“My opinion is that when a wife is a good partner in the house, her contribution is just as beneficial as the husband’s. …if both of these jobs are done well the household flourishes; but if they are done badly, households suffer.”
Socrates, in Xenophon, The Estate Manager
Socrates sets his view apart from one which underestimates the contribution of a wife in a household. He also sets it apart from one which fails to see the wife’s role as unique: different from while also complementary to a husband’s.
As any good philosopher—or really any person concerned with the truth, Socrates spends his time trying to discern a wisdom that is written into reality. It’s seldom easy. Personal or cultural prejudice can get in the way, as Socrates is well aware.
The Socrates of Xenophon’s The Estate Manager is especially concerned to discern the place of woman in the household. The text is subtle, even confusing. This much is clear: the natural design for husband and wife has always been a matter for very careful consideration.
Socrates seems to begin with at least one conviction. When the power and the purpose of the natural difference between man and woman is unlocked and lived, the fruits in the household, and in all of our lives, are nothing short of stunning.
NOTE: In the next few weeks I intend to examine more closely the understanding of Xenophon’s Socrates of the place of woman in the household.
Xenophon (430-354 B.C.) was a soldier, historian, and philosopher of Athens. Like Plato he wrote dialogues featuring Socrates as a great teacher. Among these dialogues is Oeconomicus, translated as The Estate Manager, in which we get an insight into the structure and principles of the ancient household.
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