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REBECCA O'CONNELL // WIKIMEDIA COMMONS (PLUTARCH), ISTOCK (CAKE + BACKGROUND)
REBECCA O'CONNELL // WIKIMEDIA COMMONS (PLUTARCH), ISTOCK (CAKE + BACKGROUND)

9 Marriage Tips From Ancient Philosophers

REBECCA O'CONNELL // WIKIMEDIA COMMONS (PLUTARCH), ISTOCK (CAKE + BACKGROUND)
REBECCA O'CONNELL // WIKIMEDIA COMMONS (PLUTARCH), ISTOCK (CAKE + BACKGROUND)

You can get marriage and relationship advice in magazines, books, and from well-meaning friends and family members. But what did ancient Greek and Roman philosophers have to say about the topic? Read on for nine tips for wedded bliss from the first century CE philosophers Plutarch and Gaius Musonius Rufus. While some might still be useful, others prove these men were very much a product of their (sexist) times:

1. BE CONSIDERATE OF YOUR SPOUSE'S PET PEEVES.

In Plutarch’s Moralia, a collection of his speeches and essays, he gives marriage advice to his newlywed friends, Pollianus and Eurydice. The equivalent of a wedding speech to the new bride and groom, Plutarch’s “Advice to the Bride and Groom, and A Consolation to His Wife” gives newlyweds tips for the rest of their lives together. According to Plutarch, some men (like animals) are annoyed or angered by seemingly trivial things such as certain colors or sounds; therefore, their wives should make the minor effort to not irritate their husbands:

“Those who have to go near elephants do not put on bright clothes, nor do those who go near bulls put on red; for the animals are made especially furious by these colors; and tigers, they say, when surrounded by the noise of beaten drums go completely mad and tear themselves to pieces. Since, then, this is also the case with men, that some cannot well endure the sight of scarlet and purple clothes, while others are annoyed by cymbals and drums, what terrible hardship is it for women to refrain from such things, and not disquiet or irritate their husbands, but live with them in constant gentleness?"

2. COMPETE WITH YOUR SPOUSE TO SEE WHICH PERSON IS MORE DEVOTED TO THE OTHER.

Rufus, a Roman Stoic philosopher, gave a series of lectures about the purpose of marriage and how marriage relates to philosophy. He describes an ideal marriage as one in which the two partners strive to outdo the other in devotion. If two people compete with each other to show how much each person cares for the other, they’ll have a beautiful union. On the flip side, though, if each person in a couple only thinks of himself or herself, the couple will be doomed to separate or be lonely. From “On the Chief End of Marriage”:

“Where, then, this love for each other is perfect and the two share it completely, each striving to outdo the other in devotion, the marriage is ideal and worthy of envy, for such a union is beautiful. But where each looks only to his own interests and neglects the other … then the union is doomed to disaster and though they live together, yet their common interests fare badly; eventually they separate entirely or they remain together and suffer what is worse than loneliness.” 

3. DON’T USE LOVE SPELLS TO SNAG A HUSBAND.

If you play games to try to trap a man into marrying you, you might get a husband—but do you really want a man who would fall for those tricks? Plutarch makes an analogy between fishing and catching a husband, explaining that women who use love potions and cast magic spells to snatch a mate end up spending their lives with fools. From “Advice to the Bride and Groom”:

“Fishing with poison is a quick way to catch fish and an easy method of taking them, but it makes the fish inedible and bad. In the same way women who artfully employ love-potions and magic spells upon their husbands, and gain the mastery over them through pleasure, find themselves consorts of dull-witted, degenerate fools.”

4. HAVE FUN WITH YOUR WIFE, OR SHE’LL LOOK FOR FUN WITHOUT YOU.

For Plutarch, marriage is all about two people joining as one. Accordingly, husbands should spend time with their wives, having fun and laughing with them. Otherwise, wives will look for fun elsewhere. As Plutarch explains in “Advice to the Bride and Groom”:

“Men who do not like to see their wives eat in their company are thus teaching them to stuff themselves when alone. So those who are not cheerful in the company of their wives, nor join with them in sportiveness and laughter, are thus teaching them to seek their own pleasures apart from their husbands.”

5. REALIZE THAT YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW WILL PROBABLY BE JEALOUS.

Conflict between a wife and her mother-in-law is not a modern phenomenon. Plutarch addressed the inevitability of this conflict by telling a story about an African marriage custom. The day after a bride’s wedding in the African city of Leptis, she asks the groom’s mother for a pot. The groom’s mother refuses, which is meant to set the tone for their future relationship. Plutarch’s advice for brides? Realize that your mother-in-law is hostile because she envies you, and tread carefully when dealing with the relationship between your husband and his mother. From “Advice to the Bride and Groom”:

“A wife ought to take cognizance of this hostility, and try to cure the cause of it, which is the mother's jealousy of the bride as the object of her son's affection. The one way at once cure this trouble is to create an affection for herself personally on the part of her husband, and at the same time not to divert or lessen his affection for his mother.”

6. FOR THE MARRIAGE TO WORK, BOTH PARTIES NEED TO BE GOOD PEOPLE.

As Rufus explains, both husband and wife should be virtuous in order to attain a good partnership. Marriage simply won’t work if both people are bad, or if one is bad and one is good. It takes two, as Rufus says in “On the Chief End of Marriage”:

“With respect to character or soul one should expect that it be habituated to self-control and justice, and in a word, naturally disposed to virtue. These qualities should be present in both man and wife. For without sympathy of mind and character between husband and wife, what marriage can be good, what partnership advantageous? How could two human beings who are base have sympathy of spirit one with the other? Or how could one that is good be in harmony with one that is bad?”

7. DON’T COMMIT ADULTERY.

Rufus condemns adultery, arguing that it goes against nature and is shameful. Although he acknowledges that some of his contemporaries didn’t have a moral problem with a man committing adultery with his slave-maid, Rufus states that this is wrong, too. Challenging husbands to imagine if their wives had relations with slaves, Rufus points out the troubling double standard. From his lecture “On Sexual Indulgence”:

“If it seems neither shameful nor out of place for a master to have relations with his own slave, particularly if she happens to be unmarried, let him consider how he would like it if his wife had relations with a male slave. Would it not seem completely intolerable not only if the woman who had a lawful husband had relations with a slave, but even if a woman without a husband should have?”

8. … BUT IF YOUR HUSBAND CHEATS WITH A MAID, IT’S BECAUSE HE RESPECTS YOU TOO MUCH.

Plutarch explains that Persian kings eat dinner with their wives, but the kings send their wives away when they want to get drunk and wild with concubines. According to Plutarch, Persian kings are doing their wives a favor by partying with concubines because the men don’t want to subject their wives to such debauchery. Wives, then, shouldn’t be angry when their husbands cheat on them with maids. As he writes in “Advice to the Bride and Groom”:

“The lawful wives of the Persian kings sit beside them at dinner, and eat with them. But when the kings wish to be merry and get drunk, they send their wives away, and send for their music-girls and concubines. In so far they are right in what they do, because they do not concede any share in their licentiousness and debauchery to their wedded wives. If therefore a man in private life … commit some peccadillo with a paramour or a maidservant, his wedded wife ought not to be indignant or angry, but she should reason that it is respect for her which leads him to share his debauchery, licentiousness, and wantonness with another woman.”

9. TIME WILL MAKE YOUR RELATIONSHIP STRONGER.

As Plutarch states, marriage gets stronger as the years go by. Newlyweds, then, should take good care to settle disagreements and tackle arguments because their relationship is inchoate and fragile. People who have been married a long time can withstand a lot, as Plutarch writes in “Advice to the Bride and Groom”:

“In the beginning, especially, married people ought to be on their guard against disagreements and clashes, for they see that such household vessels as are made of sections joined together are at the outset easily pulled apart by any fortuitous cause, but after a time, when their joints have become set, they can hardly be separated by fire and steel.” 

All photos from iStock unless otherwise noted. 

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A Brief History of Black Friday
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The unofficial start of the holiday shopping season is often referred to as the busiest shopping day of the year. But where did this tradition start and just how big is it? Here are the answers to a few frequently asked questions about Black Friday. Hopefully they'll give you some good talking points tomorrow, when you line up outside Best Buy at 4 a.m.

HOW DID BLACK FRIDAY BECOME SUCH A BIG SHOPPING DAY?

It's hard to say when the day after Thanksgiving turned into a retail free-for-all, but it probably dates back to the late 19th century. At that time, store-sponsored Thanksgiving parades were common, and once Santa Claus showed up at the end of the parade, the holiday shopping season had officially commenced.

In those days, most retailers adhered to an unwritten rule that holiday shopping season didn't start until after Thanksgiving, so no stores would advertise holiday sales or aggressively court customers until the Friday immediately following the holiday. Thus, when the floodgates opened that Friday, it became a huge deal.

SO RETAILERS WERE ALWAYS HOPING FOR AN EARLY THANKSGIVING?

You bet. They weren't just hoping, though; they were being proactive about it. In 1939, the Retail Dry Goods Association warned Franklin Roosevelt that if the holiday season wouldn't begin until after Americans celebrated Thanksgiving on the traditional final Thursday in November, retail sales would go in the tank. Ever the iconoclast, Roosevelt saw an easy solution to this problem: he moved Thanksgiving up by a week. Instead of celebrating the holiday on its traditional day—November 30th that year—Roosevelt declared the next-to-last Thursday in November to be the new Thanksgiving, instantly tacking an extra week onto the shopping season.

BRILLIANT! HOW DID THAT WORK OUT?

Not so well. Roosevelt didn't make the announcement until late October, and by then most Americans had already made their holiday travel plans. Many rebelled and continued to celebrate Thanksgiving on its "real" date while derisively referring to the impostor holiday as "Franksgiving." State governments didn't know which Thanksgiving to observe, so some of them took both days off. In short, it was a bit of a mess.

By 1941, though, the furor had died down, and Congress passed a law that made Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November, regardless of how it affected the shopping day that would become known as Black Friday.

WHY CALL IT BLACK FRIDAY?

If you ask most people why the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday, they'll explain that the name stems from retailers using the day's huge receipts as their opportunity to "get in the black" and become profitable for the year. The first recorded uses of the term "Black Friday" are a bit less rosy, though.

According to researchers, the name "Black Friday" dates back to Philadelphia in the mid-1960s. The Friday in question is nestled snugly between Thanksgiving and the traditional Army-Navy football game that's played in Philadelphia on the following Saturday, so the City of Brotherly Love was always bustling with activity on that day. All of the people were great for retailers, but they were a huge pain for police officers, cab drivers, and anyone who had to negotiate the city's streets. They started referring to the annual day of commercial bedlam as "Black Friday" to reflect how irritating it was.

SO WHERE DID THE WHOLE "GET IN THE BLACK" STORY ORIGINATE?

Apparently store owners didn't love having their biggest shopping day saddled with such a negative moniker, so in the early 1980s someone began floating the accounting angle to put a more positive spin on the big day.

DO RETAILERS REALLY NEED BLACK FRIDAY TO TURN AN ANNUAL PROFIT?

Major retailers don't; they're generally profitable—or at least striving for profitability—throughout the entire year. (A company that turned losses for three quarters out of every fiscal year wouldn't be a big hit with investors.) Some smaller outlets may parlay big holiday season sales into annual profits, though.

IS BLACK FRIDAY REALLY THE BIGGEST SHOPPING DAY OF THE YEAR?

It's certainly the day of the year in which you're most likely to be punched while reaching for a Tickle Me Elmo doll, but it might not be the busiest day in terms of gross receipts. According to Snopes.com, Black Friday is generally one of the top days of the year for stores, but it's the days immediately before Christmas—when procrastinators finally get shopping—that stores make the serious loot. Black Friday may, however, be the busiest day of the year in terms of customer traffic.

Snopes's data shows the 10-year span from 1993 to 2002, and in that interval Black Friday was never higher than fourth on the list of the year's busiest shopping days by sales volume. In 2003 and 2005 Black Friday did climb to the top of the pile for sales revenue days, but it still gets stiff competition from the week leading up to Christmas, particularly the Saturday right before the big day.

DO PEOPLE REALLY GET INJURED ON BLACK FRIDAY?

Sadly, yes. One of the most tragic Black Friday incidents happened in 2008, when 34-year-old seasonal employee Jdimytai Damour was killed after a crowd of hundreds of people from the approximately 2000 people waiting outside knocked him own and stampeded over his back after the doors opened at 5 a.m. at the Wal-Mart on Long Island, New York.

In 2010 in Buffalo, New York, several shoppers were trampled trying to get into a Target. One of the victims, Keith Krantz—who was pinned against a metal door support and then shoved to the ground—told a CNN affiliate he thought he would be killed. “At that moment, I was thinking I don't want to die here on the ground,” Krantz said.

In Murray, Utah, 15,000 shoppers swamped a mall with such force, the local police had to respond to break up skirmishes and fistfights, and keep shoppers from ransacking stores.

In 2008, a fight broke out between a young girl and a man at another Wal-Mart store in Columbus, Ohio, over a 40-inch Samsung flat-screen television. It was $798, marked down from $1000. The New York Times reported that the not-so-aptly-named Nikki Nicely, 19, leaped onto a fellow shopper’s back and began pounding his shoulders violently when he attempted to purchase the television. “That’s my TV!” shouted Ms. Nicely, who then took an elbow to the face. “That’s my TV!” The fight was broken up by a police officer and security guard. “That’s right,” Nicely cried as her adversary walked away. “This here is my TV!”

HOW CAN THIS KIND OF THING BE AVOIDED?

In an effort to keep a few would-be clients from personal injury law firms, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created a special checklist for retailers expecting large crowds.

So what’s OSHA’s advice? Consider using bullhorns. Hire a team of police officers. Be prepared for “crowd crushing” and “violent acts.” Set up barricades. And, above all else, if charging shoppers come running, stay out of the way.

Haley Sweetland Edwards contributed to this story, portions of which originally appeared in 2009.

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A Speedy History of the Hess Truck
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Hess Corporation

Unless you know someone crazy about air fresheners or caffeine pills, holiday gifts purchased at gas stations don’t usually provoke much excitement. But if you were one of the millions who grew up in the northeast, the annual release of the Hess toy truck at Hess gas stations—usually green, always labeled with a Hess logo, always boxed with batteries—was and is as much a part of the holiday as Santa Claus and his sleigh.

The idea for an affordable, quality children’s toy sold at service stations at thousands of Hess locations in 16 states was courtesy of Leon Hess, the college dropout-turned-fuel magnate who began selling oil door-to-door in 1933 and graduated to gas stops by 1960. Hess decided he would trump the cheap merchandise given away by gas stations—mugs, glassware—by commissioning a durable, feature-heavy toy truck modeled after the first oil tanker he ever bought for his company. Unlike most toys of the era, it would have headlights that really worked and a tank that kids could either fill up or drain with water.

Most importantly, Hess insisted it come with batteries—he knew the frustration suffered by kids who tore into a holiday present, only to discover they’d have to wait until it had a power source before it could be operated.

The Hess Tanker Truck went on sale in 1964 for $1.29 and sold out almost instantly. Hess released the toy again in 1965, and then introduced the Voyager Tanker Ship in 1966. For the next 50 years, hardly a year went by without Hess issuing a new vehicle that stood up to heavy play and offered quality and features comparable to the “real” toys on store shelves. Incredibly, fathers would wait in line for hours for an opportunity to buy one for their child.

The toy truck became so important to the Hess brand and developed such a strong following that when the company was bought out in 2014 and locations converted to the Speedway umbrella, new owners Marathon Petroleum promised they would keep making the Hess trucks. They’re now sold online, with the newest—the Dump Truck and Loader, complete with working hydraulics and STEM lesson plans—retailing for $33.99. Bigger, better toy trucks may be out there, but a half-century of tradition is hard to replicate.

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