There’s implicit sexism in a snippet of Aristotle’s Rhetoric that earlier translators have not brought out. (Despite the protests, we secretly posted on that earlier this week). Are these earlier translating men complicit in the misogyny? I’ll let you be the judge.
So here’s a feminist retranslating (and some quick commentary below that):
ἐπεὶ δὲ τὸ νικα̂ν ἡδύ,
ἀνάγκη καὶ τὰς παιδιὰς ἡδείας εἰ̂ναι
τὰς μαχητικὰς καὶ τὰς ἐριστικάς
πολλάκις γὰρ ἐν ταύταισγίγνεται τὸ νικα̂ν̓
καὶ ἀστραγαλίσεις καὶ σφαιρίσεις καὶ κυβείας καὶ πεττείας
“Since victory is pleasantly sweet,
there’s a force even in sweet child’s play
which is also battle-ish and strife-ish.
Many times, in fact, these are birthed in victories
in games with tossed bones, with balls, with dice, and with boards.”
There’s a good bit of Greek “cultural literacy” in this excerpt.
The phrase τὸ νικα̂ν̓, of course, invokes Νική or Nike the goddess “Victory.” The conjoined phrase τὰς μαχητικὰς καὶ τὰς ἐριστικάς calls to mind two other women. First, there’s Ἀνδρομάχη or Andromache, who’s Hector’s wife in Homer’s Illiad and in Euripides’s play named for her. The name is a compound noun meaning a “Man’s [or Husband’s]
Now, I dare say that the child’s play Aristotle is referencing for his students of rhetoric, or speakerism, has nothing to do with girls. After all, his students, such as the conquering Alexander the Great, are all boys. And the games Aristotle mentions are for boys only.
The passage comes along as the teacher is discussing what is pleasant, what is sweet to the taste. This makes for some interesting juxtaposition when he starts calling victory sweet. Aristotle is talking about victory for children. Games are benign enough, and normal for kids. But he makes clear that, for Greek boys, they have to do with the kind of warring, battling, and striving that female deities and that mortal women stir up. In the very next section (not included here), Aristotle gets to the big boy games, the man stuff, where women are never allowed.