Ovid teaching men to cry – vital to achieving gender equality

The old and foolish King Lear declared:

And let not women’s weapons, water-drops,
Stain my man’s cheeks! …
No, I’ll not weep.
I have full cause of weeping, but this heart
Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws
Or ere I’ll weep. [1]

Rapidly a storm blew up. Within its devastating effects, Lear remained defiant:

Blow, winds,and crack your cheeks. Rage, blow.
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks.
You sulph’rous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head. And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ th’ world.

The hurricane (named after the furiously crying her) kills cocks and fuels thought-suppressing fires. Ovid, the master teacher of love, sniffed out much better than Lear the working of women’s crying game:

If your lover’s late, throw him a sweet glance, sigh
Dramatically, deeply, ask him why,
Then begin to cry
As though in a jealous passion — and then
Claw his face with your nails.
{Spectet amabilius iuvenem, suspiret ab imo
Femina, tam sero cur veniatque roget:
Accedant lacrimae, dolor et de paelice fictus,
Et laniet digitis illius ora suis} [2]

Men have many reasons to cry today. Yet many men refuse to weep. Men won’t achieve gender equality with women until they learn to weep like women. Latin literature, especially Ovid, provides vital teaching to men on crying.


Men failing behind women in effective weeping is a relatively recent phenomenon. Empirical study makes clear that men today weep much less frequently than women do. Men also less often use tears to manipulate others.[3] But crying behavior wasn’t always gendered to provide men with less sympathy and less power. In Homer’s ancient Greek epics Iliad and Odyssey, revered warriors wept. Men and women in those ancient poetic masterpieces don’t differ in spontaneous expression of sorrow. Similarly, in ancient Greek tragedy, men cried in much the same circumstances as women did.[4] Major media today viciously disparaging men for crying. That’s a peculiar cultural development associated with today’s hard-heartedness toward men.

Ancient Latin literature recognized women’s sophisticated use of tears. Publilius Syrus, a Latin writer from Syria in the first century BGC, wrote maxims warning men about the power of women’s tears and women’s superior guile:

Women have learned to weep in order to deceive.
{Didicere flere feminae in mendacium.}

A woman’s tear is the spice of mischief.
{Muliebris lacrima condimentum est malitae.}

The ready tear means treachery, not grief.
{Paratae lacrimae insidias non fletum indicant.}

Women surpass men in scheming evil.
{Malo in consilio feminae vincunt viros.} [5]

The Distichs of Cato, probably from the third or fourth century GC, advised men:

Fear not your angry wife’s words. But take care:
A woman by her weeping can ensnare.
{Coniugis iratae noli tu verba timere:
Nam lacrimis struit insidias, cum femina plorat.} [6]

The Distichs of Cato were a popular medieval Latin school text. Unfortunately, most students today never study medieval Latin literature. That particularly hurts men, because men are now not taught the importance of crying.

With formal educational institutions shirking their responsibilities, men must learn to cry by reading Ovid on their own. Ovid sets out women’s high standard of crying performance:

She can burst into tragic tears
And pretend that a jewel’s dropped from one of her ears.
{cum mendaci damno maestissima plorat,
Elapsusque cava fingitur aure lapis} [7]

What good man wouldn’t buy another for the poor dear? Publilius Syrus warned men:

Not tears but gifts can touch a courtesan.
{Muneribus est non lacrimis, meretrix misericors.} [8]

The social construction of gender tends to support transfer of resources from men to women. But not all women are whores. Moreover, men who are guileful can get their lover’s gift back. In any case, well-educated men have to know how to cry when doing so is advantageous.

Tears, too, can be helpful — they can move stone.
If you can, show her cheeks wet with tears. If you have none
(They don’t always come on cue),
Dab your eyes with water; stage-manage the dew.
{Et lacrimae prosunt: lacrimis adamanta movebis:
Fac madidas videat, si potes, illa genas.
Si lacrimae (neque enim veniunt in tempore semper)
Deficient, uda lumina tange manu.} [9]

Crying is a critical survival skill for men living in gynocentric society:

Echo her views, whatever line she chooses;
If she laughs, laugh; if she cries, remember to do the same:
Your face must obey her rules.
{Quod dicet, dicas; quod negat illa, neges.
Riserit, adride; si flebit, flere memento;
Imponat leges vultibus illa tuis.}

That stricture applies mainly to today’s classroom discussions, workplace interactions with bosses, and expressing political views in public. Men seeking to stir women’s sexual desire must adopt more sophisticated strategies. Men who would practice the art of love without being incarcerated for their efforts must learn to cry.

Apart from any effects of the welfare of men or women, encouraging men to cry is necessary to achieve gender equality. Gender equality in crying existed in fifth-century democratic Athens. Gender equality in crying can be established under today’s Soviet-quality intellectual life. All that is necessary is sufficient ideological enlightenment and will.


[1] William Shakespeare, King Lear 2.4, ll. 272-3, 278-81. Lear is addressing his “two pernicious daughters” who engaged in “high-engendered battles” against their father. Id. 3.2 ll. 22-3. Such tragedy also exists today.

Shakespeare composed King Lear about 1605. Geoffrey of Monmouth’s medieval Latin work Historia Regum Britanniae (written about 1136) described King Lear ruling Britain with his three daughters. Here’s a review of Robert Falls’s production of King Lear.

Modern literary scholars have regrettably contributed to sustaining men’s inferior position. An eminent Shakespearean scholar declared of King Lear:

We admire the valor of his attempts (and they come quite early) to be patient, to compromise, to hold back womanish tears, to cling to his reason. Nothing is more moving than his bewildered attempts to meet “social” obligations as he kneels by Cordelia’s body. We love his manliness.{emphasis in original}

Alfred Harbage, Introduction to King Lear, in Harbage (1969) p. 1062. This oppressive view of manliness tends to be associated with repressing vigorous literature of men’s sex protest.

The subsequent quote is from King Lear 3.2 ll. 1-7.

[2] Ovid, Ars Amatoria (Art of Love) 3.675-8, from Latin trans. Michie (1993) p. 161. See also id. 3.291-2, Remedia Amoris 689-90, and Amores 2.18.5-13. Cf. Propertius 3.25.1-10.

[3] Vingerhoets (2013) pp. 129, 187-8. Here’s some gynocentric discussion of crying. Men cry less than women do even though men suffer more violence than women do, face devastating consequences of unplanned parenthood, and experience acute anti-men discrimination in family courts, among other heart-rending injustices against men.

[4] Föllinger (2009) and Suter (2009). For example, Agamemnon, commander-in-chief of the Greek armies at Troy, cried before his troops:

Lord marshal Agamemnon rose up in their midst,
streaming tears like a dark spring running down
some desolate rock face, its shaded currents flowing.
So, with a deep groan, the king addressed his armies

Homer, Iliad 9.13-7, from Greek trans. Fagles (1990) p. 232. Writing in sixth-century Constantinople, the government bureaucrat John Lydus was similarly unashamed to cry. He presented men crying as a natural response to understanding current circumstances:

With the extinction of most, or perhaps however, all of the traces of sage antiquity, one could not endure to continue to be free of tears when perceiving from what is set forth below how formerly the law used to take thought for the freedom of subjects, and how many the blessings were from which our time has fallen little by little as a result of the ill-fated plight of the governed.

Lydus, De magistratibus populi Romani 3.11, from Greek trans. Pazdernik (2009) p. 398. Lydus lamented cheap paper being used for important bureaucratic documents and lack of regard for bureaucratic forms.

[5] Publilius Syrus, Sententiae 153, 384, 536, 365, Latin trans. adapted from Duff & Duff (1934).

[6] Distichs of Cato (Disticha Catonis) 3.20, Latin trans. adapted from that of Chase (1922). Duff & Duff (1934) provides a Latin text with alternate translation. J. Marchand has also provided a Latin text with English translation (Bk. 1, Bk. 2, Bk. 3, Bk. 4). See also Chase (1922). Laura Gibbs provides many of Cato’s Distichs, along with helpful Latin translation notes.

[7] Ovid, Ars Amatoria 1.431-2, from Latin trans. Michie (1993) p. 31.

[8] Publilius Syrus, Sententiae 399, Latin trans. from Duff & Duff (1934) p. 67.

[9] Ovid, Ars Amatoria 1.659-62, Latin trans. lightly adapted from Michie (1993) p. 47. The subsequent quote is from Ars Amatoria 2.201-2, id. pp. 69, 71. Plato ridiculed his friends for crying at his impending death. Plato had much less wisdom than Ovid.

[image] Man expressing grief, but not crying. Portrait from fold-out plate of photographs from Chapter Vll, Low Spirits, Anxiety, Grief, Dejection in Charles Darwin, (1872), The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals. Thanks to Wikimedia Commons.


Chase, Wayland Johnson. 1922. The distichs of Cato: a famous medieval textbook. Madison: University of Wisconsin.

Duff, A. M., and J. Wight Duff, eds. and trans. 1934. Minor Latin poets. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Fagles, Robert, trans. 1990. Homer. The Iliad. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Viking.

Föllinger, Sabine. 2009. “Tears and Crying in Archaic Greek Poetry (especially Homer).” Pp. 17-36 in Fögen, Thorsten, ed. Tears in the Graeco-Roman world. Berlin: W. de Gruyter.

Harbage, Alfred, ed. 1969. Complete Pelican Shakespeare. London: Penguin Books.

Michie, James, trans. 1993. Ovid. The art of love. New York: Modern Library edition, 2002.

Pazdernik, Charles F. 2009. “Fortune’s Laughter and a Bureaucrat’s Tears: Sorrow, Supplication and Sovereignty in Justinianic Constantinpole.” Pp. 397-418 in Fögen, Thorsten, ed. Tears in the Graeco-Roman world. Berlin: W. de Gruyter.

Suter, Ann. 2009. “Tragic Tears and Gender.” Pp. 59-84 in Fögen, Thorsten, ed. Tears in the Graeco-Roman world. Berlin: W. de Gruyter.

Vingerhoets, Ad. 2013. Why only humans weep: unravelling the mysteries of tears. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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