Snappy Quotes from Plutarch

Plutarch’s description of Lycurgus, the great Spartan lawgiver, included some neat little bits I thought I’d share. First is a tale I know I’ve heard applied to women other than Lacedaemon (Spartan) women.

[S]ome foreign lady . . . told [Gorgo, wife of Leonidas] that the women of Lacedaemon were the only women in the world who could rule men; “With good reason,” she said, “for we are the only women who bring forth men.”

Oh snap! I really feel like I’ve heard, “That’s because Southern women are the only women who raise men.” Or something like that.

It turns out the Spartan lawgiver was a communist, or at least a communalist since he obviously predated the Communist Manifesto by a few years. He not only redistributed the land, but banning precious metals he redistributed all wealth. He also required everyone to eat together. “For the rich, being obliged to go to the same table with the poor, could not make use of or enjoy their abundance, nor so much as please their vanity by looking at or displaying it.” Who you eat with is a pretty big deal. See, e.g., Luke 5:27-32.

Skipping the bits where they shared wives and had their children raised separately from their families, I thought I’d quote this discussion about building projects.

Betwixt this [river and bridge], their assemblies were held, for they had no council-house or building to meet in. Lycurgus was of opinion that ornaments were so far from advantaging them in their counsels, that they were rather an hindrance, by diverting their attention from the business before them to statues and pictures, and roofs curiously fretted, the usual embellishments of such places amongst the other Greeks.

Any person who has run a capital campaign at a local church has felt some sympathy for this position.

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