Read Part 1 for the Historical Background and Introduction to Plutarch’s Morals, written in the first century AD.
Ancient Greek advice concerning the consumption of Alcohol, as it relates to sex and the conception of children.
Plutarch reminds us if we are approaching our wife/husband to have sex (procreate), we should be either totally sober, and if not, at least mostly so.
Keep in mind Plutarch’s advice (Part 1) about identifying people of good upbringing. He said not to seek out courtesans (prostitutes) or mistresses. Alcohol impairs judgement.
Next must we mention, what was not overlooked even by those who handled this subject before us, that those who approach their wives for procreation must do so either without having drunk any wine or at least very little. For those children, that their parents begot in drink, are wont to be fond of wine and apt to turn out drunkards. And so Diogenes, seeing a youth out of his mind and crazy, said, “Young man, your father was drunk when he begot you.” Let this hint serve as to procreation: now let us discuss education. ~ Plutarch’s Morals
Is it possible the Ancient Greeks had a rudimentary, though very misguided, understanding of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)? Plutarch does not seem to understand that long term exposure in the womb, on the females side, causes the real issue, so it’s doubtful.
A males drunkenness does not inhibit procreation, conception, nor does it contribute to FAS. Though, in a husbands dumbing alcoholic stupor this may enable his wife to say they did procreate, when in fact they did not, and the ancient Greek or Roman male would be none the wiser.
This, of course, is of great benefit to any ancient Greek or Roman female, who, if from good stock as Plutarch suggests in Part 1, would probably rather be reading a scroll or doing some other more interesting thing as an intelligent woman. However, children will not be conceived if this form of pretend sex becomes habitual in marriage. So alcohol, surely, is best avoided by the male/husband for this reason.
We cannot comment on the physical or mental beauty of ancient Greek or Roman women, it would only be speculation on our part.
However, if a Greek or Roman man requires small doses of alcohol to lower his inhibitions to conjure up a faint interest in a wife because of her foul speech, mannerisms, or less than appealing looks, then might a Greek or Roman husband take the risk of a necessary swig or two? One would think so, thus Plutarch’s allowing “at least very little.” Each Greek or Roman male would have to balance this alochol choice according to the unique circumstances with his specific wife, considering the good mannerisms, or lack of, that she exemplifies.
However, Plutarch, regrettable, does not address the case of the female wife.
- How exactly should inebriation be viewed by the Geek or Roman female?
- Is the same wisdom to be applied?
- Should the woman also have consumed no alcohol, or very little, when seeking to procreate?
I think Plutarch might suggest so.
This is where it gets delicate, as modern values and law may cloud our interpretation and appreciation, or lack thereof, for ancient Greek or Roman values.
There might be advantages to permitting women to be mildly intoxicated. It may diminish her inhibition to procreating. However, this introduces a much larger issue one should explore, why exactly is procreation such an issue for her?
Alcohol, even in small doses may numb her just enough to possibly diminish incessant foolish talk, or even temporally remove uninteresting manners, mannerisms, or traits that make it very difficult for the Greek or Roman male to have an ounce of desire to procreate with his wife under normal circumstances. The same could be true in reverse also.
These are all specific things we have to leave in the realm of opinion from an ancient Greek and Roman perspective. It’s hard to pretend we can understand the mind of the average Greek or Roman male or female from our modern vantage point.
The conclusion seems to be the following: Alcohol and procreation are not a good mix.
Alcohol can lower inhibitions, but we must ask ourselves as men and women, “Should inhibitions require lowering, for the sake of our future children?” Which is squarely where Plutarch is going with this. It is about the future good of the children we might have one day.
We certainly never wish any child to suffer the damaging effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, so avoid alcohol before and after procreation and possible conception.
It’s wise ancient Greek advice.
Also, it is best to not open our children up to criticism; protecting them from statements like, “Your parents must have been drunk when they conceived you.”.
This is very insulting, and if it has a hint of truth it could damage the psyche of a Greek or Roman child, even a child of today. Therefore, we must enable our children to assert very firmly, dramatically, and emphatically, “They were not!”, regardless of the imbecilic, thoughtless, damaging, rude, impolite or crass behaviours they might generally be exhibiting at that time in their life.
That is a very important, and ancient gift to the ego of our future children, even as they exhibit general rudeness to everyone around.
The powerful recourse they have when we inform them,
“Daughter/Son, we were not drunk when you were conceived.”
I’d cry if I heard my kids defending their inconsiderate rudeness with this line.
Sit those kids down and have this talk. Empower them!
Plutarch was onto something about alcohol, sex, and procreation. This was 2000 years ago! Imagine!
All joking aside, when seducing a woman we should focus all of our intelligence, passion, creativity, and skill, to the wonderful task, which is her pleasure. Why numb our abilities? Both she, and he, deserves better. Consider it, for the childrens sake. ;-).
Remember that love moves and grooves.
“As in a marriage, love doesn’t stand still.” ~ N.T. Wright. The Day The Revolution Began