January 25, 2021

Epistle 12 To His Nephew Nicobulus Who Mocked His Wife (St. Gregory the Theologian)

Nicobulus was Saint Gregory's nephew by marriage, the husband of Alypiana, daughter of his sister Gorgonia. This Nicobulus was a man of great wealth and ability, but much disinclined for public life. Gregory constantly writes to one and another high official to get him excused from appointments which had been thrust upon him. In his Epistle 12 below, written in 365 A.D., St. Gregory the Theologian wrote mockingly and instructively to his nephew to stop criticizing his wife and to focus on the positive aspects of his wife, which would serve him to count his marriage as a blessing.

Epistle 12

You joke to me about Alypiana being little and unworthy of your size, you tall and immense and monstrous fellow both in form and strength. For now I understand that soul is a matter of measure, and virtue of weight, and that rocks are more valuable than pearls, and crows more respectable than nightingales.

Well, well! rejoice in your bigness and your cubits, and be in no respect inferior to the famed sons of Aloeus.* You ride a horse, and shake a spear, and concern yourself with wild beasts.

But she has no such work; and no great strength is needed to carry a comb, or to handle a distaff, or to sit by a loom. "For such is the glory of woman." And if you add this, that she has become fixed to the ground on account of prayer, and by the great movement of her mind has constant communion with God, what is there here to boast of in your bigness or the stature of your body? Take heed to seasonable silence, listen to her voice, mark her unadornment, her womanly virility, her usefulness at home, her love of her husband. Then you will say with the Laconian, that verily a soul is not a subject for measure, and the outer must look to the inner man.

If you look at things in this way you will leave off joking and deriding her as little, and you will count your marriage blessed.


* In Greek mythology, the Aloadaes were Otos and Ephialtes, sons of Iphimedia, wife of Aloeus, by Poseidon, who are said to have attempted to pile Mount Pelion on top of Mount Ossa in their attempt to scale Olympus.