What use is it that girls are deaf to the call of Mars and that they don’t wish to pick up shields and follow the brutal columns, if without war they choose weapons to wound themselves and throw their fate into the hands of chance? The woman who first decided to rip out her helpless unborn offspring deserved to die in her own campaign.
Is saving your belly from birthmarks sufficient reason to spread sand to catch the blood you will spill by this crime? If the matrons of past ages had followed this custom, the race of men would have vanished of its own doing. Will we need to find another Deucalion to throw stones as in the way he repopulated the empty globe after the Flood?
Who would there have been to break the might of Priam if the sea goddess Thetis had refused to bear the burden of Achilles to term? If Ilia had slain the twins in her swollen belly, the founder of world-mastering Rome would have died. If pregnant Venus had throttled Aeneas in her womb, the future world would have been deprived of the Caesars!
Even you, if your mother had followed the course which you are taking, would have died instead of growing into such a beauty; and if my mother had killed me I, who is meant to die for love, should have never seen the light of day.
Would you strip a healthy vine of its swelling grapes or pluck green apples from the tree? They will fall naturally when they are ready. Let what has been conceived grow, for the life that develops during your slight delay is not a trivial thing.
Would you subject your belly to be plowed up by the surgeon’s knives or give dire poison to your unborn infants? Think of how all curse Colchian Medea, spattered with the blood of her sons, and how they bewail poor Itys, slaughtered by his mother Philomela!
Those mothers acted as beasts, but both had the sad excuse that they were destroying those who shared the blood of the children’s father to avenge his abandoning them. Tell me: what Tereus, what Jason, is driving you to uproot your body with your own hand?
The tigress in the wilds of Armenia would not do such a thing, nor would the lioness dare to slay her own cubs. Delicate girls do, however–but not without risk! Often she herself perishes who would kill the contents of her womb. She perishes and is carried to the pyre with her hair unbound, while those who see her cry, “She deserves it!”
But let my words vanish into the empty breezes, and let my thoughts not be an omen. Gods, be gentle with a girl one who has sinned but once. Let her be safe, and punish only a second lapse.