Types of Women

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"Types of Women", also titled "Women", and described in critical editions as Semonides 7, is an Archaic Greek satirical poem written by Semonides of Amorgos in the seventh century BC. The poem is based on the idea that Zeus created men and women differently, and that he specifically created ten types of women based on different models from the natural world.



Anonymous verse translation (c. 1638)

  • The Husband of the Bee-bred Wife is best,
    Free only of the Faults of all the rest
    She makes her Mate’s Life Long and fresh, and either
    One to the other deare, grow old together.
    Mother of a renown’d and lovely Race,
    Mong all her sex excells, such divine grace
    Environs her; she likes not sitting at
    Meetings of Women for Venemous chat.
    Wise Jove to Mortalls grants Wifes nature’d thus,
    When he to them will be propitious.
      Yet by Jove’s Plot, the other Sorts beside
    Bee too, and among Men alas! abide,
    For he of Ills hath This most miserable
    Ordain’d, that Women, though they profitable
    Sometimes appeare, their Owner’s greatest crosse
    Yet prove: for never can the man engrosse
    One whole Dayes mirth, who with Life’s punishment<,>
    A wife, resides. Nor shall he ere prevent
    Domestic want and Famine, whilst that he
    Fosters this Family-foe, Gods enemy.
    Yea when a Man’s most Joviall, whether he
    Contemplates Gods or mens gratuity,
    Then is the Wife, first finding what to blame,
    Arm’d to the fight. For where’s a haughty Dame,
    None ever fairely shall receive his Guest.
    Againe, the Woman that appeares the best
    Oft’s worst in proof, whilst her dull Husband yawnes;
    His Nighbours seeing him by Errour drawne,
    Laughing the while: for none failes to commend
    His owne, Another’s Wife to reprehend,
    Nor will we’ Acknowledge equall Lot; for Jove
    Man’s greatest Ill hath made this doting Love,
    And it with knot indissoluble ti’d,
    Since first for Wives Men fighting fondly di’d
      But to conclude, no better thing ere had
    Man than a Good Wife, none worse than a Bad.

J. M. Edmonds prose translation (1916)

  • In the beginning God made woman’s mind apart from man’s.
    One made He of a bristly Sow; all that is in her house lies disorderly, defiled with dirt, and rolling upon the floor, and she groweth fat a-sitting among the middens in garments as unwashed as herself.
    Another did God make of a knavish Vixen, a woman knowing in all things, who taketh note of all, be it bad or good; for the bad often calleth she good and the good bad; and she hath now this mood and now that.
    Another of a Bitch, a busybody like her mother, one that would fain hear all, know all, and peering and prying everywhere barketh e’en though she see nothing; a man cannot check her with threats, no, not if in anger he dash her teeth out with a stone, nor yet though he speak gently with her, even though she be sitting among strangers—she must needs keep up her idle baying.
    Another the Olympians fashioned of Earth, and gave to her husband all wanting in wits; such a woman knoweth neither evil nor good; her only art is to eat; and never though God give a bad winter draweth she her stool nigher the fire for the cold.
    Another of the Sea, whose thoughts are in two minds; one day she laughs and is gay—a stranger seeing her within will praise her, saying ‘There’s no better wife in all the world, nay, nor comelier’; the next she is intolerable to behold or draw nigh to, for then she rageth unapproachably, like a bitch with young; implacable and nasty is she to all, alike foe and friend. Even as the sea in summertime often will stand calm and harmless, to the great joy of the mariners, yet often will rage and toss with roaring waves, most like unto it is such a woman in disposition, nor hath the ocean a nature of other sort than hers.
    Another’s made of a stubbornᶜ and belaboured She-Ass; everything she doeth is hardly done, of necessity and after threats, and then ’tis left unfinished; meanwhile eateth she day in day out, in bower and in hall, and all men alike are welcome to her bed.
    Another of a Cat, a woeful and miserable sort; for in her there’s nought of fair or lovely or pleasant or desirable; she is woodᵈ for a love-mate, and yet when she hath him turneth his stomach; she doeth her neighbours much harm underhand, and often eateth up unaccepted offerings.
    Another is the child of a dainty long-maned Mare; she refuseth menial tasks and toil; she’ll neither set hand to mill nor take up sieve, nor cast forth the muck, nor, for that she shunneth the soot, will she sit beside the oven. She taketh a mate only of necessity. Every day will she wash herself twice, or even thrice, and anointeth her with unguents. She ever weareth her hair deep-combed and wreathed with flowers. Such a wife may be a fair sight for other men, but she’s an ill to her husband if he be not a despot or a king, such as take pride in adornments like to her.
    Another cometh of an Ape; she is the greatest ill of all Zeus giveth man. Foul of face, such a woman maketh laughter for all men as she goeth through the town; short in neck, she moveth hardly, hipless, leanshanked—alas for the wretched man that claspeth such a mischief! Like an ape she knoweth all arts and wiles, nor recketh of men’s laughter. Neither will she do a man any kindness; all her care, all her considering, is how she shall do the greatest ill she may.
    Another of a Bee; and happy he that getteth her. On her alone alighteth there no blame, and life doth flourish and increase because of her; loving and loved groweth she old with her husband, the mother of a fair and name-honoured progeny; she is pre-eminent among all the women, and a divine grace pervadeth her; neither taketh she delight in sitting among women where they tell tales of venery. Such wives are the best and wisest that Zeus bestoweth upon men; these other kinds, thanks unto Him, both are and will ever be a mischief in the world.
    For this is the greatest ill that Zeus hath made, women. Even though they may seem to advantage us, a wife is more than all else a mischief to him that possesseth her; for whoso dwelleth with a woman, he never passeth a whole day glad, nor quickly shall he thrust out of doors Hunger the hated housefellow and hostile deity. But when a man thinketh withindoors to be gladdest at heart by grace of God or favour of man, then of all times will she find cause for blame and gird herself for battle. For where a woman is, they e’en cannot receive a stranger heartily. And she that most seemeth to be discreet, she is all the time doing the greatest harm; her husband is all agape for her, but the neighbours rejoice that yet another is deceived. And no man but will praise his own wife when he speaketh of her, and blame another’s, yet we cannot see that we be all alike. Aye, this is the greatest ill that Zeus hath made, this hath he put about us as the bondage of a fetter irrefragable, ever since Death received them that went a-warring for a woman.
    • Elegy and Iambus, with the Anacreontea, Vol. 2 (LCL, 1916), pp. 216–25

J. M. Edmonds verse translation (1936)

  • Heigh God departed whan the world bigan
    The wit of womman fro the wit of man.
      This wyf is of a bristelich Sowe yborë;
    Hire houshold gere hit rouleth on the florë;
    In dritte hit lith withouten pegge or shelvë;
    Ydight in wede unwasshen as hirëselvë
    She wexeth fat yset upon the mixenë. [...]

Gilbert Highet verse translation (1938)

  • At the creation God made women’s natures
    various. One he made from a bristly sow:
    and all her household welters in confusion,
    lying aground in miscellaneous muck,
    while she unwashen in unlaundered clothes
    reposes in her pigsty, fattening. [...]
    • "Some Women", OBGVT (1938), no. 122
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