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Epictetus (55-135 CE) Enchiridion
A manual for living a contented life
Rendered by Charles Scamahorn (1935- ) 2014

Paragraph 40

(In Roman times when this Manual for Living a Contented Life was written, women had a more subservient role in society, and Epictetus himself, when young, was a crippled slave in the court of Emperor Nero.) Girls when they turn fourteen were given the respectful title of women, but until they are married and living with their own household, they had very little status, and so they attempt to get married quickly by making themselves as attractive as possible to marriageable men. It is important for them to maintain high standards for themselves of decorum and modesty, so they will be considered worthy by honorable  men.


The sexist attitude of this paragraph is oppressive, and my bowdlerized rendition gives more choice to the girls for their outgoing public behavior. Some translations make girls seeking their way in life appear as prostitutes, and recommend young men to consider them as such. Women in our society have equal legal rights to vote and own property, and Epictetus’ suggestions for attaining a tranquil life now apply to them as well as they do to any free property-owning full citizens.