Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter III.—Against Men Who Embellish Themselves.
Chapter III.—Against Men Who Embellish Themselves.
To such an extent, then, has luxury advanced, that not only are the female sex deranged about this frivolous pursuit, but men also are infected with the disease. 1595 For not being free of the love of finery, they are not in health; but inclining to voluptuousness, they become effeminate, cutting their hair in an ungentlemanlike and meretricious way, clothed in fine and transparent garments, chewing mastich, 1596 smelling of perfume. 1597 What can one say on seeing them? Like one who judges people by their foreheads, he will divine them to be adulterers and effeminate, addicted to both kinds of venery, haters of hair, destitute of hair, detesting the bloom of manliness, and adorning their locks like women. “Living for unholy acts of audacity, these fickle wretches do reckless and nefarious deeds,” says the Sibyl. For their service the towns are full of those who take out hair by pitch-plasters, shave, and pluck out hairs from these womanish creatures. And shops are erected and opened everywhere; and adepts at this meretricious fornication make a deal of money openly by those who plaster themselves, and give their hair to be pulled out in all ways by those who make it their trade, feeling no shame before the onlookers or those who approach, nor before themselves, being men. Such are those addicted to base passions, whose whole body is made smooth by the violent tuggings of pitch-plasters. It is utterly impossible to get beyond such effrontery. If nothing is left undone by them, neither shall anything be left unspoken by me. Diogenes, when he was being sold, chiding like a teacher one of these degenerate creatures, said very manfully, “Come, youngster, buy for yourself a man,” chastising his meretriciousness by an ambiguous speech. But for those who are men to shave and smooth themselves, how ignoble! As for dyeing of hair, and anointing of grey locks, and dyeing them yellow, these are practices of abandoned effeminates; and their feminine combing of themselves is a thing to be let alone. For they think, that like serpents they divest themselves of the old age of their head by painting and renovating themselves. But though they do doctor the hair cleverly, they will not escape wrinkles, nor will they elude death by tricking time. For it is not dreadful, it is not dreadful to appear old, when you are not able to shut your eyes to the fact that you are so.
The more, then, a man hastes to the end, the more truly venerable is he, having God alone as his senior, since He is the eternal aged One, He who is older than all things. Prophecy has called him the “Ancient of days; and the hair of His head was as pure wool,” says the prophet. 1598 “And none other,” says the Lord, “can make the hair white or black.” 1599 How, then, do these godless ones work in rivalry with God, or rather violently oppose Him, when they transmute the hair made white by Him? “The crown of old men is great experience,” 1600 says Scripture; and the hoary hair of their countenance is the blossom of large experience. But these dishonour the reverence of age, the head covered with grey hairs. It is not, it is not possible for him to show the head true who has a fraudulent head. “But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off, concerning the former conversation, the old man (not the hoary man, but him that is) corrupt according to deceitful lusts; and be renewed (not by dyeings and ornaments), but in the spirit of your mind; and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” 1601
But for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor, for the sake of fine effect, to arrange his hair at the looking-glass, to shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them, how womanly! And, in truth, unless you saw them naked, you would suppose them to be women. For although not allowed to wear gold, yet out of effeminate desire they enwreath their latches and fringes with leaves of gold; or, getting certain spherical figures of the same metal made, they fasten them to their ankles, and hang them from their necks. This is a device of enervated men, who are dragged to the womens apartments, amphibious and lecherous beasts. For this is a meretricious and impious form of snare. For God wished women to be smooth, and rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane; but has adorned man, like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him, as an attribute of manhood, with shaggy breasts,—a sign this of strength and rule. So also cocks, which fight in defence of the hens, he has decked with combs, as it were helmets; and so high a value does God set on these locks, that He orders them to make their appearance on men simultaneously with discretion, and delighted with a venerable look, has honoured gravity of countenance with grey hairs. But wisdom, and discriminating judgments that are hoary with p. 276 wisdom, attain maturity with time, and by the vigour of long experience give strength to old age, producing grey hairs, the admirable flower of venerable wisdom, conciliating confidence. This, then, the mark of the man, the beard, by which he is seen to be a man, is older than Eve, and is the token of the superior nature. In this God deemed it right that he should excel, and dispersed hair over mans whole body. Whatever smoothness and softness was in him He abstracted from his side when He formed the woman Eve, physically receptive, his partner in parentage, his help in household management, while he (for he had parted with all smoothness) remained a man, and shows himself man. And to him has been assigned action, as to her suffering; for what is shaggy is drier and warmer than what is smooth. Wherefore males have both more hair and more heat than females, animals that are entire than the emasculated, perfect than imperfect. It is therefore impious to desecrate the symbol of manhood, hairiness. 1602 But the embellishment of smoothing (for I am warned by the Word), if it is to attract men, is the act of an effeminate person,—if to attract women, is the act of an adulterer; and both must be driven as far as possible from our society. “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered,” says the Lord; 1603 those on the chin, too, are numbered, and those on the whole body. There must be therefore no plucking out, contrary to Gods appointment, which has counted 1604 them in according to His will. “Know ye not yourselves,” says the apostle, “that Christ Jesus is in you?” 1605 Whom, had we known as dwelling in us, I know not how we could have dared to dishonour. But the using of pitch to pluck out hair (I shrink from even mentioning the shamelessness connected with this process), and in the act of bending back and bending down, the violence done to natures modesty by stepping out and bending backwards in shameful postures, yet the doers not ashamed of themselves, but conducting themselves without shame in the midst of the youth, and in the gymnasium, where the prowess of man is tried; the following of this unnatural practice, is it not the extreme of licentiousness? For those who engage in such practices in public will scarcely behave with modesty to any at home. Their want of shame in public attests their unbridled licentiousness in private. 1606 For he who in the light of day denies his manhood, will prove himself manifestly a woman by night. “There shall not be,” said the Word by Moses, “a harlot of the daughters of Israel; there shall not be a fornicator of the sons of Israel.” 1607
But the pitch does good, it is said. Nay, it defames, say I. No one who entertains right sentiments would wish to appear a fornicator, were he not the victim of that vice, and study to defame the beauty of his form. No one would, I say, voluntarily choose to do this. “For if God foreknew those who are called, according to His purpose, to be conformed to the image of His Son,” for whose sake, according to the blessed apostle, He has appointed “Him to be the first-born among many brethren,” 1608 are they not godless who treat with indignity the body which is of like form with the Lord?
The man, who would be beautiful, must adorn that which is the most beautiful thing in man, his mind, which every day he ought to exhibit in greater comeliness; and should pluck out not hairs, but lusts. I pity the boys possessed by the slave-dealers, that are decked for dishonour. But they are not treated with ignominy by themselves, but by command the wretches are adorned for base gain. But how disgusting are those who willingly practice the things to which, if compelled, they would, if they were men, die rather than do?
But life has reached this pitch of licentiousness through the wantonness of wickedness, and lasciviousness is diffused over the cities, having become law. Beside them women stand in the stews, offering their own flesh for hire for lewd pleasure, and boys, taught to deny their sex, act the part of women.
Luxury has deranged all things; it has disgraced man. A luxurious niceness seeks everything, attempts everything, forces everything, coerces nature. Men play the part of women, and women that of men, contrary to nature; women are at once wives and husbands: no passage is closed against libidinousness; and their promiscuous lechery is a public institution, and luxury is domesticated. O miserable spectacle! horrible conduct! Such are the trophies of your social licentiousness which are exhibited: the evidence of these deeds are the prostitutes. Alas for such wickedness! Besides, the wretches know not how many tragedies the uncertainty of intercourse produces. For fathers, unmindful of children of theirs that have been exposed, often without their knowledge, have intercourse with a son that has debauched himself, and daughters that are prostitutes; and licence in lust shows them to be the men that have begotten them. p. 277 These things your wise laws allow: people may sin legally; and the execrable indulgence in pleasure they call a thing indifferent. They who commit adultery against nature think themselves free from adultery. Avenging justice follows their audacious deeds, and, dragging on themselves inevitable calamity, they purchase death for a small sum of money. The miserable dealers in these wares sail, bringing a cargo of fornication, like wine or oil; and others, far more wretched, traffic in pleasures as they do in bread and sauce, not heeding the words of Moses, “Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore, lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.” 1609
Such was predicted of old, and the result is notorious: the whole earth has now become full of fornication and wickedness. I admire the ancient legislators of the Romans: these detested effeminacy of conduct; and the giving of the body to feminine purposes, contrary to the law of nature, they judged worthy of the extremest penalty, according to the righteousness of the law.
For it is not lawful to pluck out the beard, 1610 mans natural and noble ornament.“A youth with his first beard: for with this, youth is most graceful.”
By and by he is anointed, delighting in the beard “on which descended” the prophetic “ointment” 1611 with which Aaron was honoured.
And it becomes him who is rightly trained, on whom peace has pitched its tent, to preserve peace also with his hair.
What, then, will not women with strong propensities to lust practice, when they look on men perpetrating such enormities? Rather we ought not to call such as these men, but lewd wretches (βατάλοι), and effeminate (γύνιδες), whose voices are feeble, and whose clothes are womanish both in feel and dye. And such creatures are manifestly shown to be what they are from their external appearance, their clothes, shoes, form, walk, cut of their hair, look. “For from his look shall a man be known,” says the Scripture, “from meeting a man the man is known: the dress of a man, the step of his foot, the laugh of his teeth, tell tales of him.” 1612
For these, for the most part, plucking out the rest of their hair, only dress that on the head, all but binding their locks with fillets like women. Lions glory in their shaggy hair, but are armed by their hair in the fight; and boars even are made imposing by their mane; the hunters are afraid of them when they see them bristling their hair.“The fleecy sheep are loaded with their wool.” 1613
And their wool the loving Father has made abundant for thy use, O man, having taught thee to sheer their fleeces. Of the nations, the Celts and Scythians wear their hair long, but do not deck themselves. The bushy hair of the barbarian has something fearful in it; and its auburn (ξανθόν) colour threatens war, the hue being somewhat akin to blood. Both these barbarian races hate luxury. As clear witnesses will be produced by the German, the Rhine; 1614 and by the Scythian, the waggon. Sometimes the Scythian despises even the waggon: its size seems sumptuousness to the barbarian; and leaving its luxurious ease, the Scythian man leads a frugal life. For a house sufficient, and less encumbered than the waggon, he takes his horse, and mounting it, is borne where he wishes. And when faint with hunger, he asks his horse for sustenance; and he offers his veins, and supplies his master with all he possesses—his blood. To the nomad the horse is at once conveyance and sustenance; and the warlike youth of the Arabians (these are other nomads) are mounted on camels. They sit on breeding camels; and these feed and run at the same time, carrying their masters the whilst, and bear the house with them. And if drink fail the barbarians, they milk them; and after that their food is spent, they do not spare even their blood, as is reported of furious wolves. And these, gentler than the barbarians, when injured, bear no remembrance of the wrong, but sweep bravely over the desert, carrying and nourishing their masters at the same time.
Perish, then, the savage beasts whose food is blood! For it is unlawful for men, whose body is nothing but flesh elaborated of blood, to touch blood. For human blood has become a partaker of the Word: 1615 it is a participant of grace by the Spirit; and if any one injure him, he will not escape unnoticed. Man may, though naked in body, address the Lord. But I approve the simplicity of the barbarians: loving an unencumbered life, the barbarians have abandoned luxury. Such the Lord calls us to be—naked of finery, naked of vanity, wrenched from our sins, bearing only the wood of life, aiming only at salvation.
[Heathen manners are here depicted as a warning to Christians. We cannot suppose Christians, as yet, to any extent, corrupted in their manners by fashion and frivolity; for to be a Christian excluded one from temptations of this kind.]275:1596
[Query, De re Nicotiana?]275:1597
[Smelling of Nicotine?]275:1598
Dan. vii. 9. [A truly eloquent passage.]275:1599
Matt. v. 36.275:1600
Ecclus. xxv. 6.275:1601
Eph. iv. 20-24.276:1602
[On the other hand, this was Esaus symbol; and the sensual “satyrs” (Isa. xiii. 2) are “hairy goats,” in the original. So also the originals of “devils” in Lev. xvii. 7, and 2 Chron. xi. 15. See the learned note of Mr. West, in his edition of Leighton, vol. v. p. 161.]276:1603
Matt. x. 30.276:1604
έγκαταριθμένην seems to be here used in a middle, not a passive sense, as καταριθμημένος is sometimes.276:1605
2 Cor. xiii. 5.276:1606
[Such were the manners with which the Gospel was forced everywhere to contend. That they were against nature is sufficiently clear from the remains of decency in some heathen. Herodotus (book i. cap. 8) tells us that the Lydians counted it disgraceful even for a man to be seen naked.]276:1607
Deut. xxiii. 17.276:1608
Rom. 8:28, 29.277:1609
Lev. xix. 29.277:1610
[When the loss of the beard was a token of foppery and often of something worse, shaving would be frivolity; but here he treats of extirpation.]277:1611
Ps. cxxxiii. 2.277:1612
Sir. 19:29, 30.277:1613
Hesiod, Works and Days, i. 232.277:1614
Of which they drink.277:1615
[He took upon him our nature, flesh and blood. Heb. ii. 14-16.]
Next: Chapter IV.—With Whom We are to Associate.
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