will think the night the better … [9]

That’s engagement at an intellectual level similar to mainstream engagement with men’s human rights activists today.

In seventeenth-century England, the balance of public deliberation favored Osborne’s wisdom. Heydon’s backlash against Osborne prompted an immediate counter-backlash. Thomas Pecke of London published in 1658 his book Advice to Balaam’s Ass; or, Momus Catechised. In Answer to a certain Scurrilous and Abusive Scribbler, One John Heydon, Author of Advice to a Daughter. Pecke’s Advice to Balaam’s Ass included a dialogue poem “To the Book and Reader.” This poem featured paired couplets such as these:

And this perhaps may sometimes move their Laughter,
That thou art call’d Advice unto a Daughter.
A. {Answer} She that don’t Laugh at Advice to a Daughter,
I shall ne’re count for A Wise Woman after. [10]

Commenting on Heydon’s book offering a conclusion, Pecke declared:

I am glad your Book shall have an end although sorry that you should stagger six miles in such a difficult road, where your despicable wit, and indiscernible learning know scarce one step of the way, yet you are sure of fit company, if the Adage be true, Stultorum omnia plena {the universe is full of fools}. But it matters not when your book ends, for a few lines will make the Reader weary, and unable him to conclude, what both it and the Author are; that is to say none of the wisest. [11]

Those words comment poignantly on the broad, sordid stream of anti-meninist literature that pours forth today.

Cuckoldry, and its institutional correlate in “child support” policies, should be subject to vigorous public deliberation in a well-functioning deliberative democracy. The amount of money that a mother receives for child support is directly proportional to the income of the man with whom she had sex. That’s a highly unequal welfare system. It’s also grossly oppressive in circumstances in which men lack an appealing range of birth-control options and men have no reproductive rights whatsoever.

Today, scientists serving gynocentric interests and journalists functioning as tools of the propaganda apparatus seek to inculcate public belief that cuckoldry is “surprisingly rare” and “fear of cuckoldry is seriously overblown.” The reality is that millions of men are cuckolded despite most men’s intense private concern to avoid being put in that position. The damage to men from being cuckolded can be enormous. Cuckoldry is deeply institutionalized in current state laws and policies. Current “scientific” claims about cuckoldry mainly display the Soviet quality of public intellectual life in today’s Western societies.[12]

Deliberative democracy must be invigorated. For those interested in culture, much world literature throughout history addresses cuckoldry. For those interested in law and policy, the four seas doctrine and its modern parallels concern vitally important aspects of public governance. If public discussion of these issues continues to be held hostage by name-calling and hate-mongering, deliberative democracy in actual current practice will remain a farce.

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[1] Osborne (1656) II.9 (pp. 46-8). The subsequent quote is from id. I have modernized spellings in all the quotations above. The pages in parenthesis refer to page numbering in the 1896 reprint.

While Osborne strongly protests against oppression of men and vigorously opposes marriage, his work has neither the lively, extraordinarily heightened barbs of Juvenal nor the keen ethical sense of Jerome. While writing in a highly mannered style, Osborne lacks the elegant pathos of Valerius and the deeply felt engagement of Matheolus. Osborne instead offers a straight-forward micro-political critique of marriage. He describes marriage as subjecting husbands to slavery under their wives’ command:

rendering Him subject to slavery, that was borne free, & Her to comand, who ought in righter reason to serve and obey. … Marriage is a Clog fastened to the neck of Liberty, by the juggling hand of Policy … Nothing being more certain, then that Married man changes the shape of a natural freedom, and enrolls himself among such as are rendered beasts of burden under Reason of State: whereas those unclog’d with this Yoke, if they like not the service and discipline of their own, may the easier exchange it for that of any other Commonwealth.

Osborne (1656) II.1 (p. 42); II.13 (II.11, p. 48); II.17 (II.16, p. 51). With sound economic insight, Osborne urges men to marry wives earning a high income:

The best of Husbands are Servants, but he that takes a Wife wanting
Money, is a Slave to his affection, doing the basest of Drudgeries without wages.

Id. II. 21 (II.19, p. 53). For discussion of seventeenth-century marriage advice, Hausknecht (2001). Following the dominant ideological line, Hausknecht describes Osborne’s book as “deeply misogynistic” and “notoriously misogynistic.” Id. pp. 85, 95.

[2] Wood (1691) p. 706. Antony á Wood was an antiquarian born in Oxford in 1632. He died there in 1695.

[3] Samuel Pepys, Diary, 17 January 1664. All the quotes from Pepys are from his diary. The previous quote is from 19 October 1661.

[4] On Osborne’s friendship with Hobbes, see Parry’s introduction, p. iii, to his 1896 reprint of Osborne (1656). Having read Osborne’s Advice to a Son, James Boswell described him as “a favourite author” of his:

I have found much shrewd and lively sense {in Advice to a Son}, expressed indeed in a style somewhat quaint, which, however, I do not dislike. His book has an air of originality. We figure to ourselves an ancient gentleman talking to us.

When Boswell asked Samuel Johnson what he thought of Osborne’s works, Johnson responded:

A conceited fellow. Were a man to write so now, the boys would throw stones at him.

Boswell (1791) p. 416 (diary year 1772). Johnson’s comment suggests the intensification of gynocentrism.

[5] Osborne (1656) II.29 (II.26, p. 56).

[6] Heydon (1658) Answer to II.26, p. 90. Osborne apparently added to his book a response to Heydon or similar criticism. To Section II (“Love & Marriage”), he prepended an exculpatory note:

To the Reader, concerning the following Discourse of Love, and Marriage

This had not appeared, being a result of more juvenile years, but that I feared, if let alone, it might hereafter creep abroad from under a false Impression, & one more scandalous to that sex, then becomes my complexion or Obligation. Therefore to vindicate me from the no less inhumane then unnatural imputation of a Woman-hater, I do here protest, with a reference to their charity and my own most serious affections, That if the Party advised had been a Daughter, my ink must have cast blacker than the rich grain of their Angelical Beauty is capable to be aspersed by.

Osborne (1658) (p. 39). In short, Osborne would have more viciously disparaged men in advice to a daughter. In the revised 1658 edition, Osborne appended to Section II other note:

To the women readers, concerning the foregoing discourse of love and marriage

Tho’ the multitude, that Crowd of Error and Mistakes, like Corn, hang their Ears, and situate their Judgments, not according to the constant Aspect of Reason, but the mutable and senseless Inspiration of Fools and Critics, commonly their Nurses, and according to whose Dialect this childish Monster is taught to prate; yet I did not apprehend it so deaf to its own interest, and the pitiful Voice of woeful Experience, as to imagine any thing, looking like a Mote in the Felicity of a Married man, which becomes not a Beam in the more tender Eye of a Wife; to whom the Cruelty of a Tyrannical Custom hath allotted the heaviest, and most uneasy end of the Chain.

Osborne (1658) (p. 57). Osborne’s concern for the the even greater disadvantage of marriage for women is similar to Jerome’s solicitousness for women in his letter against Jovinian.

[7] Osborne (1656) I.65 (I.54, p. 38).

[8] Heydon (1658) response to I.54, p. 65. Cf. Mark 11:12-4, 20-5; Matthew 21:18-22.

[9] Heydon (1658) response to II.9, p. 75.

[10] Pecke (1658) p. 11.

[11] Pecke (1658) pp. 3-4. The Latin phrase Stultorum omnia plena comes from Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares 22. Samuel Pepys also disparaged Heydon for his attack on Osborne:

by the fireside read a good part of “The Advice to a Daughter,” which a simple coxcomb has wrote against Osborne, but in all my life I never did nor can expect to see so much nonsense in print.

Diary, 22 December 1662.

Osborne’s book indicates his deep love for his wife. He extols to his son “the virtues of your Mother, which I confess are inferior to none.” Osborne urged respect and care for her:

Bear always a filial reverence to your dear Mother; and let not her old age, if she attain it, seem tedious unto you; Since that little, she may keep from you, will be abundantly recompensed, not only by her prayers, but by the tender care, she has, & ever will have of you: Therefore in case of my death (which, weariness of the world will not suffer me to adjourn so much as by a wish) do not proportion your respect by the mode of other Sons, but to the greatness of her desert, beyond requital in relation to us both.

Osborne (1656) II.16 (p. 50), VI (p. 131). For a sympathetic review of Osborne’s life and works, Osborne (1901). Osborne condemned witchcraft persecutions and the violence against men of dueling.

[12] Larmuseau, Matthijs & Wenseleers (2016) provides a good example of bad science. This scholarly work provides no systematic data. Its title claim, “Cuckolded fathers rare in human populations” apparently takes as a baseline information in “gossip magazines, talk shows, and TV series,” as well as other sources without good data and documentation. Id. asserts:

EPP {extra-pair paternity} rate in contemporary {human} populations is in the range of just 1-2%. If true, this would be reassuring news for many fathers.

Among all fathers, or all men interested in being fathers, 1-2% is a huge number. Moreover, the familial, personal, and financial costs of cuckoldry can be enormous. The assumption that 1-2% is a small, reassuring number (“just 1-2%,” “reassuring news”) indicates lack of objectivity and lack of concern for reality. Id. further reports:

The surprising result of these new studies is that human EPP rates have stayed near-constant at around 1% across several human societies over the past several hundred years.

Is it 1% or 2%? The difference is a doubling. That’s not common sense of “near-constant.” Moreover, it’s not clear from the article how exactly it defines the EPP percentage. Is it a share of fathers, or a share of children? That difference could be important. Not clearly addressing that difference suggests a lack of statistical seriousness. A recent study of Dogon paternity shows fundamental anti-men bias. A recent study of bone marrow recipients at a German university hospital from 1993 to 2008 found that the putative biological father was not the actual biological father for 9 focal persons (0.93% of the sample). Weaknesses of that study weren’t in my view fairly reported. In particular, the study was probably subject to a large, downward non-sampling bias. See details in the update at the bottom of my paternity uncertainty post. The share of children holding false beliefs about who is their biological father has a best current estimate of 5%, in my view. That’s based on my systematic review data on paternity uncertainty. That review provides ready access to a large amount of relevant data that you can study and evaluate for yourself. The scientific failures in recent scholarly work on paternity uncertainty reflect broader communicative problems.

[image] Men engaging in serious, informal discussion. Literary party at Sir Joshua Reynolds’s home. D. George Thompson, 1851. Held at the narrow-minded National Portrait Gallery, London. Thanks to Wikimedia Commons.


Boswell, James. 1791. The life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D: comprehending an account of his studies and numerous works, … In two volumes. London: printed by Henry Baldwin, for Charles Dilly.

Hausknecht, Gina. 2001. “‘So Many Shipwracke for Want of Better Knowledge’: The Imaginary Husband in Stuart Marriage Advice.” Huntington Library Quarterly. 64 (1/2): 81-106.

Heydon, John. 1658. Advice to a daughter in opposition to the Advice to a sonne, or, Directions for your better conduct through the various and most important encounters of this life. London: Printed by J. Moxon for Francis Cossinet.

Larmuseau, Maarten, Koenraad Matthijs, and Tom Wenseleers. 2016. “Cuckolded fathers rare in human populations.” Trends in Ecology & Evolution. TREE-D-16-00022R1 (2086, Article in Press).

Osborne, Charles C. 1901. “Francis Osborne, Author.” Gentleman’s Magazine 290: 351-362.

Osborne, Francis. 1656. Advice to a son, or, Directions for your better conduct through the various and most important encounters of this life. Oxford: Printed by H.H. for Tho. Robinson.(Judge Edward Abbott Parry’s edition, London, 1896)

Pecke, Thomas. 1658. Advice to Balam’s ass, or, Momus catechised in answer to a certaine scurrilous and abusive scribler, one John Heydon, author of Advice to a daughter. London: Printed by E.B. for Henry Marsh.

Wood, Anthony á. 1691. Athenæ Oxonienses: an exact history of all the writers and bishops who have had their education in the most ancient and famous University of Oxford, from the fifteenth year of King Henry the Seventh, Dom. 1500, to the end of the year 1690 representing the birth, fortune, preferment, and death of all those authors and prelates, the great accidents of their lives, and the fate and character of their writings: to which are added, the Fasti, or, Annals, of the said university, for the same time. London: Printed for Tho. Bennet.

Ovid teaching men to cry vital to achieving gender equality

The old and foolish King Lear declared:

And let not women’s weapons, water-drops,
Stain my man’s cheeks! …
No, I’ll not weep.
I have full cause of weeping, but this heart
Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws
Or ere I’ll weep. [1]

Rapidly a storm blew up. Within its devastating effects, Lear remained defiant:

Blow, winds,and crack your cheeks. Rage, blow.
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks.
You sulph’rous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head. And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ th’ world.

The hurricane (named after the furiously crying her) kills cocks and fuels thought-suppressing fires. Ovid, the master teacher of love, sniffed out much better than Lear the working of women’s crying game:

If your lover’s late, throw him a sweet glance, sigh
Dramatically, deeply, ask him why,
Then begin to cry
As though in a jealous passion — and then
Claw his face with your nails.
{Spectet amabilius iuvenem, suspiret ab imo
Femina, tam sero cur veniatque roget:
Accedant lacrimae, dolor et de paelice fictus,
Et laniet digitis illius ora suis} [2]

Men have many reasons to cry today. Yet many men refuse to weep. Men won’t achieve gender equality with women until they learn to weep like women. Latin literature, especially Ovid, provides vital teaching to men on crying.

man not crying

Men failing behind women in effective weeping is a relatively recent phenomenon. Empirical study makes clear that men today weep much less frequently than women do. Men also less often use tears to manipulate others.[3] But crying behavior wasn’t always gendered to provide men with less sympathy and less power. In Homer’s ancient Greek epics Iliad and Odyssey, revered warriors wept. Men and women in those ancient poetic masterpieces don’t differ in spontaneous expression of sorrow. Similarly, in ancient Greek tragedy, men cried in much the same circumstances as women did.[4] Major media today viciously disparaging men for crying. That’s a peculiar cultural development associated with today’s hard-heartedness toward men.

Ancient Latin literature recognized women’s sophisticated use of tears. Publilius Syrus, a Latin writer from Syria in the first century BGC, wrote maxims warning men about the power of women’s tears and women’s superior guile:

Women have learned to weep in order to deceive.
{Didicere flere feminae in mendacium.}

A woman’s tear is the spice of mischief.
{Muliebris lacrima condimentum est malitae.}

The ready tear means treachery, not grief.
{Paratae lacrimae insidias non fletum indicant.}

Women surpass men in scheming evil.
{Malo in consilio feminae vincunt viros.} [5]

The Distichs of Cato, probably from the third or fourth century GC, advised men:

Fear not your angry wife’s words. But take care:
A woman by her weeping can ensnare.
{Coniugis iratae noli tu verba timere:
Nam lacrimis struit insidias, cum femina plorat.} [6]

The Distichs of Cato were a popular medieval Latin school text. Unfortunately, most students today never study medieval Latin literature. That particularly hurts men, because men are now not taught the importance of crying.

With formal educational institutions shirking their responsibilities, men must learn to cry by reading Ovid on their own. Ovid sets out women’s high standard of crying performance:

She can burst into tragic tears
And pretend that a jewel’s dropped from one of her ears.
{cum mendaci damno maestissima plorat,
Elapsusque cava fingitur aure lapis} [7]

What good man wouldn’t buy another for the poor dear? Publilius Syrus warned men:

Not tears but gifts can touch a courtesan.
{Muneribus est non lacrimis, meretrix misericors.} [8]

The social construction of gender tends to support transfer of resources from men to women. But not all women are whores. Moreover, men who are guileful can get their lover’s gift back. In any case, well-educated men have to know how to cry when doing so is advantageous.

Tears, too, can be helpful — they can move stone.
If you can, show her cheeks wet with tears. If you have none
(They don’t always come on cue),
Dab your eyes with water; stage-manage the dew.
{Et lacrimae prosunt: lacrimis adamanta movebis:
Fac madidas videat, si potes, illa genas.
Si lacrimae (neque enim veniunt in tempore semper)
Deficient, uda lumina tange manu.} [9]

Crying is a critical survival skill for men living in gynocentric society:

Echo her views, whatever line she chooses;
If she laughs, laugh; if she cries, remember to do the same:
Your face must obey her rules.
{Quod dicet, dicas; quod negat illa, neges.
Riserit, adride; si flebit, flere memento;
Imponat leges vultibus illa tuis.}

That stricture applies mainly to today’s classroom discussions, workplace interactions with bosses, and expressing political views in public. Men seeking to stir women’s sexual desire must adopt more sophisticated strategies. Men who would practice the art of love without being incarcerated for their efforts must learn to cry.

Apart from any effects of the welfare of men or women, encouraging men to cry is necessary to achieve gender equality. Gender equality in crying existed in fifth-century democratic Athens. Gender equality in crying can be established under today’s Soviet-quality intellectual life. All that is necessary is sufficient ideological enlightenment and will.

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[1] William Shakespeare, King Lear 2.4, ll. 272-3, 278-81. Lear is addressing his “two pernicious daughters” who engaged in “high-engendered battles” against their father. Id. 3.2 ll. 22-3. Such tragedy also exists today.

Shakespeare composed King Lear about 1605. Geoffrey of Monmouth’s medieval Latin work Historia Regum Britanniae (written about 1136) described King Lear ruling Britain with his three daughters. Here’s a review of Robert Falls’s production of King Lear.

Modern literary scholars  have regrettably contributed to sustaining men’s inferior position. An eminent Shakespearean scholar declared of King Lear:

We admire the valor of his attempts (and they come quite early) to be patient, to compromise, to hold back womanish tears, to cling to his reason. Nothing is more moving than his bewildered attempts to meet “social” obligations as he kneels by Cordelia’s body. We love his manliness.{emphasis in original}

Alfred Harbage, Introduction to King Lear, in Harbage (1969) p. 1062. This oppressive view of manliness tends to be associated with repressing vigorous literature of men’s sex protest.

The subsequent quote is from King Lear 3.2 ll. 1-7.

[2] Ovid, Ars Amatoria (Art of Love) 3.675-8, from Latin trans. Michie (1993) p. 161. See also id. 3.291-2, Remedia Amoris 689-90, and Amores 2.18.5-13. Cf. Propertius 3.25.1-10.

[3] Vingerhoets (2013) pp. 129, 187-8. Here’s some gynocentric discussion of crying. Men cry less than women do even though men suffer more violence than women do, face devastating consequences of unplanned parenthood, and experience acute anti-men discrimination in family courts, among other heart-rending injustices against men.

[4] Föllinger (2009) and Suter (2009). For example, Agamemnon, commander-in-chief of the Greek armies at Troy, cried before his troops:

Lord marshal Agamemnon rose up in their midst,
streaming tears like a dark spring running down
some desolate rock face, its shaded currents flowing.
So, with a deep groan, the king addressed his armies

Homer, Iliad 9.13-7, from Greek trans. Fagles (1990) p. 232. Writing in sixth-century Constantinople, the government bureaucrat John Lydus was similarly unashamed to cry. He presented men crying as a natural response to understanding current circumstances:

With the extinction of most, or perhaps however, all of the traces of sage antiquity, one could not endure to continue to be free of tears when perceiving from what is set forth below how formerly the law used to take thought for the freedom of subjects, and how many the blessings were from which our time has fallen little by little as a result of the ill-fated plight of the governed.

Lydus, De magistratibus populi Romani 3.11, from Greek trans. Pazdernik (2009) p. 398. Lydus lamented cheap paper being used for important bureaucratic documents and lack of regard for bureaucratic forms.

[5] Publilius Syrus, Sententiae 153, 384, 536, 365, Latin trans. adapted from Duff & Duff (1934).

[6] Distichs of Cato (Disticha Catonis) 3.20, Latin trans. adapted from that of Chase (1922). Duff & Duff (1934) provides a Latin text with alternate translation. J. Marchand has also provided a Latin text with English translation (Bk. 1, Bk. 2, Bk. 3, Bk. 4). See also Chase (1922). Laura Gibbs provides many of Cato’s Distichs, along with helpful Latin translation notes.

[7] Ovid, Ars Amatoria 1.431-2, from Latin trans. Michie (1993) p. 31.

[8] Publilius Syrus, Sententiae 399, Latin trans. from Duff & Duff (1934) p. 67.

[9] Ovid, Ars Amatoria 1.659-62, Latin trans. lightly adapted from Michie (1993) p. 47. The subsequent quote is from Ars Amatoria 2.201-2, id. pp. 69, 71. Plato ridiculed his friends for crying at his impending death. Plato had much less wisdom than Ovid.

[image] Man expressing grief, but not crying. Portrait from fold-out plate of photographs from Chapter Vll, Low Spirits, Anxiety, Grief, Dejection in Charles Darwin, (1872), The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals. Thanks to Wikimedia Commons.


Chase, Wayland Johnson. 1922. The distichs of Cato: a famous medieval textbook. Madison: University of Wisconsin.

Duff, A. M., and J. Wight Duff, eds. and trans. 1934. Minor Latin poets. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Fagles, Robert, trans. 1990. Homer. The Iliad. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Viking.

Föllinger, Sabine. 2009. “Tears and Crying in Archaic Greek Poetry (especially Homer).” Pp. 17-36 in Fögen, Thorsten, ed. Tears in the Graeco-Roman world. Berlin: W. de Gruyter.

Harbage, Alfred, ed. 1969. Complete Pelican Shakespeare. London: Penguin Books.

Michie, James, trans. 1993. Ovid. The art of love. New York: Modern Library edition, 2002.

Pazdernik, Charles F. 2009. “Fortune’s Laughter and a Bureaucrat’s Tears: Sorrow, Supplication and Sovereignty in Justinianic Constantinpole.”  Pp. 397-418 in Fögen, Thorsten, ed. Tears in the Graeco-Roman world. Berlin: W. de Gruyter.

Suter, Ann. 2009. “Tragic Tears and Gender.” Pp. 59-84 in Fögen, Thorsten, ed. Tears in the Graeco-Roman world. Berlin: W. de Gruyter.

Vingerhoets, Ad. 2013. Why only humans weep: unravelling the mysteries of tears. Oxford: Oxford University Press.