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Aspasia of Miletus and
Her Biographical Tradition

Madeleine M. Henry

New York

Oxford University Press

Oxford New York
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Copyright 1995 by Madeleine M. Henry

Published by Oxford University Press, Inc.,
198 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016-43 14
Oxford is a registered trademark of Oxford University Press
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise,
without the prior permission of Oxford University Press.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Henry, Madeleine Mary. 1949Prisoner of history : Aspasia of Miletus and her biographical tradition /
Madeleine M. Henry.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-19-508712-7
1. Aspasia. 2. Pericles, 499-429 B.C. 3. MistressesGreeceAthensBiography.
4. Women in politicsGreeceAthensBiography. 5. GreeceHistory
Athenian supremacy, 479-431 B.C. I. Title.
DF228.A8H46 1995

Printed in the United States of America
on acid-free paper


Introduction, 3
1. Aspasia in Greek History, 9
2. The Story Told by Comedy, 19
3. Aspasia and the Socratic Tradition, 29
4. The Sargasso Sea: Aspasia and the Discourse on
Prostitutes in the Hellenistic, Roman, and Late
Antique Periods, 57
5. Aspasia in the Postclassical West, 83
Afterword, 127
Notes, 131
Bibliography, 177
Index, 195


People and institutions have helped Aspasia and me on our journey.

Iowa State University gave me a job, several research grants, and a
faculty improvement leave, during which much of the work was done.
Colleagues in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and
in the Classical Studies and Women's Studies Programs offered moral
and practical support, and friends in Classical Studies in the United
States, Canada, and England sustained me. This work owes more than I
can ever say to the sisterhood I have found in the Women's Classical
Caucus and to Jim Ruebel's encouragement and collegiality. Special
thanks to my friends Achilles Avraamides, John Cunnally, Marie
Lathers, Deepa Majumdar, Frank Mariner, Suzanne Mills, Brian
LeMay, David Roochnik, and Linda Rutland Gillison, to Jeff Rusten
and Philip Stadter, who read the manuscript for Oxford University
Press, and to OUP's copyeditor, Lisa Tippett.


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Aspasia of Miletus, a key figure in the intellectual history of fifthcentury Athens, is without question the most important woman of that
era. Aspasia left no written works of her own, was lampooned in comedy, and was an important figure in Greek philosophical dialogueall
things she shares with Socrates, a better known and more revered icon,
and whose teacher she is said to have been. Aspasia's reputation as
teacher has repeatedly been connected with her sexual reputation as a
courtesan and the mistress of the statesman Pericles. The historical
possibilities for her life and the ebb and surge of her biographical tradition have never before been seriously and comprehensively examined;
they are the subject of my study. It is time to remember Aspasia's place
in the history of women and of feminist epistemology.
During her own lifetime, Aspasia was a notorious woman, one of the
few who apparently contradicted the statement, attributed to Pericles,
that it is better for women not to be mentioned.1 She has been mentioned
in comedy, philosophy, historiography, and art. She has been identified
as Pericles' political advisor, as an original "liberated woman," as a
philosopher, and as a prototype of the grand horizontal. I hope here to
suggest ways in which ancient sources and modern interpreters have
constructed her life, and how the possibilities that existed for her life
have been misunderstood.
Biographical anecdotes that arose in antiquity about Aspasia are
wildly colorful, almost completely unverifiable, and still alive and well
in the twentieth century. It is arduous but necessary to investigate that
tradition from its inception during her own lifetime until the present. The

Prisoner of History

continued fascination exerted by classical Athens, so near to us and yet

so far from us, demands a full treatment of the bios of its most famous
woman. 2 Feminist scholarship must be used together with traditional
philological methods if we are to see in what ways Aspasia's bios began
and has continued to grow, and in what ways it has done her wrong.
In Writing a Woman's Life, Carolyn Heilbrun states that women in the
West have historically been deprived of the narratives, texts, plots, or
examples with which to assume power over their lives. This assertion of
the political power of narrative presumes that the forms, structures, and
contents of biography, autobiography, and historiography have heretofore supplied insufficient, inaccurate, defective narrativesones that
at best cannot tell the truth of women's lives and at worst create perniciously misleading and stifling narrative plots.3
Furthermore, the very formation of canonical features for biography
and biographical tradition has been until recently a process engaged in
for the most part by male scholars about male subjects: Aspasia's biographical tradition, although rich, diverges remarkably in its manifestations from those features traditionally considered canonical.4 The paucity of evidence, together with the problems involved in studying the
lack of symmetry between men's and women's lives in classical antiquity, has tended to prevent us from considering either that women can
legitimately be seen as creative participants in Western intellectual tradition or that they are the proper objects of scholarly inquiry. A standard
study of Greek biography categorically, if unintentionally, denies Aspasia a biography: "An account of the life of a man from birth to death is
what I call biography."5 This definition of biography merely embellishes the declaration of the great classicist Ulrich von WilamowitzMoellendorff, who declared that Aspasia's life and intellectand questions about eitherhave no place in history; we have not come very
far.6 The persistence of Aspasia's bios and, in fact, its expansion in the
last two centuries suggest that we desperately need to understand both
what Aspasia may have been and what she has come to represent.
The task is formidable for several reasons. First, the period during
which Aspasia lived is one for which there is much conjecture and little
good contemporary evidence. At times, it seems that the amount of
scholarship produced on a given historical question is inversely proportional to the amount and quality of evidence available. Those who study
the lives and biographical traditions of men such as Pericles, Themistocles, or Plato, and of Aspasia face like obstacles, for in each instance it


is necessary to sift, order, and evaluate evidence of a bewildering quantity, quality, kind, and date (not to mention datability). In order to
establish the life events for the greatest figures of classical Athenian
history within even a tentative chronology, historians leap perilously
among the ice floes of contemporary inscriptions, forward to Plutarch
and back to fourth-century revisionist historiographers, only to advance
again to papyrus fragments and Byzantine lexica.
Over this set of problems lies the "problem" of Aspasia's gender.
The male writers of Greco-Roman antiquity perceived, identified, evaluated, and described their female and male subjects very differently. The
first consequence of this fact is that far less information has been recorded about women relative to the amount we have about men. Male
historians generally did not mention women at all. For example, warfare, a favorite topic of historiographers, affected women in grave ways,
but its effect on them is recorded only very indirectly in any sources.7
Even a woman warrior such as Artemisia, who by male standards played
an important role in the Persian Wars, is described differently by Herodotus than are Persian men.8 To discern and analyze the gross and fine
asymmetries between women's and men's material lives and between
their presumed moral and intellectual capacitiesand the representation
of these in discourse across time and spaceis an essential part of
feminist critical practice and must supplement traditional philological
methods. To classify and evaluate the numerous biographical anecdotes
related of Aspasia in exactly the same manner as has been done, for
example, for those of Plato, would be a mistake even if it were possible.
Because women and men led asymmetrical lives in fifth-century Athens,
evidence itself is not "the same" evidence, but different inasmuch as it
is informed by a differently gendered relationship for the female object
of the male writer's scrutiny.
Because of Aspasia's longstanding reputation as teacher, companion
to Pericles, and member of an intellectual elite, it has been customary to
place her, and then leave her, among other members, all men, of that
alleged coterieAnaxagoras, Phidias, and the scientists and sophists.9
But it is also necessary in the most fundamental sense to consider the
ways in which her biographical tradition portrays her as a woman. For
example, Aspasia and Pericles are often criticized in comedy and sometimes are mentioned together; it would be erroneous in the extreme,
however, to imagine that each is criticized for analogous reasons. It is
imperative rather to compare her with other members of the gender class

Prisoner of History

"woman" and weigh her representation as a concubine, prostitute, and

mother in Old Comedy against the representation of other such women
in that genre. This having been done, Aspasia can be seen to participate
in a discourse in which men do not. Note that Old Comedy does not
celebrate any women thinkers, and that the charge of effeminacy, with
strong negative connotations, is leveled against poets. Autonomous "femaleness" and femininity are not revered in Old Comedy. It is likewise
perilous to situate Aspasia with Socrates just by denning each as a
radical outsider teacher. Like Socrates, Aspasia was criticized in comedy, enjoyed a reputation as a sophistic philosopher, and was an important figure in fourth-century philosophical dialogue. Yet history has
largely considered only Plato and other men to be philosophers; women
philosophers are footnotes, freaks, groupies, and martyrsanything
and everything but philosophers. It is necessary to explore Aspasia's
singular place in the Socratic dialogues and to ask why and with what
effect Plato makes Aspasia the only woman outside of Diotima who
speaks in any of his works.10
To free Aspasia from the prison of history, we must try to shed any
prior notions about what a biographythe writing of a life, the writing
of a woman's lifeis or must be. First, I suggest the range of historical
possibilities for Aspasia's life; these differ substantially from the descriptions and references found in Attic comedy, the only sources contemporary with that life. After identifying the characteristics of her
biographical tradition in its first centuries, before Plutarch distilled it
into the form that would influence its major reappearances after the end
of Greco-Roman antiquity, I trace the evolution of her bios from late
antiquity to the present. Next to Sappho's and Cleopatra's, Aspasia's is
the longest and richest female biographical tradition to come down to us
from the Greco-Roman past. That past has had much to do with current
constructions of gender roles and the ways in which women participate,
or do not, in intellectual discourse in the West. It is entirely possible that
the sexualization of Aspasia's intellect, a key facet of her bios, has
negatively affected the development of feminist consciousness. The
process of retrieving and reinterpreting the varied aspects of her biographical tradition may help us retrieve earlier moments in the development of feminist consciousness.
Perhaps no one will be entirely sympathetic to my treatment of this
subject; any topic that is manifested over such a long expanse of time


and moves among such disparate texts is bound to be unevenly developed by its first investigator. I hope that the reader's dissatisfaction will
be born of the recognition that Aspasia and her bios are important and
worth much further study. I consider it a positive consequence to have
provoked such dissatisfaction.

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Aspasia in Greek History

Our ignorance of Aspasia's life course is emblematic of our ignorance of

the lives of all women in fifth-century Hellas. This only seems so shocking and our curiosity so keenly and urgently justified because Aspasia's
reputation has thrown her into high relief. In fact, however, we are even
more ignorant of other womennameless persons whose lives may
have been quite similar to hers. To ask questions about Aspasia's life is
to ask questions about half of humanity. One may assume that her early
life began typically, that is to say, inauspiciously, and that we must seek
its broadest outlines not in the atypical but in the normative bounds. It
would be necessary to do this even should it ever become demonstrable
that every scurrilous anecdote about Aspasia had a factual basis. We
must learn to forget Aspasia's reputation.
It is treacherous but obligatory to begin with the most concentrated
and connected account of Aspasia's life, that found in chapters 24 and
32 of Plutarch's Life of Pericles. Feminist historians have problematized
the authority of male biographers, and classicists painstakingly have
dissected out the layers of sources in this imperial author's discussion of
Pericles and his associates nearly seven hundred years after the fact.
Within Plutarch's brief account, we find scraps of information that may
have originated during Aspasia's own lifetime.
According to Plutarch, Aspasia came from Miletus, a wealthy city on
the coast of Asia Minor, and her father's name was Axiochus.' She had
a union with Pericles some time after his divorce from his wife, and she
is usually assumed to have given birth to the bastard, Pericles junior.
Aspasia is also said to have "married" the Athenian politician Lysides


Prisoner of History

and to have borne him a son.2 Fifth-century comedy calls her both a
concubine and a whore; Plutarch reports that she modeled herself on
Thargelia, the Ionian courtesan who attempted to capture the affections
of the most powerful men of the day and to influence them politically,
but there is no conclusive contemporary evidence. Comedy provides the
only fifth-century evidence that she influenced Pericles' political policies.3 In fact, no fifth-century evidence exists for any substantial part of
Aspasia's life. It is possible to map only the barest possibilities for that
life: to ascertain the approximate date of her birth, her places of residence, the duration and nature of her sexual relationships, the number
and birth dates of her children, and the date of her death, are all hazardous endeavors. Additionally, and most importantly, there is no good
evidence for her inner or intellectual life.
Against the colorful reportage may be set something less sensational,
something more documentary. An early fourth-century B.C. Attic gravestone bears the names of persons who were probably Aspasia's collateral
descendants. As Oswyn Murray said of ancient historians, "When we
do come across evidence, we refuse to believe it, or deny that it is
history."4 The possibilities created by the names of the dead allow the
hypothesis, suggested by Peter J. Bicknell, that Aspasia was born any
time after 470 B.C., that she came to Athens around 450 B.C. as a
fatherless refugee of marriageable or nearly marriageable age, and that
she was related by her sister's marriage to the Athenian Alcibiades,
grandfather of the notorious Alcibiades.5 The elder Alcibiades, ostracized from Athens in 460, may have spent his exile in Miletus.
Bicknell proposes that there he met a daughter of Axiochus and by her
had two sons, Axiochus (born ca. 458 B.C.) and Aspasios (born ca. 456
B.C.). Aspasia would have been the younger sister of this Milesian wife.
Miletus' history was turbulent in the archaic and classical periods. By
the 460s, it was a member of the Delian League, a defensive alliance
wherein Athens came to assume an increasingly dominant position and
to which allied cities contributed ships or tribute in return for protection
against Persians and pirates. Around 457/6 there was stasis (factional
unrest) in Miletus, possibly caused by oligarchic revolutionaries who
did not want to pay tribute, and the city temporarily defected from the
league. The oligarchs, hitherto supported by Athens, exiled their opponents to the surrounding communities of Leros and Teichioussa, and
others that continued to pay tribute. In the summer of 452, Athens
retook Miletus, banned the oligarchs, and reinstated their opponents. It

Aspasia in Greek History


is impossible to know what part Axiochus or Alcibiades played in all

this, but it is tempting to conjecture that Axiochus was dead and/or his
household in disarray by the time Alcibiades' ostracism expired in 450
and he returned to Athens, accompanied by his wife, children, and
young sister-in-law.6
The inscription on the grave stele allows the following reconstruction:
Alcibiades' son Axiochus is the grandfather of the Aischines named on
the stele as the father of the Aspasios commemorated on the stone. Both
Axiochoi are identified as demesmen of Skambonidai, and on the stele
are mentioned not only Axiochus' wife Eukleia, but also their children,
Aischines, Sostrate, and Aspasia.
Because sons were commonly named for grandfathers, and because
the names Axiochus and Aspasios are themselves rarein fact, unattested in Attica before the early fourth centuryBicknell's suggestion is
plausible. The association within one family of the names Axiochus and
Aspasios, of which Aspasia is the feminine form, is also significant.
Furthermore, the stele was found in Athens' port city, Piraeus, which
was home to many families of foreign origin.
Although she may now be tentatively identified as the dependent
relation of an Athenian aristocrat, Aspasia was also and unquestionably
a resident alien, a metic. If she did in fact arrive in Athens in 450, she
would have come at a time when the status of non-Athenian women had
recently been radically circumscribed. The question of her status as a
metic must now be taken up. The attempt to intelligently assess what it
may have meant to be an aristocratic female metic in mid-fifth-century
Athens, however difficult it is to make this assessment, will in turn help
identify the biases present both in contemporary comic remarks on Aspasia 's life and also in later sources. These sources, because they viewed
the fifth century through the lens of subsequent historical and literary
developments, have provided their own additional distortions.
Recent studies of the ideology of metic status conclude that the concept of the metic was bound up with the concept of citizen; to discuss
citizenship is to discuss both its content and its extent. The content and
nature of Attic citizenship were not static; they were constantly evolving. Pericles' famous law on citizenship, passed in 451/450, is landmark
evidence of this dynamic process. The law seems to have restricted
citizenship to persons who had two Athenian parents; but the terminology of the law, the definitions of those terms, the reason(s) that
brought the law into being, precisely how citizenship was defined before


Prisoner of History

and after the passage of the law, and other restrictions on citizenship,
remain somewhat unclear. Nor is it yet entirely clear how the category
citizen applied to women versus men; as Cynthia Patterson has shown,
major differences obtained for female citizens versus male citizens.7
Pericles' citizenship law was probably passed in response to a substantial and ' 'unnatural" increase in the population of Attica in the years
following the Persian Wars of 490-479. This increase was caused by the
heavy enrollment into denies and phratries of resident aliensmetics. In
his treatise on the subject, David Whitehead translates the term literally
as "home-changers."8 Before 490, there is ample evidence that aristocrats, for whom the most evidence survives, commonly married "out";
the illustrious Themistocles, Cleisthenes, Cimon, and Miltiades all had
foreign mothers. Before Pericles' law, marriages with such women were
probably considered fully valid, and any offspring were given full citizenship rights. Certainly these men's mixed parentage hardly compromised their ability to have political careers, although Pericles is said to
have reproached Cimon's sons for having a foreign mother.9
A substantial metic population was assimilating into the Attic body
politic by mid-century. The Athens to which Aspasia removed was a city
that formerly had been hospitable to metics and in which, until shortly
before she arrived, she would have had every expectation of living out a
normal woman's lifethat is, of marrying and of bearing her husband
legitimate sons, sons with political prospects like those of Themistocles
and Cimon. It is even possible that Alcibiades and his extended family
returned to Athens without knowing that the law had passed; this law,
which Patterson has demonstrated was not retroactive, would not have
affected Alcibiades' two sons, Aspasios and Axiochus. The Peiraeus
grave stele identifies Aspasios, son of Aischines, as a demesman; therefore, he was a citizen.10
Our few sources for the study of the extent and content of metic status
in the mid-fifth century are almost completely silent on the subject of
women metics.'' Nevertheless, it can be said with confidence that metic
status was in general characterized by many liabilities: metics were
subject to special taxes, they could not participate politically or own land
in Attica, and they were excluded from membership in deme and phratry. And, although the citizenship law of 451/450 fell into abeyance
during the Peloponnesian War, it was reenacted in 403/402, a clear
indication that the division Athens made between citizen and metic was
considered important and worth maintaining. A final proof of the impor-

Aspasia in Greek History


tance of boundary maintenance between citizenship and metic status is

the fact that enslavement was the penalty for those who falsely represented themselves as citizens.12
The questions of how Pericles and Aspasia met, and how and why
they had an apparently lengthy liaison, are vexing ones. If, as is generally assumed, Aspasia was the mother of the bastard, Pericles junior, the
union must have commenced before 440, the latest possible birth date
for the younger Pericles. If so, this child would have been a little boy in
the early years after the passage of his father's citizenship law, and he
would have been considered to be of marriageable age by around 420.
No ancient sources confirm that Pericles junior was the son of Pericles
and Aspasia; it has merely been traditional to assume (as did Demeas
regarding Chrysis and the baby in Menander's comedy Samia) that she
was the child's mother.13 Pericles had two legitimate sons; therefore,
union with a metic woman cannot have been motivated solely by the
desire for offspring. Despite the later romantic tradition that has made
Pericles absolutely besotted with Aspasia, practical considerations may
well have played some part in his liaison with her. It is commonly
believed that Pericles made political capital off his ex-wife's remarriage,
a practice not uncommon for a man of his class; it is not unreasonable to
suspect that his association with Aspasia brought with it some political
advantage as well.14
But the tradition does speak of Pericles' love for Aspasia, and the
question of its nature haunts us still. If, as the tradition suggests, she was
highly intelligent, the love of a powerful and wealthy man could have
protected and nurtured her, allowing her to develop her mind in ways not
open to other women who lacked either her wisdom or the materially and
emotionally supportive environment provided by such a love. In discussing the importance of a supportive environment for the intellectual
development of both sexes, Gerda Lerner points out that highly intelligent women have benefited from nurturant and mutually respectful
relationships with spouses or partners. But, as she states, "such heterosexual, mutually supportive relationships, while they do occur, are rare
in the historical record."15
Because law now deprived Aspasia of the ability to enter a fully valid
Athenian marriage, one must ask what kind of union, in the legal exterior sense, she and Pericles had. Metic women seem to have been
subject to kyrieia (guardianship) just as citizen women were; presumably Aspasia's kyrios (guardian) would have tried to marry her to another


Prisoner of History

metic or possibly place her in pallakia (concubinage) with an actual

citizen. Raphael Sealey has recently suggested that pallakia was being
institutionalized in the fifth century, and that citizens too poor to provide
a dowry as well as well-born metics placed their daughters in a quasimarital "pallakia with stipulations," a status created with "a fully explicit contract." This situation, it is hypothesized, would have guaranteed the bride some security and recourse, though her children would not
have been considered legitimate. Even if this were the case, Patterson
has shown that a pallake (concubine) was severely disadvantaged by
convention and the law. Furthermore, because the citizenship law's
negative impact would not have been felt immediately by large numbers
of families after its passage, it seems rather unlikely that fathers at this
point in time would have hatched an entirely formed concept and practice for pallakia with stipulations and impossible to know under what
precise circumstances Aspasia came to be Pericles' sexual property,
beloved or otherwise. It was, as David Schaps observed, inevitable for
women to wed, and if Aspasia were a dependent relation, it would have
been even more in her guardian's interest to get her off his hands at the
earliest possible age.16
The tightening of requirements for citizenship was accompanied by
the constriction of definitions of legitimacy and the kinds of partnerships
that could produce legitimate offspring; the nature of the parents' partnership, as well as their own civic status or lack thereof, determined the
status of their children. It is possible that children born of any union
other than one between two citizens could be termed nothoi (bastards),
though it is most likely that the term was mainly applied to the issue of
unions between persons who were not equal.17 Pericles' citizenship law
had as an inevitable consequence the elevation of the status of engyetic
(formal dowered) marriage between two citizens and a concomitant
decline in the status of concubinage, secondary and servile as this had
always been. And, because the primary purpose of heterosexual cohabitation was to produce legitimate heirs, the status of nothoi must also
have declined in the course of the fifth century.18 S. C. Humphreys
maintains that nothoi with foreign mothers were at an even greater
disadvantage than were those with two domestic parents; she offers as an
example the mixed fortunes of Pericles junior's coeval, Antisthenes the
Socratic, another nothos with a foreign mother. Sons of foreign women
might also lack the benefits customarily available from avuncular relationships.19 Despite the disadvantages of pallakia for both the woman

Aspasia in Greek History


and her offspring, Aspasia's best option as a metic in Athens after

451/450 could have been to become thepallake of a well-born Athenian,
and this in fact seems to have been her fate. Cratinus' definition of
Aspasia as a pallake in his comedy Cheirons (discussed in the next
chapter) probably reflects her true status.
The prospects for any children whom Aspasia might have borne to
Pericles were indeed mixed. No daughters are attested for either party.
This silence is itself unremarkable, inasmuch as daughters tended to be
mentioned only with regard to their parentage, husbands, or children. If,
in fact, Aspasia ever bore a daughter, she might have been exposed or
removed in some other manner; if she lived to adulthood, she might have
been consigned quietly to pallakia or married to another metic.20
Evidence suggests, but does not prove, that Pericles junior was Aspasia's son or at least the son of a free woman. Perhaps the increasingly
negative remarks found in comedy about Pericles junior reflect a diminishing status for all nothoi in the late fifth century, as well as the disappearance of protection upon the death of his father; perhaps they are
purely personal attacks indicating the son's perceived failure to measure
up to his illustrious parent. His unhappy fate as one of the generals
condemned and executed after the battle of Arginusae surely was not
affected by his parentage. (Comedy is discussed in the next chapter; the
comic tag Nothippos probably reflects the inferior status of this group.)21
So much for the possibilities of offspring of Aspasia. I turn now to
Aspasia's years with Pericles, the terminus for which relationship has
traditionally been set with the latter's death in 429. References made by
comic writers to their relationship are impossible to put into an exact
sequence, but they do suggest a period of some eleven to thirteen
yearsthat is, from the Samian War to 430 which she was
publicly recognized as Pericles' mate. Later tradition has dwelt on Aspasia's intellectual acumen, her political influence upon Pericles, and
his love for her, but no evidence established as contemporary illuminates these possibilities.
Plutarch mentions one more specific incident regarding Aspasia's life.
The comic poet Hermippus supposedly prosecuted her on the charge of
asebeia (impiety). Scholarly opinion is divided as to whether the suit
actually took place or whether, like Philocleon's prosecution of the
cheese-pilfering dog Labes in Aristophanes' Wasps, it was a purely
imaginary trial, conducted on the comic stage and later insinuated into
the historical record. The exact nature of the prosecution and the precise


Prisoner of History

meaning of asebeia are also hotly debated. It is most likely that if

Aspasia was literally tried in court, it was in order to discredit Pericles.
Belief is based on the notion that Aspasia's influence upon Pericles and/
or others was, or was perceived to be, of an actionable nature, and that
Pericles was attached enough to Aspasia to defend her, as Plutarch
reports, with a singular display of public weeping. As an analysis of
comedy will show, this trial was most probably a dramatic fantasy.22
The rapidity with which Aspasia apparently entered a union with
Lysicles after Pericles' death invites several explanations. First, her
relationship with Pericles may have terminated some time before his
death; the alliance with Lysicles might have been far from hasty. Pericles could have tired of her, for comedy reports other sexual interests
besides Aspasia.23 Widows, and presumably relict concubines, were
"remarried" as soon as possible; thus, if Aspasia's union with Pericles
lasted until the latter's death, her subsequent union with Lysicles might
have been entirely proper.24
It is also possible that the continued presence of Pericles' "relict"
was a liability to his remaining family, particularly in the gloomy days
of plague-ridden Athens. Thucydides tersely and movingly tells of the
plague's effects on the city's social fabric, and Xenophon shows how
quickly and devastatingly female dependents in an aristocratic household could become a financial liability during hard times (see Thuc.
2.47-2.54; Xen. Mem. 2.7; Dem. 57.45). Pericles lost most of his
relatives to the plague (Plut. Per. 36); presumably, the surviving females would have been more dependent than ever before. The orators
paint a portrait of close and affectionate relations between Athenian
mothers and their sons, but this may reflect ideals rather than realities.
Aspasia and Pericles junior were no ordinary dyad: the mother may have
been an embarrassment to her son, so recently and extraordinarily franchised. As a nothos, Pericles junior was exempted from the legal requirement of supporting his parents in their old age. A son whose irregular parentage would dog him most of his life and who was only adopted
after his legitimate stepbrothers had died might have found it politic to
settle his mother elsewhere.25
Perhaps there was a positive side to Aspasia's alleged union in middle
age with the sheepdealer Lysicles. He was a prominent politician and
she might have been able to enhance his political fortunes. How this
union came about, if it did, is open to question. There is some evidence
that a lone woman could occasionally act on her own behalf, as Me-

Aspasia in Greek History


nander says, "heautes kyria" ("as her own kyrios"; Men. Pk. 497);
Aspasia may have chosen Lysicles herself. If the citizenship law was in
effect at the time of this union, it cannot be entirely correct to term her
union with Lysicles a marriage, as late commentators describe it. In any
event, Lysicles' death in 428 cuts off our possibility for knowing
anything about this union,26 if it was in fact historical.
A portrait herm found in Italy in 1777 and inscribed at the base
ACIIACIA may have been copied from her grave (Figure 1.1). A rather
solemn female head with the melon coiffure is depicted on this 1.7meter-high monument. Although there is no ancient testimony for portraits of Aspasia, the eyes and hair can be traced to fifth-century types,
as Gisela Richter argues in making her case for the statue's authenticity.
More puzzling to Richter is the fact that Aspasia was rendered as a
"simple, expressionless woman" who nonetheless had "a certain
beauty." Indeed, no physical description of Aspasia has survived, and
she may have been quite ordinary in appearance. Richter, assuming (as
had Wilamowitz) that Aspasia "geistig etwas mehr bedeutete," suggests that "Aspasia's extraordinary attraction lay in her animated expression, which the sculptor of the herm was not able to convey." If the
herm was copied from an actual grave stele, however, this alone could
explain the solemnity of the head's expression, for late fifth-century
funerary art depicted the deceased with serene solemnity. Additionally,
those who set up her monument may have been attempting to counter
such labels as the Cratinan pallaken kynopida (dog-eyed concubine) and
the Eupolidean/wrae (whore; literally, "buyable woman"). A "simple,
expressionless woman" would have been the family grave's quiet
answer to such insults. The possibility that her kin needed to make such
a visual statement underscores again the impropriety of naming Aspasia
a "female Socrates"; his portraiture is rich in Silenus and sage types.
The pensive and virginal maiden of the stele denies the literary reputation of the woman to whom Socrates brought people for instruction, who
kept a brothel, instigated wars, and taught rhetoric to Socrates and
Pericles. In her study of the Severe Style, Ridgway provides a different
interpretation, defining it as a classicizing portrait of a type called
"Aspasia/Sosandra." The original, of which many copies besides this
herm are known, was Calamis the Elder's fifth-century statue of Aphrodite Sosandra, dedicated by Callias on the Acropolis.27 Although Diodorus of Athens may have seen her grave and noted it in his treatise on
funeral monuments, we do not know when or where Aspasia died.28


Prisoner of History

Figure 1.1. Marble portrait herm, Aspasia. Vatican Museums inv. 272.
Courtesy Vatican Museums.

The Story Told by Comedy

Attic comedy, a genre full of commentary about politics, provides the

only known contemporary evidence for Aspasia's life. Old Comedy, as
this earliest attested phase of Greek comedy is known, is paramount to
Aspasia's biographical tradition: though frequently surreal and fantastic,
it was nonetheless treated as a historical source by later ancient historians such as Duris and Plutarch. Comedy is also the premier nexus of
discourses on sexuality, power, and intellect in the fifth century, discourses to which Aspasia is crucial. Unfortunately, only eleven of Aristophanes' plays have survived intact, and the fragmentary remains of the
rest of Old Comedy are exceedingly difficult to date. To correlate undated and/or undatable fragments by their references to the supposed life
events of public figures is nearly impossible, for oftentimes these references constitute the only surviving mention of said event. It is easier,
therefore, to discuss the treatment of Aspasia in Old Comedy on a
playwright-by-playwright basis, beginning with the best-known authors
and those whose references to Aspasia are the most significant. Although Attic comedy made Aspasia a public figure, it treats her very
differently than it does men. For example, Aspasia, unlike many Athenian men (Solon, Miltiades, Pericles, Socrates et al.) was apparently
never put on stage in propria persona. Furthermore, comic allusions to
Aspasia are invariably sexual, sexualized, and sexualizing; well-known
males receive a broader spectrum of comment than she does. Pericles'
sexual integrity was attacked by the poets, but so were his oratorical
skills, physical appearance, and political views. The latter attributes
could be mentioned without reference to his sexuality.1


Prisoner of History

Cratinus can be considered the founder of political comedy as we know
it. His work, rife with topicality and inventive invective, set the tone
for subsequent comic treatments of both Pericles and Aspasia. Aristophanes, Cratinus' rival and younger contemporary, was probably
more in his elder's debt than we can know. 2 Cratinus is known to have
attacked Aspasia in only one play, the Cheirons (frags. 246-268 K-A).
The dating of the comedy is problematic; it has been assigned both to the
very late 440swhen Pericles became the most powerful man in Athens
after the ostracism in 443 of Thucydides, son of Melesiasas well as to
around 430, near the beginning of the Peloponnesian War. In either
case, this golden age nostalgia drama invidiously contrasts the corrupt
life of the time of its writing with the sweet simplicity of the past, and
reflects anxieties about Pericles' power and hostility to Aspasia. The
violent language Cratinus uses of Aspasia and Pericles certainly represents a strong reaction to some aspect of Pericles' regime.3 Golden age
comedies were characterized either by a total absence of women or by a
purely subordinate position for them as providers of sexual gratification.
The Cheirons is full of epic language and parodies of that language.4
Solon was brought back from the dead as a reminder of the "happy"
past and pointed out the populace's moral failures; interestingly, fourthcentury comedy would credit Solon with having founded statesubsidized brothels.5
Salient to the present discussion are Cheirons frag. 258 and 259 K-A,
considered on the grounds of meter and sense to be part of theparabasis,
that part of the comedy wherein the chorus often spoke the poet's mind
and delivered advice to the city. Thus, the lines are attributable to a
group, not to a character, and need not have referred to any event or
events within the play. Perhaps neither Pericles nor Aspasia appeared on
stage in this play, because their mention here was probably part of the
chorus' recitation of events that had brought Athens to her present
parlous condition.6
Stasis and elderborn Time,
mating with one another
birthed a very great tyrant
whom the gods call "head-gatherer." (258 K-A)
Shameless Lust bears him Hera-Aspasia,
a dog-eyed concubine (259 K-A)

The Story Told by Comedy


Long-standing instability in the state, that is, Chronos (time) and Stasis
(civic strife), have bred a monster in the form of Pericles, who is parodied by reference to his large head (cf. the common Homeric epithet
"Cloud-Gatherer," used for Zeus). The abuse of Pericles, both
anatomical and political, is combined neatly in his identification as the
despotic offspring of abstract personifications. Stasis, the feminine abstraction identified as Pericles' mother, is semantically associated in
fifth-century historiography and tragedy with women and anandreia
(unmanliness).7 The gods deflate Pericles with an undignified mock-epic
epithet. Next, katapygosyne ("shameless lust") bore him the dog-eyed
concubine Hera-Aspasia. Aspasia is given an actual Homeric tag, but it
is not a complimentary one, for it associates her with both the shrewish
Hera and the ruinous Pandora. Hephaestus calls his mother "dog-eyed"
(//. 18.396); Hesiod's Pandora has a dog's mind and a thief's character
(Works and Days 67). Katapygosyne, which really cannot be translated,
is a highly abusive word probably coined by Cratinus; it refers not only
to the general notion of shameless lust but also to "pathic" practice;
Aspasia seems to be the first and only female to be associated with the
noun abstract of the word, an association that makes her even more
monstrous.8 By identifying Aspasia as apallake, Cratinus suggests not
only that she lacks the right to rule with her "Zeus," but also that she is
unable to properly transmit his legacy. I believe that the reference pointedly marks the actual type of "marriage" Aspasia had with Pericles and
comments on its legally and socially inferior nature; concubinage was,
as has been shown, a union whose issue could not claim a place in the
polis or the family.9
The Cheirons is paradigmatic of Old Comedy's critique of women
vis-a-vis political power. According to this critique, women could not
govern the polis; their attempts to do so, especially as would be seen in
Arisophanes' Lysistrata and Ecclesiazusae, must always be considered
an inversion and mockery of the norm; the possibility of their doing so,
even when represented as fantasy, indicates a severe crisis in the polis.
The importance to this theme of politicians' association with women of
ill repute cannot be stressed enough; Aristophanes would make "loose
women" the symbols of destruction, death, and intellectual and literary
corruption. Cheirons frag. 258-259 K-A demonstrates that there was no
natural place for women in the state, that they were believed to serve
their lovers rather than the state, and that they could neither inherit nor
transmit their lovers' political capital.10


Prisoner of History

It would be wonderful to have other Cratinan invective against Aspasia, but nothing conclusive survives. His mythological burlesque Dionysalexandros may revile Pericles, who is likened to both Paris and
Dionysus, for having started a war. All that can be said is that the play
shows that a politician's irregular sexual behavior has political consequences. If Pericles was Paris, Aspasia might have been seen as Helen
sexually alluring and the cause of a great war. The report that Eupolis,
Cratinus' younger contemporary, and occasional plagiarist, called Aspasia "Helen" (Prospaltians 267 K-A) may mean that Eupolis copied
or modified a Cratinan epithet.11
Cratinus' Nemesis alludes not only to the Trojan War and to Helen,
but also to Pericles' dominance in Athens (118 K-A, assuming that the
mention of Zeus refers to Pericles), and it is generally thought that
Pericles appeared on stage as a character. The fact that Leda is told to
incubate her egg (115 K-A) opens the possibility that Aspasia was also
put on stage. The Nemesis may implicate Pericles in the outbreak of the
Peloponnesian War. But ever since Kaibel, the difficulties of locating
Aspasia within the plot have been abundantly apparent. Nemesis herself
has been seen as Aspasia and Helen as Pericles junior; the egg has been
seen as the Megarian decree or even as the war itself. It can only be said
that the political result of bad politics was probably represented comedically as a monstrous birth.12 Without more fragments, it is impossible
to say more about this play. If indeed the Nemesis likens Pericles to
Zeus, some common threads can be seen in that play and the Cheirons
and Dionysalexandros: Cratinus represents Pericles as a man whose
irregular domestic life produces "unnatural" resultseither tyranny
and a concubine co-tyrant (as in the Cheirons), a war (as in the Dionysalexandros), or an improperly engendered egg that may represent
war or its prelude (as in the Nemesis). In Cheirons and Dionysalexandros, the playwright stresses the political consequence of the statesman's irregular behavior; in Cheirons and Nemesis, the political result
of bad politics is itself represented as a monstrous birth.13

Eupolis, a younger contemporary of Aristophanes and Cratinus, mentions Aspasia by name in three comedies and probably alludes to her in a
fourth.14 Aspasia is mentioned in his first play, the wartime Prospal-

The Story Told by Comedy


tians, as "Helen." But all that can be said of this is that Helen and
Aspasia were both accused of sexual impropriety and were alleged to
have started wars.15 The plot of the Philoi, which was produced just a
few years later at the 424/423 B.C. Dionysia, is also obscure, nor can the
one fragment, in which Aspasia is called Omphale tyrannon or
Omphaletyrannon, be integrated with the rest of the play. Omphale
sexually dominated Heracles, whose earlier cultural image as harddrinking beast master and womanizer was now being sanitized and
assimilated to an icon of temperate masculine virtue.16 The play also
seems to have had pederastic and sympotic themes, and reviled Rhodia,
wife of the Athenian Lykon.17
The Marikas has attracted much critical attention though little is
known of its plot. Produced at the festival of the Lenaia in 421, it
vanquished the first version of Aristophanes' Clouds. In the second,
surviving version of the Clouds, Aristophanes accuses Eupolis of having
plagiarized parts of the Marikas play from his own Knights (Clouds
553-555). In the Marikas, the politician Hyperbolus was satirized as the
barbarian slave whose name gives the play its title; the chorus was a
double one. That there was considerable topical humor is evident from
the mentions of the Spartans, Cleon, and Nicias.18 All the more frustrating, then, is the poor preservation of fragment 192, in which "the
bastard," Aspasia, and Paralus are all mentioned in the space of three
lines (lines 166-169).19 Little can be gained from this except to note that
Paralus, and probably Pericles' other legitimate son, Xanthippus, are
both named along with Pericles junior, who is perhaps called Aspasia's
bastard here.
The mention of all of Pericles' sons and identification of one of them
as a bastard borne by Aspasia is the third time Aspasia is insulted by
name in the comic fragments.20 She was probably singled out for the
sake of criticizing the nothos, Pericles junior; at the time of the Marikas'
composition, Paralus and Xanthippus would have been dead nearly a
decade and the nothos would have been about twenty years old. Why
any of them is remarked on here cannot be ascertained, but the comic
poets commonly insulted politicians by referring unflatteringly to their
mothers. Although Eupolis' exploitation of the mother-son relationship
is not unique, he may have been the first to mention Aspasia's motherhood on the stage.21
Eupolis' last play, the Demes (411 B.C.), is, like Aristophanes' more
famous Frogs, a catabatic quest for civic salvation. In it Solon, Mil-


Prisoner of History

tiades, Aristides, and Pericles are brought back from the dead in order to
advise the city, although it is difficult to say more than this about the
plot. Aspasia and Pericles junior are mentioned, and Pericles' plaintive
query, "And is my nothos alive?" (110 K-A) shows that Pericles himself
was a speaking character. The mention here of the bastard and of Pericles' head elsewhere in the Demes (115 K-A) were very old jokes by
now; probably these threadbare jests facilitated the recognition of Pericles, who had now been dead for more than fifteen years. The reply to
Pericles' questionthat the nothos was indeed alive but ashamed of
having a porne for a mother (110 K-A)suggests that after Pericles'
death, Aspasia was mentioned with increasing harshness. In the earlier
Prospaltians and Philoi, Eupolis had referred to her in mythological
travesty and also made references to her sexual allure; he identified her
as the mother of a bastard in his mid-career play, Marikas, and called
her an outright whore in a play from his later years, Demes, which last
reference is the final certain one to her in Old Comedy. The label was
resoundingly negative and referred only to her inferior sexual status.
The general view of Pericles in this play was probably positive, judging
from its fulsome praise of his oratory.22

Hermippus was less important in his own day and to posterity than were
Cratinus, Eupolis, and Aristophanes, but he merits special attention in
the development of Aspasia's bios; according to Plutarch, it was he who
prosecuted Aspasia for asebeia (Plut. Per. 32.1).23 He also is said to
have accused Aspasia of ensnaring free women for Pericles to dally with
(Plut. Per. 32.1), a charge also leveled, without a named accuser,
against Phidias (Plut. Per. 13.14). Again, the questions of the historicity
of these charges, of whether or not Hermippus prosecuted Aspasia in a
fantasy trial on stage or in his actual right as a citizen, cannot be decided
conclusively. Certainly a good many accusations against Pericles are
those of sexual and political impropriety; accusations of sexual excess,
in which Pericles' associates were said to have pimped citizen women
for him, may have inspired Aristophanes, and later, Eupolis, to call
Aspasia a whore and to imply that she kept other women. These allegations attributed to Pericles a personal behavior somewhat counter to the
purpose and spirit of his own citizenship law, and if true, intimated that

The Story Told by Comedy


in the matter of sexual appetite, Pericles, like other popular politicians

late and soon, felt himself above or beyond the law. Hermippus' dialogue could be markedly abusive: in the Artopolides (Breadsellers),
someone addresses a woman as ' 'O sapra, kaipasiporne, kai kapraina''
("O decayed one, and all-whore, and she-goat").24

Aristophanes (457/445-385 B.C.) offers especially rich ground for an
investigation of Aspasia's bios, even though he mentioned Aspasia only
once in his extant oeuvre (Acharnians, produced at the Lenaia in 425
B.C.). Because eleven of his plays do survive whole, it is possible to
discuss Aristophanes' thematic and symbolic uses and definitions of
women and gender, to speculate upon the poet's views concerning the
relationship of women to the state, and lastly, to discuss his use of
female characters as part of the opsis (visual aspect) of Old Comedy. In
the reference to Aspasia and in references to other women, we are able
also to see the contexts in which real females, as particularities, were
used dramatically. Thus the Acharnians, in which the protagonist,
Dikaeopolis, concludes a private peace with the Spartans and vanquishes those who would continue to make war, is vital for helping us
see in what ways the comic Aspasia, mentioned elsewhere in fragments
bereft of a context, might have functioned in those other plays.25
Aristophanes' Acharnians contains a significant reference to Aspasia.
Dikaeopolis tells the chorus and audience about the causes of the war:
Men from our sideI'm not saying the polisremember this, I'm not
saying the polis, but worthless pipsqueaks, phonies, dishonorable counterfeits, halfbreeds, began to denounce Megara's little cloaks. And if
anybody saw a gourd or a hare or a piglet or a garlic or some rocksalt
these were "Megarian" and sold off that same day! Still, this was a minor
matter, and not unexpected. But, then some young drunks went to
Megara and stole the whore Simaitha. Well, the Megarians were driven
crazy by this insult and stole in return two whores from Aspasia. From
this began the Great War in all Hellasfrom three cock-sucking sluts.
(Ach. 516-539)

This little passage has given rise to the immense problem of whether
or not the theft was historical. In addition the literary problem of this
passage's relationship to the beginning of Herodotus' History, which it


Prisoner of History

probably parodies, is not insignificant. Opinions range from Walter

Ameling's and Donald Kagan's views that the reference to Aspasia's
whores is pure fantasy and a comic topos to a nearly literal "if there's
smoke" view. David Sansone's well-argued position that the passage
indeed parodies Hdt. 1.1-4 need not vitiate more literal interpretations.
Douglas MacDowell suggests that Pericles did have nonpolitical reasons, perhaps even connected with Aspasia, for enacting the Megarian
embargo. He argues cogently for a political interpretation of the play
that identifies Dikaeopolis' aims with the audience's own and that makes
a serious bid for peace, but fails to convincingly show what the nature of
Pericles' and/or Aspasia's animus against the Megarians might have
This is no place to settle the problems regarding the Megarian decree.
One can but observe that Aspasia's alleged responsibility for the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War sounds suspiciously like the charge
attributed to Duris that she was responsible for the Samian War.27 I
believe that the accusation is fictional and groundless. Cratinus had
already given Aspasia a vicious genealogy, making her a monstrous,
illegitimate, shameless, and tyrannical partner for Pericles; he had also
associated her with Paris/Pericles, a warmonger, and had identified her
with the temptresses Omphale and Helen. Hermippus had called her a
procuress and impious. Thus, she had already been attackedwith
Periclesas an abuser of power and in ways that impugned her sexuality
and in language that was also couched in parody.
Therefore, in a period when it was popular to parody Herodotus, it
would have been easy for Aristophanes to weave into his tale of the
abduction of women the additional insult that Aspasia was a fellatrix and
a procuress. Aristophanes' definition of the activities that led up to the
outbreak of war as the deeds of laikastriai (fellatrices) was an extremely
coarse and insulting one.28 Aspasia is implicitly a whore and explicitly a
fellatrix, a laikastria. Placed finally and emphatically in the period, the
word laikastriai situated Aspasia, and by association, Pericles, in disreputable company. As a way of describing her putative association with
Athenian politics, it was an insult as grave as any hurled at other public
figures in comedy. For Aspasia to be mentioned as a pimp, a fellatrix,
and precipitator of a disastrous war was humorous only in the bleakest
possible sense. Once she is defined as the keeper of whores, Aspasia is a
woman near the center of government who controls men's access to
women and whose displeasure could bring on war; at the end of the play,

The Story Told by Comedy


order is restored, and Dikaeopolis revels with two whores (Ach. lines
1199 to the end).29 Similarly, Aristophanes' Peace (421) represents
Peace both metaphorically as the resumption of men's unlimited access
to food and sexual relations, and concretely as a lovely and penetrable
virgin. In that play, wherein women are never a threat and seem to be
present only to be penetrated by males, Aristophanes again mentioned
Pericles, the beginning of the war, and the Megarian decree, but he did
not mention Aspasia.30
Aristophanes' abuse of Aspasia in the Acharnians accords with his
abuse elsewhere of the female sexual partners of other male politicians.
It is possible to compare the treatment Aspasia is given in the first extant
play with that of other women associated with politicians in other,
complete Aristophanic plays, and to speculate on the function that other
references performed in plays now fragmentary fulfilled. Paphlagon, in
the Knights (424 B.C.), prays to Athena to confirm that heafter Lysicles and the prostitutes Kynna and Salabacchohas been the "best
man'' and has given the greatest benefit to the demos (Kn. 763-766; note
that Kynna and Salabaccho are masculinized here). Lysicles, supposedly Aspasia's mate after the death of Pericles, is here also associated with whores. But the parabasis of Wasps (422 B.C.) and its nearverbatim repetition in Peace, demonstrate the most compelling association of politicians with prostitutes. The chorus defend Aristophanes to
the audience:
Nor, when he began to produce plays, did he attack men, but rather, with
the anger of Heracles, he beset the greatest targets: immediately he
screwed up his courage against the jagged-toothed Cleon, from whose
eyes beams the looks of Kynna the whore, and whose head is encircled
with the tongues of one hundred sycophants, deadly torrents of voice, the
stench of a seal, the unwashed testicles of a Lamia, and the asshole of a
camel. (1029-1035)

The playwright has attacked not ordinary men (1029) but the greatest of
them, the jagged-toothed monster (teras), Cleon. Particularly odd here
is the assignment of testicles to the traditionally female monster, Lamia,
but here, as in other comic slurs, bad politics is rendered visible as an
ugly, misshapen hybrid. Aristophanes' monster elaborately recapitulates Cratinus' genealogy for the "headgatherer" and his tyrannous
concubine. Further evidence for this comedic association can be found
in the earlier statement by the poet Callias (in his Pedetai) that Aspasia


Prisoner of History

taught Pericles how to speak. That statement is the antecedent for Aristophanes' claims that Cleon sees with Kynna's eyes: just so, Pericles
speaks with Aspasia's tongue.31 That politicians and prostitutes are
interchangeable is also implicit in a statement in Aristophanes'
Thesmophoriazousae (411 B.C.), wherein the chorus declares that
Cleophon is no worse than Salabaccho (line 805).
The image of Aspasia concocted by comedy retains its potency. So
great has been its power that it may now seem heterodox to claim that
Aspasia, perhaps a mere war refugee placed in concubinage with an
important politician, was unable to avoid colliding with Greek comedy's
misogynist scenario and being recast as a pome and procuress. This
scenario could not have told the truth about her even if it wanted to. The
absence of good historical evidence to the contrary leaves this investigator with the indelible impression, exaggerated as I suspect it to be, of a
prostitute near the inner circle of power. The power of comedy to construct Aspasia can be seen in the next stage of her bios, when philosophical dialogue, indebted to both tragedy and comedy, further developed
the image of an erotically alluring and intellectually formidable woman
among men.

Aspasia and the Socratic Tradition

The decline of Athens after the end of the Peloponnesian War would see
the demise of tragedy as a viable art form and the movement of comedy
from its major bases of surrealism and sexualized political invective to
a greater focus on domestic drama and mythological travesty. The nascent form of philosophical dialogue adopted motifs from both tragedy
and comedy in its use of historical and mythological characters to articulate and argue its own generic points of view. Many such dialogues were
set in the heyday of Athens' greatness; therefore, some of the same
individuals who were historical actors and comic butts in the fifth century reappeared as participants in philosophical discourse.
The Socratic dialogues of the fourth century, the next locus of Aspasia's bios, took up the comic claim that Pericles spoke with Aspasia's
tongue. The function of female characters in Greek drama has been
thoroughly, though certainly not definitively, discussed by many
scholars; but study of the function of female characters in philosophical
discourse and the intersection of these characters with philosophical
definitions of femaleness and femininity is rather new terrain. In the
fourth century, Aspasia's biographical tradition becomes centrally entwined with these dialogic discussions of politics, sexuality, and gender,
and it may be central to them. These conversations have a particularly
Athenian cast, however, in that philosophical discourse almost exclusively represents male discussants engaged in an examination of the
good life as lived in a community dominated by men. Perhaps philosophical discourse's long neglect of feminist concerns is due both to
philosophy's self-validating claim to objectivity, which functions as a


Prisoner of History

protective bubble, and also to the Western philosophical establishment's

traditional restriction to men of its practice, teaching, and self-analysis.1
These new dimensions of Aspasia's biographical tradition maintain
the earlier concerns found in comedy and the historical record about the
relationship of gender and sexuality to citizenship, civic participation,
and moral health. The contribution that philosophical discourse makes
to Aspasia's bios elevates these concerns only to dismiss them. In comedy, Aspasia had been used to discredit the historical actor Pericles; in
some of the Socratica (in particular, Plato's Menexenus) Aspasia remains a site for the reinscription of Athenian history. It can even be said
that she is a phallic woman.2
The use of Aspasia's name, the creation of a persona or personae for
her in this very masculinist discourse, and the representations of her
speech all require special attention. Aspasia does not appear in any
dialogue as a character in her own right, although two dialogues bore her
name. The important exception, however, is Plato's Menexenus. It is
made up almost entirely of a speech recited by Socrates but which
Aspasia allegedly taught him. It is necessary to ask what kind of personae were constructed for Aspasia and what functions the personae
performed in each dialogue, and to ascertain the metaphorical dimensions of the speech "she" was given. The language of sexual reproduction and of feminine and masculine social roles looms large in these
Because the Socratic contributors to Aspasia's bios were reacting
largely to ideas first put forth in Old Comedy, it is possible to discuss
their treatment of her thematically, rather than chronologically; the latter
approach is, in any case, not totally possible.3 The contributions of
philosophical dialogue to Aspasia's biographical tradition can be schematized into two components: a negative developmental strand, represented by Antisthenes and Plato, and a positive one, with Aeschines of
Sphettos and Xenophon as its representatives. The negative aspects of
the tradition resemble the invective already seen in comedy.

Antisthenes (fl. ca. 445 B.C.-360 B.C.), a fascinating and curious figure,
was the only follower of Socrates who did not become part of the
Socratic diaspora. In the turmoil that followed the end of the Peloponne-

Aspasia and the Socratic Tradition


sian War, it was probably "unimportance rather than acceptability" that

helped him avoid Socrates' fate.4 Like Pericles junior, he was a nothos
with a foreign mother. If nothoi did form a sociocultural subset,
then Antisthenes and Pericles junior probably knew each other. Disfranchised from birth by the law of 451/450 B.C., Antisthenes may have
become an Athenian citizen through his own efforts and those of Callias.5 H. D. Rankin recently speculated that "we may ask whether
Antisthenes' ridicule of Pericles and Alcibiades was not to some extent
nourished by his annoyance at the privileges granted to their family in
the matter of citizenship." Rankin saw personal jealousy as the motivation for Antisthenes' "ferocious attacks" against Xanthippus and
Paralus in his Aspasia. Rankin believes an additional factor in this
dislike of Pericles and his family was Socrates' own anti-Periclean bent
as evidenced in Plato's Gorgias and Protagoras.6 This somewhat
tenuous evidence for Antisthenes' thought can be bolstered by such
sayings attributed to Antisthenes as the claim that one should esteem an
honest man above a kinsman (D.L. 6.12) and that nobility belongs to the
virtuous (D.L. 6.10-11).
Antisthenes composed ten volumes of works. Some are apparently
philosophical dialogues titled with the names of historical personages;
the Aspasia and the Cyrus, or, On Kingship are the only known works in
volume 5. He is considered to be a founder of the Cynics, perhaps
because of his presence at the Kynosarges gymnasium (a meeting place
for nothoi) and also because of his bitter outlook.7 Apparently devoted
to robust hardihood, Antisthenes disregarded feminine beauty and luxury. He was particularly interested in the pursuit of arete (virtue), which
he stated was the same for women and men.8 Antisthenes made light of
the Athenian claim to autochthony, a predominant theme of Plato's
Menexenus, by stating that locusts and snails could also be called children of Attic soil and that he himself wouldn't have behaved so courageously at the battle of Tanagra had his parents both been Athenian
(D.L. 6.1).9
Unfortunately, we lack any record of Antisthenean attacks on Pericles
junior, whose extraordinary enfranchisement would have created an
obvious target. In his Aspasia, however, Antisthenes roundly abuses
other members of Pericles' family. The date of the Aspasia is not
known, but it is generally thought to have preceded Aeschines' dialogue
of the same name.10 Little can be said about the focus of the dialogue
and to what extent Aspasia's own character was discussed, although it is


Prisoner of History

universally accepted that she was unfavorably representedas Ehlers

puts it, to Antisthenes, Aspasia was the very embodiment of pleasure, of
hedone. All of the fragments relevant to Aspasia refer to her sexuality
and/or relationship with Pericles.11
The fragments show a definite continuity with comedic invective.
Xanthippus and Paralus are both accused of' 'homosexuality of a squalid
kind," as Rankin says; one son is accused of living with a male prostitute of the lowest sort; the other, of a long-term liaison with the vulgarian Euphemus (frag. 34 Caizzi = Ath. 5.220d). If Halperin is correct
to claim that the "democratic body" was figured as the body of a male
citizen, then this species of insult is peculiarly appropriate. It attacks the
sexuality and thereby the integrity of Pericles' male kin. Pericles is also
here accused of having had sexual relations with Cimon's sister,
Elpinike. Furthermore, Antisthenes attacked Alcibiades in his book on
Cyrus (frag. 29a Caizzi = Ath. 5.220c) for having had intercourse,
Persian fashion, with his mother and sister.12
Other remnants of Antisthenes' thought suggest how and/or why he
treated Aspasia so unfavorably. As Rankin says, much of the evidence
for Antisthenes' thought is gleaned from "interesting traces in the surviving fragments." He extolled autarkeia (self-sufficiency), and Pericles'
excessive love for Aspasia would have demonstrated the statesman's
failure to practice this prized virtue. Antisthenes was no moral relativist
(frags. 22, 23, 72, 73 Caizzi) and thus may have opposed the inherently
relativistic view, attributed to Aspasia by Aeschines and Xenophon, that
erotic experience with another person could lead one to arete. Additionally, Antisthenes might have been unable to accept active female
subjectivity of the kind that Aeschines and Xenophon would positively
attribute to Aspasia and with which comedy had negatively endowed
her. In his Choice of Heracles, in a manner similar to Prodicus', he
represented the feminized abstractions Arete and Kakia (virtue and vice)
as the objects of man's quests. There was no female subject.13

Plato (427-347 B.C.) has dominated the other Socratics, and the fact that
his Menexenus is the only one of three ancient dialogues concerned with
Aspasia to survive in its entirety has skewed our understanding of her
position in philosophical dialogue in ways that are difficult to appreciate

Aspasia and the Socratic Tradition


and describe. That Aspasia is the only provably historical woman to be

accorded a speech in his entire corpus is significant and should be
considered carefully; with the voice Plato gives her, Aspasia discredits
her claims to advise the polis. His position on "the woman question" is
far from settled, sometimes being claimed as a protofeminist position
and at other times considered as wholly masculinist. If Plato knew
Aspasia personally, it was when he was in his youth and she was in her
middle or old age.14
His Menexenus, an early dialogue set in 386 B.C., features Socrates
and the young Menexenus, who is evidently from a family of politicians
(Menex. 234a4-234b2).15 In the opening frame (234al-236d3), the pair
meet, and Menexenus tells the older man that the Boule has decided to
choose a speaker to deliver an epitaphios, an oration performed in honor
of the Athenian war dead (234b47). When Menexenus doubts that
anyone could compose such a speech on short notice, Socrates remarks
that Aspasia has recently recited to him just such a speech (235c6236cl). Of course, the younger man is gratefully willing to hear what
she taught him, and Socrates recites the sample oration (236d4249c8).16 Aspasia's speech consists of both the epitaphios proper and a
speech within a speech (246dl-248d6) wherein she tells the audience
what the war dead advise their survivors to do and to feel. A second
conversational interchange (249dl-e7) between Socrates and Menexenus provides the closing frame; the latter expresses gratitude and
amazement, and Socrates promises to impart other political speeches
(politikoi logof) that Aspasia has also recited to him.
The Menexenus has been called a spurious dialogue, a genuine
work of Plato that was an ironic joke, an exhortation to philosophy,
and a completely serious praise of Athensa true epitaphiosplayed
straight.17 The present consensus is that although a genuine work of
Plato, the Menexenus is nevertheless an ironic critique of the epitaphios
and its objects of praise; but the target(s) of the critique and the manner(s) in which Plato effects the critique are much debated. In her
brilliant study of the funeral oration, Nicole Loraux names the Menexenus as an important expression of Plato's political thought and as a
pastiche more real than the speeches it mocks; the pastiche is both the
most powerful of the political orations and an exorcism thereofa kind
of pharmakon. In parodying such epitaphian topoi as autochthony, the
definition of who is an Athenian, and the transcendence of parenthood
by the city, Plato exposes the hollowness of the epitaphian ideality.18


Prisoner of History

Despite her careful and brilliant explication, Loraux, like other commentators, stops short of considering the most significant question:
Why is Aspasia made the author of the speech? In containing Aspasia
within Socrates, Loraux not only fails to deal with Aspasia herself, but
also replicates the Platonic strategies she so illuminatingly dissects:
"Against the funeral oration, Plato sets up Socrates . . . " We may
compare Bloedow's discussion of "Aspasia, who is of course identifiable with Perikles . . ."'9
Clearly, substitution, interchange, and interchangeability are important thematic and compositional facets of this dialogue. But we must
take the observation further. If Plato sets up Aspasia to substitute for
someone or something, what does this mean? How does he do this and
what are its implications, particularly the implications of the fact that
such a lengthy speech is attributed to the woman? It is necessary to
analyze the importance of the fact that Aspasia is the speaker. What does
it mean for this particular woman to author, and through Socrates to
deliver, that particular politikos logos that articulates Athens' selfimage? Besides examining the essential question of how Aspasia functions in this dialogue, we must also pay careful attention to the relationship between certain themes in Old Comedy and certain themes of this
epitaphios.20 The Menexenus displays many affinities with comedy and
history. Ostensibly historical and "about history," it, as an epitaphios,
shares some elements with comedy, in that the performance of the
funeral oration occurred during a festival, or perhaps better, an antifestival.21
Making Aspasia author of this speech helped Plato underscore his
critique of epitaphian topoi; he exploits not only her actual status as a
foreigner, but also her location within Old comedy as a whore and a
monstrous producer of the illegitimate. It is important to note that the
comedic definition of Aspasia as a porne had rendered her an interchangeable commodity, a particular characteristic that highlights the
general theme of interchangeability so important in the Menexenus.22
The term porne, which comedy had applied to Aspasia and to her alleged employees or slaves, literally made her a "buyable woman"; the
prostitute, unlike a legitimate wife, was owed no obligation and could be
interchanged with other women. Nor could she produce legitimate children. In view of Plato's disapproving presentation of the epitaphios as
made up of words or mythologems that are interchangeable in respect to
who speaks them (236c5-7, 249dl2-e2), about whom or what they are
spoken (235d3-6), and the occasions on which they are spoken (e.g.,

Aspasia and the Socratic Tradition


Aspasia as synkollosa, "gluing together"; see 236b6), Plato's use of

Aspasia as speaker, Aspasia who had been defined in the earlier public
discourse of comedy as ultimately interchangeable and commodified, is
a brilliant reversal that itself proves the interchangeability of one epitaphios with another and thus the genre's ultimate absurdity. The sign is
proliferated until its literal meaning is lost; until it becomes utterly
For an occasion that celebrates andreia (manly courage), Plato
supplies the words of a woman, not a man; of a foreigner, not a citizen;
of a whore, not a wife; of the parent of a bastard, not a citizen; of
Aspasia. Surely the references to Aspasia's interchangeability with other
speakers, which are made both before and after Socrates recites her
speech (236c5-7, 249dl2-e2), emphasize that the choice of speaker
ultimately does not matter. Surely Menexenus' declaration that Socrates makes Aspasia makaria (blessed) if she, a woman, can compose such speeches suggests that ability to give a politikos logos
need not be accompanied by the manly courage so lauded in the epitaphios.24
Aspasia herself has made many of the nobles into speakers, and
Pericles is but one of them (235e3-7). To call Pericles but one of the
speakers instructed by Aspasia damages prior eulogizing of his singular
oratorical skill. This tutelage is well known to Menexenus (235e8) even
though Socrates has not yet named Aspasia (235e4, "there being a
teacher"). Aspasia made speakers of many men. The fact that one is
named, and that this one is a man with whom she had a sexual relationship, delicately suggests that she had sexual relationships with the others
as well and that they all speak with words she taught them. The propensity of politicians to speak with the mouths of whores and to see with
their eyes is a well-known charge of comedy; one need only recall the
association of Cleon with Kynna (Wasps 1015-1035 and Peace 739759), and Callias' statement, in the Pedetai, that Aspasia taught Pericles
to speak (*21 K-A). Significantly, a scholion to Menexenus 235e is the
sole source for this last citation.
Plato alludes to Aspasia's comic reputation as a whore in several
comments, which include Menexenus' ambiguous "I've met her many
times and know what she's like" (249d8-9). He knows what she's like,
but what she's like is not specifiedit does not need to be.25 We know
everything, and nothing, about Aspasia. The implication of this "not
telling" is that the male audience does not need to be told. Aspasia is her
reputation, and her reputation is what men say it is. The real woman is


Prisoner of History

encapsulated within her reputation just as the dead are enclosed within
their own reputations (doxa) and fame (eukleia) (247a6-7). Aspasia
herself had alluded to future encounters with the youth of Athens as
"whenever I encounter any of you " (246b7-cl); the verb for encounter,
entynchanein, is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.26 She also refers
to her past encounters with their progonoi (forefathers) in the context of
reporting what these fathers would like said (246c2-4); she has heard
them speak (246c4-6), and having associated with the fathers, knows
what would please them. This all suggests scenarios wherein the fathers
have conversed with Aspasiaconversations that she will communicate
to their descendants. Socrates speaks for her; if Menexenus doesn't give
him away, he will recite additional politikoi logoi that Aspasia taught
him (249e3-5). What binds these men, then, is the ideality that they
share through association with a foreign woman who is, by means of
both the conversational aspect and the delicately submerged sexual aspect, "known" to them all. Thus, thepolitikos logos has a sexual tinge,
and Athenian men are united with one another and with this logos by
means of their association with a foreign woman. Aspasia and the
speech she delivers unite the citizens of Athens across generations.
Loraux discusses the importance to this epitaphios of the silenced but
everpresent Other, which she identifies as the noncitizens. The presence
of the foreign Other at the recitation of the epitaphios (Menex. 235b2-8)
was "necessary to the city only so that the latter could admire itself in
others' eyes.'' The late fifth and early fourth centuries witnessed zealous
enforcement of the citizenship law, and the political climate of the early
fourth century was therefore likely to have engendered scrutiny of the
civic status of those connected with the production of the epitaphios.27
Another important source of civic anxiety and concern was boundary
maintenance between citizen and noncitizen. A conservative trend after
403/402 is evidenced in legislation which required the legitimacy of war
orphans for the purpose of allotting state subsidies and additionally
demanded that public figures be legitimate. The reenactment of Pericles'
citizenship law in 403/402 disfranchised some men and precluded the
naturalization of others.28 Loraux posits that "the most general propensity of an ideological discourse is to conceal the internal divisions of a
society . . ." and finds it significant that metics and slaves were ignored. To note merely that all women except Amazons were excluded,
however, again avoids the question of why Aspasia, a metic and the
mother of a bastard, authors this discourse.29

Aspasia and the Socratic Tradition


It seems more to the point to observe that women not only make up an
essential component of the Other, but that the Other is here in fact,
figured as a woman who speaks in order to define the civic Self. A real
woman is erased and a constructed woman, "known" to us all but not
described, speaks in her place. The Other's presence at such a central
point in the composition and delivery of the epitaphios is a way of
making absence present and presence, that is, relevance and validity,
Paradoxically, the quintessential outsider, Aspasia, delivers consolation and hope to the insiders. The epitaphios situates the listener in the
Nesoi Makaron, the Isles of the Blessed (235c4), by letting Aspasia
traverse the boundaries between the living and the dead and between
insider and outsider; she takes her audience with her into "no place."
Socrates puts it contrariwise when he states that these speakers can make
you believe anything (especially at 234cl-235c5), as does Menexenus
when he remarks that Aspasia is makaria (blessed) if she can deliver
such a speech.31 That both Aspasia and Socrates must have been dead at
the date of this dialogue is, of course, one of its often-noted paradoxes
and one that cloaks the speech in falsity and hollowness. Socrates'
confession that he feels he has been in the Islands of the Blessed when he
has listened to an epitaphios (235c4), and the likelihood that Aspasia as
well as he was dead at the dramatic date of the dialogue, additionally
contribute to this sense of absence and "dead-ness." He describes his
prospective recitation of Aspasia's speech with the verb ekpherein
(236c4), a word that can mean to deliver or publish, but whose older and
more literal meaning is to carry out, as of a corpse (cf. ekphora).32
To listen to this praise of the dead and to adhere to the precepts of the
politikos logos requires the listener to deny the actual bodily death of the
warriors. Plato's Socrates denies death by brilliantly evoking a trance, a
deathlike state, in which his instructress claims that the dead achieve a
new birth. Plato additionally brings about this trance by making Aspasia
herself metonymize motherhood within earth and women within men,
and by making her contain men themselves within the polis.33 Therefore, far from agreeing with Loraux that in the Menexenus the polis
"seems to transcend the distinction between male and female," I believe that Plato reconstructs human parenthood by deemphasizing human motherhood.34 To make his case for autochthony and to deemphasize human motherhood, Plato uses a constructed woman, an Aspasia
who equals her reputation, a woman whose own motherhood was,


Prisoner of History

according to public discourse, problematic for herself, her child, and the
The Menexenus makes death the central fact of the warriors' existence. The dead are particularly praised because they are autochthones,
born of a true mother (Earth) and living in their own land (237b2-c4).
They were not migrants, nor were they reared by a metruia (a stepmother), but by their own mother, who has once more received them.
This carefully worded "logic" defines the mother as the one who has
received the dead and shares with Aeschylus' definition of parenthood in
the Eumenides the suppression of human women's real roles.35
Motherhood is the particular property of ge (Earth), as seen in the use
of the participle tekouses (having borne, 237c2), and it is most just to
praise this mother (237c3). The part of ge that makes up Attica differs
from the rest of Earth. The rest of Earth, "the whole earth," produced
monstersa process Aspasia describes in words not used exclusively or
particularly of human parturition: he pasa ge anedidou kai ephye
("the whole earth gave forth and grew," 237d34). In contrast, she says
of the Athenian portion of Earth, he hemetera . . . egennesen ("our
[part of Earth] bore," 237d5-6); the verb (egennesen) immediately
evokes the birth of human beings. That Earth nourished our ancestors
and the ancestors' ancestors proves that she bore us (237el-5). This
sentence and the next would seem to characterize the earth as female and
maternal. Earth bears and, like a woman, provides suitable nourishment
(237e3). Yet Plato unsexes Earth, even as he calls her "mother," by
subsuming the planet in the category of "things that bring forth"
through the use of the neuter participle to tekon (that which bears,
But the next part of Aspasia's speech is truly extraordinary. In its
maternity, Earth is not like a human mother, but rather the other way
around: ou gar ge gynaika memimetai kuesei kai gennesei, alia gyne
gen ("For Earth does not imitate a woman in respect to conception and
birth, but rather woman imitates Earth") (238a4-5). This speech act
metonymizes women's abilities within Earth's ability. Aspasia's next
claim, that humans, having been endowed by their uniqueness with the
tools of learning, enjoy a special nourishment, again denies the physicality of human existence: "government is the nourishment of humans"
(238cl). Other poleis, like other parts of Earth mentioned earlier, have
populations of diverse origins, a heterogeneity that predisposes them to

Aspasia and the Socratic Tradition


having anomalous constitutions (particularly tyrannies and oligarchies,

238e3^4). This statement is truly ironic because at the end of the
Peloponnesian War it was Athens that was beset by tyranny, oligarchy,
and stasis. Athenians differ from other people because they are the
children of one mother, and all are brothers (238e5-239al). There has
been a unity of government since the beginning, and this is due to the
citizens' equal birth (238el).
Next, Aspasia gives a brief account of some aspects of Athens'
mythical-historical past. She privileges the Marathonomachoi, the men
who fought at Marathon, by stating that these men are not just the fathers
of Athenians' bodies but also of their freedom (240d7-e3). This double
paternity of the Marathonomachoi renders bodies and freedom parallel,
just as Aspasia had made government and human sustenance parallel.
She makes the men and their corporeal legacy of sons no longer wholly
literal, just as she makes the spiritual legacy of freedom no longer
wholly metaphorical. After reducing the Sicilian disaster to mere misfortune (edystychesan, "they suffered misfortune," 243a5), Aspasia
declares that the Athenians were defeated only by themselves and that
the ensuing stasis was mild because the Athenians are related to each
other (243d7-244b3); this statement is acceptable because of Athens'
superiority. As Loraux remarks, civil war becomes a fraternity.37 In a
reprise of the language used to describe the wreck of the Sicilian campaign, Aspasia says the internal disarray at the end of the Peloponnesian
War was caused not by echthra (enmity) but by dystychia (misfortune,
Plato repeatedly injects sexually charged language into situations that
are not necessarily sexual. In contrast to other poleis with inhabitants
who were meixobarbaroi (245d45) Athens' status as homophylon
("one race," 244a2) allows its people to mix with each other again
(synemeixan, 243e5). More use of this language also occurs when
Athens is praised to a fault for being too kind (244el-245c6); the Athenians are too kind because they are "not mixed with barbarians"
(amigeis barbaron, 245dl-2) and "we dwell unmixed with barbarians"
(ou meixobarbaroi oikoumen, 245d4-5).38
Any pretense on the part of this speech and its speaker to render an
objective account of the last one hundred years of Athenian history,
including any claim to having analyzed the etiology of key events, is
vitiated by the collapsing of categories in this account. Aspasia is herself


Prisoner of History

a collapsed category, who both suppresses the more unpleasant facts of

Athens' military defeats and stasis and was herself accused in comedy of
having helped to cause war.39
In her speech within a speech, Aspasia reports the exhortations of the
dead ancestors, particularly stressing the importance of eukleia and
doxa, together with that of arete (247a4-b7); it is unmitigated sophistry
to ally virtue with its mere reputation. And, in a supremely anti-Socratic
move, the war dead, speaking through Aspasia, declare that the life of
one who has shamed his forebearsnot the unexamined lifeis abioton
("not worth living," 246d6). The fallen warriors encourage their own
fathers and mothers to bear the loss lightly (247c5-7; cf. 248b4-6);
fathers are fit parents if they manfully bear the loss of their sons (247d7e5). Care for the departed warriors' wives and young children is entrusted to surviving children (248c5-dl); care of the fathers and sons of
the dead, however, is entrusted to the polis (248d2-5). In a renewed
erasure of women from the process of human reproduction, it is now the
city that shall rear the war orphans and that will be both a son and heir to
the dead, as well as a guardian to the elders, always caring for them
(249a3-c3). The polis now occupies all the important roles, those of
guardian, son, heir, and father (esp. at249b3-c3). This "second birth,"
out of the polis, is a theme developed pointedly by Plato in the Laws
(11.926d8ff). Only by dying in war can the male citizen be valorized and
And Plato, who makes Aspasia speak through Socrates, constructed a
world that consists only of Athenian men and the city. Plato's Aspasia is
a free-floating phallic signifier who anticipates the construction of
Diotima as a kind of Robot-Maria in the perfect male world of his
Symposium. Diotima's speech, with its affirmation that males alone
matter, is only credible in a thought-world awash in the autochtonous
fantasy established here in the Menexenus. The character of Diotima is
not a stand-in for the historical Aspasia; rather, Plato constructed both
females in order to validate what Katz calls the "dream of a world
without women."41

Aeschines of Sphettos
Aeschines of Sphettos (fl. 4th c. B.C.), Plato's contemporary, seems to
have been the first ancient writer to create an Aspasia in whom eras and

Aspasia and the Socratic Tradition


the search for arete are fused, and the first to have mentioned her in a
positive light. To reconstruct his lost dialogue, Aspasia, from its refractions into various facets by later sources is a literary-historical problem
of great magnitude. Aeschines' own bios (D.L. 2.60-64) is interesting
and suggests conflict, real or imaginary, between himself and Plato.
According to tradition, Plato resented and snubbed Aeschines, who, like
Plato, had spent time at the Syracusan court (D.L. 2.60-62). It was
additionally claimed that Xanthippe presented Socratic dialogues to
Aeschines as a token of gratitude after Socrates' death, and that Aeschines passed these off as his own. This tradition of friendship between
the great man's widow and his disciple makes Aeschines' relationship to
Socrates and his family the opposite of Plato's portrayal of a Socrates
emotionally estranged, and with good reason, from the doltish Xanthippe. Not altogether popular in his own day, Aeschines was the target
of a hostile speech by Lysias, who called him a swindler, a deadbeat,
and an adulterer who corrupted the wife of the perfume-seller Hermaeus.42
Although Aeschines has been overshadowed by Plato, his work enjoyed a time of high regard from the first century B.C. through the
second century A.D., from which most citations of his Aspasia come.
The dialogue, perhaps written as a reaction to Antisthenes' negative
portrayal, has been persuasively reconstructed by Ehlers. As in the other
Socratica in which her speech is reported, Aspasia herself does not
appear; here, as in the Menexenus, she is quoted by Socrates. For the
first and perhaps the only time in classical antiquity, the thought of
"Aspasia" stands on its ownher speech is reported by a man, to be
sure, but it is reported for its own sake and not primarily to attack or
support a man. In fact, Aeschines may be said to have attempted to
create a female subject.43
Aeschines' portrait of Aspasia seems to have differed radically from
that seen in comedy, which had concentrated on her relationship with
Pericles and on her motherhood. He may have transformed these negative treatments in a positive manner, making Aspasia independent of,
if not actually in charge of, her lover(s). Ehlers believes that Aspasia
was a hetaira (courtesan) in real life and was so represented in this
dialogue, but that Aeschines muted the negative aspects of this status. I
am not certain that it is possible for Aspasia to have been vividly or
explicitly represented as a hetaira. If, as seems the case, Aeschines'
dialogue purported that the wives of respectable men associated with


Prisoner of History

her, it is unlikely that Aspasia could have been represented as a courtesan.44

The Aspasia was composed between 393 and 384 B.C., but its dramatic date is between 420 and 410 B.C. In the dialogue, Socrates converses with the wealthy Callias, who has asked him to recommend a
teacher for his son. Socrates recommends Aspasia, for she had taught
him. Aeschines' departure from standard characterizations is evident in
his treatments of both Aspasia and Callias. In comedy and in Plato's
work, Callias' character exemplifies the sad fact that expensive instruction does not necessarily bring wisdom; here, however, Aeschines apparently presents Callias' quest for instruction for his son without irony.
It must also be noted that the dramatic date of the dialogue makes
Aspasia not an attractive young woman but an older one, whose erotic
life was presumably over.45
At first, Socrates' recommendation would have seemed ironic, and
Callias probably asks Socrates for Aspasia's qualifications. Socrates
may have begun by citing other women who taught men or behaved in
"masculine" ways. Rhodogyne, queen of Persia, was Amazonian and
adept at politics. Nothing, not even her beautywhich Philostratus
would later contrast with her bellicosity got in the way of Rhodogyne's political duties. Ehlers states that Rhodogyne, representing a
"negative Haltung zum Eros," was contrasted with Aspasia. The Ionian
courtesan Thargelia was cited as another exceptional woman; Thargelia
had evidently earned political influence over her male lover(s) by giving
wise counsel. Both Rhodogyne and Thargelia functioned in the political
realm but with important differences: Rhodogyne was motivated by love
of her own land and by her inherited position, whereas Thargelia had
moved from Ionia to Macedon as an independent agent. It is significant
that although all three women were exceptional, none was a copy of the
other; neither Rhodogyne nor Thargelia was directly compared with
Aspasia, nor did the dialogue aim to demonstrate "the intellectual and
moral capacities of women as a gender.' '46
Aspasia was the next exceptional woman to be named. It is quite
possible that Aeschines presented Aspasia as a medial figure between
the Amazonian Rhodogyne and the hypersexual Thargelia. Nowhere in
any fragments ever assigned to this dialogue did Aeschines clearly indicate that Aspasia was a hetaira. Her valence is more that of the partner
and wise woman than the enchantress. In diaeretic fashion, Socrates
cited as examples two men who had profited from her teachingtheir
eminence would have flattered Callias. Far from being the focus of this

Aspasia and the Socratic Tradition


section of the dialogue, Pericles is used here as an example of Aspasia's

skill as teacher. The story of Pericles' loss of composure at her trial may
have indicated his political dependence on her as well as his devotion to
her. Plut. Per. 24.5, possibly derived from Aeschines, suggests that
both Pericles and Socrates were drawn to Aspasia because she was sophe
(wise) and politike (politically astute). Ehlers believes that Aeschines
recounted specific instances of Aspasia's actual influence over Pericles.
One such example would have been her teaching of rhetoric to Pericles:
he was clearly a star pupil.47
Oddly, Aspasia's relationship with Lysicles would have been more
important to this dialogue than was her relationship with Pericles. Lysicles, an important Athenian politician of the 420s, is connected with
Aspasia here for the first time in the datable testimonia; he was mentioned in this dialogue as even better evidence than Pericles of Aspasia's
expertise. If she could make a success out of a mediocre man, then she
was truly gifted.48 This dialogue probably did not mention that Aspasia
bore Lysicles a son named Poristes ("provider/supplier"); the name is
extraordinary, and Aspasia was probably too old to have borne Lysicles
a child if their liaison began only after Pericles' death. It is likely that
the word poristes was used of Aspasia herself in the dialogue and
that something like tes rhetorikes ("of rhetorical skill") fell out of the
After Aspasia's skill as a teacher of rhetoric was established, it remained to establish her usefulness as a teacher for Callias' son. Ehlers,
who believes that Aspasia began her adult life as an actual hetaira, also
seems to believe that Callias meant his son to receive both erotic and
rhetorical instruction. The image of an older man sending his son to a
woman for both is unprecedented; nonetheless, if we deny or cast doubt
upon the possibility that Aspasia really was a hetaira, then we must
explain what other kind of instruction she might provide a young man. It
need not be necessary to assume that Aspasia's role was that of involved
erotic pedagogue; in fact, nothing in her bios says she ever loved any
man. The example of Xenophon and his wife, instructed by Aspasia,
seems to have been adduced to show Aspasia's skill as a rhetorician, not
as a lover. In fact, Cicero and Quintilian, who preserved this fragment,
each cited it as an example of particularly fine argumentation. But it is
clear that Aeschines' Aspasia here connects eros and arete.
For example, as in Aeschines of Sphettos' dialogue, Socrates shows that
Aspasia spoke with Xenophon's wife and Xenophon himself:


Prisoner of History
"Tell me, please, wife of Xenophon, if your neighbor had a better piece
of gold jewelry than you, would you prefer hers or your own?"
"Hers," said the wife.
"Soif she should have a dress or other feminine ornament more expensive than what you have, would you prefer hers or yours?"
"Hers, naturally," said the wife.
"So now: what if that woman had a better husband than you? Would you
prefer hers or your own?"
Here the woman blushed. Aspasia, however, began to interrogate Xenophon himself, (frag. 31 Dittmar = Cic. Inv. Rhet. 1.31.51 ff.)

This dialectical strategy, which we have come to call Socratic, moves

the discussants up along a set of not-quite-parallel alternativesfrom
choosing the best property to selecting the best spouseand is basic to
Greek thought; to ask whether one prefers the better or the worse alternative forces the respondent to declare that one wants the better. Aspasia
interrogates not only the wife, but the husband as well. She eventually
reminds both that in order to have the best spouse, one must be the best
The rest of the conversation must have taken place between Xenophon and Aspasia, because the wife aporetically blushes and falls silent
(cf. PL Euthydemus 275-277). In it, Aspasia declares that each partner
in a marriage should become the best person possible so that each
spouse's wish to have the best possible partner might be fulfilled. Significantly, virtue is sought in reference to another human being; eros is the
locus of mutual commitment. Moreover, a woman and a man are together considered worthy of this joint pursuit. Each is one another's love
object at the same time that they are themselves acting subjects.
That Aspasia's bios speaks of Pericles' devotion to Aspasia and never
the reverse problematizes Ehlers' contentions that Aspasia knew of eros'
power through direct experience and that this experience was the foundation of her work and her success. Aspasia's advice to the wife of
Xenophon does not "transcend" anything, nor does it suggest that one
should or can run through a variety of mates in the search for an appropriate partner: her advice is contextually limited and must be followed
over a long span of time. Because of the contextual limits of her prescription, one might label Aeschines' Aspasia as a relativist. The erotic
path to virtue that Aspasia recommends is not abstract, theoretical, or
sublimated, as it would be in Plato's Symposium; instead, it is specific
and paved with earthly experience. Moreover, both women and men are

Aspasia and the Socratic Tradition


granted an equal stake and responsibility in this partnership. Each is the

subject of her or his own quest, even while functioning as the object of
the other's. The humble materiality of the oikos and its mortal constitutors and continuants is starkly contrasted to the glittering wordplay that
excises mortality and materiality in Plato's Menexenus. This fragment
may represent a particular moment in the history of consciousness,
namely, an early attempt to create a female subject.51
It is most significant that Aeschines set his dialogue in a time when
Aspasia would have been an older woman, perhaps a graus (crone); she
could have been figured as one who is liminally or symbolically/
anagogically erotic, rather than as participatively or actively so. This
liminal eroticism is also a chief ingredient in Plato's representation of
Socrates. The fact of Aspasia's old age balances whatever emphasis
Aeschines might have placed on her erotic history. She is a crosser of
boundaries, a woman who has had marriage-like relationships, but not
marriages, with leaders of the polis and who advises husbands and wives
to seek and to be the best possible spouse. It is entirely possible to
consider the wisewoman as a credible instructress for the young man
without making her carry an active erotic charge; for example, she might
have been showing the son how to choose and educate a wife (see the
discussion of Xenophon's Oeconomicus, in the next section). Aspasia
shows the path to others; her participation as a sort of philosophic sex
therapist (as twentieth-century sexology would have her be), is not
required. Aeschines might well have identified Aspasia as apromnestris
("matchmaker") in this dialogue and meant it in a literal sense. That
function of matchmaker resembles those functions Plato's and Xenophon's Socrates assigns himselfwhich he would describe literally
and metaphorically as pander, fellow hunter, matchmaker, and midwife.52

Xenophon (ca. 430-356 B.C.) carries significant portions of Aspasia's
bios in his Socratica, the Memorabilia and the Oeconomicus; the two
passages in which she is mentioned are both thought to have derived
from Aeschines' Aspasia. Scholars devoted to the Quellenforschung of
Aeschines' dialogue have not paid much attention to Xenophon's own
use of Aspasia.53
Several other sections of the Memorabilia, of the Oeconomicus, and


Prisoner of History

of Xenophon's Symposium touch upon Aspasia's biographical tradition.

As is conventional, Aspasia neither appears as a character nor speaks
directly. But Socrates presents her as an authority and as a friend whom
he has frequently visited; she is evidently truthful, intelligent, and trustworthy. Socrates' offer, in the Oeconomicus, to introduce Aspasia to
Critoboulus so that she might tell him about the proper training of
spouses is comparable to the situation in Plato's Menexenus, where
Socrates also promises to take his interlocutor to hear Aspasia, and to the
situation in Aeschines' Aspasia, where Socrates recommends that Callias engage Aspasia to teach his son.
In the Oeconomicus and the Memorabilia, Xenophon evokes a
woman whose life and thought were neither dependent on nor mediated
by her sexual relationship with Pericles. She is presented as an authority
on male-female relationships, but Xenophon's Aspasia is neither power
hungry nor exclusively sexual. Whereas Plato presents Aspasia ironically as an analyst and practitioner of a bankrupt rhetoric, a rhetoric that
creates a temporary illusion, a seeming death, a meaningless logos void
of ergon, Xenophon makes Aspasia's ability to detect truth and falsehood in the reports of matchmakers a positive thing. Moreover, her
reputed ability to educate spouses, taken with her advice that marriages
be made honestly, shows her to be interested in helping create ethical
and lasting partnerships. Unlike the temporary illusion produced by
residence in epitaphian ou-topia, the deceit or openness of the matchmaker and the suitability of a spouse will be endured for many years by
husband and wife alike; as Aspasia says, deceived parties will hate both
each other and the matchmaker (Mem. 2.6.36). Aspasia, like the Muses,
knows lies and truth: Xenophon's Aspasia knows, speaks, and advocates the private truth proper to courtship and marriage, not the glittering
public lies of the epitaphios. Nevertheless, Xenophon's Aspasia
scarcely transcends her position as secondary to the interests and requirements of men's discourse; Xenophon merely deploys "Aspasian"
ideas in a new way, showing us a Socrates who appropriates attributes of
the woman and of femininity to his own ends.

The Memorabilia
The Memorabilia, or more properly, the Apomnemoneumata, recollects
brief conversations between Socrates and various persons. The reference

Aspasia and the Socratic Tradition


to Aspasia as one who understands the duties of the matchmaker is found

in its second book, wherein Socrates and the young Critoboulus converse about the proper way to estimate the quality of worthwhile philoi
("friends," or male lovers). A close reading of this section shows how
Aspasia, whose bios had never before associated her with male courtship, comes to be cited as a helpful authority in that endeavor.54
At the beginning of this discussion (Mem. 2.6.1), the language is
nonsexual. One should carefully consider the prior behavior of a prospective "friend"; his treatment of his old friends can be compared with
his treatment of his animals says Socrates (2.6.7). The pursuit of friends
can be likened to a hunt (2.6.8; the term is qualified by Socrates at
2.6.9-10). An element of enchantment, resembling the Sirens' song to
Odysseus, enters the search (2.6.11); the image of beautiful women is
used at this point to exemplify the dangers of sexual allure. When
Critoboulus asks if Socrates knows any other spells, the latter replies,
"No, but I've heard that Pericles knew many, and using them on the city
made it love him" (2.6.13). The politician's relationship to the city is
described as lover-like, Pericles' charming language is assimilated into
the charm of courtship, and male courtship imagery describes other
Next, Socrates, expatiates on how "noble friendship" helps the man
of public life (2.6.21-27); the language is not yet sexually charged, but
suddenly Socrates slips seamlessly into the theme of erotic pursuit
(2.6.28-29). He once again mentions the Sirens' song as an inducement
to erotic friendship, and men, transsexed, are now the Sirens (2.6.31).
The feminized city, which consists of autochthonous men, "feels" a
human emotion.
The kind of friends Critoboulus wishes to attract is once more made
clear; they are lovers, and the pursuit of lovers is again a hunt (2.6.2728; cf. 2.6.8-10). The usual terminology of erastesi'eromenos (active
lover/passive beloved) is absent here, although sexual intimacy is
clearly the object (e.g., see 2.6.6) and Xenophon straightforwardly
employs the literal terminology in the Symposium. Socrates now offers
to assist Critoboulus by informing any would-be friend that Critoboulus
admires him, naming himself an adept at the hunt, a syntheros (' 'fellow
hunter," 2.6.36; cf. Ar. Plut. 157). He is a third party who will help
Critoboulus in courting.56
The possible means of winning a friend have now been established:
these consist of charms, spells, honest praise, and the help of a fellow


Prisoner of History

hunter. It is at this point that Critoboulus suggests that Socrates need not
scruple in his reports to prospective lovers. Of course, Socrates declines
to lie about something so important; Aspasia, who recommends veracity
to matchmakers, is associated here with an open and truthful logos, one
whose original audience was heterosexual:
CRITOBOULUS: "Why then . . . do you tell me this, <that you'll say I
am eager to be the best possible friend> as if it weren't in your power to
say whatever you want about me?"
SOCRATES: "Not at all, as I once heard Aspasia say; for she said that the
best matchmakers are skilled at bringing people into a marriage alliance
when the good things they say <about the parties> are true, and that she
did not want to praise lying matchmakers. For the deceived parties hate
both each other and the matchmaker. I am convinced that this is correct . . . " (Mem. 2.6.36).57

Previously, Xenophon's Socrates had carefully blurred the boundary

between heterosexual and homosexual pursuits, so that by the time
Aspasia's advice is slipped in, its original context is lost and it appears to
be perfectly appropriate to the occasion. Although the Platonic Socrates
calls himself a midwife of ideas and arrogates to himself the role of
matchmaker, the Xenophontic Socrates does not go so far here as to
appropriate a role culturally defined as feminine. He nonetheless makes
two significant analogies: one between the processes of men-only courtship and heterosexual courtship, and the other between the roles of
fellow hunter and matchmaker. Socrates' reiteration of Aspasia's advice
makes this clear: "Now, Critoboulus, how then do you think I'll be
more helpful to youby praising you falsely, or by persuading you to
try to be a good man?" (2.6.S7).58
The episode closes on a sexually neutral note (2.6.37-39), but some
of the same elements of sexual pursuit resonate markedly in the Theodote episode in the third book. For that reason, and because Theodote
has sometimes (and wrongly) been assumed to be a substitute for Aspasia, it is necessary to discuss this section.
"Once upon a time in Athens there was a beautiful woman whose
name was Theodote" (3.11.1). Clearly a courtesan, and perhaps the
daughter of one, Theodote readily associates with anyone who persuades her (3.11.1-4). The language used to describe the situation is
sexually neutral, but the content is explicit, as was not the case in Mem.
2.6, discussed previously. Theodote has allowed her portrait to be

Aspasia and the Socratic Tradition


painted, and Socrates leads a group to view her indescribable beauty.

Because she earns her considerable living from any friend who wishes to
treat her well (3.11.4), it behooves Theodote to become an expert at the
"hunt." Socrates duly advises her to devise a means to "hunt"
"friends" (philous theraseiri), that is, paying lovers, likening her body
to the hunting nets and suggesting that someone act as her hound
(3.11.7-10). Her body is only a means for Theodote to achieve her end; it
is an end for the lovers, however. Thus, she is both subject and object of
the erotic quest, and by helping her hunt, Socrates becomes Theodote's
co-subject. He urges the honest pursuit of honest lovers, and advises
Theodote to use titillation judiciously (3.11.10-14). Socrates' advice to
pursue lovers honestly echoes his earlier repetition of Aspasia's opinion
that matchmakers must be honest. But, in a strategy similar to that which
he employed in Mem. 2.6.36, Socrates here too redirects that "Aspasian" advice to his own ends, and it is not merely by omitting Aspasia's
name and the marital context.
Convinced, Theodote asks Socrates if he will be her synthemtes ton
philon, her "fellow hunter of friends" (3.11.15). This request, if
granted, would make Socrates' relationship with Theodote parallel to his
relationship to Critoboulus. They banterhe will come to her if she
persuades him, but she must discover how to persuade him (3.11.15).
Socrates finally evades the issue by saying that friends of both sexes
flock to him and take up much of his free time. The women come in
order to learn philters and spells; the men flock to him because Socrates
lures them with philters, spells, and magical devices (3.11.16-17). The
section ends as Socrates promises to receive Theodote in the absence of
a philotera (a "woman more loved," or "a dearer friend" 3.11.18).
Thus, in the Memorabilia, Socrates speaks with words of seduction and
magic of both male and female followers, as he adapts Aspasia's advice
to the contexts of both homosexual and heterosexual courtship.59
Not only is Aspasia not mentioned in the Theodote passage, she could
have had no part in it. Ehlers rightly sees that the themes of Socrates'
conversation with Theodote correspond in many ways to those of his
earlier conversation with Critoboulus, but I disagree with her analysis of
what this correspondence is. Ehlers believes that Theodote represents
Aspasia and that such a substitution spared Aspasia the negative connotations of being represented as the hetaira that Ehlers thinks she actually
was. According to this logic, Xenophon wanted to portray Socrates as
having learned of eras' power from Aspasia but without naming her as a


Prisoner of History

hetaira and thereby reinforcing that role's many negative connotations.

If the real Aspasia had been Socrates' teacher, how can "Theodote/
Aspasia" be Socrates' pupil? Theodote simply cannot be Aspasia in
disguise, for the roles of pupil and teacher are reversed here. Aeschines'
Aspasia is a master teacher who uses no helpers of any kind, whereas
Theodote is cast in the role of someone who needs Socrates' help.
Theodote stands, then, in the same relation to Socrates as had Critoboulus in 2.6she needs lovers and she needs help to find them.60
I suggest a different line of thought: Aeschines' Aspasia had observed
that heterosexual eros could be a path to arete and had demonstrated that
within marriage such a possibility was manifested in each spouse's wish
and attempt to be the other's best possible mate. Xenophon uses this
advice, initially generated by Aeschines' Aspasia, by citing Aspasia's
remark about honest matchmaking in his Memorabilia. He first uses that
remark explicitly to make Socrates advocate honesty in homoerotic
courtship and then uses it implicitly to make Socrates encourage the
hetaira to pursue clients honestly. In each context. Xenophon's Socrates
also employs the concept of fellow hunter, a concept somewhat
analogous to that of matchmaker, and thereby creates for himself a role
as co-subject (but significantly, not as co-object).61

The Oeconomicus
The implications of "Aspasia's" advice for marital partners reach fullest exposition in Oeconomicus. This famous discussion between Socrates and Critoboulus about household management and husbandry contains Xenophon's second reference to Aspasia and further extends the
notion of honest marital courtship. Socrates lengthily recounts a conversation he once had with the exemplary Ischomachus (Oec. 7-21), whom
he offers to Critoboulus as an example of one who has learned what is
worth learning about having a good marriage. Aspasia's ideas seem to
have borne fruit for Ischomachus and his wife. Critoboulus and Socrates
discuss the trainability of animals and humans; if a sheep fares poorly,
the shepherd is blamed; if ahorse, the rider; if a wife, the husband (3.11;
cf. Mem. 2.6.7 on a man's relations with his animals). It is particularly
important to have a good wife; to her a man entrusts his most serious
business, even though men take mere ignorant girls as wives (3.12-14).
Critoboulus asks and Socrates answers obliquely (3.14):

Aspasia and the Socratic Tradition


CRITOBOULUS: "What then of the husbands who have, as you say, good
wives? Did the husbands themselves educate their wives?"
SOCRATES: "There's nothing like close examination. I'll introduce you
to Aspasia, who will explain everything to you more knowledgeably than
I can."

Socrates does not say that Aspasia will show him how to train a wife, but
rather that she will "explain everything." This implies not only that the
procedure is more than just an indoctrination of the woman by the man,
but also that he, Socrates, has listened to her and therefore knows what it
is she will explain. In other words, Socrates' remark implies the existence of a prior context, a wider scenario.
Ischomachus establishes that complementary gender roles are essential (7.3-4). In response to Socrates' question about how the wife was
trained (7.47) Ischomachus states that he first prayed that he might
really teach and his wife really learn what was best for them both and
that his wife prayed as well for the same thing (7.7-8). Ischomachus told
his wife that he and her parents chose her as his mate in the belief that
their partnership would be the best; this recalls Aspasia's statement to
Xenophon's own wife that spouses should try to be the best for one
another. Each partner brings to the union the desire to be the best
possible partner, the potential to bear children, and property (7.11-13).
Property is to be held in common, and the better partner is the one who
has made the better contribution (7.13). This evokes the conversation
reported between Aspasia and Xenophon and his wife, but here more
detail and examples are given. Each partner should act in order that the
property be as sound as possible and that it grow by fair and just means
(7.15); the wife's role in this endeavor is to have children (7.17-19) and
to take care of the house and its attendant work (7.20-22), things women
are better equipped to do (7.22). But in other ways, namely, mneme
(memory) and epimeleia (care), both are equals, as well as in respect to
to enkrates de einai (self-control, 7.26-27). The lack of completely
symmetrical capabilities between the sexes (7.28) makes each the more
useful to the other.
The groom concurs with his bride's insight that servants who are well
cared for will repay that care with greater loyalty (7.37-38). That each
partner should/ought to try to be as good as possible is again stressed; the
pleasantest thing of all is for the wife to be better than the husband and to


Prisoner of History

make him her servant (7.42). Together, the pair arrange their household
belongings in orderly fashion (8-9), and the wife acts as a magistrate
(9.14).62 Just as Aspasia had earlier prescribed mutual honesty in courtship and marriage (Mem. 2.6.26), Ischomachus identifies particular
mental and moral qualities as the equal province of both sexes. The main
part of Ischomachus' argument to his wife recommends that partners in a
marriage be honestthey must not conceal, boast, or exaggerate (see
especially 10.3). Ischomachus calls cosmetics a form of deceit; a mark
of his wife's merit is her willingness to give up cosmetics at her husband's request (10.1-9).63
Ischomachus is clearly an elaborated illustration of the kind of marital
happiness that comes about when partners are honest with each other.
He is the ideal husband of the marriage Aspasia sketches in her advice to
Xenophon and his wife. Xenophon's Socrates uses the Aeschinean Aspasia 's advice on marital courtship in two dialogues: he plays the role of
honest matchmaker (cum fellow hunter) in the Memorabilia and discusses a successful marriage that seems to have been brought about and
continued according to "Aspasian" principles in the Oeconomicus. The
"Aspasian" concept of matchmaking is likened to hunting and hunting
to procuring in the Memorabilia; as I will discuss next, in the Symposium, Socrates uses the image of procurer to describe his own role as a
liminal, erotic facilitator of male love.
Possibly, Socrates found the matchmaker image and took it from
"Aspasia" as a way of redefining and refining his own role. Socrates'
use of the literal and metaphoric functions of mastropos (pimp), syntheros (fellow hunter), andpromnestris (matchmaker) in Xenophon, and
of midwife in Plato, indicates a progressive refinement of Socrates'
apparent self-concept (or the development of same by his biographical
tradition).64 Socrates' tendency to attribute words to Aspasia, to speak
"her" words in dialogue, must also be part of this process. Before I
leave the Socratica behind, it is necessary to take a look at Xenophon's

The Symposium
Xenophon's Symposium presents an earthier and more robust Socrates
than does Plato's homonymous dialogue. Even here, however, Socrates
is becoming a liminally erotic figure. He participates in other men's
courtships by assuming the role of advisor; he is married but not mar-

Aspasia and the Socratic Tradition


ried, loved but not in love.65 Xenophon's humorous representation of

Socrates makes the philosopher evasive rather than lofty. Socrates advises Lycon that his son Autolycus should seek out the most suitable
man to show him a life of virtue. When asked by the general company
how one might find such a teacher, Socrates uses the arrival of a dancing
girl to demur (2.6-8). Her proficiency as a dancer leads Socrates to
observe that women's nature is not inferior to men's (except in gnome,
intelligence, and ischys, strength), and that men can teach their wives
whatever they wish them to know (2.8-9), a comment that anticipates
the more sophisticated treatment of marital relations present in the
Oeconomicus. Socrates next evades the question as to why he does not
teach Xanthippe (2.9-10). His own relationship with his wife is stunningly unlike that of Ischomachus and his wife (see especially Symp.
2.9-10).66 It can even be said that Socrates' relation to Xanthippe as he
himself describes it is almost as far as one can get from the pictures of
the ideal marriage in the Memorabilia and Oeconomicus. Socrates'
refusal to follow his own advicethat men can teach their wives anythingmaintains his superiority or transcendent nature even as it exposes him.
Socrates sets the course of the evening's conversation by calling on
each person to disclose what he thinks is his most valuable knowledge
(3.3). Socrates claims pride in his knowledge of mastropeia (procuring,
3.10). Despite the group's ridicule, Socrates claims that he could earn
considerable money by pursuing such a techne (skill). The topic of
Socrates qua procurer is left behind as other symposiasts declare pride in
jesting, or in the father-son relationship, or in the goodness and power of
friends (3.11-3.14). Next, each man attempts to prove that his source of
pride is worthy of that pride. At last, Socrates explains his pride in his
adoxos techne, his disreputable skill (4.56). Beginning with a functionbased definition, he establishes that the function of an excellent procurer
is to make whoever employs him, man or woman, attractive to all
comers (4.57). By establishing the individual's power to convey multiple impressions, Socrates shows that the external aspects of attractiveness are multivalenced and malleable. Arguing on the "more is better"
principle, Socrates next obtains the group's agreement that the better
procurer is one who can make a person attractive not just to one person,
but to manyin fact, to the whole polls (4.58-60). The advantages of
this activity are quite plain: ' 'For the man who is able to recognize those
who can benefit one another and who is able to make them desirous of


Prisoner of History

one another, that man, I think, could also make cities be friendly and
could arrange appropriate marriages; he would be a very valuable friend
and ally to acquire, for both states and private parties" (4.64). As was
the case in comedy and as would be the case in the Memorabilia, the
political world is eroticized.
Subsequently, Socrates directs the conversation to a discussion of
eros. Antisthenes calls him a "procurer of yourself," mastropos sautou
(8.5). Socrates wittily dismisses him (8.6) and moves to a discussion of
the right sort of love objects (8.6-8.8). His remark that mutual admiration spurs lovers on to ever greater virtue (8.17-18) resonates with the
Aeschinean Aspasia's doctrine of eros as a path to arete. The element of
commitment is important: Socrates notes that a man who is only physically in love is like someone who has rented a farm, but one who loves
spiritually is like one who owns the farm (8.25). Socrates additionally
demonstrates to Callias that one who wishes to benefit his beloved must
practice virtue: "But the greatest good that comes to him who wishes to
have a friend in his lover, is that he himself needs to practice arete
habitually" (8.27). This statement recalls the Aeschinean Aspasia's
dictum that husband and wife must be the best for each other.
At dialogue's end, the married members of the party set off for home
in order to enjoy their own wives. The married Socrates, however, is not
among this number; he joins others on a walk (9.7). Socrates' liminality
is maintained. Married but not married, using the lowly language of
pimping in the service of "noble friendship," he remains with his male

Even though the chronological problems of the Socratica are knotty, it is
nonetheless possible to identify among them thematic relationships relevant to the development of Aspasia's bios. The figure of the mastropos
as Xenophon's sympotic Socrates uses it is first on a metaphorical continuum of pimp to fellow hunter to matchmaker; Socrates refines the
figure of mastropos into that of the syntheros and yet further, by using
Aeschines' contribution to Aspasia's biographical tradition, into that of
the promnestris. It would remain for Plato to carry the idea on, to show
Socrates not only as a matchmaker for men who love other men, but also
as a midwife for men who birth ideas. One must neither consider this as

Aspasia and the Socratic Tradition


a logical and linear progression of ideas nor use this set of metaphors in
order to set the various dialogues into a chronological order. But it is
important to reestablish "Aspasian" discourse as a missing link in both
the history of female subjectivity and the discourse on erotic pedagogy,
a discourse largely attributed only to Socrates.
The figure of the mastropos is vivid and crude. It acknowledges the
malleability of the lover-employer from subject into object, as the mastropos re-presents that employer in the most favorable, but not necessarily the most truthful, light. It is the literal image of a disreputable skill
(adoxos techne), and it is multivalent, for one can even pimp oneself, as
Xenophon's sympotic Antisthenes avers.
The figure of syntheros, as found in the Memorabilia, is far more
complex; it is a metaphor. Discussion of the "hunt" mixes metaphor
and literality, for one can describe the reports disseminated to the beloved in literal terms or one can discuss the lover's blandishments metaphorically as "hounds" and "nets." The notion of mutuality is more
prominent and that of malleability is less prominent; the roles of hunter
and fellow hunter are presented as the shared pursuit of an end that only
one will enjoy. Yet despite its wondrous complexity, the metaphor of
syntheros is sterile and unsatisfying: a successful hunt kills or paralyzes
the quarry, nourishing the hunter but not creating anything new.
The image of the promnestris is the most idealized. Aeschines' Aspasia spoke literally of actual promnestreis, for she was discussing an
actual female social role. This role, discussed substantively and positively in the Oeconomicus, becomes metaphorical when applied to
homoerotic courtship in the Memorabilia. The role of promnestris is
both productive even as it is played on the borderland; the matchmaker,
usually a crone, played a vital part in perpetuating a productive and
tranquil household. The role of the matchmaker, as used metaphorically
by Xenophon's Socrates of male love in the Memorabilia, overcomes
the barrenness of the role of syntheros and transcends the playful naughtiness of the mastropos without relinquishing the latter's liminality.
The use by Xenophon's Socrates of the image of promnestris in the
Memorabilia, and the concomitant elision of the matchmaker's duties
into the process of male courtship, anticipates the Platonic Socrates'
conflation of the image of matchmaker with that of midwife in his
discussion of the birth of ideas in the Theaetetus (150a). The appropriation of "Aspasian" language during this process supports duBois'
contention that a philosophical language was developing in the fourth


Prisoner of History

century that arrogated women's experiences and occupations to the

philosophical search for a masculine source for the good. It is possible
that some aspects of this language began with '' Aspasia." If so, it is less
correct to call Aspasia a "female Socrates" and to speak of Aeschines'
dialogue as a "pre-Platonic" discourse on eros than it is to call the
Socrates of Plato's Symposium a "male Aspasia" and to speak of his
Symposium a s ' 'post-'Aspasian'." It is Plato who takes from women the
capacity for intellectual and biological creativity.
For a moment, philosophical discourse allowed a woman to advocate
that women and men, connected by eros, search together for the good.
But that incredible moment was not to last, and the dominant portrait of
Aspasia that antiquity would hand the West was that of Pericles' "intellectual girlfriend."67

The Sargasso Sea: Aspasia and the
Discourse on Prostitutes in the
Hellenistic, Roman, and Late
Antique Periods

Although Aspasia's bios would surface spectacularly in Plutarch's Life

of Pericles, it is not possible to limn her biographical tradition clearly
from the mid-fourth century B.C. onward. Aspasia is mentioned but
cursorily in a few complete texts, and we cannot hope to fully understand how she was treated in the many fragmentary works that mention
her. Cicero and Quintilian took her seriously as a logician, and Plutarch
thought it worth reporting elements of her life relevant to Pericles. For
others, Aspasia not only dominated Pericles, but was also the lovelorn
Socrates' "agony aunt." There is much here for the student of high
culture to disdain, but the persistence of treatments of Aspasia along
the entire continuum of texts, patchy though these be, testifies to her
power as an icon in this period of cultural ferment, fusion, and eclecticism.
With few exceptions, most citations of Aspasia float in a Sargasso Sea
of protoprosopography, subhistory, and subbiography; most of these
anecdotes are found in the works of Greek, not Roman, authors. The
interest many of these works display in exceptional women (mostly
prostitutes), suggests the development of a "protopornography," or a
discourse on prostitutes, that is remarkably consistent across texts and
through the centuries. It would be improper to try to classify and discuss


Prisoner of History

these works genetically; we must speak more of general themes than of

genres, schools, or locales. Precisely because Aspasia was becoming
important as a cultural icon, treatments of her do appear in diverse texts;
these texts mostly share the assumption that she was a hetaira.1
Extensive literary treatment of prostitutes began in the fourth century
B.C., which has been called the ancient world's "golden age of the
hetaira." Pornography"writing about prostitutes"in the strictest
sense had itself begun during Aspasia's own lifetime, but there is no
evidence that anyone wrote treatises on prostitutes in the fourth century.2 Aspasia, never typical, fits uneasily into the developing discourse
on prostitutes; this discourse uses sensational and historical or quasihistorical anecdotes about individual women. Anecdotes of this sort,
which had made their first appearances in comedy, now appear in historiography, miscellany, prosopography, poetry, and philosophical dialogue.

The Discourse on Prostitutes in Greek Literature:

Genesis and Characteristics
Two of the earliest contributors to the discourse on prostitutes were the
brothers Lynceus and Duris of Samos. In addition to an unknown number of comedies, Deipnetikai Epistolai ("Dinner Letters"), Opsonitike
Techne ("The Caterer's Art"), and a treatise on Menander, Lynceus
wrote an Apomnemoneumata (or Apophthegmata, "Memorabilia"),
which contained quasi-historical anecdotes about his contemporaries
and predecessors; some of these were witty prostitutes. Aspasia does not
appear in any surviving fragments of Lynceus, but it is important to note
that he was interested in the literary treatments of historical prostitutes,
scholarship on comedy, comedy itself, and historical anecdote; all of
these are locales within which Aspasia's biographical tradition develops
in the postclassical period. Duris was probably the first to allege that
Aspasia was implicated in Athens' involvement in the conflict between
Samos and Miletus.3
Lynceus was a source for Machon of Sicyon, who worked at Alexandria in the mid-third century B.C. He displayed a similar range of
interests, particularly in his use of witty prostitutes who philosophize
and banter in his Chreiai ("Bright Sayings"; see esp. frags. 12 and 15
Gow), a work composed in metrical form, perhaps in order to help

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would-be symposium raconteurs memorize desired stories.4 Matro of

Pitane, a parodist of the fourth century B.C., also contributed to the
discourse on prostitutes in his bizarre Homeric cento Deipnon Attikon
("Attic Dinner'') by giving food a feminized sexuality and by representing prostitutes and their customers prominently in the poem. Prostitutes
thus were entering discourses they never had before. Duris inserted
anecdotes about Aspasia into historiography, his brother composed
(pseudo)historical memoirs in which prostitutes participated as characters, and Matro pornographized Homer.5
The interest in prostitutes is seen across a cultural continuum. The
second-century author Hegesander of Delphi wrote a Hypomnemata
("Commentaries"), and perhaps a treatise, on the malice of Plato; the
former work concerned kings, parasites, courtesans, philosophers, and
other types, and may have been divided into books according to topic.
He mentions prostitutes in fragments of chreiai he attributes to the
prostitute Metaneira, when he states that Sophocles lived with a hetaira
in his old age and made her his kleronomos (heiress), and in information
about a religious festival. Hegesander wrote prostitutes into all sorts of
texts; his work discussed prostitutes' wit, their rapacious readiness to
attach themselves to wealthy old men, and a religious festival with the
name of Hetairideia.6
Nor did philosophical discourse after Plato abandon its interest in
Aspasia. A polemic by Heraclides Ponticus, Peri Hedones ("On Pleasure"), was written in a comedic style and may have been composed in
dialogue form; unfortunately, no hint as to speakers or identities is
preserved. Possibly Heraclides, who was a pupil of Plato and was later
associated with Aristotle, discussed the dichotomy, Prodicus-wise, between pleasure and duty, himself opposing pleasure. Fragment 55 states
an opinion of pleasure and luxury that other fragments refute: namely,
the ability to live luxuriously is a mark of peoples at the height of their
power. Most of the fragments demonstrate the madness that characterizes extremes of pleasure and luxury; the Samians lost their city after
living in excessive luxury (frag. 57); Callias, who lived off his inheritance of Persian gold, died with only an elderly foreign woman by his
side (frag. 58). In addition, love of comfort is found in tandem with fear
of danger (frag. 60) and extreme love of comfort can lead to madness
and self-mutilation (frag. 61). Pericles dismissed his wife from his
house, opting for a life of pleasure, and lived with the Megarian [sic]
courtesan Aspasia, on whom he squandered much of his property (frag.


Prisoner of History

59 = Ath. 12.533d). The dependence of such comment on comedy is

Pericles' relationship with Aspasia is made antithetical to his married
life; the explicit opposition of mistress to wife had heretofore been
absent and is found here in an anecdote whose erroneous assertion about
Aspasia's background probably comes from Aristophanes' Acharnians.
Aspasia is warmonger and dominatrix, instrument and symbol of Pericles' and Athens' tryphe (excessive luxury); she becomes part of a
moralizing tale about a man who leaves his wife for a prostitute. Interestingly, Aspasia and the foreign graidion (little old lady) who attended
Callias' deathbed are the only women mentioned in the remains of this
treatise; both the notorious courtesan and the anonymous crone represent
the social isolation and bad end to which each man comes.
The Peripatetic Clearchus of Soli emulated Aristotle's learnedness,
but his sensationalism sets him apart from the Stagirite. Although his
reputation languishes today, he was admired and used by other ancient
writers. Clearchus' Erotika, a work of two or more books, treats aphrodisia (sexual relations) of various types, the deeper meanings of courtship rituals, and the excesses to which lovers' passions drive them. It
also mentions literary accounts of love affairs. The category of lovers'
excesses is pertinent to this discussion; Clearchus mentioned Cleisophus
of Selymbria, who tailed to copulate with a statue but succeeded with a
scrap of meat (frag. 26); animals who fall in love with human beings
(frags. 27 and 28); Gyges, who erected a monument to his dead mistress
(frag. 29); Pericles, who threw all Hellas into turmoil for Aspasia's sake
(frag. 30); and Eriphanis, the lovelorn poet who was even joined in
mourning by animals (frag. 32).8
To situate Pericles and Aspasia in this company of freaks exceeds
even Heraclides, but both authors' anecdotes participate in an identical
economy, traceable to fifth-century comedy. In the work by Heraclides,
Pericles' relationship with Aspasia reveals the politician's lack of control as an individual and family man and his enslavement to pleasure in
the forms of a beautiful woman and expenditure of money. Clearchus
made the cause more specific and its effect more wide-ranging: because
of an erotic passion, Pericles throws into turmoil not just his household
and his property (ousia, in Heraclides), but all of Greece. Aspasia
becomes a perverse example of the personal as political.
The end of the fourth century saw the beginnings of literary and
historical scholarship on comedy, which is the other main locus besides
philosophical dialogue of Aspasia's bios. In addition to the famous lost

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second book of Aristotle's Poetics and Lynceus' treatise on Menander,

the fourth century also saw the appearance of Theophrastus' Peri Komoidias (' 'On Comedy"), as well as his famous Peri Charakteron (' 'On
Characters"). The fact that exceptional women, usually prostitutes, are
found in many different genres is not insignificant.
The scholar Satyrus, whose works have received mixed reviews
across the ages, exemplifies some of the tendencies that contributed to
the nascent discourse on prostitutes.9 In his Peri Charakteron ("On
Characters'') Satyrus decried prodigals who enjoy courtesans rather than
the wholesome company of male friends (FHG frag. 20); association
with courtesans is equated with reckless disregard for one's financial
future, a sentiment as old as Alcaeus and as new as New Comedy. A
second and more significant passage from Satyrus' Bioi has the courtesan Glykera telling a philosopher that it doesn't matter whether one is
corrupted by him or her: "Stilpo, we're both equally guilty. For people
say you corrupt those who meet you by teaching them no-account eristic
sophisticsand they say I do the same thing teaching them erotics! So,
it doesn't matter to men who are ruined and doing badly whether they
live with a philosopher or a hetaira" (FHG 3.164, frag. 19 = Ath.
13.584a4-9). Equally pernicious are a philosopher's time and a prostitute's, a philosopher's conversation and a prostitute's. The affinities
between Satyrus, comic invective, and the earlier construction of Aspasia's speech in the Menexenus are obvious.
It is also important to note the scandalous anecdotes contributed by
Idomeneus of Lampsacus to the discourse on prostitutes. Named by
Plutarch in his Pericles and elsewhereonly to be discreditedand not
mentioning Aspasia in any fragment yet identified, Idomeneus nonetheless contributed with his story that Themistocles yoked prostitutes to a
chariot and drove them; this anecdote resembles a passage in Matro's
DeipnonAttikon, which describes a man entering a symposium driving a
chariot drawn by prostitutes. Possibly Idomeneus wrote about Aspasia
in his Peri ton Sokratikon ("On the Socratics"), but no fragments

The (Pseudo)Scholarly Discourse on Prostitutes

In the third century B.C., the center of scholarship gravitated from
Athens to Alexandria. The first datable evidence of treatises specifically
devoted to prostitutes comes in the works attributed to Aristophanes of


Prisoner of History

Byzantium (ca. 275-180 B.C.), a prodigious and prolific scholar who

studied with Machon and became head of the Mouseion (Library) in
Alexandria around 194 B.C. Several titles suggest that Aristophanes took
a particular interest in drama: Peri Komoidias ("On Comedy"), Lexis
Komike ("Comic Diction"), PeriProsopon ("On Masks"); and a work
that may be more prosopographical than literary, Peri ton Athenesin
Hetairidon ("On Athenian Courtesans"). This treatise apparently contained information about 135 hetairai, but only its title remains (Ath.
13.567a). Aspasia may have been mentioned therein.11
The several Peri Hetairon treatises, of which Aristophanes' is the
first, may have been a subset of those more general works known as
Komoidoumenoi, "Persons Mentioned in Comedy." Whatever the true
nature of the "On Courtesans" treatise, Aristophanes was followed in
the endeavor by his pupil Callistratus in a work mentioned only once in
the available sources: " 'Alexander razed <the city wall of Thebes>,
but <the courtesan> Phryne put it back up,' as Callistratus recounts in
his Peri Hetairon" (FGrH frag. 1 = Ath. 13.591d3-6). The fragment's
content and tone can be compared with Old Comedy's likening of politicians' activities to those of prostitutes. The fragment concerning Phryne
is found in a section of Athenaeus which also has sources taken from
various comic playwrights and scholars of comedy.12 Aristarchus, Aristophanes' more famous pupil, succeeded him as head of the Library and
produced a student of his own, Ammonius grammaticus, who also wrote
both a Komoidoumenoi and a Peri Hetairon. In the infamous thirteenth
book of Athenaeus, in which prostitutes are discussed, the symposiast
Cynulcus chides Myrtilus for carrying around Peri Hetairon treatises
and hanging about wineshops with prostitutes the day long (FGrH frag.
350 Tl = Ath. 13.567a).13
Another of Aristarchus' pupils, Apollodorus of Athens, left Alexandria for Pergamum around 146 and moved to Athens around 133. In
addition to historiographical, philological, and sympotic works, he also
wrote a Peri Hetairon treatise that apparently surpassed Aristophanes of
Byzantium's list of 135 hetairai in its length. Apollodorus claimed that
Aristophanes had omitted a number of women. This claim suggests that
in the late Hellenistic age such treatises had a well-established place in
the scholarly world; they were known as a separate kind of treatise and
were subject to legitimate correction by "authorities," just as were
other works on tamer subjects. The surviving fragments of Apollodorus'
Peri Hetairon list prostitutes' names, nicknames, parentage, and chil-

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dren, and attempt to identify individual women who bore the same
Two more authors of Peri Hetairon treatises in Greek are attested;
both display the preoccupations already discussed. Antiphanes the
Younger, Apollodorus' approximate contemporary in the second century B.C., wrote a Peri Hetairon treatise whose few fragments also
recount nicknames and family histories. Gorgias of Athens, a grammarian of the late first or early second century A.D. , is also credited with
such a treatise, which apparently contained information about prostitutes' relations with politicians. Gorgias' approximate coeval, the Roman Suetonius, is credited with a treatise on prostitutes, but nothing is
known of its contents or manner of treatment.15
It is possible that the Peri Hetairon treatises began as, and remained,
a specialized outgrowth of the Komoidoumenoi treatises, that is, a form
of prosopography. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that although
historical prostitutes were mentioned in factual texts such as the orators,
in quasi-factual texts such as the Socratica and memorabilia, and in
purely fictional texts such as the plays of New Comedy, they are constructed in similar ways across these discourses. That very phenomenon
argues for a nascent pornography. It is necessary to resist an essentialist
discussion of "the prostitute in" various cultural productions, as if she
simply exists in the manner in which these texts describe her; from the
fourth century B.C. on, the world of Greek thought was constructing
' 'the prostitute.'' The nature of that stereotype, as it developed, has been
much obscured by the loss of the texts where the development was
taking place, and it has been additionally obscured by scholars' inability
to see its existence. Prostitutes are everywhere and nowhere in these
protopornographic texts. For example, the tale that the orator Hypereides saved the hetaira Phryne in court sounds suspiciously like a doublet
of the story that Aspasia was saved by Pericles; each story, however, is
enrolled as historical evidence to verify the other.16
By the time of Plutarch's Life of Pericles, the discourse on prostitutes
was attaining a certain generic quality, though it was visible across
various genres and most visible in the existence of a separate set of
treatises about whores. The meager remains of this pornography suggest
that its authors tended to mesh their construction of fictitious prostitutes
with reportage about historical women and that they were interested in
prostitutes' nicknames, witticisms, idiosyncrasies, families, and sexual
partners. There is a tendency to show prostitutes' domination over their


Prisoner of History

"clients," but there also exists an underside that shows the women's
essential helplessness. Aspasia does not much participate in this discourse; however, given the lack of sources, I cannot claim that she
doesn't appear at all. 17

Lipstick Traces: Debased Socratic Erotics in the

Hellenistic Period
The erotic Socrates and his Milesian teacher continue on in Hellenistic
literature. In his Leontion, three campy books of elegy named for and
dedicated to his mistress, Hermesianax of Colophon concocted a puerile
assertion that Socrates loved Aspasia. The Leontion recounts great loves
of the literary and mythical past. A lengthy fragment of the third book,
preserved in Athenaeus, tells of the pangs of desire and devotion experienced by Orpheus, Musaeus, Hesiod, Homer, Mimnermus, and others,
for Argiope, Antiope, and other women. Leontion is assured that not
even philosophers escape the madness of eros. After mentioning Pythagoras' love for Theano, Socrates' love for Aspasia, and Aristippus' love
for Lais, the fragment breaks off: "And how powerfully did the angry
Cypris heat up Socrates, the man Apollo had declared to be outstanding
in wisdom! From his deep soul, he executed lighter labours when he
frequented Aspasia's house; nor did he find his way, though he had
discovered numerous paths of logic" (frag. 7 CA, lines 90-94 = Ath.
13.599a6-b3). Hermesianax has turned the high respect for Aspasia
exhibited by Aeschines' and Xenophon's Socrates into an adolescent
At about the same time, Herodicus of Babylon ("the Cratetean"),
who was fiercely funny and vehemently anti-Platonic, invented a piece
of advice Aspasia supposedly gave to Socrates about winning the love of
Alcibiades. A contemporary of Ammonius grammaticus, Herodicus
wrote not only the Pros ton Philosokraten ("Against the Socratophile"), but also a Komoidoumenoi and a Symmikta Hypomnemata.
Herodicus apparently suggested that Plato exaggerated Socrates' martial
valor, that his chronology was faulty, and that he concealed Socrates'
love for Alcibiades.19
The relevant passage from the Pros ton Philosokraten is found in the
Deipnosophistae in a passage wherein the host, Larensis, vilifies Plato,
Socrates, and others. Larensis quotes Herodicus as citing a poem that

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Socrates' teacher, Aspasia, presents to him; cognizant of the philosopher's passion, she urges him to press his suit. Herodicus also calls
Aspasia Socrates' erotodidaskalos (teacher of erotics; Dueling frag. 4
= Ath. 5.219d5).
Duering believes that Herodicus himself authored the poem ascribed
to Aspasia. Ouk clothes me ("you haven't escaped my notice")line 1
of the poemsuggests that Socrates has been trying to keep his passion
for Alcibiades secret but that Aspasia has found him out, which suggestion contradicts Plato's image of the detached philosopher in the Symposium. Aspasia calls Socrates' and Alcibiades' emotions pathos and
Socrates' desire paidika (lines 1, 3, 8); both men's feelings are called
philia (line 9). These are conventional and almost homely words to
describe emotional and sexual longing, rather than lofty words evoking the search for the good. The Cratetean implodes Plato's sublimative
and sublime Socrates by making Aspasia invoke the earthier, nontranscendent erotic Socrates of Xenophon and by using language that recalls
the imagery of the hunt (cf. chapter 3): the word thereuetai (frag. 4
Duering = Ath. 5.219d7) and the Hellenistic adjective tithason ("tractable," relating to the domestication of the wildline 3 of the poem =
Ath. 5.219e6), are associated with the complex of words related to the
hunt (found in Xen. Mem. and Symp.). Socrates has burst into tears in
front of Aspasia, who calls him "dear Socrates" (line 11), a form of
address that clearly challenges the image of the highly controlled Platonic Socrates who marries a difficult woman just to prove he can meet
the challenge.20
As had been the case in "serious" Socratic dialogues, here Socrates
reports speech attributed to Aspasia. Aspasia herself does not speak but
speaks through Herodicus/Socrates and invalidates a man. Herodicus'
outburst may reflect hostility both to the growth of philosophical schools
in the Hellenistic period and to women's participation (albeit limited)
therein. His practice of discrediting Socrates through the philosopher
Plato also recalls the earlier practice of discrediting politicians by associating them with whores; his treatment also resonates with more contemporary treatments such as those of Hermesianax, who had shown the
philosophers Socrates, Pythagoras, and Aristippus to be in erotic thrall
to women. Hellenistic literati, like men of the classical period, still
continued to discredit other men by alleging that they were advised by
whores; the most lasting stigma, however, affected not the men, but any
woman who pretended to participate in the life of the mind.


Prisoner of History

The Wise Woman

Aspasia does not fit into just one category of the class "woman" in the
Hellenistic and Roman periods. Although her biographical tradition occasionally enrolls her in the pornographic discourse on prostitutes, it
more frequently sets her apart. This reflex, which pulls her into or
pushes her out of the company of whores, has confined until the present.
In the surviving "serious" literature of the early Roman period, the
habit of extracting Aspasia from the company of hetairai and relocating
her in the company of wise women begins with Didymus. He, Cicero,
and Quintilian all treated her with reverence, the Greek as a wise woman
and the Romans as an exponent of rhetorical logic; these were the parts
of her tradition Christian writers invoked on the few occasions Aspasia
appeared in postpagan works. Curiously, Aspasia did not much interest
Roman writers, perhaps because there were many powerful and sexually
alluring Roman women and perhaps because Athens and her empire did
not particularly fascinate the Romans. Of all the Imperial writers, Lucian the satirist concentrated most mockingly on the scurrilous elements
of her tradition; but only Plutarch attempted to account for the contradictions in her bios. His willingness to remain in a state of aporia about
Aspasia was in fact remarkable.
The polymath Didymus Chalcenteros (" Brass Guts," from his ability
to work hard), whose copious syntheses of earlier scholarship have been
variously evaluated, wrote a Lexis Komike ("Comic Diction") and a
Symposiaka or Symmeikta ("Sympotic Matters'V'Miscellanea"). The
latter work contained a long passage on exceptional women from myth
and history, including a sanitized Aspasia. (Didymus speculated elsewhere whether Sappho was a whore.) These discussions are interesting
because they bring to the fore and make problematical the sexuality
of women thought to be intellectually formidable: Aspasia's sexuality,
like that of other women philosophers, is noticeably downplayed,
whereas Sappho's is turned into a question mark. Didymus mentioned,
but did not discuss, Aspasia's reputation in comedy; he set that reputation conspicuously apart from those accomplishments that he considers
worth delineating: "And (as for) Aspasia the Milesian, concerning
whom the comic poets also have recounted many things: Socrates
derived an enjoyment of philosophy from her, and Pericles rhetoric"
(frag. 7 Schmidt). The other women noted in this fragment, namely,
Theano the Pythagorean and Arete, wife of Aristippus, are outstanding
in respect to their intellect, love of family, and/or feminine virtue.21

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Two Roman rhetorical works cited the Aeschinean Aspasia's famous

conversation with Xenophon and his wife as a good example of inductio.
Cicero defined inductio as the practice of getting one's interlocutor to
agree with undisputed facts and then getting the interlocutor to assent to
a doubtful proposition that resembles the earlier one. Quintilian stated
that inductio was to arrive at a conclusion from the given problem's
resemblance to points raised previously.22
Cicero notes that this kind of argumentation was favored by Socrates
and also points out the strategic nature of the device:
Hoc modo sermonis plurimum Socrates usus est propterea quod nihil ipse
afferre ad persuadendum volebat, sed ex eo quod sibi ille dederat quicum
disputabat, aliquid conficere malebat, quod ille ex eo quod iam concessisset necessario approbate deberet:
"Socrates made great use of this style of conversation, because he didn't
want to do any persuading himself. He preferred instead to make a result
from the material that the interlocutor had given him, which result the
interlocutor had necessarily to approve as following from what he had
already conceded." (Inv. Rhet. 1.31.53)

Not unexpectedly, Cicero submerges the content of the original

discussionmarital conductand the gender of the primary discussant,
Aspasia, in favor of highlighting the rhetorical method and motive. It is
interesting to note, however, that Cicero also attributed to Socrates the
predominant usage of this method, ascribing to him a motive that
touches on his liminality (as discussed earlier in chapter 3). Aspasia, her
advice, and her own liminality are downplayed, whereas Socrates' use
of this method and his own liminality are emphasized.
Quintilian follows Cicero in highlighting Socrates' use of the
method even as he disparages Cicero's separation of collatio ("comparison") from exemplum ("example," Inst. 5.11.2-3). Quintilian
quotes less of the passage than did Cicero; he provides only Aspasia's
conversation with the wife, omitting her discussion with the husband.
Aspasia thus is not shown advising both sexes, but only another

Plutarch's Life of Pericles

Plutarch (ca. 50-120 A.D.) is perhaps the most important single source in
antiquity for Aspasia's biographical tradition. His importance as a biographer and source of social history are unquestioned; his work has pro-


Prisoner of History

roundly influenced the structure and content of biography in the West

and its perceived relation to history. Plutarch's remarks about Aspasia
both distill the most salient features of earlier treatments and, by virtue
of their own preservation within his privileged corpus of biographical
and moralizing writings, have become the source upon which most
modern treatments depend. His willingness to take Aspasia seriously as
a historical actor is remarkable. It is necessary to study Plutarch's two
chapters on Aspasia in his Life of Pericles within the environment of
Plutarch's own aims, oeuvre, and methods rather than to extract and
treat them as a freestanding paradigm for the ambitious courtesan of later
European cultural history.
Current views of Plutarch consider that his purpose in writing the
Lives was moral rather than historical, in that it aimed to show philosophy in action to his educated audience, and that Plutarch himself believed philosophical training the sine qua non for a life of action. Plutarch's Pericles can be considered a good example of philosophy in
action. Plutarch was interested in the morally suasive power of biography and history and disparaged kakoethia (malignity) in such writing,
most vividly expressing his views in the famous work best known by its
Latin title De malignitate Herodoti ("On the Malignity of Herodotus"De mal. Hdt.). His critique of Herodotus lists several ways in
which a historical narrative can be malicious: if a narrative uses harsh or
unkind words when these are avoidable: if the writer includes irrelevant
failures and omits good deeds; if the writer presents the less plausible of
conflicting reports; and if the writer attributes a discreditable motive
when the facts are not in dispute, for example, that Pericles started the
Peloponnesian war because of Aspasia or Phidias or that Thebe assassinated Alexander out of emotion rather than hatred of tyranny. I can add
to these criteria Plutarch's observation elsewhere that events could also
be distorted by contemporary observers for personal reasons (Per.
13.16), an important consideration when looking at his account of slanders against Aspasia.24
The fact that Plutarch devoted as much space as he did to Aspasia and
provided so much information about her suggests that he considered her
important for her own sake as well as for her association with charges
that Pericles was tyrannical and had begun two wars for base motives. It
is necessary, however, to look at what Plutarch said about her in the
context of his entire Life of Pericles.25 Plutarch introduces Pericles as a
subject whose study demonstrates the value of contemplating the actions

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of good men; he includes those qualities shared by Pericles and his

parallel biographand Fabius Maximus (1-2.5). Pericles' lineage and
physical appearance are mentioned, as well as his teachersDamon,
who trained him for political contests in the same manner as an athlete
was trained, and Zeno, who was skilled in cross-examination. Pericles
derived his greatest benefit from Anaxagoras, and Plutarch summarizes
his teaching in this work, providing as examples Pericles' calm charity
to an abusive citizen and Anaxagoras' own dispassionate analysis of the
significance of the one-horned ram (3-6). (Plutarch points out later that
Pericles did not learn thrift from Anaxagoras, 16.7) The narration of
Pericles' unfolding political career proceeds despite the lack of strict
chronology and the absence of evidence for a prior biographical tradition; Plutarch fades in and out from general to highly specific statements, and acknowledges the dearth of primary evidence other than
decrees (7-8).26 In addition to Aspasia, Elpinike is mentionedshe is
reported to have had political dealings with Pericles, possibly engineering the recall of her brother Cimon and on another occasion entreating
Pericles not to prosecute Cimon severely (10.5-6). Elpinike is sexualized by the report that Pericles gently rebuked her for attempting to
charm him, but the allegation that Elpinike had obtained Cimon's recall
by having sex with Pericles (Ath. 13.589e8-f2) is not repeated here.
Thucydides, the son of Melesias, is Pericles' next political rival (1114), and Pericles' building program, a means by which he enabled the
demos to enjoy Athens' wealth, occasions the mention of Phidias. Pericles' enemies assail the building program, likening it to a falsely preening woman (hosper alazona gynaika, 12.2). Pericles himself does not
respond in kind to this sexually charged language; instead, he dryly
explains his policy on the building and its expenditures (12.3-4). Phidias' position of responsibility and close friendship with Pericles are
given as the reasons he was slandered; in fact, he is actually accused of
having pimped free women for Pericles: "<Phidias' friendship with
Pericles> brought Phidias envy and Pericles slander, from the rumor
that Phidias pimped free Athenian women for Pericles when they came
to see his work in progress" (13.15).27
In the earlier part of this entire description, Pericles' enemies had
characterized the city as a preening impostor woman; here, the chief
beautifier of the city pimps for the head of state. The comic poets take up
the tale (13.15), making the slander more specific by charging that
Pericles had corrupted the wife of another strategos (elected general)


Prisoner of History

and that one Pyrilampus had given peacocks to several other female
conquests of Pericles. The most damning charge Plutarch reports is that
of Stesimbrotus, who accuses Pericles of corrupting his own daughterin-law. That Plutarch disbelieves these charges is apparent in the words
he uses to report them: phthonon, blasphemian (envy and slander, 13.15,
13.16); the accusers are men of riotous and improvident ways (satyrikous
tois biois), and Stesimbrotus' story is a dreadful and abominable impiety
(deinon asebema kai mysodes). Thus, Plutarch deflects charges of Pericles' sexual impropriety by accusing the accusers of equal or worse
misbehavior. Once Pericles has consolidated his rule, a string of adulatory metaphors describes how he governshe is the city's doctor and
teacher, and favors using a rein and a rudder to guide the people (1416).
His fiscal honesty is emphasized, as well as his immediate family's
resentment of his household economies (15.3,16.45), a trait that Anaxagoras bears with somewhat more humor (16.8-9).
Plutarch stresses the grandeur of Pericles' vision (17.4, on the Congress decree; cf. 21.1), as well as his reluctance to waste Athenian lives
in connection with the revolt of Euboea and the Spartan invasion (18,
21-23). Prudence, foresight, and the conservation of Athenian lives are
the hallmarks of Pericles' policy, things to which his deathbed utterance
will allude. The expedition to Samos and Aspasia's putative role in it
occasion Plutarch's discussion of Aspasia, managed in a brief transition
(24.1-2). Plutarch's first and longest discussion of her (24.2-11; 25.1)
bears careful reading. In it, Plutarch assembles much reportage but
endorses almost none of it. The only things in the bios that he seemed to
believe were her birthplace and her father's name: "It is agreed (homologeitai) that she was a Milesian and the daughter of Axiochus" (24.3).
He immediately balances this assertion by not agreeing that Aspasia
arrived in Athens as a new Thargelia: "But they say" (phasi d' . . . ,
It is surprising that some modern historiographers are so certain about
Aspasia's life because Plutarch, the source most often followed, expressed anything but certainty about it. His first words to describe his
aim are highly tentative: entauth' an eie kairos diaporesai malista peri
tes anthropou ("Perhaps it would be timely to raise the question about
this individual here," 24.2). As Philip Stadter aptly translates, diaporesai means "to raise the question about"; the verb indicates doubt
and questioning. Plutarch was willing enough to report what others said

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about her, but he specifically located this reportage within the web of
Even when reporting what others have written about Aspasia, Plutarch casts doubt upon the information, allowing only "this much of
historia'' (24.7) in the Menexenus' report, namely, that Aspasia had the
reputation of discussing rhetoric with many Athenians. As for her supposed maternity, Plutarch notes that "Apparently (dokei) Pericles had a
bastard by her," specifying that Eupolis made (pepoiekeri) Pericles the
character ask about his bastard (24.10). He also reports as conjectural
both her alleged role in the beginning of the Samian War (dokei, 24.2)
and her emulation of Thargelia (24.3). Likewise disclaimed are the
statements that Pericles kissed her when he came and went ("as they
say," has phasi, 24.9) and that Pericles sought her because she was wise
and politic (sophe kai politike, 24.5, reported with "they say,"
legousi).2S Use of the phrase "they say" also appears to disclaim the
report that Socrates and company visited Aspasia, even though her
occupation was not at all nice. Plutarch's conclusion to this chapter,
with its brief remarks upon the concubine of Cyrus, sometimes called
"Aspasia II" (24.11-12), forms a logical if somewhat unexpected
end. He had introduced Aspasia of Miletus with the pointedly neutral he anthropos ("this individual") and noted that it would be
apanthropon ("misanthropic") not to mention her namesake. The fame
and character of the Milesian ("Aspasia I"), who allegedly held men in
thrall (echeirosato) and occasioned philosophers neither a bad nor a
short logos (24.2), explain why Cyrus renamed his favorite concubine
for her. The life of Thargelia, the Milesian's supposed model, also
comes into play. For Thargelia, "they say" (phasi d', 24.3), turned
Hellenes to the Persian cause; Aspasia I, the object of Pericles' erotic
love, reportedly urged him to make war on her homeland's enemy, and
finally, Aspasia II gained influence at the Persian court due to the fortunes of war.29
But despite (or perhaps because of) all these data and all these
sources, Aspasia remains a mystery. First, Plutarch qualifies most of the
information. She is not described physically, although the early mention
of Thargelia's beauty (24.4) may suggest that Aspasia too was lovely.30
Plutarch neither answers all the questions his account raised, nor explicitly solves its inconsistencies. He twice mentions the hostile tradition
that Aspasia was the alleged instigator of the Samian War (24.1-2,


Prisoner of History

25.1); Plutarch, however, consistently defends Pericles' prosecution of

the war and squelches Duris' stories about its atrocities (28.2-3), noting
that neither Ephorus nor Thucydides recounts these details and concluding that Samos, a grave threat to Athens, carne close to wresting naval
supremacy from her (28.8). I find Plutarch's failure to refute the specific
charges against Aspasia to be telling: he believed that they were so
ridiculous as to require no response and furthermore subtly suggested
that Samos needed to be dealt with firmly. In another work, Plutarch
mentions this very charge against Aspasia as the kind of statement
characteristic of a writer who was dysmenes and kakoethes (De mat.
Hdt. 855F-856A).
Evidence of careful source criticism can be seen in Plutarch's use of
qualifiers such as "on the one hand some say." Stadter believes that
"Plutarch clearly accepts the notion that Aspasia supported herself by
running a brothel." Because Plutarch's reference to her occupation occurs within a clause that begins "and some say, on the one hand,
that . . . ," it does not follow that Plutarch himself believed Aspasia
kept a brothel. In fact, Plutarch concedes belief in only one aspect of
Aspasia's personality, namely, that Pericles was erotically devoted to
her. The evidence for this is that after Pericles' amicable divorce, he
"cherished <Aspasia> extraordinarily" (esterxe diapherontos, 24.89).31
The next mention of Aspasia comes after Plutarch has provided more
information about Pericles' life. After concluding his account of the
Samian War and recounting Elpinike's rebuke to Pericles, Plutarch goes
on to a discussion of the onset of the Peloponnesian War (29-32).
Despite diplomatic efforts to rescind the Megarian decreea move that
Plutarch believed could have helped avoid the war (29.7-8), tensions
mounted. Megara denied responsibility for an Athenian messenger's
death, blaming Pericles and Aspasia in what Plutarch calls "notorious
and vulgar little verses" (periboetois, demodesi, 30.4). These verses
are, in fact, the famous lines from Aristophanes' Acharnians. Again,
Plutarch's opinion is noncommittal, and he notes "ten men oun archen
hopos eschen ou radian gnonai" ("but as far as how it began, it isn't
easy to know," 31.1). Plutarch then discusses the persecution of Pericles' associates. The account of Phidias' trial and imprisonment (31.25) precedes and dwarfs the account of the persecutions of Aspasia and
Anaxagoras (32). Just as Phidias earlier had been accused of pimping
free women for Pericles, so too is Aspasia now accused (32.1). After a

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brief mention of Aspasia's prosecution, Plutarch continues with discussion of Anaxagoras and of Pericles' expenditures (32.24) before returning to her acquittal, a decision reached, "as Aeschines says," by Pericles' crying and begging (32.5); the language used resembles that found
in the report that Aspasia had begged for war against Samos (24.1-2), a
report that Plutarch disqualified. Plutarch completes this portion of the
Life by noting to d'alethes addon ("the truth is unclear," 32.6) in
regard to Pericles' protection of Phidias and the civic wrath he had
incurred. Plutarch opened and concluded this part of the Life with expressions of skepticism.32
A "ring" can be seen, enclosed in doubt:
31.1 "it is not easy to know"
31.2-5 Phidias
32.1-2 Aspasia, Anaxagoras
32.3-4 trial proceedings
32.5 Aspasia, Anaxagoras
32.6 Phidias; "the truth is unclear"
The next section contains an account of ineffective Spartan attempts
to revive interest in the legend of the curse upon the Alcmaeonids and an
account of the Spartan invasion (33.1-6). Of all the comic choruses that
attacked Pericles, Plutarch singles out Hermippus' verses, which called
Pericles "king of the satyrs" (33.7-8, discussed in chapter 2).
As the Life of Pericles continues, the plague malignly robs Pericles of
the opportunity for success; the leader is further savaged by the demos,
who attack him as one attacks a father or doctor (34.4-5). The final
expedition's aim is to heal (iasthai, 35.1), but Pericles is stripped of his
strategia and fined (35.4). Nor can Pericles find peace at home. Xanthippus ridicules Pericles (36.4), and Stesimbrotus is reported to have
alleged that Xanthippus himself spread slander about Pericles and his
daughter-in-law (36.6). Xanthippus dies of the plague unreconciled with
his father, and Pericles loses his sister and many other relatives and
friends (36.6-7). Plutarch declares that Pericles retained his composure
until his son Paralus was laid out, only then bursting into violent tears, a
thing that he had never done before (36.9). The assertion that Pericles
wept like this but once may have been another way of undermining the
veracity of the account of Pericles' tears at Aspasia's trial.
When recalled to his strategia, Pericles returns without enthusiasm
(37.1), but nonetheless has the presence of mind to ask for a personal


Prisoner of History

exemption to the law about nothoi, lest his own name and family die out.
The nothos is enrolled in the phratry, and Pericles gives him his own
name (37.5). Curiously, the man who best led Athens is portrayed as an
outsider; estranged from his family, he entrusts his household accounts
to a slave (16.6). Not content to remain with his legitimate wife and
rarely in attendance at family functions, he has a deep friendship (philia)
with Phidias (13.14) and an erotic love (erotike agapesis) for a foreign
woman whom he cherishes extraordinarily (24.7-8).33
Uncritical readings of these sections of Plutarch's Life of Pericles
have helped define Aspasia as the planful courtesan who starts wars and
holds a great statesman in thrall. I believe that Plutarch considered
Aspasia's nature to have been unknowablethat even though such a
characterization had been suggested by earlier (unreliable) sources, her
nature was by now indefinable. The effect of Plutarch's mention of so
many of these sources, even though he seems to have done so only to
discount or cast doubt upon them, nonetheless makes Aspasia the archetype of the sexually alluring and politically influential courtesan. The
importance of such a construction cannot be stressed enough. To continue to construct Aspasia as a powerful prostitute, and to not read the
ancient sources critically and historicize them as necessary, is to nativize
two beliefs: first, that an intellectual woman's importance and influence
are ultimately traceable to her manipulation of her own sexuality, and
second, that intellectual women do not act autonomously, but rather
upon and through men. As we shall see, uncritical readings of Plutarch,
whose works were influential in the European Renaissance, helped foster the image of Aspasia that is still favored.

The End of the Pagan Tradition

Thanks to Plutarch, we have an integrated summation of views about
Aspasia. Other Greek intellectuals also mentioned her, but they refracted the wholistic Plutarchan view, using bits and pieces of her bios
for purposes ranging from edification and rhetorical persuasion to sheer
amusement. Yet, the presence of Aspasia across various discourses in
the high and late Empire attests to her ability to function as a revenant of
Socrates, Pericles, and the heyday of Athens.34
The sophist Maximus of Tyre (ca. 125-185) claimed to be a follower
of Plato and, in his orations, eulogized Socrates. In a passage derivative

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of the Socratica, Maximus identifies Socrates as foremost of the philosophers who exhorted in common talk rather then enigmatically:' 'We hear
you <, Socrates,> many times affirming that you honor episteme more
than anything, and recommending one teacher to one youth, and another
to anotherfor example, even exhorting Callias to send his son to
Aspasia the Milesian: a man to a woman! You yourself, an elderly man,
frequent her company. Nor does she suffice as your teacher, but you
glean for yourself erotics from Diotima, music from Konnos, poetics
from Euenos, farming from Ischomachus, and geometry from Theodorus" (Oral. 38.4.b-d; cf. 24.4). This scrap is important because it
indicates the syncretistic practice of sophists such as Maximus; he cobbled together his Socrates from portrayals in Plato, Aeschines, and
Xenophon. Nor did Maximus care particularly about Aspasia, Diotima,
or any woman's intellectual capabilities; they, and male teachers, are
mentioned as purveyors of knowledge and skill to Socrates and his
Lucian of Samosata, Maximus of Tyre's more famous contemporary,
used Aspasia with great facility in several of his satirical and epideictic
works. In some respects, Lucian reprised all the previous treatments of
Aspasia, but because he presents Aspasia both seriously and, as was
more often the case, humorously, it is impossible to speculate on his
actual view of her. In his Imagines, a woman's portrait is planned and
discussed in a dialogue between Lykinos and Polystratos. They decide
that earlier women shall be models for this portrait: Aspasia, Theano the
Pythagorean, Sappho, and Diotima reflect the subject's intellect. Polystratos additionally invokes the virtuous Theano, wife of Antenor; Arete
and her daughter, Nausicaa; and Penelope:
Next, her wisdom and understanding (sophia and synesis) must be represented. We shall need many examples there, mostly ancient ones, and one
Ionic like herself. Aeschines the friend of Socrates and Socrates himself
represented her, both of them exceedingly true craftsmen because they
worked with eros. That example is the famous Aspasia of Miletus, with
whom the most wonderful Olympian <sc. Pericles> lived. Putting before us <Aspasia's> no mean image of understanding, let us bring to
bear as much as she had of experience in affairs, acumen in politics, and
quickness of wit, and with accurate measurement transfer it all to our own
portrait. (Imagines 17)

This praise of Aspasia and other women recalls Didymus' list of exemplary women; like that list, it does not sexualize her.36


Prisoner of History

Lucian, however, was equally capable of exploiting the more risque

aspects of Aspasia's biographical tradition. In his satirical work
Okypous ("Swiftfoot"), he made the title character the son of Podaleirius and Astasia ("Gout" and "Inability to Stand"), names that
resemble Pericles' and Aspasia's and that may parodize Cratinan coinage. He represented Aspasia as a hetaira in The Dream or The Cock,
wherein the cock discusses his prior incarnations as both Pythagoras and
Aspasia: as Aspasia, he lived with Pericles, bore children, spun yarn,
and "was a woman, hetaira-fashion" (The Dream 19); the cock was
later incarnated as the cynic Crates. The straight man, Micyllus, exclaims, "By the Dioskouroi, what an unlikelihoodfrom a courtesan to
a philosopher!" (The Dream 20). The underside of this joke, of course,
is the by now familiar notion that philosophy and prostitution are similar
practices. In The Eunuch, a eunuch tries to demonstrate that his kind
should not be excluded from the practice of philosophy; he suggests that
if Aspasia, Thargelia, Diotima, and the eunuch Favorinus have participated in philosophy, he also should be permitted to engage in it (Eun. 7).
The passage exploits Aspasia's reputation as a women philosopher even
while it renders "the female philosopher" categorically abnormal; the
dialogue humorously reveals philosophy's masculinist bias. A mixed
acknowledgment of Aspasia's possible influence upon Socrates is given
in The Dance, wherein one character notes in the same sentence that the
philosopher did not spurn the opportunity to learn even insignificant
things (ta mikra, 25) from flute girls but also listened to serious matters
from Aspasia; she is described with Herodotus' periphrastic euphemism,
"hetaira gyne" ("companion female"), someone from whom Socrates
could learn "something serious" ("spoudaion ti").37
Fictional and embellished historical letters also used Aspasia.
Alciphron's Letters of Courtesans present fictional and historical courtesans' correspondence; letter 7 suggests the general association of philosophers with prostitutes. Thais complains to Euthydemus that he has
no time for her now that he has taken up philosophy (letter 7.1-2). She
compares herself to philosophers by reminding the youth that his own
teacher is mad for her, and that sophists do not differ from hetairai (7.2,
7.4), particularly in their shared love of gain (to labein, 7.4). The
hetaira, however, is the better in that she does not incite her students to
meddle in politics (7.6); as Thais says, "We don't teach young men any
worse than they do. Decide, if you like, between Aspasia the hetaira and
Socrates the sophist, and consider which of them did a better job

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<reading ameinori>. You will see that Pericles was her pupil and
Critias his!" (7.6-7) This second- or third-century remark derives from
comedy and Socratica. Similarly derivative of the classical period, the
sophist Philostratus' Seventy-third Letter to Julia Domna, the learned
Roman empress, remarks on the classical sophists' influence and includes Aspasia in their number. He claimed that Plato himself emulated
the literary forms of the sophists and that numerous Greeks emulated
Gorgias. These include Critias, Thucydides, Aeschines of Sphettos, and
Aspasia the Milesian, who "is said to have sharpened Pericles' tongue
to imitate Gorgias."
The final pagan writer of this time to mention Aspasia is a senator
from Constantinople, Themistius, a pagan apologist and ideologue. One
of the last great sophists, Themistius mentioned Aspasia in his twentysixth Oration, wherein he defended himself against those who criticized
him for openly discussing philosophy. Themistius averred that philosophy, like other arts, should be permitted an open forum and that Plato
and Socrates thought philosophy could improve men. In an attempt to
show that philosophy should be practiced as a living art, Themistius
claimed that one should not praise only Aspasia, Pericles, and those of
Anaxagoras' generation. Thus, Aspasia and Pericles are associated together as representatives of a classical past, a past whose best traditions
should not be allowed to fossilize.38
Aspasia's sexuality functions as a liability in this derivative pagan
literature; when she is praised, her sexual reputation is rarely mentioned.
Christian writers also briefly made use of her; in the end, however, they
seemed to be unable to overlook Aspasia's allegedly illicit sexual
behavioror possibly her sex itselfand, as will be shown in the next
section, she disappeared from the literature.

The Christian Point of View

By the middle of the second century, Christianity constituted what
George Kennedy calls "a serious intellectual influence of international
dimensions," creatively transforming pagan classical tradition.39 Perhaps because Aspasia's dubious sexual reputation was so inextricably
bound up with her intellectual one, early Christian writers did not incorporate her into their views of the classical past; when she was mentioned, her reputed sexual life was excised. Clement, Synesius, and


Prisoner of History

Theodoret all sanitized her; Tertullian and Salvianus, obsessed with

whores, did not mention her at all.
Clement of Alexandria, born in Athens around 150 to pagan parents,
subsequently converted, obtained an education at Alexandria, and succeeded his teacher, Pantaenus, as head of the catechistic school there.
He fled Alexandria during Lucius Septimius Severus' persecutions of
202 and died about ten years later. Clement referred once to Aspasia in
his Stromateis ("Miscellanies"), a work heavily indebted to Didymus
that attempts to demonstrate Christianity's superiority to paganism. In
it, Clement discusses the virtues of women such as Judith, Esther,
Susanna, and Moses' sister, Miriam (Strom. 118.1-119.3); he then recounted exemplary women of the pagan world by inserting a passage
from Didymus' Symposiaka (discussed in an earlier section of this chapter), which detailed the loyalty and virtue of Greek women, including
Aspasia. Of Aspasia, Clement observes only that she came from
Miletus and that Socrates and Pericles learned philosophy and rhetoric,
respectively, from her (122.3). Clement went on to discuss Sarah, and
noted that Hebrew princesses and Nausicaa both virtuously performed
homely tasks (Strom. 123.1). Thus, Aspasia became one of many chaste
and exemplary women in a context that did not mention her sexual
reputation. This type of material is interesting because it prefigures the
discussion of "women worthies" in the Middle Ages and Renaissance,
and the pictorial tradition of representing heroic women in Renaissance
and later art.40
The Christian neo-Platonist Synesius of Cyrene, a pupil of Hypatia,
the female philosopher, defended "Aspasian" erotics in a limited sense.
In his Dion, which attacked the decline of humanism, Synesius notes
that Socrates assigned an epitaphios to Aspasia, whose company he
frequented for the sake of learning ta erotika. Synesius observes that if
one considered Aspasia's and Socrates' erotics, one would understand
the relationship of that erotics to philosophy. Punning on aspasios'
meaning of "pleasing" or "welcoming," Synesius notes that the cognizant individual would recognize philosophy as a good, and welcome and
praise it (Dion 59A). Concerned with the Greek world's lapse into
barbarism, Synesius enlists Socrates and, briefly, Aspasia in his cause.
Aware of Aspasia's reputation, Synesius nonetheless does not specifically refer to it in this treatise.41
Like Clement of Alexandria, to whom he was indebted, Theodoret,
bishop of Cyrrhus in Syria, contrasted paganism invidiously to Chris-

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tianity. His Hellenikon Therapeutike Pathematon ("Cure for Greek

Maladies") contrasted the two religious systems, and in it he mentioned
Aspasia once. After stating that the greatest Greek philosophers, such as
Pherecydes, Pythagoras, Thales, Solon, and Plato learned from the East
and Egypt, sparing no effort to find enlightenment in all possible quarters (1.12-16), Theodoret remarks that Socrates, that best of philosophers, did not consider it unworthy to learn something from women, for
he did not blush to call himself the student of Diotima, and frequented
Aspasia as well (1.17). Theodoret goes on to say that the Greeks learned
much from the barbarians; as does Lucian in The Dance, he identifies
Aspasia as a somewhat unsuitable but not entirely unworthy source of
Two churchmen who did not mention Aspasia nonetheless suggest
through indirection why Aspasianeither a martyr nor a penitent
Magdalenewas too problematic to be useful to any Christian argument
that pagan evidence might bolster. Tertullian, active in Carthage in the
late second century, interpreted Christian teachings in a highly ascetic
manner and was an extreme advocate of female modesty. Preoccupied
with the dangers of sexual depravity, Tertullian was distressed that
Carthaginians let matrons and whores dress alike (Apol. 6.3), and he
noted that Cato and Socrates shared their wives with others: leno est
philosophus et censor ("The philosopher and the censor are each a
pimp," Apol. 39.13). Tertullian also stated that Socrates should be
considered a whoremaster for having suggested that wives be held in
common. The only woman identified as a prostitute who is praised by
Tertullian in his fulminous Apologeticum was Leaina, mistress of the
tyrannicides, in a chapter that decried the fact that pagan martyrs mostly
died in ways that glorified only the individual (Apol. 50.8).43 Salvianus,
bishop of Marseilles in the later fifth century, was a close follower of
Tertullian and reflected the elder churchman in his statements that Socrates and other ancients pimped their own wives (de Gubernitate Dei,
"On God's Governance," 7.101-103); of Socrates, Salvianus says
lupanar fecit e mundo ("he made a brothel of the world," 7.103).44
Lexicographers and encyclopedists from the second through tenth
centuries A.D. preserved scraps of information that add little to the
picture of Aspasia's biographical tradition sketched by earlier sources;
one constant in this information is her connection with Pericles. Most
probably because her dubious sexual reputation was an integral part of
her biographical tradition, because Socratesher supposed pupilwas


Prisoner of History

himself problematic for some Christians, and simply because she was a
woman, Aspasia was not able to take a place among pagans adopted by
Christian writers as positive exempla. Aspasia and her bios faded out of
both Western and Byzantine sources.45

A Pictorial Tradition?
The attempt to find a pictorial tradition for Aspasia parallel to her appearance in literary texts in the Hellenistic, Roman, and Late Antique
periods is unsatisfying. Some representations have been identified as
being of Aspasia; the correctness of these identifications, impossible to
prove, is almost less important than the fact that they seek to locate
Aspasia with Socrates in symposiac or festive contexts. The Vatican
portrait herm discussed in chapter 1, may date from the Roman period.46
Two terra-cotta reliefs survive, one Hellenistic and one Roman. On
them are a seated woman (on the left), holding a wreath, a winged figure
(in the center), and a man facing the woman (on the right). These reliefs,
apparently molded from the same original, were manufactured as ornaments. The earlier relief, dated to the third to second centuries B.C. , was
originally part of the handle attachment of two silvered terra-cotta pails
and is now in the Museo Nazionale in Naples. Various identities have
been suggested: Diotima or Aspasia or Aphrodite have been put forth for
the woman, the winged figure is agreed to be Eros, and the male has
been identified either as Socrates or more generally as a teacher. The
second relief, dated to the Roman period, was discovered in Pompeii in
1882 on a bronze relief attached to a chest; it too is now housed at the
Museo Nazionale in Naples. Karl Schefold identifies the seated female
as a hetaira.47
A Roman sarcophagusdiscovered in the eighteenth century and
now located in the Louvrehas on it a woman and Socrates conversing
under an archway. The woman has been identified as Aspasia or a Muse;
because Socrates is readily recognizable, art historians have been eager
to name his female companion as well.48 Bone carvings that were used
as furniture ornaments are also said to have portrayed Aspasia. A pair of
Alexandrian carvings of the third to fourth centuries A.D., now in the
Boston Museum of Fine Arts, shows a Silenus-type Socrates and a
woman (Aspasia?) holding a wreath in her right hand. It has been sug-

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gested that there were statuary pairs of Socrates and Aspasia in basilicas
and libraries during the Roman period; other than the works noted here,
which are only tentatively identified, there is no evidence. Again, the
persistent tendency to locate Aspasia in men's company can be seen.49
In the Hellenistic, Roman, and Late Antique periods, written texts
persistently grouped Aspasia with a man, be it Pericles or Socrates, or
both. Art historians have continued to situate Aspasia with men as well.
It would be left to the modern period to give Aspasia an individual
identity of the complexity approaching that which she possessed in
Aeschines' lost dialogue.

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Aspasia in the Postclassical West

The Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the

Baroque Periods
The Greek East and the Latin West both figured women as sinful vessels. As Greek sources and the knowledge of Greek disappeared from
the West, most information about Aspasia was lost. The Middle Ages,
which has recently been identified as the time when feminist consciousness first germinated, saw women speaking and thinking in a Christian
context, whether as mystics inspired by God, or as authorized to speak
and think through their own motherhood. The Christian environment of
that time would appear to have been an unpromising one for the development of Aspasia's bios.'
Aspasia enters the modern period with Heloise's laudatory reference
in her first letter to Peter Abelard. Heloise's tragic affair with Abelard
has been greatly romanticized; the existence and afterlife of the lovers'
correspondence has invested their relationship with a larger-than-life
dimension fueled more by her passionate declarations than by Peter's
chilly, reasoned replies. Heloise (ca. 1100-1164) is the first woman
known to have considered Aspasia as an authority and example for the
way she wanted to live her own life.2
Heloise's first letter to Abelard responds to his Historia Calamitatum,
a melodramatic autobiographical piece in which he tells of his education, his pride in his erudition, and his affair with Heloise and its
unhappy outcome. Berating his lust not only for Heloise but also for
whores (Hist. Cal. pp. 70-71, lines 252-279 Monfrin), Abelard spoke


Prisoner of History

of regret and chastened pride, and frequently referred to Scripture. In

contrast, Heloise's salutation reidentifies her without shame. "To her
master, nay father; to her husband, nay brother; his handmaid, nay
daughter; his spouse, nay sister; to Abelard, Heloise" (p. Ill, lines 2-4
Monfrin). She refers less frequently in this first letter to Christian or
scriptural authority than to Greco-Roman texts, and thereby locates
herself in an otherworld, or perhaps between the two worlds. In declaring her unbounded love for Abelard, Heloise states that God knows she
would follow him to the Vulcania loca (" Vulcanian places,' ' p . 117, line
247 Monfrin), a locale far off the Christian map. Heloise also avoids
placement within conventional categories for women by boldly claiming
membership in the category of concubine or whore: ' 'And if the name of
'wife' seems holier and more valid, to me the word 'friendship' has
always been a sweeter thingor, if you weren't ashamed, the name of
'concubine' or even 'whore' (scorti)" (p. 114, lines 147-151 Monfrin).
Heloise uses a pagan woman's authority to try to persuade Abelard
that their love is good:
As the inductio peformed by the philosopher (philosophe) Aspasia with
Xenophon and his wife in the work of Aeschines Socraticus plainly convinces us. When the aforesaid philosopher <sc., Aspasia> had advanced
this argument for their reconciliation, she ended it in this way: "For when
you have cultivated this [idea], that there is not a better man nor a happier
woman in all the land, then you will always desire that which you think
the best; you to be the husband of the best possible wife, and she to be
wedded to the most excellent husband." This opinion is surely blessed,
and more than philosophical, for it speaks wisdom itself rather than of
philosophy, (p. 11, lines 167-178 Monfrin)3
Heloise's statements that the label of Abelard's meretrix would be
dearer and more dignified than even that of Augustus' empress (p. 114,
lines 157-161 Monfrin), as well as her numerous arguments against the
belief that mere marriage guarantees love, show a continued identification with the pagan. Additionally, this refusal to endorse indicates a
thoughtful adoption of the "Aspasian" ideals that entail mutual commitment rather than belief in the promise that some particular emotional
status will be granted with the assumption of a social role. Heloise's
citation of Aspasia as an authority also suggests that for Heloise there
existed at least the possibility of a woman-centered consciousness.
Whereas pagan and Christian writers gave short shrift to Aspasia's participation in either side of the great debate over the value of pagan

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


culture, Heloise unregenerately claimed not only pagan values, but also
a woman's values alongside other, more orthodox classical authorities.
In his own letters, Abelard suffocated these values under a Christian
Heloise probably knew of Aeschines' Aspasia only through Cicero's
De Inventione Rhetorica, which was canonical in medieval Europe, and
Cicero did not name Aspasia as a courtesan. Therefore, Heloise's admiration for Aspasian thought and her embrace of the title "concubine or
even whore" are not necessarily connected. Although the chaste and
queenly Philosophia of Boethius had attacked his interest in secular
literature by calling the Muses of such works poisonous and sterile,
theatrical little harlots, Heloise not only praised the role of the meretrix
but also asserted that Aspasia's advice transcended philosophy.4
Peggy Kamuf perceptively interprets Heloise's refusal to "convert"
to the nunlike status of Christ's bride, and her attempt to remain Abelard's lover, as important moments in the history of consciousness; she
calls Heloise's insistence on the erotic an attempt to destabilize the
hierarchical and sublimated oppositions that Abelard had forced upon
her.5 Heloise's adoption of Aspasia as a model, and her comment that
Aspasia transcends philosophy, are additional components of this moment and deserve more emphasis. In fact, Heloise persistently identifies
herself as an outsider in the world Abelard and others would have had
her inhabit, claiming the right to seek wisdom in her own way and to her
own ends, but not as a penitent Magdalene.
Abelard's reply to this first letter ignores most of what she said,
asserting that he hadn't written because he didn't think she really needed
him (65 Moncrieff), thus denying the existence, let alone the legitimacy,
of Heloise's desire. References to the husband and wife relationship
abound (68-69 Moncrieff); such references effectively obliterate his
lover's claims by ignoring her remarkable salutation and her claim to the
title of meretrix. Abelard overloads his letter with the very definition
Heloise had refused. Furthermore, his first letter is rife with scriptural
references, in contrast to Heloise's many references to pagan sources.
Heloise's second letter laments her lot and that of her sister nuns, as
well as Abelard's mutilation. Blaming marriage for their misfortunes,
she declares that in fornication they were happy (78 Moncrieff). But
here she begins to capitulate to him by fighting on his ground; the
numerous pagan authorities of her first letter yield here to Christian
references. The "honorary Christian," Seneca, is her only pagan


Prisoner of History

citation. Nonetheless, Heloise reasserts her desire for Abelard and states
that she desired to please him rather than God (82 Moncrieff). This
desire to please an individual mortal rather than an unseen transcendent
Being is a logical extension of Aspasia's highly contextual and personal
Abelard's insistence in his second letter to Heloise that she sublimate
her desire by accepting her state as the bride of Christ, referring all to
Heaven and denying earthly pleasures, can be read as a refusal of Aspasia's message, as can his claim that his castration is the greater punishment (103-104 Moncrieff). According to this calculus, women are inferior to men because they cannot suffer as greatly as men can; Aspasia's
message, however, implies equal capabilities between the sexes. In her
third and final letter, Heloise directs her attention away from their relationship and asks for a discussion of the origin of nuns and for a rule that
would suit women (109-110 Moncrieff). One may surmise that Heloise
abandoned trying to convince Abelard of anything and accepted her new
role. This was not without having suggested that, on the most basic of
levels, men do not understand women (112 Moncrieff). Heloise notes
that Benedict's prescription for monks' clothing would not suit nuns,
who menstruate and therefore need different garments.
Unable to realize her ambition to be Abelard's meretrix, Heloise was
forced to adopt the role of a bride of Christ. It proved impossible for her
to live an "Aspasian" life with him because the participation of both
parties was required; furthermore, the Aspasian path is empirical and
earthly, not contemplative or sublimated, as Peter had demanded.
Heloise's thwarted desire is poignant because she aspired to be something that her model would neither have sought nor gloried in. Furthermore, the nun's burning passion for the charismatic and unavailable
Abelard finds no counterpart in the fuller biographical tradition, unknown to Heloise, which made Pericles the devoted if not besotted lover
of an ambitious courtesan. Heloise's devotion to Peter survives in what
Michele Le Doeuff calls the "Heloise complex."7
Thus, Heloise made a flawed and unsuccessful attempt to own and
name her sexual desires. This assertion preceded the traditional beginnings of modern Western feminism; the historian Joan Kelly has located
these beginnings in the life and work of Christine de Pizan (ca. 1363-ca.
1431). Kelly points out the radical force of Pizan's assertion, in The
Book of the City of Ladies, that valid self-knowledge is possible for

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


women without men's intervention. The general, theoretical, and historically based defense of women begun by Pizan would be supplemented by experientially based definitions and defenses of and by
women, which oftentimes took the form of catalogues of virtuous
women from throughout Western history. As most of these rehabilitative
lists were based on biblical and Roman sources, Aspasia appeared relatively late, after Plutarch's Lives became available in Latin and vernacular languages. Cicero's and Quintilian's mentions of her did not record
any display of virtue suitable for inclusion in such catalogues. Once
Plutarch was available in translation, Aspasia entered, in the company
of Pericles, naturally.8
The catalogue was a Greco-Roman form much used by medieval and
Renaissance writers, but it was only one of the many ways in which the
Renaissance brought to life historical persons of the ancient world.
Another interesting manifestation of the age's love of the classical was
the collection, display, and publication of antique coinsa visual
analogue to the literary catalogue. This phenomenon helped feed into
another, namely, the publication of the immensely popular "medallion
books," which provided engravings of actual coins or, in many cases,
imaginary coin-type portraits of exemplary historical figures, and was
enriched with brief biographical sketches. Aspasia appeared in at least
three such books, complete with imaginary portrait and brief biographical sketch.
The immensely popular Promptuarium Iconum of Guillaume Rouille,
first published in Lyon in 1553 and subsequently translated from Latin
into French, Italian, and Spanish, was a kind of illustrated "Who's
Who'' of the most renowned individuals from the beginning of the world
until the time of the work's publication. Rouille placed Aspasia next to
Pericles; he gave Plutarch's Pericles as his sole source for Aspasia,
whom he discussed in seven lines. Rouille noted her amatory alliance
with Pericles and Pericles' singular love and affection for her. He also
reported the allegation that she persuaded Pericles to go to war against
Samos and stated that Pericles formed his liaison with Aspasia after an
amicable divorce from his wife. Pericles, described in eighteen lines, is
also given a portrait. Rouille cited Plutarch, Thucydides, Xenophon,
and Erasmus as his sources for Pericles. The two lovers face each other
on the page; Aspasia is not seen outside of the company of Pericles
(Figure 5.1). Everything that is said about Aspasia in the biographical


Prisoner of History

Figure 5.1. Woodcuts of imaginary coin portraits of Aspasia and Pericles. Guillaume de Rouille, Promptuarium Inconum (Lyons: Rouille, 1553) vol. 1, p. 119.

sketch concerns her relationship to Pericles; she, however, is not mentioned at all in the sketch about him. Rouille indeed used Plutarch but in
a highly selective manner.9
Just a century later, angry because such catalogue authors as Boccaccio had omitted many examples of women's intellect, the Venetian
feminist Arcangela Tarabotti composed a passionate tract, La semplicitd
ingannata, o tirannia paterna (1654), which filled many gaps in the
conventional lists. She asked why they did not mention Aspasia, the
teacher of Pericles, and noted other women commonly omitted from
the lists.10
Tarabotti's near-contemporary, the French savant Gilles de Menage
(1613-1692), published the influential Historia Mulierum Philosopharum (History of Women Philosophers). This work possibly was inspired by Menage's acquaintance with the salons of such intellectual
women as Madame de Scudery and his friendship with an editor and
translator of the classics, Anne Lefebvre Dacier, whom he addressed as
"feminarum doctissima" in the book's dedication to her. It may also
have been modeled on work of the ancient biographer of the philosophers, Diogenes Laertius, about whom Menage had already written. His
history of women philosophers was first published in Latin in 1690 in
Lyons but did not appear in French until an abridgement was issued in
1758. In this work, Menage defined women as philosophers if they were
called a philosopher, learned, or wise by an ancient source; if they were
the relative, friend, or disciple of some known philosopher; or if they
had done something that could be called philosophical. By using these

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


criteria, Menage assembled sixty-five women philosophers from antiquity to his own day.11
Aspasia appeared in his first chapter on philosophers of no definite
sect, in the company of some eighteen other women, including Diotima,
Julia Domna, St. Catherine, AnnaComnena, and Heloise. Menage carefully assembled the major sources. He states as fact that the Milesian's
father was Axiochus, that she taught rhetoric to Pericles and rhetoric and
philosophy to Socrates, and that she was the mistress of Pericles and
later his wife. He evidently believed that Pericles married her after she
was captured by the Athenians and that the marriage provoked the
Samian and the Peloponnesian wars; all other information is qualified.
He also relates that Aspasia was depicted in the medallion books of
Bellorio and Canini. The original gem was in the possession of a lady
called Felicia Rondanina. This antique jasper stone is described as being
labelled Aspasou (possibly, as Menage pointed out, an incorrect genitive
form for the formation Aspaso); Menage described the engraving as of a
beautiful long-haired woman, armed with a helmet and shield. And
indeed, Canini's portrait of Aspasia is just so. On the lady's helmet is
painted a four-horse chariot, and above the chariot, Pegasus and the
Sphinx, a fantastic iconography that cannot possibly have come from
classical antiquity (Figure 5.2). Interestingly, however, Aspasia's martial reputation, as seen on the stone, comprised a large part of what
Menage endorsed in his own presentation of the information about her.12

The Eighteenth Century

Her presence in medallion books, in Tarabotti's defense of women, and
in the influential Historia Mulierum Philosopharum would have made
Aspasia known (if not well known) to literate Europeans interested in
women's history. Dictionaries and encyclopedias also mentioned her;
these were heavily dependent on Plutarch, with "spice" from Athenaeus. Jean Leconte de Bievre, following Plutarch's mention of the two
Aspasias, published his credulous Histoire des deuxAspasies in 1736.13
The "other" Aspasia is, of course, Cyrus' mistress of the same name.
Leconte did nothing to unite his treatment of these women except to note
in his introduction that important women deserve treatment equal to
men's at the hands of historians. The work is essentially bipartite, with
ninety-two pages devoted to the Milesian and forty-seven to the other


Prisoner of History

Figure 5.2. Engraved gemstone portrait of Aspasia. Giovanni Angelo

Canini. Iconografia doe Desegni d'Imagini de Famosissimi Monarchi, Regi,
Filosofi, Poeti ed Ordtori dell'Antichita (Rome: Lazari, 1669) p. 121.

Aspasia; each section has a separate contents and an index. Credulous of

Plutarch, Leconte considered Aspasia to have imitated Thargeliaa
femme galanteto have gotten an Ionian education in rhetoric and
science, and to have had an ability to teach, expressed as 'Tart de bien
dire, de gagner les coeurs, de persuader, de gouverner les esprits."
Pericles was said to have fallen in love with his teacher in a way that
resonated with other romanticized pairs such as Heloise and Abelard:
"Rarement une belle femme orne 1'esprit par ses instructions, sans

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


toucher le coeur par ses graces . . . 1'Amour se joignit aux Muses

pour former leur union." Leconte states as fact not only that Pericles
married Aspasia, but also that Pericles junior was the pair's natural
The next known representation of Aspasia was the amazing feminist
vision rendered by the young portraitist, Marie-Genevieve Bouliar. In
the frightening and heady years of the French Revolution in which
women themselves participated and during which laws were passed on
their behalf, Bouliar (1763-1825) painted Aspasie, her only surviving
classical subject painting, in 1794. Exhibited at the Salon of 1795, it
garnered a Prix d'Encouragement. Born in Paris, Bouliar was educated
by Joseph Siffred Duplessis (1725-1802), one of the period's most celebrated portraitists, whose unconventional positioning of his subjects
suggested their individuality. Bouliar exhibited at the Salons from 1791
until 1817, with interruptions from 1802 to 1808 and 1808 to 1817. Her
father may have been the Parisian engraver Jacques Bouliard, who also
exhibited at the Salon of 1791. If this is so, Bouliar's early life followed
the pattern often seen among female artists: the artistic gift was manifested and nurtured by the family, particularly by the father. The few
known facts of her life suggest a pattern counter to the norm of marriage
and motherhood: Bouliar, who seems never to have married and to
have died at the home of friends, had a productive span of more than
two dozen years and apparently made most of her living as a portraitist.14
Bouliar, like many other female artists, was primarily a portraitist.
Her Aspasie, although a departure from her usual fare of living subjects,
was also a portrait. This was fitting, inasmuch as Aspasia' reported life
events did not lend themselves to scenes of vivid emotion or violent
action as did those of other popular classical and/or biblical subjects.
Nor was Aspasia a known or popular female subject, as she did not
belong to the categories of femmes fortes or of Weibermacht. For the
female artist, moreover, any depiction of Aspasia, given her troubling
sexual reputation, would have been problematic. Bouliar's choice of this
subject, therefore, even in an age that had many female classical subjects, is important and suggests that the artist felt strongly about it. In her
study of the Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi, Mary Garrard notes
the attraction of heroic women subjects for women painters in her observation that Gentileschi needed "to identify personally with her characters in order to bring them to life." Many heroic women subjects, as
well as the women who painted them, were outsiders; Aspasia was a


Prisoner of History

quintessential outsider. It is impossible to know Bouliar's self-concept

and whether she thought of herself as an outsider, let alone what of
herself she put into the Aspasie, but the painter seems to have had a deep
sympathy for her subject and to have given much thought to the representation of her.15
The Aspasie, the first known representation of Aspasia by a woman
artist, was called "the masterpiece of her small surviving oeuvre" by art
historian Linda Sutherland Harris (Figure 5.3). The painting was exhib-

Figure 5.3. Oil painting, Aspasie. Marie-Genevieve Bouliar, 1795. Courtesy

Musee d'Arras (France).

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


ited at the Musee Napoleon (Louvre), decorated Fontainbleau from 1837

to 1875, and in 1876 was given by the state to the museum at Arras, its
present home. In it, Aspasia is shown seated in a dimly lit, arched
interior that contains a table with flowers at her left and a bust of Pericles
in the background. She rests her left hand on the table and in that hand
holds an unwrapped scroll lettered in Greek. In her right hand she holds
a mirror into which she gazes. Her legs are open and the feet, not seen
because the painting terminates in the middle of her calves, would have
been crossed at the ankles. Aspasia wears a heavy overdrape and a
diaphanous undertunic, which has slipped off her right shoulder and
bares the right breast. The woman is brightly illuminated, as are the
surface of the table, the scroll, the flowers, and the back of the mirror,
from a light source in front of her.16
Francoise Maison's 1972 Arras catalogue entry identifies the importance of Plutarch's Pericles to contemporary understanding of Aspasia's
milieu, and, in its analysis of the painting, notes iconographic correspondences with other French paintings. The Harris and Nochlin catalogue commentary also reads the painting with Plutarch. The bared
breast is considered to be a reference to Aspasia's erotic nature, a nature,
moreover, that called into question her intellectualism. Nochlin and
Harris consider her solitude a momentary one in which she perhaps
awaits Pericles or Socrates; they suggest that the portrait constitutes "a
gentle plea, couched in the most respectable of artistic language, for the
equality of women."17 It is possible to grant Aspasia more subjectivity
than this by reading the painting in concert with developments in European feminism, as well as with iconographic conventions and with Plutarch himself.
First, I note her gaze into the mirror. Harris, following tradition,
called this pose a reference to Aspasia's putative erotic beauty; tradition
might indeed class this painting among the numerous Venuses at the
toilette. But Aspasia is hardly at her toilette: cosmetics are absent, and in
her other hand she holds a Greek text rather than a comb or hair ornament. Nor does she look at the viewer, as do many of the pornographic
pictures of women who primp or invite the voyeur's gaze in the most
unlikely situations. One can recall the advice of Christine de Pizan's
divine instructress: look in the mirror to find yourself, and don't listen to
It is at least as likely that Bouliar chose to show Aspasia looking into
the mirror in order to better know herself in accord with the Greek


Prisoner of History

maxim, gnothi sauton ("know thyself")- The iconography of the mirror

as a mirror of the soul was well established by Bouliar's day, and
Socrates was painted holding up a mirror to his students. Garrard notes
that women artists in particular used the mirror as a symbol of selfknowledge. Who better to hold up a mirror than Socrates' own teacher?
The image suggests that Aspasia is practicing a technique that she would
later pass on to Socrates. Her response to her image is one of thoughtful
engagement; she does not smile coquettishly or narcissistically. In her
left hand Aspasia holds a Greek text, which indicates produced knowledgethe eternal textual' 'product,'' and in her right hand the mirror
the path to self-knowledge. Self-knowledge is a dynamic process that
occurs only at those moments when we seek it. Aspasia holds the scroll
but looks in the mirror; this suggests that the self-knowledge that is
produced by introspection is primary and that the textual product is
incidental. Like Socrates, Aspasia left no written work.19
Aspasia's clothing and the positioning of her body are also noteworthy. It is true that bared breasts can signify the erotic, but one bared
breast is Amazonian, suggestive of the self-sufficient and forceful
woman. One recalls Plutarch's reports that Aspasia urged Pericles to
practice an aggressive foreign policy, and that seventeenth-century medallion portraits emphasized the Minerval aspect of Aspasia. Additionally, tradition has it that Pericles defended his beloved by begging
and weeping. No ancient source says that Aspasia loved Pericles or
anyone else. Bouliar's Aspasia, self-confident and at ease, does not
appear to be eagerly awaiting a male visitor. Her relaxed lower limbs
suggest a state of comfort. Aspasia sits as men do, with her legs casually
apart and with no attention drawn to her genital area.
In the background is the bust of Pericles, not Pericles himself or any
suggestion of his literal presence in her life. Bouliar placed his image in
the dark, as she positioned the living Aspasia in the light. The bust, like
the globe, functions as furniture, indicating, perhaps, Aspasia's interests
and concerns (or the bios' reportage of these). Certainly Pericles' statue
does not have the function of a guardian angel. In fact, Bouliar avoided
representing the dominatrix suggested by ancient comedy, the elegant
saloniere her own day imagined Aspasia to have been, or the winsome
creature that Victorian novels would produce. Aspasia does not exist
here in relation to some Other. She is not the signifier or phallic woman
but is herself the significant, shown in the dynamic process of fulfilling
Pizan's instructor's advice. Bouliar, like Christine de Pizan and Arte-

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


misia Gentileschi, transformed those intellectual and allegorical traditions that had rendered the female "signifier rather than the significant."20
Bouliar also alluded to the negative aspects of Aspasia's bios. The cut
or potted flowers on the table and the garland draped over the back of her
chair give an ambivalent cast. Do these flowers, removed from their
natural environment to be cut and shaped, suggest that Aspasia's life
was also fashioned by desires not her own, that it was cultivated rather
than allowed to proceed freelythat it was in a sense unnatural? If the
painting has not been cut down, Bouliar has literally cut off Aspasia's
feet, thereby immobilizing her in a darkened room. By showing Aspasia
as a young woman, did Bouliar imply that her mature years would have
been less happy? The cut flowers and the single figure, apparently content to be alone, might also suggest an unrealized potential, which
sometimes occurs when a talented individual lacks true peers, becoming
what Mary Daly calls "a cognitive minority of one."21

Aspasia on the Continent, in England, and in the

New World in the Nineteenth Century
Three years after Bouliar's Aspasie was exhibited, Nicholas-Andre
Monsiau located her once again in the company of men in his 1798
painting Aspasie s'entretenant avec Alciblades et Socrate. He engulfed
her with men in his Aspasie s'entretenant avec les hommes les plus
illustres d'Athenes, which he created for the Salon of 1806 (Figure 5.4).
The painting illustrated the then-popular notion that Aspasia held salons.
This work, now at the Musee de Chambery, depicts Aspasia holding
court with ten men and is a counterpart to Monsiau's 1802 Salon offering, Moliere lisant son Tartufe chez Ninon de I'Enclos.
Monsiau's contemporary, the intellectual saloniere Madame de Stael,
claimed as fact the notion that Aspasia held salons. Later nineteenthcentury cultural historians elaborated on this notion. Louis Aime Victor
Becq de Fouquieres (1831-1887) ably surveyed the ancient sources,
including the portrait herm and possibly the Renaissance engraved gem;
he provided a highly laudatory view of Aspasia. He believed that Aspasia never was a prostitute and that her reputation as one was a hostile
development of comedy. Becq de Fouquieres was well acquainted with
European studies of Aspasia and other learned woman. He treated Peri-


Prisoner of History

Figure 5.4. Oil painting, Aspasie s'entretenant avec les hommes les plus illustres d'Athenes. Nicolas-Andre Monsiau, 1806. Musee de Chambery inv.
D.83.1.1 Courtesy Musee de Chambery (depot du Louvre).

cles' and Aspasia's union as a kind of precursor to the modern egalitarian marriage. Becq de Fouquieres considered this union to be as close to
legal marriage as the citizenship law allowed, and he suggested that
Aspasia, the first saloniere in history, exercised a moral influence over
the women brought to her salon. In Becq de Fouquieres' view, the
kernel of Aspasia's message appears to have been that women should
have freedom of choice in love.22 Even as Becq de Fouquieres was
giving this positive interpretation, however, Jean-Leon Gerome had
been pornographizing Aspasia. His important 1861 Salon painting Socrates Seeking Alcibiades in the House of Aspasia shows her just before
or after fellating Alcibiades.
Although the influence of Plutarch seems to have dominated narratives about Aspasia in prose and on canvas, a significant Continental
extension of her bios was developed along Platonic lines in the work of
the great Italian poet and essayist, Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837).
Leopardi's classical education, the pain of his unrequited loves, and the
emotional damage wrought by his own physical deformities and debilitating illnesses informed his "Aspasia cycle" of five poems, com-

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


posed in Naples between 1831 and 1835. So named because Aspasia is

the addressee of the last poem and the poetic referent in the first four to
Leopardi's beloved, Fanny Targioni-Tozzetti, the cycle is a RomanticPlatonic meditation on love and death.23
The poems begin with Leopardi's first-person meditation on the twin
natures of love and death in Amore e morte. Death is love's companion
and twin, a beautiful maiden who nullifies the sad; love, on the other
hand, empowers us to act. But even as we fall in love, we see that death
will be our release from love. This first poem ends with a prayer that
fate give the bold either love or death. The persona asks for death,
which is more constant than love. The poem's classical superscription,
Menander's "Whom the gods love die young," anticipates this wish.
The next poem, Consalvo, is a narration of the death of Consalvo, who
lies alone, wishing for just a kiss from his unreciprocating but beloved
Elvira. She obliges; once kissed, the transfigured man can die happy.
Elvira's momentary gift of earthly love effects Consalvo's liberation,
which is identified with death. Here, the lover's wish of the first poem is
fulfilled, but at one remove, because the story is told in the third person,
not by a first-person narrator.
Leopardi returned to first-person narration in // pensiero dominante,
investing love, "the dominating thought," with all that is restful and
productive. This thought evokes for the traveler verdant fields beside
which all else is valueless, sterile, and banal. Because of this thought,
the persona can laugh at death and transcend his own time, this eta
superba. In naming the dominating thought as the only passion that
dwells in the human heart, Leopardi evokes Plato's Symposium and its
privileging of eros; moreover, in asserting that the thought makes one
forget the truth, Leopardi acknowledges that humans become enraptured
by the love object's mere physical beauty. His only real description of
the dominant thought identifies it as a dream, a divine error. Like Plato,
Leopardi revealed the illusory nature of that which humans hold most
dear. At the poem's end, Leopardi conflates the love object with the
dominating thought; thus, in mingling the human and divine, the real
and ideal, he shows the point at which the lover ignorantly and passionately confounds the two.
The mood of A se stesso is gloomy. Rather than addressing an idea,
talking about personified abstractions, or narrating a moment in another
lover's progress, Leopardi appears to be speaking frankly to himself. In
this poem, Leopardi acknowledges that the illusion he thought eternal
was dead and advises himself to scorn everything, including the brute


Prisoner of History

power that amuses itself with our woe. The only possibility is to survive
with dignity.
The final poem, Aspasia, an address to his lost beloved, magnificently
synthesizes the themes of the first four poems. Leopardi twice addressed
his lost love as Aspasia (lines 2 and 63). The richest in classical allusions
of the cycle, Aspasia also locates the title character in the past, in
the land of the dead. Leopardi, having triumphed over his passion,
produced his text to show that the mortal woman who inspired him has
literally died and that, on the other hand, his illusion has lived on. (Note
that in Consalvo the mortal woman lives, the lover dies, and the idea is
left hanging.) He acknowledged her divine beauty: her form was
angelic, she transfigured his world, she represented nature and the fecundity of motherhood. Aspasia reveals unknown Elysiumseven
Heaven, the ultimate transcendence, is multiplied. Here, Leopardi acknowledged that the lover's mind begets the idea of eros, and that even
as he embraces the mortal woman, he really embraces the idea, whose
divine form he first apprehended in Fanny/Aspasia. Because the mortal
is a mere avenue to this idea. Leopardi can think about Fanny/Aspasia
now. She comes and goes in his thoughts come cara larva, like a
beloved ghost. Thus, we can read the Aspasia cycle not only with the
Symposium, but also with the Menexenus, where a dead woman inspires
the living. Leopardi transcended his human disappointment by rewriting
the narrative of his unrequited love. He kept the joy of having loved but
also gained freedom from servitude. He took revenge and comfort in
being able to lie smiling at the sea and stars. The real woman is dead,
and here, even more than in the fourth poem, the lover can truly speak a
se stesso, to himself. Fittingly, the poet called the mortal avenue to these
insights "Aspasia," who became through Plato's Menexenus a floating
signifier and, through later ages' conflation with Diotima, an erotic
guide. By figuring the seeker of this enlightened solitude as a man and
the avenue to it as a woman, Leopardi achieved for Aspasia a universal/
archetypal status as das Ewigweibliche, a status she would occupy in
several nineteenth- and twentieth-century novels.
Victorian classicism purified Aspasia, making her consort to the great
man and desexing her; historiography, painting, and the novel all produced similar views. Growing interest in "the woman question" in
Europe and the United States in the nineteenth century also occasioned
references to and treatments of Aspasia. Walter Savage Landor (1775
1864), whose work is little read today, spent much of his later life in

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


Italy. The conservative Landor had popular success with his epistolary
novel, Pericles and Aspasia, which he was inspired to write at the
beginning of 1835 and which first appeared in 1836. He considered
his sources to be Bayle, Menage, Thucydides, and Plutarch, being
happy to let little more impede his own creative view of fifth-century
This novel, the first full fictional treatment of Aspasia's relationship
with Pericles, is made up of 237 numbered letters between Pericles and
Aspasia, and other real or invented personages. Aspasia's correspondence with her fictional friend, Cleone (who conveniently resides in faroff Miletus and is thus unable to be an on-hand companion or ally)
provides the narrative structure.25 Aspasia somehow makes her way
from Miletus to Athens and primly lodges with a widowed kinswoman
(letters 1,2). On her first day there, she dons male attire and attends a
performance at the festival of Dionysus; overcome with excitement, she
faints and is succored by attendants of Pericles (letters 4-6). Like some
Victorian swain, Pericles soon visits her and asks permission to call
(letter 10). Love follows soon after (letters 11, 13, 14, 15). The particulars of the relationship are not clear. That they have married is not
manifest until letter 162, when Aspasia, telling Cleone of her trial for
impiety, states that at the trial Pericles referred to her as his wife. Not
until letter 185 is a reference made to their child, when Aspasia writes to
Cleone of Pericles' desire that "our son" grow up in Athens; removed
to Thessaly, she takes comfort in "little Pericles" (letter 192). Anachronistically, Pericles informs Aspasia that he had revoked the
"odious" citizenship law (letter 198), thus allowing Pericles junior to
continue on with the family, well before the deaths of Xanthippus and
Paralus (narrated in letter 234).26
The marriage most often referred to is Pericles' marriage to power;
Aspasia timidly protests this time-consuming commitment, but to no
avail (letters 105,106). Like Abelard before him, Pericles often declines
to answer his lover's requests (e.g., letters 61 and 63; 163 and 164; 173,
174, 185; in letter 111 he even refuses to give Aspasia copies of his
speeches). But she does not seem to mind this apparent neglect, assuring
him that "I shall love you even more than I do, if you will love yourself
more than me" (letter 70).
Landor takes away from Aspasia most claims made for her independence of thought or her influence on Pericles. Aspasia denies that she
has retouched any of Pericles' orations (letter 50), and Anaxagoras


Prisoner of History

praises Aspasia for having taken Pericles' advice to read history rather
than philosophy (letter 134). Aspasia even recounts Pericles' severe
criticism of her own summary of Roman history (letter 137). As for
Aspasia's reputed eloquence, she does mount her own defence at the
trial, but Pericles finishes the job for her (letters 161, 162). Thus the
rescued one can say, "I was forgotten . . . the danger, the insult,
seemed his" (letter 163). Moreover, many of Aspasia's letters to Cleone
simply transcribe Pericles' own opinions and speeches; her letters become a vehicle for replicating his ideas, not her own. When Cleone asks
Aspasia for a panegyric on women poets, Aspasia declines and asks
Pericles his opinion (letters 36, 37). Nor does she seem to have any part
in the Samian War, remarking to Cleone after its end that it is enough
that her Pericles is safe at home: "Not a word has he spoken, not a
question have I asked him about the odious war of Samos" (letter 120).
This Victorian writer inverted the ancient formula by which Pericles
spoke with Aspasia's tongue instead of making her speak with his.
The Aspasia who emerges admires restraint, disapproves of Sappho's
passions, and lauds Euripides' and Sophocles' self-control (letter 48).
She does not attempt to advise Pericles about foreign policy, though she
states that war is barbaric (letter 112). Landor dispelled rumors that she
was a madam by having her recount her efforts to win honest suitors for
two Milesian girls, which sincere and innocuous effort is twisted by
Dracontides into the malicious rumor that she pimped for Pericles (letters 55-59). Obedient to Pericles, she entertains an elderly woman at his
request (letter 102); he permits her to go visiting, tells her how to behave
(letters 23, 24), and advises her to change the air (letter 31). She writes a
little; Landor ascribed to her a comic epigram (letter 78), a poem to her
nurse and a piece on youth and age (letter 107), and a paean to Miletus
(letter 140), all of which are transcribed in letters to Cleone. So far as we
can tell, Pericles knows nothing of these productions. Aspasia's masterpiece is three fragments of a tragedy about the house of Atreus (letters
225, 227, 229). Cleone urges her to complete the play (letter 228) but
Aspasia is diffident: "Tragedy is quite above me" she pleads (letter
225), adding in her last installment that she dislikes any manual activity,
be it sewing or writing (letter 229)this Aspasia doesn't know the
difference between the two.27
Lander's Aspasia is a perfect "angel in the house," a docile wife and
mother, a reflector of Pericles' glory whose life is not worth narrating
after Pericles' death. The novel ends when Aspasia, removed from the

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


dangers of war, is informed by Alcibiades of Pericles' and Cleone's

deaths (letters 236 and 237, respectively).
Eliza Lynn Linton, the formidable antifeminist novelist and essayist,
was in her twenties when her second historical novel, Amymone: A
Romance of the Days of Pericles, appeared in 1848. Dedicated to her
father and praised lavishly by Savage Landor, the novel launched Linton
on a long and successful career. In her preface, Linton announced that in
Aspasia's character she tried "to embody what I believe to be the practical truths of human life'' (p. v); "I have but clothed in Grecian form the
spirit of modern England; speaking, under local names, of questions
which interest universal man" (pp. v, vi). This genteel and philosophical purpose is effected in about 1,200 pages of rotten-ripe ecphraseis,
poison, torture, disguise, and treachery that surpassed the penny dreadfuls of that time.28
The tale told is of the beautiful and treacherous me tic Amymone,
recently disfranchised by Pericles' citizenship law, which Linton obviously considered to have been retroactive. Married to a handsome but
weak-willed metic, Methion, Amymone schemes and claws her way
into the inner circle of Athenian high society by forging a new will in
which Methion's pros tales (citizen sponsor), Crethon, leaves everything
to Methion, whereupon Crethon is murdered. Cleon waits in the wings
to blackmail her into committing even worse acts while he simultaneously works to discredit Pericles and his friends. Rather than show
compassion for Amymone's plight as a metic, Linton dwells instead on
Amymone's failure to accept her status, and on her fierce, ungovernable
passions, her ability to sexually dominate men, and her unwomanly
ability to resort to violence. Amymone visits a witch, horridly loathes
the husband who must be her master (1.240), and is described as a
Clytemnestran wife (1.304 and 3.17). When finally trapped, after having
"laboured ceaselessly to obtain an influence counter to Aspasia's, which
should destroy and annul her work" (2.68), and after having attended
the Olympian games disguised as a Phrygian boy (3.193), Amymone,
and her husband, stand trial for their crimes. He cravenly is willing to
live on as a public slave (3.348), but Amymone murders her own child
in the courtroom and then kills herself on the last page of the novel
Aspasia, whose arrival and presence in Athens is never explained,
lives with Pericles in wedded harmony (1.56); their household, simple
and unadorned, is "the very Erechtheion of the social life of Athens"


Prisoner of History

(1.48). At home, the married pair assure one another of their mutual
devotion (1.58-64). Aspasia would be Pericles' slave, his helot (1.62).
In an early scene, Aspasia and Pericles talk of their love for one another,
but Pericles then speaks alone of philosophy with Socrates (1.48-70).
Pericles is the center of a formidable intellectual circle: "And that
beautiful Ionian woman sat among them, like the queen of all" (1.75).
Aspasia and Pericles ("that republican monarch" 1.87) alike dream of a
day when the people shall rule supreme and, as Aspasia says to herself,
"And then, men will understand other than conventional virtues . . .
then I, Aspasia, now named Hetaira, because endowed with an Hetaira's
education, shall be called virtuous, and beyond my age. . . . To live a
matron's seeming, and to play a harlot's games, Athens winks at that!
To love in pure, chaste wedlock of soul, but to despise the formal
customs, that is to be an Hetaira, abandoned, shameless, and undone"
(1.91). Linton noted that whereas hetairai are self-confident, educated,
and friends to men, wives are mere housekeepers (1.113).
Aspasia and Amymone are contrasted with each other in several encounters, the most notable of which (1.77-105) shows that Aspasia
was branded with the name of courtesan, because she had learnt those arts
of education which had hitherto been reserved for this class; because she
had endeavoured to rescue philosophy, learning, and art, from the purposes of seduction, to which alone they were applied; because she strove
to establish the truth of an equal law between the sexes; an equal though a
diverse; and threw off many of the conventional restraints of her time;
because she did all this, the chaste matrons of the violet city shrieked out
against her; and men, more narrow, mean, and bigoted, repeated the
slanderous lie, till after ages caught the echo, and Aspasia's name lies still
deep-stained with a calumnious infamy. (2.79)
Aspasia tells Amymone that love is the most necessary part of a marriage (2.88-89). This conversation, which Amymone reports to Hermippus, becomes the basis for his accusation of impiety, despite Aspasia's own declaration to another woman: "Loving, chaste, obedient,
and true, all this let womanhood remain; but with these virtues let her
have a wider education and a higher moral position" (2.103). In accord
with Aspasia's wish that womanhood remain obedient, she avers to
Pericles that "an Attic birth could not have given me more than my
present greatest privilege,the privilege of loving thee" (2.254), and
severs her innocent friendship with a young girl because the girl's suitor
disapproves (3.98-130).

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


Amidst increasing public censure of Aspasia, Lysicles becomes her

ally at a Dionysiac festival during which Hermippus publicly calls her a
hetaira (2.130-132), a nice touch that allowed Linton to forecast Lysicles' supposed protection of her after the death of Pericles. Hermippus'
formal charge of impiety will not come for another half-dozen years, in
the mid-430s B.C. (3.274), as part of a concerted campaign against
Pericles by assorted demagogues. Amymone is allowed to testify against
Aspasia in Linton's fantastic version of the trial (3.277). But Pericles'
celebrated tears finally sway the crowd (3.282-283).
The fact that the novel ends with the death of Amymone, soon after
Aspasia's acquittal on the impiety charge, shows the extent to which
Linton was eager to figure the ambitious woman as an evil foil. The
dark, Medea-like Amymone (3.331) takes the fall for ambitious women.
Because Aspasia seemingly achieves her own security with love,
beauty, brains, and luck, she has no cause to worry. Linton never
showed Aspasia in any genuine predicament or seriously dissatisfied
with her lot or those of other women, and even foreshadowed the protection she would receive from Lysicles after Pericles' death. She conveniently made Xanthippus and Paralus exceedingly unlikable sons. Linton took the tradition of a colorful, scandalous, unconventional female
genius and, like Savage Landor, domesticated her into "the angel in the
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912), a major interpreter of the
Victorian vision of the ancient world, also protected Aspasia by positioning her chastely in men's space as a reflector and admirer of men's
projects in his 1868 painting, Phidias and the Frieze of the Parthenon
(Figure 5.5). Alma-Tadema's strain of classicism is characterized by his
fusion of classicizing idealism with the minuteness of detail typical of
genre painting; additionally, he displayed a strong interest in ecphrasis
or, as Richard Jenkyns calls it, a "pull toward literary or anecdotal
The painting synthesizes certain aspects of Plutarch's descriptions of
Pericles' associates and the Parthenon project. Noted figures of the day
pay homage to Art, a projection back into antiquity of the homage paid
in London by Britons when the Elgin Marbles were first displayed. A
heroic Phidias shows the Parthenon frieze, in progress, to Pericles,
Aspasia, and three other men. All but one man (possibly Alcibiades,
who eyes another man) gaze reverently at the sculptures. Aspasia is
somewhat concealed from view. She is heavily robed; one may glimpse


Prisoner of History

Figure 5.5. Oil painting, Phidias and the Frieze of the Parthenon, Athens.
Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1868. City Museum of Birmingham inv. 118.23.
Courtesy of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

her black and white spotted underdress, and she wears a saffron outer
dress, a possible reference to her reputation as a courtesan. But her hair
is mostly covered and suggests a matron's coiffure.30
Heavy and dark, this Aspasia hardly recalls Landor's sprightly
woman or Linton's queenly one, and she certainly is totally unlike
Bouliar's version. This may be the only one of Alma-Tadema's classical
subject paintings in which he gave a woman a positive rendition "in a
position of power and authority," as Joseph Kestner puts it, and made
Aspasia "the virtuous mistress of Pericles." Certainly, Aspasia is more
positively portrayed than is Alma-Tadema's scheming Julia Domna in
the 1907 Caracalla and Geta, and she is more reverently attentive to the
display of men's labor than either the lolling Lesbia in his 1865 At
Lesbia's or the indolent woman who is sharply contrasted to rapt male
listeners in his 1885 A Reading from Homer. Alma-Tadema often
showed women in pairs, or as Kestner puts it, as "dangerous doubles,"
"anti-intellectuals," and "in a state of idleness and torpor." According
to tradition, Aspasia, had no female peers; here, Alma-Tadema did not

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


emphasize her singularity as had Bouliar. Instead, he enveloped her and

her reaction to Phidias' workmanship in a man's space. Ultimately,
Alma-Tadema's Aspasia fulfills the aim of Linton's Aspasia, that is, to
give women the intellectual training to make them fit companions for
men. In like fashion his Sappho, in the 1881 Sappho and Alcaeus, is
subordinated, along with her "school," to Alcaeus; she and her girls are
Alcaeus' audience, not his peers. Eliza Lynn Linton, who had made
Amymone a frightening monster, would continue to inveigh against
"wild women" even as Alma-Tadema showed tamed, exemplary
women on some canvases and dangerous sensual ones elsewhere.31
At around the same time, an American writer, C. Holland, published
Aspasia, an obscure quasi-autobiographical novel that made interesting
use of parts of Aspasia's identity. It may be the first treatment of Aspasia
in the New World and the first fictional treatment that made Aspasia the
sole narrator.32 Aspasia Horton, the devout protagonist, decides her
life's destiny at the age of 12: "I then and there resolved that I would be
a woman in the broadest sense of the term" (p. 7). She begins to realize
her destiny at a young ladies' seminary, where she uses her prodigious
memory to learn Latin, Greek, and geology, and also debates her
teachers and fellows about Christian theology. She is outstandingly
rational: although Aspasia meets her future husband, Morgan Goodspeed, during adolescence, she resolves to heed her late mother and not
marry until having completed her education (p. 74). Aspasia is far more
reasonable than her romantic and impetuous suitor (pp. 76-77). After
the vicissitudes of earning a poor living for herself and her children
while Morgan grapples with the evils of drink, Aspasia at length has the
satisfaction of seeing her husband repent, sober up, and prosper. After
his edifying death, the wealthy widow can "bestow my charities with a
liberal hand" (p. 186). She feeds and houses the poor and distributes
religious reading materials. Aspasia Horton Goodspeed attempts to synthesize and live the precepts of Jesus Christ and the Greek philosophers,
among whom she sees no great difference (p. 41). At the end of the
book, she fuses the moral teachings of Greek philosophy and the Presbyterian catechism (chapter 17, p. 187 ff.) For this latter-day Aspasia,
particular obligations grow from our natures, one of which is that we
must live out the implications of the fact that "there is no such thing as
sex in souls or spirits" (pp. 189-190).
Holland focused on the spiritual and intellectual development of the
heroine and her use of those strengths to overcome all obstacles. Her


Prisoner of History

"Aspasia" is a seminary-educated, Christian lady bountiful who survives adversity to find material and spiritual wealth. From the Milesian's
bios, Holland took her learning, her rhetorical skill, and the probability
that she outlived her mate, and rewarded this literary creation more
handsomely than her namesake ever was. Aspasia Goodspeed is never
insulted publicly, she has a proper marriage, and as we read the memoirs
of her late middle age, we are given the satisfaction of knowing what
happens to her. Holland's transformation of Aspasia into a positive role
model for contemporary American women was undoubtedly not embraced by all nineteenth-century proponents of women's education.
Margaret Fuller's contemporary, Caroline Dall, could refer contemptuously to Ischomachus as running off to "the saloon of Aspasia." Nonetheless, the protagonist's unusual determination to prosecute her life's
course, and her contention that education was woman's right, harmonizes with the tenets of nineteenth-century American feminism.33
Aspasia Horton Goodspeed, a rather tame protofeminist, was no
match for the most glamorous fictional Aspasia of the century. The
Austrian classicist Rupert Hammerling (pseudonym Robert Hamerling,
1830-1889), whose historical novels and poetry are today mostly forgotten, wrote a blockbuster Aspasia in 1876. This lavish and lengthy work
was in print for about 50 years and inspired a play and musical composition. Hamerling's sympathetic portrait of Aspasia credited her with far
more subjectivity and activism than had any prior construction of her
biographical tradition, even as it omitted some inconvenient details that
did not mesh with his idealizing project.34
Hamerling created an imperial fantasy in his violet Athens, a place
where the common man discourses learnedly in the agora about the most
complex political and philosophical issues. Aspasia is singular; she is no
ordinary woman but a queen bee with no real understanding of the
problems of women as a gender class. As Euripides says, Aspasia is a
woman but women are not Aspasias (2.60). Not only is Aspasia singular
among women, she is represented as almost divine, for Phidias' and
Pericles' first glimpse of her is treated as a kind of epiphany: "There are
looks, words, which fall like the kindling lightning into a human soul.
Pericles had been touched by such a word, such a glance . . . the
might of the glance darted through him with a sweet fire, from whose
glow he emerged more transformed than he was aware!" (1.32). Pericles, Aspasia, Sophocles, and the latter's mistress are "as gay as Olym-

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


plan gods" (1.171); Socrates, whose philosophical progress will be directed by his pure love for Aspasia, first hears the voice of his daimon
when first he beholds Aspasia (1.184); and, according to this work,
Sophocles writes the eros chorus of Antigone for Aspasia (1.162). Most
significantly for our understanding of Aspasia, Hamerling has made
her a meteoric register of the Zeitgeist. The rise and decline of her love
affair with Pericles coincides with the acme and decay of Athenian
brilliance; she inspires the building program and even awakens Socrates'
daimon. Pericles admits that she has composed most of his speeches
Hamerling's Aspasia is orphaned in Miletus and reared by a philosophical old gentleman. After her benefactor's death, she moves to
Attica. Misunderstood by the Megarians, she is "rescued" by the subsequently lecherous Hipponicus, and eventually finds refuge with a friend
of her mother (1.123). Her only actual lover is Pericles. Aspasia's basic
philosophy, as she expounds it at the Athenian equivalent of a gallery
showing, is simple: beauty is the highest good and now is the time to
beautify Athens (1.31-32; cf. 1.37 and 2, chap. 7). Beauty is superior to
mere goodness, Aspasia tells Socrates; Socrates recognizes this and
wishes he were handsome rather than wise (1.156). "Only in the garb of
beauty will wisdom conquer all hearts," says Aspasia (2.22). Another
indication of Aspasia's exceptional nature is the fact that Hamerling
dresses her in men's clothing so that she can move about Athens as a
Spartan youth (1.109 et passim), a necessity Pericles permits her (1.111)
but from which he vows to free her (1.337). Aspasia thinks women
should be permitted to act on the stage (1.222-223, 226), and Sophocles
lets her play Eurydice in the Antigone (1.217-244), an action that discomfits Pericles.
Aspasia is incensed at the treatment of Athenian women but also
blames them for not knowing how to please men and keep their love
(1.138-139). In an extraordinary scene, Aspasia, in men's attire, calls on
Pericles' unlettered wife (here named Telesippe) and her "masculine" companion Elpinike. Ironically, these unbeautiful women penetrate her disguise more quickly than do the men with whom she more
frequently associates (1.135).35 Elpinike and Telesippe, however, plot
against Aspasia, as do Diopeithes and Lampon, the representatives of
superstition (1.87-116; 2.28-52). In a stunning moment, Aspasia declares warfare against prejudice and on behalf of women (2.26-27) and


Prisoner of History

asks women at the Thesmophoria to unite in support of women's rights

that they might exert equal power in the world. Elpinike's faction defeats this bold move (2.52-78, esp. pp. 76-78).
Eventually, Pericles divorces Telesippe, whose grief at the termination of her marriage and the loss of her sons Hamerling deprecates
(2.36). Not long after the outbreak of the Samian War, and after a burst
of passionate love letters, Aspasia joins Pericles in Ionia, where they
wed (1.301-323; 2.25-26). Their marriage is to be a new sort, based on
mutual love and honesty, for Aspasia had told Pericles that if she could,
she would be neither hetaira nor wife (1.324325).
Despite persistent rumors that Aspasia is a second Thargelia, she
seems more interested in Pericles' heart and women's rights than in
exercising political power by sexually dominating her lover (2.40-41).
In addition to her failed attempt to galvanize women at the Thesmophoria, Aspasia founds a short-lived school for young ladies, which
is attended by her two orphaned nieces and an Arcadian girl:
She did not wish to train hetaerae, but champions and allies, adapted
by their intellect and beauty to gain influence as she herself had done. The
school she established should keep alive what she transmitted, and diffuse
it to wider circles. . . . Her pupils, like their mistress might obtain for
husbands powerful and influential men, who would strengthen Pericles'
authority and oppose the efforts of his enemies. (2.182-183; see also
2.28-78 and 200-201, and esp. chap. 7, pp. 200-201)

Like Landor before him, Hammerling rewrote the Megarian crisis;

now its impetus is the abduction of Aspasia's nieces, performed in
retaliation for Alcibiades' prankish abduction of a Megarian maiden
(2.171-201, chap. 7). This slight incident provokes the high-level Megarian crisis of Greek history and occasions Hermippus' prosecution of
Aspasia for impiety. In its call for a reinstatement of the death penalty
(2.216-217), Hermippus' charge prefigures the charge against Socrates.
Pericles defends Aspasia as her husband and sponsor; his tears, and his
claim that she is responsible for his good deeds and that to condemn
her is to condemn him (2.232-233), win her acquittal by a wide
Hamerling tries hard to construct a historically plausible moment of
androgynous possibility wherein Pericles can defend Aspasia as a double of his own self and Aspasia, having invalidated the categories of
both hetaira and wife, can have a new kind of marriage. He even allows

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


Aspasia to signal the end of the relationship with Periclesfirst, in her

acknowledgment that perhaps one day they will cease to love (2.286287) and later, in her actual dismissal of Pericles: ' 'You are no longer a
Greek" she tells the gloomy and embittered man (2.296). In addition,
Socrates asserts that thought is both masculine and feminine (1.202).
Some parts of the historical tradition do fall away. Aspasia, inspiration of others, leaves behind nothing, not even the earthly product of a
child: Hamerling omitted the nothos, thereby extricating Aspasia from
the inconvenient category of human mother and Pericles from the humiliating necessity of begging for the bastard's enfranchisement. This
authorial liberty also freed Hamerling from having to narrate the deaths
of Paralus and Xanthippus, losses that deprived the historical Pericles of
his legal heirs and necessitated his extraordinary plea for his third
Rather than creating texts, Aspasia is herself a text, a Grecian urn of
constant truth and beauty that men can read. As Socrates says, "You,
Aspasia, do not require words to express your opinion; I read it in your
looks" (2.24). Men can also translate what they see in her to stone, for
Hamerling made her Alcamenes' model for Aphrodite (vol. 1, chap. 1)
and suggested she was Phidias' model for the Lemnian Pallas (vol. 2,
chap. 3). Like Plato's floating signifier, Hamerling's Aspasiaboth
Aphrodite and Athenais, for Socrates, "embodied Hellas" (2.328).
The story really ends with the death of Pericles and with Aspasia's
recollections of happier times as she watches over his corpse (2.326328). The rest of Aspasia's life is not worth the telling or perhaps can't
be told; this is to be expected once Hamerling has defined Aspasia not as
a mortal historical actor, but as a register of Athens' joy and gaiety.36
A new Hellenic era begins with the birth of Plato, who is born just as
Pericles dies: "With the sweetest eloquence he will preach the bitterest
doctrines" (2.333). Hamerling's vivid and immensely successful novel
set off shock waves in both popular and academic circles.
Nineteenth- and twentieth-century historiographers of fifth-century
Athens who idealized Greek men idealized Aspasia as well; moreover,
they did so in ways consonant with contemporary fictional and artistic
portrayals. It is difficult to specify the direction of influence; although
Landor used ancient and modern historiographical sources in composing
his novel, and Gertrude Atherton appended a copious list of sources and
advisors to her 1927 novel The Immortal Marriage, it is impossible to
say that the worldviews that made this or that portrait of Aspasia palat-


Prisoner of History

able to consumers of popular novels also did not work their influence on
academics. By the late nineteenth century, a fulsome portrait of Aspasia
had been drawn in England and Germany, the strongholds of classical
studies at the time. German and British historiographers tended to emphasize Aspasia's political influence; they defended her dubious sexual
reputation by stressing her Ionian education. The French portraits differed, tending to stress her free deployment of sexual desire.
George Grote (1794-1871) follows Plutarch's account in his discussion of Aspasia in his massive History of Greece, which began to appear
in 1846. In volume 5 of the 1870 edition, Aspasia is noted in chapter 48,
"From the Blockade of Potidaea Down to the End of the First Year of
the Peloponnesian War." She is named as one of Pericles' associates
who is used in order to persecute him and is identified as his mistress,
although Grote finds it unlikely that she kept a brothel. Likened to
Theodote, Aspasia is said to have belonged to a class of women who
were more interesting to Athenian men than were their secluded and
ignorant wives; this sketch is in perfect harmony with the works of
Plutarch, Linton, and Hamerling. As for her reputed involvement in
military and intellectual matters, Grote does not endorse the reports of
her involvement in the Samian War or those of her involvement in the
Megarian embargo, writing the latter off as a slur of comedy. He is more
credulous of the story of her trial, and Pericles' defense of her, and gives
her credit for being able to hold her own intellectually with others in
Pericles' "circle." It is interesting that this man, often characterized
as a radical and who himself had a tempestuous affair with a much
younger woman, interpreted the bios of Aspasia with comparative restraint.37
William Watkiss Lloyd (1813-1893), a popular historian whose views
were heavily influenced by Grote, devotes an expansive chapter to her in
his The Age of Pericles. Selective in his choice of "facts," Lloyd was
convinced that Aspasia was at the center of a circle of intellectuals; he
claimed that the Menexenus preserves a memory of her actual rhetorical
skills and suggested that she anticipated both Socratic dialectical
methods and Platonic interest in eros. Lloyd dignifies Aspasia and her
union with Pericles, noting how anomalous it was for Pericles to plead
for her in the trial (which he believed to have been historical), an event
he called a cruel "persecution of an accomplished woman." He accepts that Aspasia was a hetaira although "she occupied the place of a
wife so far as possible." Pericles and Aspasia were thought by Lloyd to

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


have come together because Aspasia's (undescribed) upbringing made

her more interesting than ordinary Athenian women, a clear echo of
Landor, Grote, and Linton. Lloyd believed that Pericles' allegedly reserved mien should be ascribed to his regard for this wife-like creature
and to the unhappy fact that they could not socialize normally (2.150);
this is reminiscent of romantic portrayals of morganatic marriages
among Europeans in the late nineteenth century. Lloyd ignores comedy's treatments of Aspasia.38
Evelyn Abbott (1843-1901), the author of the popular Pericles and the
Golden Age of Athens, saw both Pericles and Aspasia as problematic
individuals: Pericles destroyed Athenian democracy but sincerely desired that the demos "share in all the pleasure which art and literature
should give"; Aspasia is both a hetaira and the head of an intellectual
circle, and attacks on her are seen as evidence for "the destmction of
Athenian domestic life"; Aspasia and other hetairai (unnamed) are "adventuresses." Abbott's intellectual Aspasia threatens the private realm;
Pericles threatens the public realm. This is somewhat akin to Hamerling's linkage of Athens' greatness and decline to the love affair of
Aspasia and Pericles. Abbott does not comment on the sedate portrait
herm of her, which was reproduced in at least one edition, along with
other busts, maps, and realia.39
Ernst Curtius (1814-1896) idealized all things Hellenic, and his description of Aspasia makes Grote's sound almost prurient. Like Abbott,
Curtius did not deign to comment on salacious innuendo: "Hers was a
lofty and richly endowed nature, with a perfect sense of all that
is beautiful, and hers a harmonious and felicitous developement
. . . <of her relation with Pericles>: It was a real marriage, which
only lacked the civil sanction because she was a foreigner." Thus, we
meet her as a participant in a spiritual marriage, if not a legal one, a
concept unknown to the period in which Aspasia lived.40
Perhaps the most positive academic view of Aspasia's life and role in
Athens was that of Ivo Bruns in Frauenemancipation in Athen. Bruns
understood the importance in philosophical literature of the "woman
question," and in his histoire de la question deemed Euripides no
misogynist. This opinion sets him squarely against Christ and Wilamowitz. Euripides is thought to have had genuine sympathy for
women's oppression and Aristophanes to have acknowledged both the
importance of the "woman question" and the grievous effects of war
upon women. Bruns went so far as to say that the plays are evidence for


Prisoner of History

aFrauenbewegung ("women's movement") in the last third of the fifth

century, a movement supported neither by men (Nur die Frauenfechtenfuer ihre Sache, p. 19) nor by the Athenian hausfrau, but instead
by hetairai, foreign women with a better education than that available to
legitimately born Attic women. In Euripides' and Aristophanes' portraits of strong women, Bruns saw incontrovertible similarities to the
Socratic tradition's portrait of Aspasia, and he decided that the playwrights drew their portraits from actual Fuehrerinnen der Frauenbewegung. Intrigued with the composite portrait of the emancipated
hetaira handed down by ancient literature, he decided that Aspasia, or
women like her, were the real models for dramatic portrayals of strong
female leaders into whose mouths their creators put some expression of
women's plight. The passages that Bruns found most compelling for the
ultimate dependence of both the Socratica and drama upon real women
are the fragment of Aeschines' Aspasia preserved by Cicero and Xenophon's Oeconomicm 3.14 (Socrates' report of Aspasia's advice to Critoboulus). Bruns acknowledged the derivative nature of fourth-century
discourse. The element common to the literary portrayals of Aspasia and
to Praxagora and Lysistrata is that of a rhetorically instructed woman
teaching other women.41 Bruns clearly perceives important ideas: a
women's movement must arise out of a sense of shared oppression and
sisterhood; the inception of such a movement is most likely to take place
among outsiders or the oppressed class, albeit the upper strata of that
classin this case, learned women who were at least somewhat financially independent of men; and education, which leads to a changed
consciousness, is crucial.42
Bruns whipped a sugary confection out of scant evidence, however,
and his eagerness to see Aspasia as an early feminist allowed him to take
at positive face value the Platonic fantasy of the Menexenus. His discussion of the Oeconomicus is unconfused with political analysis and makes
the dialogue a treatise on strictly domestic practice and a critique of the
traditional Athenian housewife, a shy, half-wild creature who must be
enculturated and domesticated by her spouse, a task often neglected.
Bruns notes the conservatism in the Oeconomicus' prescription that
women be educated: it was not so that they could perform a larger role in
society, but rather so they could better fulfill their smaller role at home.
Bruns rightly saw the treatise as advocating reform, not change, of the
status quo. This status quo enjoins neither parents nor women, but rather
husbands, to improve the education of their wives.43

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


Bruns and Hamerling's romanticized views were opposed by the

fulminations of Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (1848-1931), a
giant of classical scholarship whose skeptical views of what we might
know of Aspasia were first seen in his Aristoteles und Athen (1893). In
this work, he relegates her to footnotes, declining to suppose that the
Milesian had been the "Aspasia Axiochou" whose name Diodorus of
Athens might have seen on a gravestone, averring instead that the Milesian had been a hetaira. In a searing denunciation of gauzy German
philhellenism, Wilamowitz declared that those who could not find their
heroes manly or write history without feminine perfume should read
Hamerling instead of Thucydides. Wilamowitz did not leave unanswered Bruns' challenge to his views in the brief but evidently galling
Frauenemancipation in Athen; he faulted Brans' trust in Xenophon as a
historical source, noting that Xenophon could not possibly have known
Aspasia, and stated that Aeschines fictionalized many of the events of
his dialogue.44
Wilamowitz believed it possible that Aspasia was legitimated along
with her nothos, but felt, inexplicably, that this would have made her
less likely to have lived with Lysicles. He concludes that: "Ob sie
Bildung oder Bildungstrieb besass, kann heute niemand sagen; fuer die
Geschichte ist es einerlei" ("No one today can say whether or not
Aspasia possessed Bildung or thirsted for it; but for History, the
question is immaterial"). Nearly twenty years later, Wilamowitz
had mellowed slightly; he still assumed that Aspasia was a hetaira who
became a concubine and the mother of the nothos but suggested that she
gave Pericles a ' ' something more''something neither a well-born Athenian woman nor a Milesian could have given him: "DaB Aspasia
geistig mehr bedeutete, werden wir glauben, obwohl die Angriffe
der Komiker und die Erfindungen der Novellisten geringe Gewaehr

The Twentieth Century

Wilamowitz's later view, considerably less jaundiced than his early
pronouncement that the question of her intellect or intellectual curiosity
was neither an answerable nor a proper one, still connected Aspasia
inextricably to her sexuality and strictly confined her importance as a
historical actor to her relationship with a man. The twentieth century has


Prisoner of History

seen attempts both to free Aspasia from her relationships with men and
to focus more pruriently upon her sexuality.
Elza Rozenberga (1865-1943), one of Latvia's foremost literary figures, a feminist, and a patriot, did not enter the scholarly and artistic
arena to argue for a particular view of the historical Aspasia, instead
adopting for herself the pseudonym "Aspazija" and attempting to live
her life as she believed the Milesian had. Aspazija worked for political
freedom and women's rights with her husband, Janis Rainis (a pseudonym of Janis Plieksans). She may have been the first woman since
Heloise to adopt Aspasia as a symbol for what she herself hoped to do
and/or be.
Born into a family of landowners, Rozenberga was educated until the
age of sixteen; her father was an alcoholic whose wife spoke of leaving
were it not for the daughter. Her biographer, Astrida Stahnke, portrayed
her as dominated by a mother who wished better things for her daughter
than she had achieved herself; gradually, Rozenberga became aware of
sex and class oppression. Rozenberga's mother is credited with seeing
that her daughter got an education, despite the opposition of her male
relatives. Forced into marriage in 1885 with a man who squandered the
marriage portion within two years, Rozenberga and her now-destitute
family were then deserted by him. During this period, she adopted the
name of Aspazija, which she apparently first used in her signature to a
nationalistic poem published in 1887.46
It fits with Aspazija's own romantic self-concept, as revealed in her
autobiographical writings, that she should have adopted this pseudonym. Aspazija was drawn to Aspasia by reading Hamerling's novel; as
Stahnke stated, "Aspasia had been a fighter for women's rights and had
freely mixed with men in high government places. She had been beautiful and fascinating. Elza must have caught a glimpse of her [sc., Aspasia's] grandeur and complexity and so absorbed her personality and
values that she took on the woman's name with all its varied implications." Roberts Jansons, one of Aspazija's tutors, apparently gave her
the book and called her the "Latvian Aspasia." He and his brother
taught her the techniques of writing drama; under their influence, she
wrote her play The Avengeress, which won a competition in 1888.
Noteworthy for its anti-German stance and its creation of a strong female
protagonist, it made Aspazija a celebrity. At this time, Aspazija also
came to recognize the hypocrisy of law and the validity of love as the
force that binds, a recognition Stahnke ascribed to Aspazija's prior

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


subjection to a forced marriage and its attendant miseries. After being

betrayed by a lover she took when her marriage ended, Aspazija wrote
the play Zaudetas tiesibas ("The Lost Rights"), in which the protagonist is forced into prostitution but keeps a pure heart. This play, which
has been compared with Ibsen's A Doll's House, henceforth identified
Aspazija "as the champion of women's rights."47
Aspazija's nationalism, feminism, and promotion of education occurred during Latvia's move to independence, and she later identified
her own poetry as a lodestar in this movement: "Wherever a nation
moves toward some goal, her poetry, like a bright morning star guides
her on the way." Thus, Aspazija made her own artistic growth an
emblem of her nation's growth in a way like that with which Hamerling
made Aspasia's and Pericles' love affair parallel to the acme of Athenian
cultural brilliance. Stahnke represented Aspazija's own career as stifled
by her care for her neurotic and depressive second husband, Rainis,
whom she met in 1894 and who believed her to be a heroine, an
After marrying Rainis in 1898, she spent part of his political exile with
him in Russia and part in Latvia, where it was easier for her to find work
as a translator; during this period, she translated Hamerling's novel.
They returned to Latvia in 1903, only to be exiled again from 1906 to
1920, during which time both of them were often ill and Apaszija's
output diminished. After Latvia became independent, Aspazija and
Rainis returned home; they were both lionized and their writings continued to be popular and esteemed. Aspazija, a deputy in the national
government and a driving force in the Latvian feminist movement,
asked for benefits to unmarried mothers and promoted the education of
women. After being defeated for a seat in Parliament in 1922, she
returned to her writing. During the second flowering of her writing,
Aspazija produced her most hopeful and most political drama, Aspasia,
which premiered in 1923. Based on situations created by Hamerling,
the drama details Aspasia's arrival in Athens and her free love for
Pericles. She is condemned as a harlot, but Pericles casts his lot with
her; a vote approves their union, which inaugurates a Golden Age of
morality based on love between equal partners. The second phase of
Aspazija's productivity, which lasted until her death in 1943, saw the
publication of "seven volumes of poetry, five dramas, five volumes of
autobiography, a novel, and many articles." Aspazija's last years were
marred by periods of poverty and illness and the loss of Latvia's brief


Prisoner of History

independence. She died on November 5, 1943. She is now being reclaimed as an important Latvian literary figure.49
What Landor, Hamerling, and others had begun was continued by
popular novelists in the twentieth century. With the twentieth-century
emphasis on women's rights and the popularization of Freudianism and
sexology, dominant trends in this century's novelistic contribution to
Aspasia's bios have been to provide more explicit sexual language and
to tend to see Aspasia as a sexually liberated woman. There has also
been an interest in writing about Aspasia's childhood, her inner life, and
her life after Pericles.50
Far from defending Aspasia against the accusation of being a courtesan, Berthe Le Barillier continued the French tradition of lauding Aspasia for freely choosing her sexual partners; in this pre-World War I
popular history, Aspasia is placed in the company of Phryne.51 In Old
Saws and Modem Instances, another popularizer of high culture,
W. L. Courtney (1850-1928), presented an essay on "Sappho and Aspasia," in which he perceptively identified many of the prejudices in
both women's bioi but also read Plutarch too credulously and built
Aspasia into a woman who "made the house of Pericles the meetingplace for man and women, as we should say, of the higher culture . . .
Aspasia's home was a salon, in the best sense of the word." In such a
schema, Pericles must be a courtly intellectual, and his plea for the
adoption of Pericles junior a sign of the high respect he held for the son's
But because Aspasia had been constructed as both a sexual partner
and an intellectual, she could be put to use in male sexological literature
as a kind of sex therapist or as an agency through which sex therapy
could work. In a 1932 book that prefigures the work of Masters and
Johnson, R. E. Money-Kyrle (1898-1980), a popularizer of Freud, declared, "Little is known of Aspasia, except that she was intelligent and
much maligned. . . . I will assume, regardless of historical exactitude, that she was amiable, and that, in short, a society composed of
Aspasias, however promiscuous, would be more Utopian than one composed of Bishops, however pure." The little book is a plea for the
recognition "that both individual health and social progress, under
present-day conditions, require a sacrifice on the part of our morality,"
an acknowledgement of men's Oedipal drives, and the recognition that
"some of the things that we want to do but which we now think wicked,
will be found not to be wicked, but to be on the contrary healthy, useful,

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


and desirable. In this way frustrations will be removed and sources of

aggressiveness abolished." It is suggested that "a relaxation of our
sexual taboos" will help save humanity. Although the details are never
specified, it is clear that intercourse at will with intelligent, "amiable"
women will help man clear his clogged moral passageways. Aspasia has
been essentialized.53
This tendency to see Aspasia as a refined "happy hooker" is pronounced in major recent novels about her. Classicist Peter Green, in
Achilles His Armour, made Aspasia a seductive mother figure and tutor
to Alcibiades. She is the woman for whom Pericles had divorced his
wife, and a shrewd advisor as well, counseling Pericles about the Samian War and writing his epitaphioi. Aspasia makes and unmakes men,
thereby leaving her not altogether beneficent mark on Greek history. A
dark succubus, she violently seduces the protagonist Alcibiades, who is
barely an ephebe; after achieving orgasm, "Her face returned to its
normal lazy expression." This seduction is prefigured by her transformation of Pericles; as she tells the 17-year-old Alcibiades: "Till he took
me he was incomplete." Green left Aspasia's origins unclear but hinted
that she was a Milesian prostitute. She owns an autograph copy of
Sappho's poems but instead of writing her own poetry, produces
speeches for Pericles. This Aspasia has no interest in conversing with
the wives of Athens.54
Aspasia blames herself for turning Alcibiades from his conservative
and upright temperament to a worldview that admits ambivalence:
"Sometimes I feel I'm to blame. . . . All your life now you'll have
divided loyalties, doubts, hesitations." Aspasia also blames herself for
the estrangement of Pericles from his legitimate sons and the scandal
about Pericles and Xanthippus' wife: "I feel myself to blame over
this. . . . You have not had the leisure to care for your son. . . . But
II who was proud enough to be your equalI should not have forgotten. . . . Sometimes I feel as weak a woman as any Athenian wife."
Pericles casts Alcibiades, not Aspasia, out of his house when informed
by Nicias of their love affair. Although she distinguishes herself by
helping vast numbers of plague-stricken city dwellers, Aspasia believes
herself to be at fault for the plague: "Because I feel responsible for
what's happening. . . ,"55
Lysicles is a watchful predator, speculating that he will have access to
Aspasia once the ailing Pericles is out of the way; he is cheered on by
Cleon, ever the villain of the piece. Aspasia tends the slowly convalesc-


Prisoner of History

ing man, knowing that "whether Athens won or lost the world it stood
for was gone forever. . . . She had a violent nostalgia for the home
she had nearly forgotten, the voices of her own countrymen. . . . 'It is
too late,' she said calmly: 'I shall live and die in Athens now. I have
made my choice.'" Alcibiades begs her to leave Athens after Pericles
dies. Instead she stays, is courted by Lysides, perhaps helps him politically, and retires to a suburb. Green had no further use for Aspasia as a
living character, but her sexual poisoning of Alcibiades works its way
through his and Athens' future. The first of Alcibiades' many violent
sexual encounters with his bride, Hipparete, described from the point of
view of the young girl, is revolting, sickening, and agonizing. He comes
to fear her honest love for him. Alcibiades beats Hipparete after having
foiled her attempt to divorce him; only then do they have a fulfilling
erotic encounter. The ghost of Aspasia has been exorcised temporarily.
After Hipparete's death in childbirth, Alcibiades finds transient happiness in the arms of the Spartan queen, Timaea, in a doublet of the
episodes with Aspasia: ' 'it was as if she was burning the flesh away from
his bones. . . . As time went on he poured out all his doubts and fears,
exposing himself the more mercilessly as his own sense of degradation
grew deeper.'' Timaea dresses up and applies cosmetics for him, which
deeds awaken a "twenty-year-old memory." She knows that he had
desired her because she was a shadow out of his past, she looked like or
reminded him of Aspasia. Aspasia, then, looms like a vampire over
Alcibiades and Athens. And the hetaira Timandra, who accompanies
him on his final flight and survives him, looks curiously like Aspasia.56
Madelon Dimont's 1972 novel, Darling Pericles, specifically made
Aspasia a would-be courtesan, snatched up by Pericles but having guiltfree affairs with Euripides and others. This interesting personality configuration is ascribed to Aspasia's unusual upbringing by a gynophilic
father; he compels his wives and concubines to expose all male infants.
Aspasia's mother is conveniently dead. In search of adventure, the
young woman travels to Athens with thoughts of becoming an elegant
courtesan. Luckily, her first sexual experience is painless, blissful,
and highly remunerative. Shortly thereafter she meets and captivates
Pericles, with whom she lives a life that is bohemian on her part and
austere on his. Aspasia is not particularly interested in intellectual matters, but her pointed questions inspire men to work out the problems she
has raised. After Pericles' death, and while pregnant with Ly sides'
child, Aspasia writes her memoirs. This is portrayed as something she

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


does to occupy her time while mourning the only true love she ever
For extravagant elaboration, only Taylor Caldwell's Glory and the
Lightning approaches Hamerling's work of the last century. In this
book, Aspasia's mother, herself apparently a concubine or courtesan,
gives the infant Aspasia to Thargelia (namesake of the great Thargelia)
rather than comply with her lover's command to expose the infant.
Aspasia's mother has decided to give her child to be brought up as a
courtesan: "Would it not indeed be better for Aspasia to be trained as an
accomplished courtesan, courted and honored and loved and gifted by
eminent men, than to be an imprisoned wife in dreary quarters . . . ?"
Aspasia grows up to fulfil her mother's notion that women rule men
from the bedroom. Despite Thargelia's best attempts to make Aspasia
into a sex toy, the girl quickly displays independence of thought and an
early awareness of women's plight; her tutors discover that she has the
"mind of a man." Aspasia's mind develops along skeptical Ionian
lines, as she learns from and then surpasses her sage instructors in
medicine, law, rhetoric, and art. Caldwell's Aspasia, like Dimont's, has
a blissful and orgasmic first intercourse.58
Discovering that Aspasia had taken her own lover away, Thargelia
dismisses her. Branded as a transgressor, Aspasia leaves Miletus as the
concubine of Ali Taliph, who abuses and thrills her at the same time.
She comes to see that Persian women are badly treated and that Greek
women have a better lot; when she protests her master's purchase of
little girls as gifts for a rich merchant, he beats her and then they have
intercourse of an "anguished sweetness." Aspasia has become a masochist, a Sadeian woman who finds delight in emotional and physical
pain. She saves Ali Taliph's life in Damascus, for which he grants her
her freedom.59
Meanwhile, back in Athens, Pericles yearns for such a woman as
Aspasia even before meeting her: "If I do find such a womanwhich is
impossible, of courseshe will mean more to me than my life," he
states. After divorcing his crude, ugly wife, Pericles does meet his
an/ma-projection in Aspasia, who now keeps a school for young ladies.
Each is instantaneously attracted to the other. Soon the two have lived
together several years, and Aspasia is figured as a superwoman who,
unlike Hamerling's creation, embraces the twin roles of wife and mistress: "She combined the delicious arts of a courtesan, with all the rapture and ecstasy and beguilements of that condition, with the tenderness


Prisoner of History

and devotion and solicitude of a beloved wife. But careful, as always,

having been sedulously taught by Thargelia, never to bore him, never to
engage in tedious conversation of complaint, and never give herself
totally to any human creature." Aspasia is aware of the inequities of
Athenian law but prefers to be seen as Pericles' mistress rather than to
risk the political hazards attendant upon repeal of the citizenship law.60
Aspasia attempts to bring together the youths of Athens with the
maidens of her school so that honest courtship between equals can
develop, but this is misinterpreted by Athens' elders, and rumors grow.
Despite her precarious situation, Aspasia remains idealistic, lecturing
that "The true purpose of education . . . is to enlarge the soul, to
widen the mind, to stimulate wonder." Her confidante is a physician,
Helena, who also advises Pericles. Helena delivers Aspasia's son; after
the birth, Aspasia lives "almost always" in Pericles' house. Caldwell's
Aspasia is less involved in Athenian politics than are her other manifestations in fiction, and prefers instead to work for equality between the
sexes in love relationships by holding her school. Aspasia is arrested and
imprisoned before the impiety trial, and Helena is killed by a mob after
visiting the now-graying beautyperhaps a prefiguration on Caldwell's
part of the death of Hypatia. The reasons for the imprisonment are the
accusation by Glaucon's (invented) daughter that she had been raped in
Aspasia's school, slanders by a disaffected former teacher in the school,
and the accusation of impiety. Pericles' plea for Aspasia makes her a
symbol of Athenian free thought: "She is a symbol to you . . . of
what awaits us if our enemies prevail. They sought her death, not because she has done any wrong, but because she is innocent and fearless
and will not bend before tyranny and lies."61
The novel ends with a three-page Prologue. In it, the reader is told of
Pericles' death in Aspasia's arms and of her subsequent retirement from
her school and devotion to her son's education. Caldwell does not pursue Aspasia's life after Pericles except to note that "Her only dim
consolation . . . was when she looked up at the white and glory of the
acropolis at sunset. . . . It was the crown of Athens and it seemed to
her that it was deathless and that men would always remember what
stood there and bow their heads in wonder and reverence." Contrary to
the statement in the epitaphios Thucydides attributes to Pericles, which
claimed that the city was not walls, but men, Aspasia finds that the
buildings are the city and that a city is reconstituted in the minds of men
by the sight of its buildings. Aspasia looks forward on the novel's last

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


page to joining Pericles "and all the others who had made Athens
Twentieth-century novels by women tend to render Aspasia both as an
explicitly willing sexual partner and an objectified love object for men.
Dimont and Caldwell emphasize that a woman could not fairly achieve
status or security without a mate in male-dominated ancient Greece.
Dimont downplays the hazards of a woman's life at this timeas the
dustjacket for the novel says, Aspasia was a "courtesan, sexy bluestocking mistress and only love of the great Athenian statesman, Pericles. . . . He ruled Athens at its most glorious. And she ruled him."
On the other hand, Caldwell paints an unglamorized picture of prostitution and men's use of females as sexual fodder, at the same time showing Aspasia taking pleasure occasionally in being sexually used, and
abused, by her Persian lover. Like Hamerling, Caldwell ascribes great
learnedness to the Milesian but directs this learnedness almost exclusively to Aspasia's work on behalf of her students. And Caldwell, like
Savage Landor and Linton, gives Aspasia a woman friend; other novelists make her more or less bereft of close female companionship. Green
also shows sadomasochism in Aspasia's sexual relationships, but she is
the one inflicting the pain and deforming the psyche of her partner,
Twentieth-century historiographers and novelists for the most part
have continued to elaborate the Plutarchan scenario. Pericles' life and
the Golden Age of Athens are the backdrop; except for Gore Vidal's
brief mention of Aspasia's old age in his novel Creation, there is no
interest in writing about Aspasia's own life post-Pericles.6S

Picturing Aspasia
Aspasia makes her sole appearance in twentieth-century visual art in
Judy Chicago's controversial and radical work, The Dinner Party (Figure 5.6). A collaborative project that ultimately involved several hundred persons from the time Chicago first envisioned it in the early 1970s
until its first exhibition in 1979, this sculpture consists of three dinner
tables, placed so as to form an equilateral triangle, set with oversized
individual plates, silverware, goblets, and embroidered cloths and runners for thirty-nine female guests, divine and human. "These guests
. . . have all been transformed in The Dinner Party into symbolic


Prisoner of History

Figure 5.6. Table, The Dinner Party. Mixed media. Judy Chicago, 1979.
Photo by Donald Woodman. Courtesy of Through the Flower Foundation.

imagesimages that stand for the whole range of women's achievements and yet also embody women's containment. . . . The images
on the plates are not literal, but rather a blending of historical facts,
iconographical sources, symbolic meanings, and imagination." The table stands on a "Heritage Floor" painted with the names of "999
Women of Achievement," and the floor itself also makes a statement
about women's condition. In this work, Chicago invited into history
Western women who have been neglected or ignored by the male consciousness, or who, when they have entered history, have been deprived
of the company of other women.64
Aspasia's plate (Figure 5.7) is set at the first table, which begins
"with pre-history and ends with the point in time when Greco-Roman
culture was diminishing." Hers is the eleventh plate on the table, between Sappho's and Boudicca's. The imaginative, idealizing, and synthetic nature of Chicago's vivid description of Aspasia makes the Milesian a fit forerunner of American feminists who espoused "free love"

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


and intellectual and political liberty; moreover, she is far less selfish than
Dimont's contemporaneous, brainy Cosmo girl. Chicago's creation also
harmonizes with previous literary catalogues of women and with medallion books, but this time we see the catalogue in a nonanthropomorphic
But the actual place setting suggests a less sanguine story. For
Aspasia, Chicago chose earth tones, hues less vivid than Sappho's. The
poet's palette is floral and Aegean blue, and a Doric templea holy
placeis worked on her runner: the "burst of color . . . stands for the
last burst of unimpeded female creativity." The vase motifs on Aspasia's runner and the runner's drapery and jeweled brooch-like clasp
identify Aspasia as a Greek (Figure 5.8). It is far more somberly rendered, however, than Sappho's naturalistic setting. Aspasia is enclosed
visually: the drapery of her runner is pinned and held in place, and there
are more emblems of mediation here than on Sappho's place setting.
Aspasia's setting has motifs from vases (themselves constructed objects

Figure 5.7. Aspasia's plate, The Dinner Party. Porcelain. Judy Chicago,
1979. Photo by Donald Woodman. Courtesy of Through the Flower Foundation.


Prisoner of History

Figure 5.8. Aspasia's place setting, The Dinner Party. Mixed media. Judy
Chicago, 1979. Photo by Donald Woodman. Courtesy of Through the Flower

that contain food and drink) and drapery, which evokes body-concealing
clothing, but there is no entire garment, no complete vase. The impression is one of containment and fracture. Chicago's Aspasia, who appears not quite two centuries after the democratic revolutions in France
and the United States, is a granddaughter of Bouliar's enclosed and
immobilized Aspasia.
This most recent representation of Aspasia refuses to portray her life

Aspasia in the Postclassical West


in conventional narrative form. In its way, it asserts our right to aporia

(perplexity) about what that life might have been like. By representing
the thirty-nine women symbolically and even reductively, Chicago asserts that in some sense we are unable to write conventional narratives
about many women of the past. We may never know the truth about
Aspasia, but our greatest insights may come from deciding what is false.

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"You've taken away our image of Aspasia and have shown it to be a

construct!" exclaimed a classicist after hearing me speak on this topic.
' 'What have you given us back?'' The fear of a vacuum is very real. As
Michele Le Doeuff said of de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, many women
fear de Beauvoir's book "not because it calls on us to give up a happiness we have but because it does not promise the happiness we lack."1
Now that the prisoner has been freed from her historical tradition, can
we ever know who was in the cell? Who was, who is that Other? I think
we can do no better than distinguish what is provable from what is not
and what is knowable from what is not. This having been done, we can
say remarkably little about Aspasia of Miletus.
One bricolage we might use in order to form a substantive, positive
image of Aspasia would claim, on the sheer weight of the tradition, that
if Aspasia was not a madam, a politician, a philosopher, or a saloniere,
at least she acted or spoke so memorably that men of her day and later
reacted strongly to her; their reaction formation is what survives. This,
however, is not to talk about her but again, as always, about men.
Did her identification as an intelligent and powerful whore immediately make Aspasia into a floating signifier, so that she and her sexualized intellect are always already simply and simplistically Everywoman and No Woman in patriarchy? It is easy, but not enough, to say
that like so many gifted women, Aspasia and her achievements were
overshadowed, appropriated, and misunderstood by the men she knew
and by masculinist developments of her bios. It is a longer task, but still
not satisfying, to say that the West has needed, wanted, and created


Prisoner of History

varying Aspasias since 440 B.C. When we need Aspasia to be a chaste

muse and teacher, she is there; when we need a grand horizontal, she is
there; when we need a protofeminist, she is there also. Recent essays
refigure Aspasia in the history of rhetoric and the sophistic movement.2
Her status as the only female from classical Greece to have enjoyed a
substantial bios has overloaded the mortal historical actor with a burden
she is unable to bear. Because we continue to define classical Athens as
a time and place of immense importance in world civilization and because we cannot help but continue to redefine classical Athens in our
own image, we continue to redefine Aspasia. The present study had been
no exception. Aspasia, perforce, has had to be whatever men and
women of later ages perceived her to be, has had in some way to
contribute to our understanding of the position of women as sexual and
intellectual beings in antiquity. Because her intellect, political acumen,
and sexuality were inextricably connected from almost the very start,
and have contined to define her, it is the task of all successive contributors to her bios to integrate their understanding of her intellect and
I believe we must resist the impulse, however understandable, to fill
in the many blanks at the same time as we remain open to the possibilities for her life. If it is not possible to precisely know her life course,
perhaps it is not desirable to try. Perhaps it is more possible and more
desirable to see how "Aspasia's" thought, as presented by Aeschines
the Socratic, her first positive bios-grapher, may contribute to the history of consciousness, particularly of feminist consciousness.
In order to map the dimensions of the aporia in which I hope we now
find ourselves, we must return to that moment, createdor recorded
by Aeschines and reflected in Xenophon, in which a woman was
allowed to teach. Let us situate ourselves in that moment, focus on the
implications of the sayings attributed to her in these "positive" Socratica, and so begin to place Aspasia in the history of feminist epistemology. In order to do this, we must pursue the imaginary plane, the
implied scenario for "Aspasia's" advice.3
Matchmakers bring together suitable partners on the basis of true
reports, which the couple then test over time. In order to imagine this
process, we must acknowledge the existence and interaction of a whole
communityparents and kin of the prospective bride and groom, people
who must know the affianced pair and be able to identify and communi-



cate what about them would make them good for each other. Nor is this
community static, for it moves through space and time, continuing even
as its individual members are born, age, and die. The couple who come
together because of the community and for its sake must learn how to be
one another's best for the rest of their lives. To choose an "Aspasian"
path is to choose community, to choose self-knowledge for one's own
benefit and that of another, and to choose to see oneself as a relational self
acting reciprocally in a world full of other subjects. This was the Aspasian path that Heloise vainly encouraged Abelard to follow and the path
that Bouliar painted when she gave us an Aspasia who looks straight at us
and invites us to know her. An Aspasian world acknowledges the subjectivity and humanity of one's partner and that partner's ability to enrich
our life. Her path makes marriage a way to virtue and wisdom.
Socrates was said to have chosen Xanthippe in order to practice virtue
by living with a "difficult woman." On what basis did Xanthippe
choose him? Did she choose him at all? When only Socrates tells the
story of his marriage, or when other men tell it for the sake of illuminating the great man, we can never know Xanthippe, who has been reduced
to nothing but a foil. A world that takes seriously Aspasia's advice
makes possible a meaningful life for the woman and makes possible an
authentic Xanthippe.4 Aspasia and Xanthippe need to be restored to the
world. The fact that philosophy is figured as a masculine enterprise has
kept Aspasia out of the history of philosophy, or worse, has made her a
beautiful interloper.
Even those who write histories of women philosophers have placed
more emphasis on Aspasia's sexuality cum intellect than on the content
and implications of what Aspasia supposedly said. Le Doeuff herself,
who made great strides in helping us see the masculine dimensions of the
philosophical enterprise, never mentions Aspasia.5 The female philosophers of Greco-Roman antiquity are, almost without exception, dutiful
daughters (Cleobulina, Hypatia); mothers who teach their sons (Didymus in his catalog); or "groupies" such as Theano (wife of Pythagoras), Leontion (pupil and mistress of Epicurus), and Hipparchia (wife
or mate of Crates). Each of these women, descended from or allied to an
intellectual man, is, in her way, a forerunner of Heloise. Hipparchia
came to know about Cynicism from her brother. Nor need this be seen as
a wholly negative phenomenon, for we can be grateful that at particular
times and places men allowed and encouraged the women in their lives


Prisoner of History

to develop intellectually; this pattern would be part of the slow movement towards a feminist consciousness in the West.6
Interestingly, however, Aspasia has no known male mentor. She is no
one's student and seems to have come intellectually out of nowhere. She
is no Metis to Zeus, no Heloise to Abelard, no de Beauvoir to Sartre.
This peculiar autochthony, hardly the one Plato makes her preach, has
demanded and received various fanciful explanations from those who
have woven her bios. She is said to have imitated Thargelia or to have
learned from "her countrymen" Anaxagoras or Hippodamas, or in the
more recent fictions of European and American novelists, to have been
educated by an imaginary father or uncle; Taylor Caldwell makes a
concubine mother and a madam Aspasia's mentors. Aspasia's bios
searches obsessively, only to find an originator, a someone else who
made Aspasia who she was. But here, Le Doeuff's notion of polygenesis
allows us "to rid ourselves of the blinding mode of the master-disciple
It is hopeless to try to write Aspasia back into the history of philosophy in its traditional masculine sense, for Aspasia categorically cannot
have been a philosopher. Female, feminine, Ionian, sometimes orientalized, her main achievement will merely be to have freely chosen
her own sexual partners, as Becq de Fouquieres observed over a century
Here the paradox enters. To write Aspasia back into the history of
philosophy is to transform philosophy. If we write Aspasia, female
subjectivity, and intersubjectivity back into philosophy, we also write
back in the woman, variously described as a Thracian girl and a crone,
who reprimanded Thales for looking at the stars at the expense of looking at his own immediate surroundings.8 And that is the danger.


1. Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War 2.45.2.
2. By bios, I mean the complex made up of both Aspasia's material life to the
extent that this can be recovered and her biographical tradition, or Nachleben.
3. Carolyn G. Heilbrun, Writing a Woman's Life (New York: Norton, 1988),
especially pp. 43^7.
4. For recent discussions of what is canonical in ancient biography, see
Joseph Geiger, "Cornelius Nepos and Ancient Political Biography," Historia
Einzelschriften41 (1985): 10-65; and George Pesely, "Hagnon," Athenaeum 6f>
n. s. fascicolo 1-2 (1989): 191-209.
5. Arnaldo Momigliano, The Development of Greek Biography (Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1971), 11.
6. See chapter 5 for further discussion.
7. See Thomas J. Wiedemann, "Elachiston . . . en tois arsesi kleos:
Thucydides, Women, and the Limits of Rational Analysis," Greece & Rome 30
(1983): 163-170; and John Evans, War, Women, and Children in Ancient Rome
(New York: Routledge, 1991). This tendency to ignore the effects of war on
women continues; see Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and
Rape (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1975). Coverage of the recent Persian
Gulf war and of the Balkans crisis, however, vividly brought women's plight in
war to the forefront.
8. Rosaria Munson, "Artemisia in Herodotus," Classical Antiquity 1 (April
1988): 91-106.
9. See Philip Stadter, "Pericles Among the Intellectuals," Illinois Classical
Studies 16 (1991): 111-124. He seriously challenges the idea that such a circle
directed by Pericles existed.



10. For information on women philosophers in ancient Greece and Rome, see
Jane Snyder, The Women and the Lyre: Women Writers in Classical Greece and
Rome (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1989).

Chapter 1
1. For a list and discussion of ancient sources for Aspasia of Miletus, see RE
2.2 (1896/1958): columns 1716-1721. (These sources will be discussed in the first
four chapters.) Reports that she was born in Megara seem to derive from a
misunderstanding of the notorious passage in Aristophanes' Acharnians; reports
that she was a Carian prisoner of war may represent a confusion with the
homonymous mistress of the younger Cyrus.
2. Milesian origin and name of father: Plut. Per 24.2 and Diodorus of Athens
in schol. PL Menex. 235e = Diodorus of Athens, FGrH frag. 40. Megarian
origin: Heraclid. Pont. frag. 59 Wehrli in Ath. 12.533d and Clem. Al. Strom.
124, p. 264, 22.s. Carian prisoner of war: schol. Aristid. 3.468 Bind. Confusion
with Cyrus' mistress, Aspasia: Plut. Per. 24.11-12; see J. K. Davies, Athenian
Propertied Families 600-300 B.C. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), 458. Union
with Pericles: Cratinus Cheirons 258-259K-A. Bastard named Pericles junior:
Plut. Per. 24.6, 37.5; schol. PI. Menex. 235e; Souda, s.v. Aspasia. (Souda, s.v.
Perikles, states that Xanthippus and Paralus were Aspasia's children.) Union
with Lysicles: schol. PI. Menex. 235e; Plut. Per. 24.6; schol. Ar. Knights 1329.
Son named Poristes born to Aspasia and Lysicles: schol. Ar. Frogs 1305; schol.
Thuc. 8.48.6.
3. For implications that she was a whore, see Ar. Ach. 516-539; reputed to
have modeled self on Thargelia, see Plut. Per. 24.3.
4. OswynMurray, "The Greek Symposion in History," Times Literary Supplement, Nov. 6, 1981, p. 1307.
5. Peter J. Bicknell, "Axiochus Alkibiadou, Aspasia and Aspasios," Acta
Classica 51 (1982): 240-250, analyzes the gravestone (IG II 2, 7394). The
implications of his conclusions for Aspasia of Miletus do not disagree with the
views expressed by Charles W. Fornara and Loren J. Samons II, Athens from
Cleisthenes to Pericles (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), 162165. There are, of course, numerous other possibilities.
6. For the Delian League, see Russell Meiggs, The Athenian Empire (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972 [reprinted with corrections 1973]). For the Greek
city-states, see Raphael Sealey, A History of the Greek City States 700-338 B.C.
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976). For relations between Athens
and Miletus, see Marcel Pierart, "Athenes et Milet, I. Tribus et demes Milesiens," Museum Helveticum 40 (1983): 1-18; and "Athenes et Milet, II. L'organisation du territoire," Museum Helveticum 42 (1985): 276-299. For a chro-



nology of Miletus' problems in the 450s, see Hans-Joachim Gehrke, "Zur

GeschichteMilets in der Mitte des 5. Jahrhunderts v. Chr.," Historia 29 (1980):
7. For metics, see David Whitehead, The Ideology of the Athenian Metic,
Cambridge Philological Society vol. 4, supp. (1977); and Raphael Sealey,
"How Citizenship and the City Began in Athens," American Journal of Ancient
History 8 (1983): 97-129. For discussions of citizenship, see Cynthia B. Patterson, Pericles' Citizenship Law of 451-450 B.C. (New York: Arno Press, 1981),
whose views I largely adopt; see also Mogens Herman Hansen, "Demographic
Reflections on the Number of Athenian Citizens 451-309 B.C.," American
Journal of Ancient History 1 (1982): 172-189. For dissymmetry between citizenship for men and for women and the terms used to describe these, see
Whitehead,Ideology, 60-61, andCynthiaB. Patterson, "//mAtt/faz;: The Other
Athenians," Helios 13 (Fall 1986): 49-68.
8. For this explanation, see Patterson, Pericles Citizenship Law, followed
by Hansen, "Demographic Reflections." A citizen was one who had been
enrolled by his kinsmen into his phratry (kin-group) and deme (locality).
9. For Themistocles: see Plut. Them.\.\-2\ Frank Frost, Plutarch's
Themistocles: A Historical Commentary (Princeton; N.J.: Princeton University
Press, 1980) 60-64; and Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, ed. Felix
Jacoby, Part 3B (supp.), 328F119 (Leiden: J. J. Brill, 1954-1969). For
Cleisthenes: see Hdt. 5.69. For Cimon: see Hdt. 6.39 and Plut. dm. 4 and 16.
For Miltiades: see Hdt. 6.39-40. S. C. Humphreys, "The Nothoi of Kynosarges," Journal of Hellenic Studies 94 (1974): 88-95, has suggested that the
motivation behind the citizenship law was to prevent aristocrats from contracting
"dynastic" marriages.
10. Metics were commonly identified not by deme, but by their place of
residence: "oikonen
" ("dwellingin
"). Thus, Aspasios' identification is that of an Athenian citizen. For a discussion of the identification of
metics, see Whitehead, Ideology, 72 ff.
11. Whitehead, Ideology, 26 n. 102.
12. For membership in deme and phratry as the minimal requirements for
citizenship, see Patterson, Pericles' Citizenship Law; for the lapse of Pericles'
law, see Ronald S. Stroud, "Greek Inscriptions: Theozotides and the Athenian
Orphans," Hesperia 40 (1971): 280-301; for the penalty for attempting to pass as
a citizen, see Whitehead, Ideology, 75, citing Dem. 25.57.
13. Pericles' marriage, which Plutarch states had ended amicably, is discussed by Davies, Propertied Families, 262-263, 457, and also by Fornara and
Samons, Athens from Cleisthenes to Pericles, 162-165. The main contemporary
evidence that Aspasia was Pericles junior's mother is Eup. 110 K-A, discussed in
chap. 2. Among those who have assumed that Aspasia was the mother of
Pericles junior are W. Robert Connor, The New Politicians of Fifth-Century



Athens (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1971), 48 n. 25; Davies,

Propertied Families, 458; and Humphreys, "Nothoi of Kynosarges," 93. Only
Patterson, Pericles' Citizenship Law, observed that Aspasia's maternity is not an
absolutely known fact. The chronology of Pericles junior's life is discussed by
J. M. Carter, "Eighteen Years Old?" Bulletin of the Institute of Classical
Studies 14 (1967): 51-57.
14. For discussion of the historiographical problems surrounding Pericles'
marriage and of the advantage derived by Pericles from his ex-wife's marriage,
see Davies, Propertied Families, 262-263, 457, following J. C. Beloch,
Griechische Geschichte, vol. 2, pt. 2, p. 35, (Strassburg: K. J. Truebner, 19121927); and Fornara and Samons, Athens from Cleisthenes to Pericles; they
consider Pericles' 'union' with Aspasia to have been a marriage and that it could
only have been politically disadvantageous.
15. Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Feminist Consciousness: From the Middle
Ages to 1870 (New York; Oxford, 1993), 222, so describes the relationship
between the humanist Olimpia Morata (1526-1555) and her husband.
16. For women's legal and economic rights, see David Schaps, Economic
Rights of Women in Ancient Greece (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press,
1979); and Sealey, "How Citizenship and the City Began." For the phrase
"fully explicit contract," see Raphael Sealey, "On Lawful Concubinage,"
Classical Antiquity 3 (April 1984): 111-133. For a discussion of the negative
status of concubinage, see Cynthia B. Patterson, "Those Athenian Bastards,"
Classical Antiquity 9 (April 1990): 40-73.
17. The classic discussion of marriage and concubinage in the fifth century is
that of Hans Julius Wolff, "Marriage Law and Family Organization in Ancient
Athens," Traditio 2 (1944): 43-95, esp. 85-91. See also Douglas M. MacDowell, "Bastards as Athenian Citizens," Classical Quarterly, n.s., 26 (1976):
88-91; and P. J. Rhodes,' 'Bastards as Athenian Citizens,'' Classical Quarterly,
n.s., 28 (1978): 89-92.
18. For the label nothos: MacDowell, "Bastards as Athenian Citizens," 89,
maintains that this label attached to children born to two citizens who had not
married. See A. R. W. Harrison, The Law of Athens, vol. 1, The Family and
Property (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), 61-68; and Patterson, Those Athenian Bastards, for full discussion of the category nothoi.
19. Wolff, "Marriage Law," 85-91 discusses the decline in status for nothoi;
his theory is adopted by Sealey, "Lawful Concubinage," 129. For discussion of
the avuncular connection, see Jan Bremmer, "The Importance of the Maternal
Uncle and Grandfather in Archaic and Classical Greece and Early Byzantium,"
ZeitschriftfuerPapyrologie undEpigraphik 50 (1983): 173-186, esp. n. 7, citing
Gernet, Droit et Societe dans la Grece ancienne (Paris, 1955), pp. 19-28. It is
impossible to know the relationship between Pericles junior and his uncle, the
elder Alcibiades; interestingly, Bremmer notes that some sources name Pericles



senior as the avunculus of the younger Alcibiades, presumably reflecting what

was later perceived to have been a close relationship between the two (Bremmer,
181-182, n. 44, on PI. Ale. 1.122a).
20. For infant exposure and gender-specific exposure, see Cynthia B. Patterson, "Not Worth the Rearing: The Causes of Infant Exposure in Ancient
Greece," Transactions of the American Philological Association 115 (1985):
103-123. (Thanks to Philip Stadter for suggesting that a daughter might have
been married to another metic.)
21. Davies, Propertied Families, 458-459 points out that it is easier to understand the success of Pericles' extraordinary plea that his son be naturalized had
the mother (who Davies assumes was Aspasia) been a free woman. When
Euryptolemos, Pericles junior's kinsman, spoke regarding the trial of the generals at Arginusae, he made it clear that the needs of the polls outweighed any
personal feelings he might entertain for his kinsman (see Xen. Hell. 1.7.16-33;
at Hell. 1.7.16 and 1.7.23, Euryptolemos refers to Pericles junior as anangkaios
and prosekon, respectively). For Euryptolemos' possible motives, see Martin
Ostwald, From Popular Sovereignty to the Sovereignty of Law: Law, Society
and Politics in Fifth-Century Athens (Berkeley: University of California Press,
1986), 442-445.
22. The trial's historicity is denied by Kenneth J. Dover, "The Freedom of
the Intellectual in Greek Society," in The Greeks and their Legacy: Collected
Papers (New York: Blackwell, 1988), 135-138. See the succinct remarks by
F. E. Adcock in The Cambridge Ancient History, vol. 5, Athens 478401, ed.
J. B. Bury, S. A. Cook, and F. E. Adcock (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1927), 478; as well as remarks on the same subject in the second edition of
vol. 5, The Fifth Century B. C., ed. D. M. Lewis etal. (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1992), 368 (M. Ostwald) and 398 (D. M. Lewis). See also
Guy Donnay, "La date du proces de Phidias," L'antiquite classique 37 (1968):
19-36; Jacoby, FGrH III.6. suppl. ii, 167.29; Mary Lefkowitz, The Lives of the
Greek Poets (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), 110; and
Pesely, "Hagnon." The following scholars give some acceptance to the event:
Ostwald, Popular Sovereignty, 194-196, dates the trial with Mansfeld (v. inf.)
to about 438-436 B.C.; Arnold W. Gomme, A. Andrews, and K. J. Dover, A
Historical Commentary on Thucydides, vol. 2 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1956),
184189, onThuc. 2.65.4; Mario Montuori, "Aspasia of Miletus," inSocrates,
An Approach (Amsterdam: J. C. Gieben, 1988), 201-226, defines the nature of
Aspasia's asebeia as Medism in an uncritical literal reading of the sources.
23. See Telecleides, Hesiods 18 K-A, for the mention of Pericles' interest in
Telesilla of Corinth; see also Plut. Per. 13.15 and Stadter, Commentary, ad loc.
Hermippus' salutation to Pericles, "Hail, king of the satyrs" (in his Moirai 47
K-A) may or may not suggest lasciviousness, according to Joachim Schwarze,



Die Beurteilung des Perikles durch die attische Komoedie und ihre historische
und historiographische Bedeutung (Zetemata 51. Munich: Beck, 1971), 105.
24. On the remarriage of widows, see Schaps, Economic Rights, 41-42 et
pass. For Lysicles, see my discussion in chap. 3.
25. Discussion of this exemption is found in Patterson, "Those Athenian
Bastards." Philip Stadter observes that once legitimized, Pericles junior would
have had to support his mother. For discussion of mother and son relations, see
Virginia Hunter, "Women's Authority in Classical Athens: The Example of
Kleoboule and Her Son (Dem. 27-29)," Echos du monde classique 33, n.s., 8
(1989): 39^18. For the position of widows, see Jan Bremmer, "The Old Women
of Ancient Greece," in Sexual Asymmetry: Studies in Ancient Society, ed.
Josine Blok and Peter Mason (Amsterdam: J. C. Gieben, 1987), 191-216, esp.
196-197; and 0ivind Andersen, "The Widows, the City, and Thucydides
(II.45.2)," Symbolae Osloenses 42 (1987): 33^9. For discussion of the late
comic mention of Pericles junior's parentage, see chap. 2 of this book; for his
enfranchisement, see Plut. Per. 37.
26. For metic women's capacity to act independently of a kyrios, see Douglas
M. MacDowell, The Law in Classical Athens (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University
Press, 1978), 84; see also Hunter, "Women's Authority," for discussion of
Kleobule's efforts on behalf of herself and her son. For the importance of
Lysicles as a prostates tou demou (leader), see Ostwald, Popular Sovereignty,
201 n. 11, and discussion. Lysicles' probable wealth is noted by Connor, New
Politicians, 153, 106 n. 28. For discussion of the possibility that the "record"
of Aspasia's marriage to Lysicles, and the birth of their child, Poristes, forms
an apocryphal doublet of her relationship with Pericles, see chap. 3 of this
27. The herm is now in the Vatican Museum, Salle delle Muse, inv. 272. For
a description and discussion, see Georg Lippold, Die Skulpturen des Vaticanischen Museums, vol. 3 (Berlin and Leipzig: Walter de Gruyter, 1936), 8284, and pi. 14 and 15. For further discussion and bibliography, see Karl Schefold, Die Bildnisse der antiken Dichter, Redner, und Denker (Basel: Benno
Schwabe, 1943); and Gisela Richter, The Portraits of the Greeks, 3 vols. (London: Phaidon, 1965). Richter's discussion of Aspasia is in vol. 1, 154155,
pi. 875-876. At vol. 1, 41, Richter suggests a fifth-century original; quotations
of Richter's views on the style and on the historical Aspasia are found on p. 155.
Schefold, p. 193, calls the style classicizing rather than classical. For discussion
of this herm and other copies, see Brunilde S. Ridgway, The Severe Style in
Greek Sculpture (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1970), 65-68 et
pass.; see also Brunilde S. Ridgway, Fifth Century Styles in Greek Sculpture
(Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981), pass. For the statue, see
Paus. 1.23.1. For general discussion of the portraiture of Socrates, see Schefold,
Die Bildnisse; and Reinhard Kekule von Stradonitz, "Die Bildnisse des



Sokrates," in Abhandlungen der preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften,

philosophische-historische Klasse (Berlin, 1908), 1-58.
28. For the possibility that Diodorus of Athens may have seen Aspasia's
grave and recorded it in a treatise on Attic gravestones, see Jacoby, FGrH 372
(Diod. Periegetes frags. 34, 35, 40).

Chapter 2
1. Unless I note otherwise, I refer to the fragments as they are edited in
Poetae Comici Graeci, ed. Rudolf Kassel and Colin Austin (Berlin and New
York: Walter de Gruyter, 1983-). Fragments from this edition are referred to as
"K-A," and fragments from Kock's edition are given as "K." For a survey of
what we know about Greek comedy, see Kenneth Dover, "Comedy," in Ancient Greek Literature, ed. K. J. Dover (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1980), 7487. For the pornographic representation of women in Old Comedy,
see Bella Zweig, "The Mute Nude Female Characters in Aristophanes' Plays,"
in Pornography and Representation in Greece and Rome, ed. Amy S. Richlin
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), 74-89. For the visual representation of women, see Laura M. Stone, Costume in Aristophanic Comedy (Salem,
N.H.: Ayer Company, 1984). For Aristophanic comedy, the only kind we have
that is complete, see Kenneth Dover, Aristophanic Comedy (Berkeley and Los
Angeles: University of California Press, 1972). For discussion of using comedy
as a historical source, see G. E. M. de Ste Croix, The Origins of the Peloponnesian War (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1972), app. 29, 355-376. For
obscene metaphors, see Jeffrey Henderson, The Maculate Muse: Obscene Language in Attic Comedy, 2d ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991). For
Pericles' sexuality, see chap. 1, n. 23 and chap. 4, this book. For comic comment on his oratory and other political attributes, see Schwarze, Die Beurteilung. Particularly important fragments (in addition to those discussed here)
include the following: the tag of "new Peisistratids" was assigned to Pericles
and his ilk, as reported by Plut. Per. 16.1 = fr. adesp. 60K; cf. Per. 8.4, =
10K; for his looks, see Crat. Cheirons 258 K-A, and Nemesis 118 K-A. The idea
that Euripides' Medea was developed with conscious sympathy for Aspasia's
plight is not supportable; see H. Konishi, "Euripides' Medea and Aspasia,"
Liverpool Classical Monthly 11 (April 1986): 50-52, and John Wilkins, "Aspasia in Medea?," Liverpool Classical Monthly 12 (January 1987): 8-10.
2. For testimonia and the fragments of Cratinus, see PCG, vol. 4 (testimonia,
112-121). He flourished from ca. 450 to 422 B.C., wrote at least twenty-seven
plays, and won nine victories. For critical appreciation of Cratinus, see Walter
Ameling, "Komoedie und Politik zwischen Kratinos und Aristophanes: Das
Beispiel Perikles," Quaderni Catanesi di studi classici et medievali 3 (1981):



383-^24, esp. 390-410; Dover, Aristophanic Comedy, 210-224 et pass.;

E. W. Handley, "Aristophanes' Rivals," Proceedings of the Classical Association (London) 79 (1982): 23-25; and Ralph Rosen, Old Comedy and the lambographic Tradition (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988).
3. For views on the date of Cheirons: near 443 B.C., see Schwarze, Die
Beurteilung, 60-61; close to 430 B.C. See Harold Mattingly, "Poets and Politicians in Fifth-Century Greece," in Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean in
Ancient History and Prehistory, ed. K. H. Kinzl (New York: Walter de Gruyer,
1971), 241. Other plays that may satirize Aspasia and/or Pericles but cannot be
certainly claimed to do so are the Thrattai, Nemesis, Ploutoi, Drapetides, and
Dionysalexandros; see Schwarze and K-A ad loc.
4. See especially 255, 256, 258, 259, 264 K-A; for discussion see J. Th.
M. F. Pieters, "Eschyle et la Comedie," in Miscellanea tragica in honorem
J. C. Kamerbeek, ed. J. M. Bremer, S. L. Radt, and C. J. Ruijgh (Amsterdam:
Hakkert, 1976), 249-269.
5. For discussion of the fragment of Philemon's Adelphoi, the play that
attributed this innovation to Solon, see Madeleine Henry, "The Edible Woman:
Athenaeus's Concept of the Pornographic," in Pornography and Representation in Greece and Rome, ed. Richlin (New York: Oxford University Press,
1991), 261-263.
6. For parabaseis, see Thomas Hubbard, Aristophanes and the Intertextual
Parabasis (Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991). For discussion of 258
and 259 K-A, see Theodor Bergk, Commentationum de reliquiis comoediae
Atticae antiquae libri duo, 2 vols. (Leipzig: F. Koehler, 1838); and Schwarze,
Die Beurteilung; FCG; and PCG ad loc. As for the lack of necessity for these
lines to correspond to other events or characters in the play, compare the random
abuses of Cleon, Kynna, and Salabaccho, and Ariphrades and unnamed whores,
made by the chorus in Aristophanes' Knights and Wasps, discussed below.
7. For a discussion of stasis as a gendered concept, see Nicole Loraux, "La
cite, 1'historien, les femmes," Pallas 32 (1985): 7-39, esp. 16-39.
8. Bergk, Commentationum, vol. 1, 238, took "him" (hoi at line 1 of 259
K-A) to refer back to Chronos, indicating that Aspasia and Pericles shared the
same father. This would place Aspasia and Pericles on the same genealogical
level, so to speak. Although grammatically possible, his interpretation is less
attractive than making the referent of the reflexive particle hoi the "very great
tyrant." This reading removes the incestuous association between Pericles and
Aspasiawhich is intrusive and unnecessaryand adds the dimensions that
Aspasia's father was unknown and that her mother, Katapygosyne, mates indiscriminately. For discussion of katapygosyne and related words, see J. Henderson, Maculate Muse 213 et pass.
9. The fact that Aspasia is named in comedy has been considered evidence
that she was an actual prostitute, on the grounds that respectable women were



not named in public discourse. For discussion of the problems associated with
women being named in Greek literature, see Alan H. Sommerstein, ' 'The Naming of Women in Greek and Roman Comedy," Quaderni di storia 11 (1980):
393^408; he follows and affirms arguments on the subject made by David
Schaps, "The Woman Least Mentioned: Etiquette and Women's Names,"
Classical Quarterly 27 (1977): 323-330. But, as Sommerstein's own compilation of sources shows, women were mentioned in both Old and New Comedy if
they were or were "believed by the speaker to be, a slave, a freedwoman, a
hetaira, or . . . someone's concubine" (396; see also 406-407). Thus, if the
general rule of "no mention of respectable women" holds true, Aspasia could
have been mentioned in the sources solely because she was not a gyne gamete, a
wedded wife. Sommerstein points out that, in apparent violation of the "rule,"
Xenophon allowed Socrates' wife, Xanthippe, to be mentioned (408-^M)9); he
notes that Xanthippe, although certainly a gyne gamete, was exceptional and
notorious. I merely claim here that we are not required to believe Aspasia was a
whore because a comic poet says she was, or even because she was mentioned in
comedy. It absolutely does not follow that, just because a label was given to
someone by a comic poetbe that label whore, pederast, bribe-taker, or drinker
of bathwaterthat the charge was true. Aspasia was not called aporne (whore)
in the comic sources until late in the fifth century, when it is entirely possible that
she was dead. The case of another woman close to a powerful man may help
strengthen the skepticism I wish to inject into the common belief that Aspasia
was a whore: Cimon's sister, Elpinike, was named and insulted by Eupolis in his
Poleis (221 K-A, from Plut. Cim. 15.3; cited as 208K in Sommerstein, ' 'Naming
of Women," 399). She probably was dead by the time the Poleis was produced
in the late 420s. In other words, I believe that Aspasia's reputation as a whore is
a "factoid," impossible to prove or disprove, but certainly a part of her bios to
be looked upon with great suspicion.
10. For perceptive analyses of the comic critique of women and the state, see
Pierre Vidal-Naquet, ed., Aristophane: Les femmes et la cite. Les cahiers de
Fontenay 17 (December 1985). For discussion of the association of prostitutes
with destruction and corruption, see Madeleine Henry, Menander's Courtesans
and the Greek Comic Tradition (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1985), esp. 28-31. For
the possibilities of costuming and staging feminized representations of abstract
personifications, see L. Stone, Costume; and Zweig,' 'Mute Nude Female Characters,' ' For the metaphoric function of sexualities and sexual relations in literature, see Mark Turner, Death Is the Mother of Beauty: Mind, Metaphor, Criticism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987).
11. For testimonia, summary of arguments about dating, and fragments of the
Dionysalexandros, see i K-A and fragments 9-51 K-A. Mattingly, "Poets and
Politicians," would date the work to 440-439 B.C.; others, to 430^29 B.C. The
papyrus hypothesis (i K-A, = POxy 663) states that Pericles is here reviled as a



warmonger (lines 44-48), which statement has inspired largely fruitless speculation about Pericles' role. Ariane Tatti, "Le Dionysalexandros de Cratinos,"
Metis 1 (1986): 325-332, esp. 327, recounts scholarly efforts to reconcile the
goddess' gifts with the policies and personality of Pericles. E. W. Handley,
"POxy 2806: A Fragment of Cratinus?" Bulletin of the Institute of Classical
Studies 29 (1982): 109-117, and pi. 6 and 7, offers new reasons to assign POxy
2806 to this play by suggesting allusions to Pericles in both it and POxy 663.
12. Fragments 114127 K-A. The play has been variously dated: to 431 B.C.
by K-A at vol. 4, p. 179, regarding testimonia i and ii, and at vol. 4, p. 182
regarding 118 K~A, and more generally to the last few years of Pericles' life by
Mattingly, "Poets and Politicians," 241. Schwarze, Die Beurteilung, 33, 3740, lists these possible interpretations: Nemesis is Aspasia, Helen is Pericles
junior, and the Egg is the Megarian decree. Ameling, "Komoedie und Politik,"
405-406, offers the interpretation that the Egg is war.
13. For the three other Cratinan plays that satirize Pericles but for which there
is no evidence that Aspasia was also mentioned, see the fragments of the Drapetides, Thrattai, and Ploutoi.
14. For testimonia and fragments of Eupolis, see K-A vol. 5. Eupolis' first
production was the Prospaltians in 429 B.C.; he appears to have died in 411 B.C.
He produced at least nineteen comedies and won at least three victories.
15. For the war theme, see 260 K-A. Aspasia is called Helen at 267 K-A =
schol. PI. Menex. 235e.
16. Sanitization of Heracles is most evident in Prodicus' Choice of Heracles
= Xen. Mem. 1.21-23.
17. For discussion on the lack of integration of 267 K-A with the rest of the
play, see Schwarze, Die Beurteilung, 123. For pederastic and sympotic themes,
see Peter Reuter, "Fragmente der Poleis und Baptai des Eupolis" (Ph.D. diss.,
Martin Luther Universitaet, 1979), 17 n. 78. For general discussion of Rhodia in
comedy, see Sommerstein, ' 'Naming of Women''; for the satirization of Rhodia
in the Philoi, see 295 K-A.; cf. references to her in Eup. Autolycus 53, 58 K-A,
and in Poleis 232 K-A. Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff contends that in
Philoi 286 K-A a personified Demos visited a procuress, but this seems fanciful,
and no connection with Aspasia can be made at this time. "Observationes
criticae in comoedias Graecas selectas,'' (Ph.D. diss., Berlin, 1870), 50, quoted
K-A ad loc.
18. For fragments of the Marikas, see 192-217 K-A. For the politician Hyperbolus as Marikas, see 192 K-A, lines 149-150; Albio Cassio, "Old Persian
Marika-, Eupolis Marikas and Aristophanes Knights," Classical Quarterly 35
(1985): 38^2; and J. D. Morgan, "MAPIKA2," Classical Quarterly, n.s., 2
(1986): 529-531 and 208 K-A. For the divided chorus, see 192 K-A, lines 29 and
120. For the Spartans, see 192 K-A, line 122. For Cleon, see 192 K-A, line 135.
For Nicias, see 193 K-A.



19. K-A (vol. 3, 413) have analyzed lines 166 and 170 of frag. 192 as iambic
trimeters, a common dialogue meter.
20. The famous passage in Ar. Ach. will be discussed presently.
21. Hyperbolus' mother was also insulted in the Marikas (209 K-A) and may
have appeared on stage. The comic poet Hermippus (v. infra) also reviles
Hyperbolus' mother (in the Artopolides, produced in 420 or 419 B.C. See K-A
vol. 5, 565; the evidence of 8-10 K-A is not conclusive). Aristophanes makes
her a butt in his Clouds (lines 551-552) and Thesmophoriazousae (line 840). The
Aristophanic plays mentioned her in the parabasis; M. Whittaker, "The Comic
Fragments in Their Relation to the Structure of Old Attic Comedy," Classical
Quarterly 29 (1935): 185, suggests that Marikas 209 K-A, wherein Hyperbolus'
mother is mentioned, is also a choral passage. For older women in comedy, see
Jeffrey Henderson, "Older Women in Attic Old Comedy," Transactions of the
American Philological Association 117 (1987): 105-129.
22. Testimonia, fragments (99-146), and arguments about date are found in
K-A, vol. 5. For the date of the Demes (412 B.C.), see K-A, vol. 5, 343,
following Geissler; for the catabatic plot, see K-A, testimonia i. ii, vi; for other
remarks on plot, see K-A, vol. 5, 343. On Eupolis' fondness for old jokes, see
Ameling, "Komoedie und Politik," 423; cf. Ar. Clouds 553-556, and Plut.
Cim. 15; that reference to Cimon and Elpinike having sex = Poleis, 221 K-A
(produced 422 B.C.). For praise of Pericles' oratory, see 102 K-A; cf. Jean
Claude Carriere, Le carnaval et la politique: Une introduction a la Comedie
Grecque suivie d'un choix defragments, Annales litteraires de 1'Universite de
Besancon, vol. 26 (Paris: Centre de Recherches d'Histoire Ancienne, 1979),
240, 241.
23. For Hermippus, see K-A, vol. 5, 561-604. For Plutarch's use of Hermippus in his Life of Pericles, see also Stadter, ad loc.
24. This insult to a woman in the Artopolides is frag. 9 K-A; Bergk, Commentationum, 314, thinks this was Hyperbolus' mother. Hermippus may also
have invented the name Nothippus (see his Moirai 46 K-A), a mock-aristocratic
name whose first part is the root of nothos, and has the aristocratic termination
-ippus (cf. Pericles' son's name, Xanthippus).
25. In addition to previously cited references, see the following for discussions of women in Aristophanic comedy: Paul D. Epstein, "The Marriage of
Peisthetairos to Basileia in the Birds of Aristophanes," Dionysius 5 (December
1981): 5-28; S. C. Humphreys, The Family, Women, and Death: Comparative
Studies (London: Routledge and Kegan, 1983), and Anthropology and the
Greeks (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978); Helene P. Foley, "The
'Female Intruder' Reconsidered: Women in Aristophanes' Lysistrata and Ecclesiazusae," Classical Philology 77 (1982): 1-21. Some commentators miss the
point; for example, Epstein, in his otherwise admirable essay on subjectivity and
objectivity in Aristophanes' Birds, fails utterly to see the importance of gender



in Peisthetairos' interactions with Iris and Basileia, both of whom Peisthetairos

deals with by penetration, real or threatened. Kenneth McLeish, in The Theatre
of Aristophanes (London: Thames and Hudson, 1980), sees but does not understand the function of "putting women in their place" in the dynamics of Aristophanic bawdy. I have not been able to see, Aristophanes and Women by Lauren
Taaffe (London: Routledge 1994).
26. For a summary of earlier scholarship on the historical problems of this
passage, see Schwarze, Die Beurteilung, 136, including the important contributions of H. Mueller-Struebing, J. van Leeuwen, and Friedrich Jacoby; recent
contributions to the questions have been made by Douglas M. MacDowell,
"The Nature of Aristophanes' Akharnians," Greece & Rome 30 (October
1983): 143-162; and David Sansone, "The Date of Herodotus' Publication,"
Illinois Classical Studies 10 (1985): 19. For views that Aspasia's role in the
outbreak of the war is pure fantasy and a comic topos, see Donald Kagan, The
Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press,
1969), 255-256, and Ameling, "Komoedie und Politik," 411. The Megarian
decree to which the passage refers is itself the subject of much controversy; to try
to interpret the Acharnians passage in light of it is to aim for a moving target. For
a summary of views on this decree, see Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian
War, 241 ff.
27. As for Aspasia as Helen, consider Ann Bergren's remark that all women
are Helens. For Duris' allegation, see Plut. Per. 24.2 and Stadter ad loc. Also
see FGrH 76, F65 (Duris of Samos); Ste. Croix, Origins of the Peloponnesian
War, 234 ff.; and Robert B. Kebric, In the Shadow ofMacedon: Duris of Samos,
Historia Einzelschrift, vol. 29 (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1977).
28. For another comic parody of Herodotus, see B. Welsh, "The Chorus of
Aristophanes' Babylonians," Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 24 (1983):
137-150. For analysis of laikastriai and related words, see H. D. Jocelyn, "A
Greek Indecency and Its Students: AAIKAZEIN," Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society, 206, n.s., 26 (1980): 12-66. For the view that this
scene makes whores both responsible for the war and emblematic of the state to
which war reduces decent people, see Henry, Menander's Courtesans, 18-19,
and Eva C. Keuls, The Reign of the Phallus: Sexual Politics in Ancient Athens
(New York: Harper & Row, 1985), 354.
29. For whores as Aristophanic symbols of destruction, death, and intellectual and political corruption, see Henry, Menander's Courtesans, 13-31. For the
edenic aspect of Golden Age comedy, which is partly characterized by men's
unlimited access to food and pretty women, see Henry, "The Edible Woman,"
30. For comment on this play, see Henry, Menander's Courtesans, 21-22
and Zweig, "Mute Nude Female Characters." It is difficult to know why Aristophanes turned aside from mentioning Aspasia in the Peace; perhaps he men-



tioned her in the Acharnians mainly in the course of parodying Herodotus. In the
Peace, he basically assigned a different main cause to the war.
31. Aristophanes repeated the Wasps passage with slight variations in the
parabasis of the Peace, produced in 421 B.C. (lines 748-760). For Callias (fl. ca.
446-430 B.C.), see K-A, vol. 4, 38-53. For additional comment on Callias'
obscure Pedetai ("Men in Fetters") *21 K-A = schol. PI. Menex. 235e, see the
next chapter. Schwarze's literalist objection to Callias' statement (namely, that
Pericles surely knew how to speak by the time he met Aspasia!) completely
misses the point (Die Beurteilung, 92). The fact that important men
Melanthius, Socrates, Euripides, Acestor, and Lamponwere mocked in the
Pedetai provides Barbara Ehlers, Eine vorplatonische Deutung des sokratischen
Eros: der Dialog Aspasia des Sokratikers Aischines (Munich: Beck, 1966), 2930, with backhanded evidence of Aspasia's actual importance as Pericles' mentor.

Chapter 3
1. The exclusion of women from early Greek theological/philosophical speculation is discussed by Marilyn B. (Arthur) Katz, "Dream of a World Without
Women: Poetics and the Circles of Order in the Theogony Prooemium," Arethusa 16 (1983): 97-116. With the exception of Ehlers, vorplatonische Deutung, scholars have ignored Aspasia's important role in fourth-century and later
Greco-Roman philosophical discourse; Ehlers herself did not consider the general function of women characters in Socratic discourse. See the article by Ann
L. T. Bergren, "Language and the Female in Early Greek Thought," Arethusa
16 (1983):69-95. Although it is not her main purpose, Snyder, Woman and the
Lyre, more successfully discusses women's contributions to Greek science and
philosophy than do Mary Ellen Waith, A History of Women Philosophers.
Vol. 1: 600 B.c.-SOO A.D. (Boston and Dordrecht: Nijhoff, 1987); or Margaret
Alic, Hypatia's Heritage: A History of Women in Science from Antiquity
through the Nineteenth Century (Boston: Beacon Press, 1986), in their general
historical surveys. Feminist scholarship has begun to deal with the absence or
presence of actual women in philosophy and science in the medieval, Renaissance, and modern periods, as well as with the metaphorization of gender by
these pursuits. See Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology
and the Scientific Revolution (New York: Harper & Row, 1980); Londa Schiebinger, The Mind Has No Sex? Women in the Origins of Modern Science
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989); Ruth Bleier, ed., Feminist
Approaches to Science (Elmsford, New York: Pergamon, 1986). Michele Le
Doeuff, Hipparchia's Choice: an Essay Concerning Women, Philosophy, Etc.
trans. Trista Selous (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991); originally published as L'etude et



le Rouet n.p.: Les Editions du Seuil, 1989). On p. 166 Lc Docuff claims that
"the specific property of philosophical thought is regarded as being that it
entirely understands itself."
2. For a view of Aspasia as phallic signifier, see H. D. Rankin, Antisthenes
Sokratikos (Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1986), 8: ". . . Aspasia is represented as
Pericles'intellectual superior . . . ." Xanthippe, wife of Socrates, could also
be considered a phallic signifier; see Leonard Woodbury, "Socrates and the
Daughter of Aristides," Phoenix 27 (1973): 7-25, esp. 7 n. 1. Note the observation by Bergren, "Language and the Female," 78: ". . . woman is Helen."
For a rewriting of Xanthippe's and other women's reputations, see Teri Marsh,
"The (Other) Maiden's Tale," in Pornography and Representation in Greece
and Rome, ed. Amy S. Richlin (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991),
3. For an attempt to chronologize some of the imagery discussed in this
chapter, see Woodbury, "Socrates and the Daughter of Aristides."
4. For his biographical tradition in antiquity, the best source is D.L. 1.15;
6.1-19. For the fragments, see Antisthenis Fragmenta, ed. Fernanda Caizzi
(Milan: Istituto Editoriale Cisalpino, 1966; and Socratis et Socraticorum Reliquiae, ed. Gabriele Giannantoni, vol. 2 (Naples: Bibliopolis, 1990). For the best
recent account of his philosophy, see Rankin, Antisthenes Sokratikos. Rankin,
p. 6, sees unimportance as Antisthenes' salvation; at p. 119, he notes that
Antisthenes was the only Socratic who did not become part of the diaspora.
5. For Antisthenes' Thracian mother, see D.L. 6.1; for his enfranchisement,
see Sayre, cited in Rankin, Antisthenes Sokratikos, 5.
6. For the view that Socrates was anti-Periclean, and that Antisthenes was
jealous of Pericles junior, see Rankin, Antisthenes Sokratikos, 8-9. Quotations
in this paragraph are from pp. 8 and 9, respectively. Stadter, "Pericles Among
the Intellectuals," used Plato's treatment of Pericles' relationship with his sons
as evidence that Pericles was not an "intellectual."
7. For ancient traditions about his work, see D.L. 6.15; vol. 10 contained
seven dialogues, of which one was titled "Menexenos" or "On Rule."
8. On Antisthenes' hardihood: the remark ho ponos agathon ("toil is a good
thing") is attributed to him (D.L. 6.2); for the remark on women: see
D.L. 6.3; on luxury: see D.L. 6.9. For Antisthenes' views on arete, see Rankin,
Antisthenes Sokratikos, chap. 5, 101-134, for discussion. For Antisthenes' view
that arete is the same for both sexes: see D.L. 6.12.
9. For discussion of which battle was meant, see Rankin, Antisthenes
Sokratikos, 3, and Thuc. 4.89-90 and commentary.
10. Caizzi assigns only two fragments to the Aspasia (C34, 35, from Ath.
5.220d and 13.589e, respectively). For more discussion, see Aeschines von
Sphettos: Studien zur Literaturgeschichte der Sokratiker, ed. Heinrich Dittmar,
Philologische Untersuchungen 21 (Berlin: Weidmann, 1912; reprint, New York:



Arno Press, 1976), 299-300. D.L. refers to the dialogue at 6.16 in the list of
Antisthenes' works.
11. For a plausible reconstruction of Antisthenes' dialogue, Ehlers, vorplatonische Deutung, 30-33. Ehlers, who discusses the unfavorable representation of Aspasia by Antisthenes, notes the fragments' references to Aspasia's
relationship with Pericles. Her use of Plut. Per. 24 implies she accepts this as
Antisthenean. Ehlers also suggests that Heraclides Ponticus (in Ath. 12.533cd)
derived some of the material in his Peri Hedones ("On Pleasure") from Antisthenes' dialogue (see Aeschines von Sphettos, 17 nn. 56-57). For Heraclides
Ponticus, see chap. 4 of this book; H. B. Gottschalk, Heraclides of Pontus
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980), and Die Schule des Aristoteles: Texts und
Kommentar, 2d ed. (Basel: Schwabe, 1969).
12. Frag. 34Caizzi = Ath. 5.220d-eandfrag. 35 Caizzi = Ath. 13.589eare
not analyzed by David Halperin in his otherwise comprehensive discussion of
the relationship between citizenship and the male body, ' 'The Democratic Body:
Prostitution and Citizenship in Classical Athens," in One Hundred Years of
Homosexuality and Other Essays on Greek Love. (New York: Routledge, 1990),
88-112. For Pericles and Elpinike: see Ath. 13.589e; Plut. Per. 32.
13. For the necessity to glean Antisthenes' thought: see Rankin, Antisthenes
Sokratikos, 29; for his view of autarkeia, ibid., Ill; for the lack of a female
subject, ibid., 104-105. It would be far afield here but worthwhile to discuss the
ways in which Antisthenes, like other philosophers, used kinship metaphors to
discuss virtue, logic, and semantics (see ibid., 30 ff., on oikeios/allotrios logos):
do these sentiments express a deeply felt dependence on kinship as the primary
metaphor (as proposed by M. Turner, Death Is the Mother of Beauty) or do they
attempt to redefine kinship by wresting its meaning and importance from traditional blood ties?
14. For recent positive and negative analyses, respectively, of Plato's views
on women in the Republic, see Natalie Harris Bluestone, Plato's Republic and
Modern Myths of Gender (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1987),
and Susan Moller Okin, Women in Western Political Thought (Princeton, N.J.:
Princeton University Press, 1979). For a negative analysis of his general view of
women, see Page DuBois, Sowing the Body: Psychoanalysis and Ancient Representations of Women (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), chap. 8. I
consider Diotima, the famous priestess/instructress of the Symposium, to be
ahistorical, or at least of dubious historicity.
15. For debates on the authenticity of the dialogue, see Gerard Ledger, Recounting Plato: A Computer Analysis of Plato's Style (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1989), 163-164; see also 17, this chapter. For the date of composition, see
Ledger, Re-counting Plato, 210-212. Ehlers, vorplatonische Deutung, 95, 123,
and 126, believed Plato composed the dialogue after Aeschines' Aspasia. Menexenus himself has been variously identified as both a grandson of Pericles,



Nicole Loraux, The Invention of Athens: The Funeral Oration in the Classical
City, trans. Alan Sheridan fCambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986], 462
n. 250; originally published as L'invention d'Athenes: Histoire de I'oraison
funebre dans le ' 'cite classique'' [n.p.: Mouton, 1981], based on a suggestion by
Vidal-Naquet and following Davies, Propertied Families, 11811, pp. 456-457,
and Lysis 207b8-cl); and as a son of Socrates (D.L. 2.26 gave Menexenus as the
name of one of Socrates' sons). For the ages, see Ap. 34d and Phd. 116b.
16. For additional discussion of the Menexenus as parody of official polis
tradition, see Rosalind Thomas, Oral Tradition and Written Record in Classical
Athens, Cambridge Studies in Oral and Literate Culture 18 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), chap. 4; unfortunately, she ignores Aspasia and,
in fact, simply attributes the entire speech to Socrates (217-218).
17. For a history of arguments on the authenticity of the Menexenus, see
Edmund Bloedow, "Aspasia and the 'Mystery' of the Menexenos," Wiener
Studien, n. F. 9 (1975): 32-48, with references to the work of Newiger (1964);
and Loraux, Invention of Athens, 460 n. 225; at p. 94, Loraux calls it genuine
but ironic. For references to the dialogue's reputation in antiquity as a genuine
encomium, see Loraux, Invention of Athens, 326 n. 419, 410 n. 35, 465 n. 293.
Also cf. Cic. Oral. 151; the Menexenus was repeatedly recited in antiquity.
During its period of fame as a sincere praise of Athenian democracy, the dialogue formed part of the classical curriculum in Europe in the late nineteenth
century, as the profusion of school texts and dissertations suggests. Loraux, 5
and 343 n. 27, cites some references to nonironic readings of the dialogue; the
process of nonironic readings began in the Hellenistic period. To her listing
should be added that of Ivo Bruns, Frauenemancipation in Athen: Ein Beitrag
zur attischen Kulturgeschichte des fuenften und vierten Jahrhunderts (Kiel:
Schmidt and Klavnig, 1900), see chap. 5 below for further discussion.
18. For the view that the Menexenus is more real than the real epitaphioi, see
Loraux, Invention of Athens, 141; for the view that it is the most powerful of the
epitaphioi, see ibid., 241 (in a seeming echo of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, On
the Style of Demosthenes 1027). For a view of it as exorcism of political oration,
see Loraux, ibid., 312. For the view that the Timaeus, Critias, and Cratylus are
additional ' 'responses'' by Plato to issues he raised in the Menexenus, see ibid.,
296-304. On irony as "the trope of choice in transitional historical periods,"
see Naomi Schor, "Fetishism and its Ironies," Nineteenth-Century French
Studies 17 (Fall-Winter 1988-1989): 89-97, quote on 95.
19. Loraux, Invention of Athens, 312, identified Socrates as the one who
attacked the funeral oration; she also claims (p. 317), in a further replication of
the Platonic strategy of substitution, that Plato made Socrates confront Pericles
in both the Symposium and the Menexenus. That Socrates did this is not entirely
certain, but he clearly did so, if at all, by attacking substitutes for Pericles.
Bloedow, "Aspasia," 32, identifies Aspasia with Pericles. In a similar elision



of women characters into other characters, David Halperin, "Why Is Diotima a

Woman?" 113-151, in One Hundred Years of Homosexuality and Other Essays
on Greek Love (New York: Routledge, 1990), 122, claims that ". . . Plato
seems to be less interested in her [Aspasia] than in her relations with Pericles";
and (p. 124) that ". . . Diotima may be a stand-in for Aeschines' Aspasia."
20. I do not claim that mine is the only way to look at the dialogue, but I do
claim that it is an important way and one that has been sadly neglected. In the
following discussion I will not write at length about such topics as those Loraux,
Bloedow, and others so amply treated (e.g., the Menexenus' violent distortions
of historical events and chronology); on these, see Loraux, Invention of Athens,
314 et pass., which distortions also form part of the Platonic critique. The
Menexenus' commentary on the "woman in power" theme of comedy and
comedy's critique of certain epitaphian topoi are briefly alluded to by Loraux,
308-309, 323; Loraux refers to Plato's particular debt to Aristophanes on p. 311.
21. On the literary meaning of placing prostitutes in such settings, see
Charles Bernheimer, Figures of III Repute: Representing Prostitution in
Nineteenth-Century France (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), 40.
22. The Menexenus' critique of interchangeability is briefly mentioned by
Loraux, Invention of Athens, 314, 461 n. 237.
23. Cf. Aristophanes' similarly disparaging use of synkollan at Clouds 446
and Wasps 1041; contrast PI. Ti. 43a2; Aesch. Supp. 310, Libation Bearers 542;
Soph. frag. 867. Loraux' observation that in this oration the polis assumes every
important role (re: 236d6-7, 249b7-c3) also supports my view that the polis and
she who praises it are overdetermined (Invention of Athens, 25).
24. Aspasia as "blessed" (249d3-5), see Loraux, Invention of Athens, 312,
on the ironic meanings of makarios in Plato; the definition of the epitaphios as
but one logos among other logoi (Menex. 249d45) effectively denied the
genre's uniqueness.
25. This way of mentioning an individual is not the conversational norm; one
should contrast the manner in which Aspasia was first mentioned with the
method used in Ap. 20e8-21a3. There, Socrates mentioned Chaerephon and then
gave an example of how he behaved and what kind of person he was; no example
of Aspasia's character or behavior is given here. Thomas, Oral Tradition, ch. 1
and 4, notes that in the fourth century, testimony was commonly given in the
form used in Plato's Apology.
26. Aspasia uses the same verb to describe this encounter as Menexenus had
used when he stated, "I have met her many times." The verb entynchanein has
the general meaning of chance encounter, but it was also a euphemism for sexual
intercourse; Plut. Sol. 20.3 uses the verb in this sense in an apparent quotation of
Solonian law.
27. For further discussion of the epitaphios and the Other, see Loraux, Invention of Athens, 79-83; the quotation is from p. 81. On the subordinate and



colorful aspects of the Other, also see Loraux, 82, on 237M5. Interestingly,
Lysias, author of another celebrated epitaphios, was a metic; Gorgias was also
not an Athenian.
28. For a discussion of concern with legitimacy after 403/402 B.C., see
Stroud, '' Greek Inscriptions.''
29. For ideology's concealment of internal divisions, see Loraux, Invention
of Athens, 330; exclusion of metics and slaves and mention of Amazons, see
ibid., 330-331 and n. 18.
30. On the importance of concentrating on "what is not said," see Loraux,
ibid.; 220 n. 3, with reference to the work of Georges Duby. On the use of the
Other to constitute the self in fourth-century discourse, see Madeleine Henry,
"Ethos, Mythos, Praxis: Women in Greek Comedy," Helios 13 (Fall 1986):
141-150, esp. 144-148.
31. For other ironic uses of the terminology of blessedness/spellbinding in
Gorgias and Plato, see Loraux, Invention of Athens, 264266.
32. Cf. the fact that in Ar. Frogs, Euripides and his whorish muse are
discovered in the underworld and remain there. For discussion, see Henry,
Menander's Courtesans, 2425. Cf. also the Youth's abuse of the old lady in
Ar. EccL, esp. lines 884, 903-905, and 926.
33. " 'But that was what/made everything possible,' said Oedipus.": Muriel
Rukeyser, "Myth," in The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women, ed.
Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar (New York: W. W. Norton, 1985), 1788.
34. For the view that the polis transcends gender, see Loraux, Invention of
Athens, 284; see also 450 n. 110. Bernheimer, Figures of III Repute, observes
that narrative often makes gender into an arbitrary sign, free to be reconstructed
by the male author and actors, and also stresses the importance of using prostitutes for this purpose in narrative.
35. See Patterson, "Hai Attikai," for a different view of classical Greek
men's valuations of women.
36. For discussion of the problematic relationship between referent and descriptor in late fifth- and early fourth-century discourse, see Madeleine Henry,
"The Derveni Commentator as Literary Critic," Transactions of the American
Philological Association 116 (1986): 149-164.
37. The remark on civil war as a fraternity is taken from Loraux, Invention of
Athens, 199.
38. The root verb mignymi (and its compound symmignymi), also means
sexual intercourse; entynchanein, discussed previously, was again used when
the ghosts reminded the living to take particular care of the survivors (248e5-6).
The use of sexual language to describe the relationship of individuals to the state
is, of course, hardly unique to this dialogue; see the discussion of Xenophon
later in this chapter.
39. For discussion of women as connected with stasis, see Loraux, "La



Cite.'' Just a few years before the dramatic date of the Menexenus, Aristophanes
made women responsible for destabilizing the state in his comedy Ecclesiazousae. In that play, women don men's garb and vote out the all-male
government. As the heroine's husband remarks of this revolution, "it's the only
thing that hasn't happened to the polls yet" (lines 455-456). Cf. Eccl. 230 ff.
and Lys. 589-600 on the real fate of women during and after wars.
40. For another view of this part of the speech, see Leslie Dean-Jones, "The
Dog It Was Who Died" (unpublished paper, Classical Association of the
Midwest and South, Columbia, Missouri, April 1990). Loraux, Invention of
Athens, 27, cites Plato's continued interest in the "second birth" in Laws
41. In the Menexenus, Plato showed that he knew such a world could not
really exist and demonstrated this with abundant irony. The Symposium, however, permitted the character of Aristophanes to articulate the dialogue's only
true acknowledgment that women do exist and have a sexual nature that has
some positive and autonomous purpose.
42. Aeschines of Sphettos wrote both forensic speeches and seven or more
philosophical dialogues (the Alcibiades, Aspasia, Axiochus, Callias, Miltiades,
Rhinon, and Telauges). The authenticity of his dialogues was challenged in
antiquity by Idomeneus, Menedemus of Eretria, and others (D.L. 2.60-63; Ath.
3.611de is the source of the anecdote of Xanthippe's presentation of dialogues to
Aeschines.) For the hostile speech by Lysias, see Ath. 13.611 and Heinrich
Krauss, Aeschinis Socratici Reliquiae (Leipzig: Teubner, 1911), 11.
43. I follow Barbara Ehlers' 1966 reconstruction of the Aspasia except where
noted. For Aeschines' reputation during the Empire, see Ehlers, vorplatonische
Deutung, 1. For the view that the Aspasia of Aeschines was a reaction to
Antisthenes' Aspasia, see ibid., 73 n. 136. On pp. 60-61, Ehlers suggests that
Aspasia does not appear but is quoted; she does this by analogy to both the
prologue of the Menexenus and the Agathon scene in Ar. Thesm.
44. For discussion of other comic treatments of Aspasia, see Ehlers, vorplatonische Deutung, 26-30, 64-65. For the view that Aeschines positively
transformed comic treatments, see ibid., 93. For the belief that Aspasia was an
actual hetaira, see pp. 90-93. That Aspasia conversed with respectable women
according to this dialogue, see frag. 30 Dittmar = Plut. Per. 24.5; vid. Stadter
ad loc., and frag. 31 Dittmar = Cic. Inv. Rhet. 1.31.51 ff. For further discussion
of these fragments, see chap. 4 of this book.
45. For the dramatic date and the date of composition, see Ehlers, vorplatonische Deutung, 94 n. 212, and 95, respectively. For the identification of
speakers, see p. 2, where Ehlers credits K. Fr. Hermann as being the first to see
that dialogue took place between Socrates and Callias and that Aspasia was
praised. For Aeschines' departure from comic and dialogic characterizations:
cf. ibid., 39 n. 24 and Eup. Kolakes 157, 174 K-A. For the insight that Callias



sends his son to Aspasia for instruction, see frag. 17 Dittmar = Max. Tyr. 38.4;
for more discussion of this fragment, see chap. 4 of this book.
46. For remarks on the qualifications of Aspasia, see Ehlers, vorplatonische
Deutung, 40-42. For the Amazonian Rhodogyne, see ibid., 4450 on frag. 18
Dittmar. The "negative Haltung zum Eros" is discussed by Ehlers on p. 50. For
the view that Thargelia was a more appropriate example, see ibid., 51-55; for a
comparison of Thargelia and Rhodogyne, pp. 55-57. For denial of claims that
Rhodogyne and Thargelia were seen as direct ancestresses of Aspasia, see pp.
44-63 et pass.; she follows the conclusion, but not the reasoning, of Ulrich von
Wilarnowitz-Moellendorff, "Lesefruechte," Hermes 35 (1900): 552. Dittmar,
Aischines von Sphettos, 50 claims that an important theme of the dialogue
was to demonstrate "die Frau in ihrer intellektuellen und moralischen Leistungsfaehigkeit und in ihren Beziehungen zum Mann."
47. For the view that Pericles was cited as an example of Aspasia's skill, see
Ehlers, vorplatonische Deutung, 68: "Er dient hier als Beleg fuer Aspasias
Tuechtigkeit . . . ." On the historicity of Aspasia's trial and Pericles'plea for
her, see ibid., 70, and chapter 1 of this book. For the view that Plut. Per. 24.5
was derived from Aeschines, see Ehlers, p. 65 (confirmed by verbal echoes in
Lucian Imagines 17.2, q.v. inf. chap. 4). For the view that Aeschines knew
actual examples of Aspasia's influence over Pericles, see ibid., 64.
48. For Lysicles and Aspasia, see Plut. Per. 24.6, and additional testimonia
in Krauss, Aeschinis Socratici Reliquiai, items VII, IX, X, and pp. 45-47. For
discussion, see Ehlers, vorplatonische Deutung, 72-85. For the view that Lysicles was more important to Aeschines' Aspasia than was Pericles, see ibid., 3334; for the view that the Lysicles episode was an exaggerated doublet of the
Pericles episode, see p. 79. For Lysicles, see chap. 1 of this book.
49. For discussion of Poristes as Aspasia's and Lysicles' son, see Aischines
von Sphettos, 3-4 n. 10, 23 n. 89. For the suggestion that Poristes is a metaphoric epithet, rather than the name of a real child, see Ehlers, vorplatonische
Deutung, 82-83. To her citations at p. 82 n. 174 and 175, should be added Thuc.
50. For additional examples connecting Aspasia, eros, and arete, see Ehlers,
vorplatonische Deutung, 85, and 94 nn. 210, 211. For Aspasia's argumentation,
see ibid., 87. Frag. 31 Dittmar was preserved in Cicero's youthful Inv. Rhet.
1.31.51 and cited later by Quintilian (5.11.27-29). Quintilian, whom Ehlers
does not discuss, notes the quotation as a particular example of induction;
other examples cited by Quintilian in this section are drawn from Cicero and
51. For the continuation of the conversation after the wife's aporia, see
Ehlers, vorplatonische Deutung, 87-88. For the contention that Aspasia knew
the power of eros through experience and made this the foundation of her work,
see ibid., 89. For the significance of the fact that arete is to be sought in



connection with another human being, see p. 88. For eros as the site of mutual
commitment, cf. frag. 33 Dittmar = Xen Mem. 2.6.36, and Xen Symp. 8.11 ff.
and 8.27; see also Ehlers, vorplatonische Deutung, 116. For the contrast between the experiential and sublimated erotic paths to virtue recommended by
Aeschines' Aspasia and Socrates in Plato's Symposium, respectively, see
Ehlers, p. 92.
52. For the suggestion that Aeschines identified Aspasia as a promnestris, see
Ehlers, vorplatonische Deutung, 104, who does not pursue the implications of
such an appellation. Ehlers muddies the issue by calling Aspasia a Kupplerin, a
word that has the connotation of both matchmaker and pander; a literal union of
such concepts is impossible in Greek. This inappropriate label stems, I think,
from Ehlers' erroneous notion that Aspasia really was a hetaira.
53. For general information on the life and chronology of Xenophon, see
J. K. Anderson, Xenophon (New York: Scribner, 1974, 9-19, 192-198. Important to this discussion of the development of Aspasia's biographical tradition and
of biographical modes in Hellenistic memoirs is the fact that the Greek title
of the Memorabilia ("Things Worth Remembering") was actually Apomnemoneumata ("Memoirs"). This is the first known work with such a title,
according to Momigliano, Greek Biography, 53. See chap. 4, this book, for
more discussion of such treatises. The general chronology of Xenophon's works
is disputed, and no absolute date for either the Memorabilia or the Oeconomicus
has been agreed on. In fact, as Philip Stadter has pointed out, the Memorabilia
itself may have been written piecemeal. On p. 174, Anderson suggested that the
Oeconomicus is "a continuation of something else, presumably the Memorabilia." If the Memorabilia was composed first, and if Mem. 3.5 refers to "the
situation after the battle of Leuctra" (ibid., 175 n. 1), both it and the
Oeconomicus would have been finished after 371 B.C., when Xenophon was
expelled from Scillus. Xenophon could have begun the earlier dialogue about
twenty-five years after Socrates was executed in 399 B.C. (ibid., 20-21). Aspasia
is mentioned at Xen. Mem. 2.6.36 and Oec. 3.14. For the plausible but unprovable view that Mem. 2.6.28-39 derives from Aeschines, see Ehlers, vorplatonische Deutung, 101-103; she also believes that Aeschines called Aspasia a
54. For recent discussion of the erotics of male friendship in antiquity, see
David Halperin, "Heroes and their Pals," in One Hundred Years of Homosexuality and Other Essays on Greek Love (New York: Routledge, 1990), 75-87.
55. Enchantment is injected into the "hunt" in the forms of epoidas and
philtra (spells and charms; 2.6.10). For discussion of 2.6.13, see John J.
Winkler, The Constraints of Desire: The Anthropology of Sex and Gender in
Ancient Greece (New York: Routledge, 1990), 16-11. The relationship between
oratory and the erotic is connected by the metaphor of the bee sting; the charm of
homosexual eros had been remarked earlier in Mem. 1.3.8-13, where a boy's



kiss is compared to a scorpion's sting. Comedy likened Pericles' oratory to a bee

sting; of all the orators, only his speech stuck in the hearer (Eup. Demes 102 KA). Kentron, the word used in this passsage for bee sting, is a common comic
metaphor for the phallus; see Henderson, Maculate Muse, 122, for other references.
56. For Socrates' offer to warn prospective lovers, see 2.6.33. Cf. the use of
the words kateipein and agasai regarding the relationships among Menexenus,
Socrates, and Aspasia, discussed above.
57. Philip Stadter has remarked that erotics might not normally have been
thought important in a marriage but grants that Xenophon himself seemed to
think the erotic was a normal and expected part of marriage (cf. Cyr. 3.1.41 and
Symp. 9.7).
58. For discussion of Plato's Socrates as midwife and matchmaker, see
DuBois, Sowing the Body, chap. 8; for the fuller implications of these issues, see
Janice Raymond, The Transsexual Empire (Boston: Beacon Press, 1979). See,
however, Halperin, One Hundred Years, 118-119, for a very different interpretation of this imagery. The implications of Aspasia's statement that the truth
will out during a marriage are developed more fully in the Oeconomicus
(q.v. inf.).
59. The use of the spells and philters terminology in this passage echoes the
report of Pericles' sexualized discourse, discussed previously. Philip Stadter
avers that the "woman more loved" was Philosophia. If this is the case, Xenophon had Socrates play yet again on the association of philosophy with prostitution.
60. For the view that Theodote equals Aspasia, see Ehlers, vorplatonische
Deutung, 107.
61. Socrates had used an image like that of fellow hunter, the image of
mastropos (pander) in the slightly earlier Symposium (q.v. inf.). Interestingly,
Pericles junior makes an appearance in the Memorabilia between the Critoboulus and Theodote episodes (in Mem. 3.5); not only Pericles and Aspasia,
but also their nothos, participate in post-fifth-century discourse. Here, shortly
after becoming a general in 411 B.C. , Pericles junior converses with Socrates on
the subject of how Athens might regain her old prominence. Pericles senior is
briefly alluded to, but Socrates advises the son to use methods inverse to his
father's alleged ways of winning the people's loyalty. He does not encourage
Pericles junior to study the spells and philters of oratory, but rather to study
strategy (3.5.22). Honesty of the sort advised by the Aeschinean Aspasia, rather
than the father's ways of enchantment, is clearly recommended. In this conversation, which Xenophon claimed to have witnessed, Socrates advocates a public
and honest competence; the erga of his illustrious father and the logos that
reminds Athens of her true birthright of virtue should be synthesized with the
son's own expertise in order to restore the city-state's greatness.



62. On the wife as a magistrate: Socrates calls the wife's attention to their
mutual self-interest evidence of a "masculine intellect" (10.1).
63. On the use of cosmetics: cf. the "Choice of Heracles" at Mem. 2.1.22.
The wife clearly represents arete, not pleasure, to her spouse. On deception: note
the repeated mention of words for deceit and deception: Hai d'apatai, exapatan
(10.3); exapaton, 10.5; Aspasia used this language of deceived marital partners
in her observation that deceived parties hate each other and the matchmaker
(Mem. 2.6.36).
64. This development has been analyzed recently by DuBois, Sowing the
Body, 167-188 (Part 3: "The Woman of Philosophy").
65. The date of Xenophon's Symposium has been placed at about 380 B.C.,
but its dramatic date is the summer of 421 B.C. Todd (the Loeb Library translator
of Xen. Symp. and Xen. Ap.), thought that it might have been written as
" . . . a corrective to the loftier but less realistic picture . . . ," provided
by Plato's Symposium (p. 376). PI. Symp. has been variously dated: to around
385 B.C. by Todd; to a general date of 384-379 B.C. by Kenneth Dover,
ed., Plato: Symposium (Cambridge University Press, 1980), 10; and near 385
B.C. by Ledger, Re-counting Plato, 217-218, 224, following Dodds, Plato,
Gorgias (Oxford 1959). However, on p. 83, Ledger puts it as "close to"
380 B.C.
66. See I. F. Stone, The Trial of Socrates (Boston: Little, Brown, 1988),
192-193, for an interesting perspective on Socrates and Xanthippe.
67. For discussion of the philosophical search for a masculine source for the
good, see DuBois, Sowing the Body, chap. 8. For Aspasia as a "female Socrates" and Aeschines' Aspasia as "pre-Platonic," see Ehlers, vorplatonische
Deutung, pass., but esp. 91 n. 200, where she names Aspasia a "weiblichen
Sokrates." Aspasia was called Pericles' "intellectual girlfriend" by I. F. Stone,
Trial of Socrates, 134.
Chapter 4
1. The "Sargasso Sea" of textual fragments is best seen in Athenaeus" Deipnosophistae ("Sophists at Dinner"). This extended symposium dialogue of the
late second or early third century A.D. preserves many quotations of these lost
discourses. For recent discussion of Athenaeus, see Barry Baldwin, "Athenaeus
and His Work," Acta Classica 19 (1976): 21-42, and "The Minor Characters in
Athenaeus," Acta Classica 20 (1977): 37-48; see also Henry, "Edible
Woman," where I also discuss the pornographic aspects of many anecdotes
mentioned or treated in this chapter. For the genesis of the pornographic in
classical antiquity, see Amy S. Richlin, ed., Pornography and Representation
in Greece and Rome (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), pass. For



problems inherent in assuming that a certain intellectual stance accompanied

geographic locale, see Stephanie West, "Satyrus: Peripatetic or Alexandrian?"
Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 15 (1974): 279-287. I doubt that Athenaeus was necessarily more interested than other men in writing about prostitutes because his native city of Naucratis was a center of prostitution.
2. "Pornography," in the most literal sense of writing about or otherwise
representing prostitutes, had of course begun before the fourth century; the
rhetorical handbook of fifth-century Sophist Hippias of Elis mentioned Thargelia
as a topos and may have been used by Aeschines (see Stadter, p. 235). Herodotus mentioned the prostitute Rhodopis/Doricha (2.134-135); and the pornographic aspects of Old Comedy have been analyzed recently by Zweig, "Mute
Nude Female Characters." For the golden age of the hetaira in the fourth
century, see Paul McKechnie, Outsiders in the Greek Cities in the Fourth
Century B.C. (London: Routledge, 1989), 153. For general remarks on prostitute
characters in comedy, see Henry, Menander's Courtesans, pass.; by the close of
the fifth century, prostitutes had been characterized as scheming, destructive, or
drunken; associated with corrupt politicians and/or inferior writers; and represented faceless, nameless gratification. The image softened in the fourth century.
3. Lynceus: for general information, see RE 13.2 (1927/1962), 2472-2473;
see K-A 5.616-17 for testimonia and fragments of his plays; see also Comicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, ed. Theodor Kock, 3 vols. (Leipzig: Teubner,
1880-1888), 3.274-275. For Lynceus' and Duris' lives and circumstances, see
Kebric, Shadow ofMacedon. For prostitutes in Lynceus' Apomnemoneumata,
see, for example, the anecdote about Gnathaena and Diphilus (Ath. 13.583f); or
the mention of how Gnome services all the guests at a symposium (Ath.6.245d).
For Duris on Aspasia and Samos, v. inf. on Plutarch's Life of Pericles and
Stadter, p. 233, ad Pericles 24.2.
4. The view that Machon composed the Chreiai in a manner conducive to
memorization is expressed by his editor and commentator, A. S. F. Gow, in
Machon: The Fragments, Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries, vol. 1
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965), 23-24.
5. For Matro, see Parodorum Epicorum Graecorum et Archestrati Reliquiai,
vol. 1, Corpusculum Poesis Epicae Graecae Ludibundae, ed. Paul Brandt
(Leipzig: Teubner, 1888), and Supplementum Hellenisticum, ed. Hugh LloydJones and Peter Parsons (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1983). For Duris, who used
comedy as a source for Plutarch's report that Aspasia caused Athens to become
involved in the Samian War, see discussion of Plutarch's Life of Pericles below.
6. For fragments of Hegesander (fl. mid-second century B.C.), see Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, ed. Carolus Mueller, 5 vols. (Paris: Firmin
Didot, 1841-1938), (Reprint, Frankfort/Main: Minerva, 1975, 5 vols.) 4:412422; all but two fragments are found in Athenaeus. Ingemar Dueling, in Hero-



diem the Cratetean. A Study in Anti-Platonic Tradition (Stockholm: Wahlstroem & Widstrand, 1941), 14, claims on the strength of Ath. 11.507a8-10 that
Hegesander wrote a Peri tou Platonos Kakoetheias (' 'On the Malice of Plato'').
Compare Herodicus' anti-Platonic tract and Plutarch's later work, On the Malice
of Herodotus. For the view that books of the Hypomnemata were arranged
topically and that hetairai were treated in the sixth book, see Franz Susemihl,
Geschichte der griechischen Literatur in der Alexandrinerzeit, 2 vols (Leipzig:
Teubner, 1891, 1892), vol. 1, 491 n. 27, 28. For Metaneira's witty retort: FHG
4.419 = Ath. 13.584f7-585al; for Sophocles and the courtesan Archippe: FHG
4.418-419 = Ath. 592b4-10, not attributed to any named work; Hetairideia:
FHG 4.418 = Ath. 13.572d7~e2, attributed to the Hypomnemata.
1. For fragments and discussion of Heraclides, see SA; for general discussion, see Gottschalk, Heraclides ofPontus. For the view that the "Peri" treatises were dialogic in form, see H. W. Parke, "The Problem of an Oracle in
Heraclides Ponticus," Hermathena 120 (Summer 1976): 50-54, esp. 52. Diogenes Laertius states of Heraclides' tone here, komikos peplaken ("he wrote it
in the style of comedy," D.L. 5.88); although he noted that Heraclides might
have taken his examples of wasteful politicians from comedy, Wehrli did not
remark upon Heraclides' generally comedic treatment (p. 80, ad fr. 58). For the
view that Heraclides himself opposed tryphe and that tryphe was characteristic
of peoples at their acme, see Wehrli, 77-78, on the Peri Hedones; fragments of
Peri Dikaiosynes ("On Justice") also condemn luxury. Dittmar, Aischines von
Sphettos, believes that Heraclides was indebted to Antisthenes for inspiration (17
nn. 56, 57). Aelianus, in Varia Historia 4.23, assigns lonely ends like that of
Callias in fr. 58 to Pericles and Nicias son of Pergasthes; see Schule des Aristoteles, 80 ad loc. Moreover, Callias' lonely end befits one who would consider
sending his son to Aspasia for an education.
8. Clearchus (ca. 340-250 B.C.) wrote bioi, paradoxes, erotica, an encomium of Plato, zoological and mystical works, and collections of proverbs.
His fragments, edited by Wehrli, were mostly preserved by Athenaeus. For later
use of Clearchus, see, for example, Josephus, Contra Apionem 1.176. All surviving fragments of the Erotika are preserved in Athenaeus, who assigned most
of the tales of lovers' excesses to bk. 1 (frags. 21, 22, 24, 27, 29, 30, 32 Wehrli).
9. For Satyrus (second half of third century B.C.), see RE 2A:1 (1921/1964)
228-235; for his fragments, see FHG and POxy 9.1176 (Life of Euripides). In
addition to the life of Euripides, Satyrus composed other bioi of such men as
Sophocles, Plato, Pythagoras, and Philip of Macedon; the Peri Charakteron
(FHG 3.164, frag. 20 = Ath. 4.168c3-d3) is also attributed to him. For varying
estimates of Satyrus' competence and of what we know of his life, see West,
"Satyrus" and Mary Lefkowitz, "Satyrus the Historian," mAtli del xvii Congresso Internazionale di Papirologia (Naples, 1984), 339-343.
10. Idomeneus (ca. 325-265 B.C.) was discredited by Plutarch (e.g., in Peri-



cles 10.7 and elsewhere), see Stadter Ixxxi. Themistocles and chariot drawn by
whores: Ath. 13.576cl-3; for Matro, see SH frag. 534, lines 121-122.
11. For a study of Alexandria in this important period, see Peter M. Fraser,
Ptolemaic Alexandria, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972); Fraser also
discusses those scholars who left Alexandria after the diaspora of 146 B.C. For an
account of classical scholarship of this time, see Rudolf Pfeiffer. For fragments
of Aristophanes, sec Aristophanis Byzantii f'ragmenta, ed. and comm. by
William J. Slater, vol. 6., Sammlung griechischer und lateinischer Grammatiker, eds. Klaus Alpers, Hartmut Erbse, and Alexander Kleinlogel (Berlin:
Walter de Gruyter, 1986). For an assessment of his contributions to classical
scholarship, see Fraser, Ptolemaic Alexandria, vol. 1, 459^461. Lycophron of
Chalcis (third century B.C.) may have been the first to write a Peri Komoidias
treatise, at the instigation of Ptolemy Philadelphus: see Fraser, vol. 1,449; vol. 2,
649-650 and nn. 17-19. Aristophanes' Peri ton Athenesin Hetairidon is mentioned along with other treatises of similar name by Athenaeus (13.567a); Susemihl, Geschichte, vol. 1, 442, speculates that it dealt with the lives of actual
prostitutes. For the Komoidoumenoi treatises in general, see Josef Steinhausen,
Komoidoumenoi: De Grammaticorum Veterum Sludiis ad Homines in Comoedia
Attica Irrisos Pertinentibus (Bonn, 1910). Stadter (1989) Ixv n. 87 thinks that
Peri Hetairon treatises may have provided Plutarch with information about
Aspasia; for my own doubts, see the discussion of Callistratus (inf.). Plutarch
noted that one needed a grammaticus to explain the identities of persons mentioned in Old Comedy (Symp. 712A), an indication of the scholarly or pseudoscholarly nature of these treatises.
12. Callistratus (fl. second century B.C.) wrote commentaries on some Aristophanic comedies; Symmikta ("Miscellanea"), apparently in the manner of
Aelian or Aulus Gellius; and works on various authors. For fragments, see
FGrH no. 348, 3B210-211; for discussion of Callistratus, see RE 10.2, 1738;
Susemihl, Geschichte, vol. 1, 449-^-50; Fraser, Ptolemaic Alexandria, vol. 1,
467, and vol. 2, 675-676. Gow, Machon, notes Athenaeus' tendency to cluster
information about select individuals from a variety of sources; this might have
been due to his use of prosopographical material such as the various Komoidoumenoi or Peri Hetairon treatises; these presumably grouped together in
one citation all available information about individual women. 1 should note
three things: (a) when Athenaeus cites Aspasia, it is not in such a cluster, but
rather in scattered other contexts; (b) unlike other hetairai, she is not assigned
any speech of her own (from this one may conclude that she probably did not
appear in Chreiai); and (c) there is no real "prosopographical" information
about her in Athenaeus. Therefore, the disorganized nature of Athenaeus' citations of Aspasia, in addition to the fact that no speech was attributed to her by
him, suggests that she appeared seldom, if at all, in Peri Hetairon treatises
which supposedly concentrated information about individuals together in one



placenor in works like Machon's Chreiai, which was made up of the witty
sayings of symposiasts and their companions. I conclude that almost all of the
information about her came out of Old Comedy and the continuation of her bios
in the Socratica.
13. For Ammonius grammaticus (fl. second century B.C.), see FGrH No. 350
38:212-214; for discussion, see RE 1.2 (1894/1958), 1865-1866.
14. For fragments and commentary, respectively on Apollodorus (Apollodorus grammaticus, fl. second century B.C.), see FGrH 208-212; and Susemihl, Geschichte, vol. 2, 33^U. His Bibliotheke ("Library," of mythology)
survives in a summary; other works include a chronology, commentaries on
Epicharmus and Hellenistic mime, the rationalistic Peri Theon ("On the
Gods"), and the playful Peri tou Krateros ("On the Wine-Mixing Bowl"). For
nicknames and identification of women with the same name, see FGrH F208,
F210-212. For his hetaira treatise as a corrective supplement to Aristophanes of
Byzantium's, see FGrH F208 = Ath. 13.583d4-e9.
15. For fragments of Antiphanes the Younger, see FGrH No. 349, 3B211212. For fragments of Gorgias of Athens (fl. late first or early second century
A.D.), see FGrH no. 351 3B 214; for Gorgias' interest in politicians and prostitutes, see FGrH Fl = Ath. 13.596f. Suetonius (fl. 769-122? A.D.) is credited
with the treatise Peri Episemon Pornon ("On Distinguished Whores"), but no
fragments remain. See Laurentius Lydus de Mag. Ill 64 = 144 Wue., cited in
RE 4A:1 (1931/1960) 624.
16. For the Phryne story, see Quint. Inst. 2.15.
17. For discussion of modern critics' failure to identify pornography across
generic lines, see Susanne Kappeler, The Pornography of Representation (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986); for application of this view to
Greek and Roman literature, see Richlin, Pornography and Representation,
pass. For the presence and construction of the whore across a variety of
nineteenth-century French texts, see Bernheimer, Figures of III Repute, pass.
For the problems of disentangling historical prostitutes' identities from their
representation in fictional literature, see, e.g., Karl Holzinger, "Kritischexegetiker Kommentar zu Aristophanes Ploutos." Siztungsbericht der
Akademie der Wissenschaft, Wien, philosophische-historische Klasse 218
(1940), esp. pp. 50-63 on Lais and others. As to the presence of whores across
various discourses in the Hellenistic period: pornographic elements may have
been present in such chroniques scandaleuses as the Hypomnemata (24 books)
of Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II, who listed the mistresses of his ancestor, Pt.
Philadelphus (see Ath. 13.576ef and FGrH F2 = Ath. 14.654bc. Athenaeus
gave 11 fragments of this work.
18. For the fragments of Hermesianax (fl. second century B.C.), see Collectanea Alexandrinea, ed. J. U. Powell (1925, reprint, Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1970). As to the contents of the Leontion: bk. 1 told the tale of Polyphemus and



Galatea, bk. 2 of Arkeophon and Arsinoe. Note that another tradition has Aristippus deny Lais' power to hold him (D.L. 2.75).
19. For fragments and analysis of Herodicus (fl. mid-second century B.C.),
see Duering, Herodicus the Cratetean; and Supplementum Hellenisiicum, frags.
494-495. Duering, following Steinhausen, suggests that Herodicus arranged the
Komoidoumenoi in books according to what kind of person was mentioned in
comedy, and that he discussed prostitutes in the sixth book.
20. The poem is found in SH frag. 495 and in Ath. 5.219b-221a, which
Duering identifies as "fragment 4" of the Pros ton Philosokraten. For discussion, see Duering, Herodicus the Cratetean, 63-64.
21. For fragments of Didymus (fl. first century B.C./first century A.D.), see
Didymi Chalcenteri Grammatici Alexandrini Fragmenta, ed. M. Schmidt
(Leipzig: Teubner, 1854; reprint, Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1964), and Didymi in
Demosthenem Commenta, ed. Lionel Pearson and Susan Stephens. (Stuttgart:
Teubner, 1983). See Stephanie West, "Chalcenteric Negligence," Classical
Quarterly, n.s., 20 (1970): 288-296 for a recent estimate of the quality of his
scholarship (frag. 7 Schmidt = Clem. Al. Strom. 4.19 p. 618 P, q. v. inf.).
Earlier in frag. 7, Didymus had mentioned Leaina, who died under torture rather
than reveal what she knew about the plot against Hipparchus, but without
mentioning, as do later discussions of her, that she was a hetaira (cf. Pliny HN
7.87, 34.72; Pausanias 1.23.1-2; Ath. 13.596fl-5). For speculation about
whether Sappho was a prostitute (publicd), see Didymi Chalcenteri Fragmenta,
384-385, on Sen. Ep. 88).
22. Cicero (106-43 B.C.) defined inductio thus in his early rhetorical work,
De Inventions Rhetorica (1.31.51). Quintilian (35 to before 100 A.D.) defined
inductio in the Institutio Oratorio (5.11.3); at 5.11.27 he cites Cicero as the
source for his own knowledge of the fragment (which he provides at 5.11.28).
These fragments make up Aesch. Asp. frag. 31 Dittmar, discussed in chap. 3
23. Cicero's longer account includes not only Aspasia's conversation with
the wife, whom Aspasia reduces to blushes (Hie mulier erubuit, "here the
woman blushed") but also her parallel conversation with the husband, whom
she reduces to silence: Atque hie Xenophon quoque ipse ("And here
Xenophon himself also fell silent," 1.31.52).
24. For Plutarch's biographical works, see Alan Wardman, Plutarch's Lives
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974). For the Pericles, see Stadter,
Commentary; for his germinal influence on biography and historiography, see
Friedrich Leo, Die griechisch-roemische Biographic nach ihrer litterarischen
Form (Leipzig: Teubner, 1901), 145-192; Stadter, Commentary, Iviii. For Plutarch's contemporary readership, see Wardman, p. 43; see Russell 1983 on
Plutarch's later audience; for his moralizing purpose and attempt to show philosophy in action, see Wardman, p. 45, Stadter, Commentary, xxv; for his view



that philosophical training was a requirement for the active life, see Wardman,
p. 45. Pericles' life as an example of "philosophy in action" can be demonstrated in Plutarch's account of Pericles' attitudes to the eclipse (Per. 35.2) and
the fact that his relationship with Aspasia was the object of debate among
philosophers (Per. 24.2). For Plutarch's basic concept of kakoethia, see Wardman, pp. 189-196; he finds treatments of Aspasia exhibit kakoethia in de malign.
Her. 855f, 856a. Stadter notes that Plutarch's treatment of Aspasia exemplifies
the techniques of "misdirection and false dichotomy" and identifies the biographer's tendency to retract "a potentially scandalous relationship . . . [to]
within acceptable limits of behavior" (p. xliii).
25. Pericles as tyrant and for his motives in the Peloponnesian War are
discussed by Stadter, Commentary, who notes (p. xliii) that Plutarch reported
more hostile statements about Pericles than did any other ancient author.
26. For sources for the Pericles, see Stadter, Commentary, Iviii-lxxxv; for
the lack of evidence for a prior biographical tradition, see ibid., 88 ad 7-8 et
27. Note the very similar language at 32.1, where it is used to describe
Hermippus' accusation that Aspasia received free women for the use of Pericles;
the repetition strongly suggests that the charge was an invective topos.
28. Reports of what some have said: "Aeschines says" (phesi, 24.6); "Cratinus has declared" (eireken, 24.9); <in comedies,> "she is called" (prosagoreuetai, 24.9). Much information is left to conjecture: "it is thought"
(dokei, 24.2, 24.10); "they say/he says" (legousi, 24.5, 24.11; phasi, phesi,
24.3, 24.6, 24.9 (this last has phasi, "as they say"). Philip Stadter points
out that dokei often means "apparently," that is, as corroborated elsewhere.
29. As for Plutarch's sources of information about Aspasia, it is clear that
Wilamowitz' postulation of a Hellenistic biography is incorrect. Dittmar,
Aischines von Sphettos, 4-9, follows Wilamowitz, who had expressed that
notion in Aristoteles und Athen, 2 vols. (1893; reprint, Berlin: Weidmann,
1966), vol. 1, 263-264 n. 7. On the idea of a Hellenistic biography for Aspasia,
see Stadter, Commentary, 234 (at 24.2). But Plutarch did identify as sources
Aeschines (at 24.6), Plato (at 24.7), nameless comedies (at 24.9), Cratinus (at
24.9), and Eupolis (24.10); probable sources for the twenty-fourth chapter also
include Duris, Theophrastus, Antisthenes, and the Komoidoumenoi treatises.
Other sources identified by Stadter are Duris and Theophrastus (p. 233,
ad 24.2) and Antisthenes (p. Ixxx of Introduction 3.3 and p. 240 ad Per
30. Recall the elusive nature of Aspasia's physical appearance as suggested
in the portrait herm discussed in chap 1; for additional portraits, see below.
31. For Stadter's views on Aspasia, see Commentary, 235-237 (ad 24.5); he



also believes that Xenophon confirmed the notion that Aspasia was a madam
(p. 236).
32. Stadter, Commentary, believed the trial occurred because Aeschines said
so, and suggests that Aspasia's asebeia consisted in her having entered sanctuaries closed to prostitutes, beliefs apparently founded in the assumption that
Aspasia was a prostitute and bolstered by analogy to events recounted in the
fourth-century forensic speech [Dem.] Neaira (see Stadter, 297-298 ad 32.1).
33. Stadter, Commentary, 333, notes with Humphreys ("Nothoi of Kynosarges," 94), that Pericles seems more disturbed by a lack of heirs than he is
concerned for his bastard son's welfare and future. There was also a tradition
that Pericles did not care much about his legitimate sons' education: cf. PI. Prt.
319e-320a (et alibi). We can note that Pericles' bios, like the bioi of Aspasia and
Socrates, makes him an outsider.
34. For the intellectual epoch known as the Second Sophistic and/or Greek
Renaissance, see George Kennedy, The Art of Rhetoric in the Roman World 300
B.c-A.D.300 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1972) and Glen
Bowersock, Greek Sophists in the Roman Empire (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
35. For the text of Maximus of Tyre, see Maximi Tyrii Philosophoumena, ed.
H. Hobein (Leipzig: Teubner, 1910); for comment, see Bowersock, Greek Sophists; Duering, Herodicus the Cratetean, 64; and Kennedy, Art of Rhetoric,
590 ff. Maximus devoted his third, eighth, ninth, and eighteenth through
twenty-first Orations to Socrates; the eighteenth through the twenty-first were
specifically devoted to Socrates' erotic nature.
36. For a recent critical study of Lucian, see R. Bracht Branham, Unruly
Eloquence: Lucian and the Comedy of Traditions (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard
University Press, 1989). Other models for the portrait are cited in Lucian Imagines 18-20.
37. A remnant of Aspasia's placement within the categories of sexually
abnormal cum wise is seen in ps.-Lucian's Erotes ("the Loves"), which discusses homosexuality and pleads for the right of women as well as men to have
sexual relationships with one another. One discussant notes that Telesilla, Sappho, or Theano the Pythagorean could not have pled so zealously for women;
nor, perhaps, could even Pericles for Aspasia (Erotes 30).
38. For the text of Themistius, see Themistii Orationes Quae Supersunt, ed.
H. Schenkl and G. Downey, vol. 1 (Leipzig: Teubner, 1965); ed. H. Schenkl,
G. Downey, and A. F. Norman, vol. 2 (Leipzig: Teubner, 1971). The opinion
that one should not praise only those of classical Athens is found at Or. 26, p.
396 Dind.
39. Kennedy, Art of Rhetoric, 608.
40. For this portion of the Stromateis, see Die griechischen christlichen
Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte, 3rd. ed., ed. Otto Staehlin and Ludwig



Fruechtel, vol. 2 (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1960). For "women worthies" and

the representation of heroic women in European art, see Mary D. Garrard,
Artemisia Gentileschi: The Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art (Princeton,
N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989); and Lerner, Creation of Feminist Consciousness, passim, discussed at greater length in chap. 5 of this book.
41. For the Dion of Synesius, see Synesii Cyrenensis Hymni et Opusculi, ed.
Nicolaus Terzaghi (Rome: Polygraphica, 1944); for a recent study, see Jay
Bregman, Synesius ofCyrene, Philosopher-Bishop, The Transformation of the
Classical Heritage, vol. 2 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California
Press, 1982). On p. 58, Bregman states that, "the battle to save Hellenism from
barbarism . . . was more important to him [sc. Synesius] than the battle between paganism and Christianity"; Bregman's view (p. 134) that for Synesius,
' 'The monk and the philosopher have the same ends . . . ." may help explain
why Aspasia could not play a larger role in the Dion.
42. For Theodoret, see Therapeutique des maladies Helleniques, ed. Pierre
Canivet, Sources Chretiennes, vol. 57 (Paris: Les Editions du Cerf, 1958).
43. For a survey of Tertullian, see Timothy D. Barnes, Tertullian: A Historical and Literary Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971). luseH. Hoppe'stextof
the Apologeticum in CSEL 69 (Leipzig: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, 1939;
reprint, New York: Johnson, 1964). For Tertullian's views on women, see
Barnes, 136-141; for Tertullian's use of pagan sources in the Apologeticum, see
Barnes, 196-199; for Tertullian on sexual depravity: see Barnes 94, 95, 98, 216,
217. For Leaina in the Apologeticum, see Barnes, 218, and note ad loc.
44. For the text of Salvianus, see Salvianus, Opera Omnia, ed. F. Pauly,
Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, vol. 8. (Vienna: C. Geroldi
Filium, 1883; reprint, New York: Johnson, 1967). For his dependence on Tertullian, see Barnes, Tertullian, and bibliographic references.
45. For Aspasia's appearances in lexica: Harpocration (2nd century A.D.),
s.v. Aspasia, stated that she seemed to have been responsible for the Samian and
Peloponnesian wars and that she taught Pericles ( = Duris FGrH 76 F65); Souda
(10th century A.D.), s.v. demopoietos, stated that Pericles junior was made a
citizen; ibid., s.v. Aspasia, stated that she was a Milesian and was skilled at
speaking, that Pericles was her student and beloved, that she was responsible for
the Samian and Peloponnesian wars, that she was the mother of Pericles' bastard, that there were two hetairai named Aspasia, that the Milesian was responsible for Pericles' Megarian decree, that she was a lady sophist (sophistria} and
teacher of rhetoric, and that she was later Pericles' wife (gamete); ibid., s.v.
Perikles, the information is repeated that he married (egeme) Aspasia the Milesian, and that she was the mother of Xanthippus and Paralus! All of Souda's
information is derivable from Plutarch, except the repeated use of marital terminology and the amazing intelligence that Aspasia was the mother of his two
legitimate sons. For her appearances in the scholia: to Ar. Knights 1329, that she



wed Lysicles; ibid., 969, that Pericles got her off the impiety charge; to Ar. Ach.
523, that she was blamed for the Peloponnesian War and kept a bordello; ibid.,
527, that Aspasia taught Pericles; to Thuc. 8.48.6, that there was a son of
Lysicles and Aspasia named Poristes (the same information is found in scholia to
Ar. Frogs 1505); to PI. Menex. 235e, that her father was Axiochus, that she
taught Pericles, that they were married, and that she bore him a son.
46. The Vatican portrait herm and affiliated portraits discussed in chap. 1,
above, may have been inspired by a fifth-century statue of Aphrodite Sosandra.
Again, that herm's date is uncertain, for scholars are divided as to whether it is
classical or classicizing.
47. For the first relief, see Gisela Richter, Portraits of the Greeks, vol. 1,117
(item "i"), who noted its function as a handle attachment and doubts that the
man is Socrates; Andreas Rumpf, Festschrift Fremersdorf'1960 pp. 93 ff, identifies the group as Eros, Aphrodite, and a teacher. For the Roman relief, see
Richter, Portraits of the Greeks, item "j," and fig. 564; and see Schefold, Die
Bildnisse, 162, fig. 2. Of the reliefs' original, Schefold said "kann kaum juenger
sein als 330 v. Chr.," that it can scarcely be more recent than 330 B.C. because
the Eros is represented as the robust youth of the classical period.
48. For discussion of the sarcophagus, see Richter, Portraits of the Greeks,
vol. 1, 118 (item "k"); ibid., vol. 2, 19ff, fig. 21; Kekule von Stradonitz, "Die
Bildnisse des Sokrates," 58 no. 28, 44.
49. For the bone carvings, see Cornelius C. Vermeule III, "Socrates and
Aspasia: New Portraits of Late Antiquity," Classical Journal 54 (1958):49-55;
he also suggests on p. 54 that there were pairs of statues of Socrates and Aspasia
in libraries and basilicas during the Roman period.

Chapter 5
1. For a history of the development of feminist consciousness in the modern
period see Lerner, Creation of Feminist Consciousness, pass.
2. Heloise's preserved output consists of three personal letters to Abelard,
Problemata (correspondence with Abelard on scriptural matters), and a Letter to
Peter the Venerable. For the text of Abelard's Historia Calamitatum, see Peter
Abelard, Historia Calamitatum, 3rd ed.; ed. J. Monfrin (Paris: Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin, 1967). For the texts of Heloise and other writings by
Abelard, see J. T. Muckle, "The Personal Letters Between Abelard and
Heloise," Medieval Studies 15 (1953): 47-94, and "The Letter of Heloise on
Religious Life and Abelard's First Reply," Medieval Studies 17 (1955): 240281. Peter Dronke, in Women Writers of the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984) discusses the question of the authenticity of
Heloise's letters (esp. on pp. 140-143) and Abelard's stylistic dependence on her



(esp. on pp. 110-112). See also Glenda McLeod, '"Wholly Guilty, Wholly
Innocent': Self Definition in Heloise's Letters to Abelard," in Dear Sister:
Medieval Women and the Epistolary Genre, ed. Karen Cherewatuk and Ulrike
Wiethaus (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993), 64-86. For
further analysis, see Peggy Kamuf, Fictions of Feminine Desire: Disclosures of
Heloise (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982).
3. A discussion of Heloise's distinction of sapientia from philosophia,
although interesting, would be out of place here; what is important is that
Heloise believed Aspasia's discourse transcended the privileged concept of philosophy.
4. For the popularity of the De Inventione Rhetorica, see L. D. Reynolds and
N. G. Wilson, Scribes and Scholars: A Guide to the Transmission of Greek and
Latin Literature, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), 82, 83, 89, and 101.
Marius Victorinus (fl. 4th century A.D.), whose work was also well known at
this time, might have supplied Heloise with this information; Ehlers, vorplatonische Deutung, 86 n. 187, observes his dependence on Cicero in a passage
cited at Rhet. La!. Min. 240, 33 ff. Halm. For Boethius' description of whorish
muses, see Cons. Phil. 1.1. Hroswitha of Gandersheim (b. ca. A.D. 935) had
claimed the right to snatch some shreds of Lady Philosophy's robe for herself, in
an assertion of intellectual independence similar to that of Heloise (Cons. 1, pr.
1,5, cited in Dronke, Women Writers, 7475).
5. Kamuf, Fictions of Desire, 1-43 et pass.
6. Heloise's sole pagan reference is to Seneca (Monfrin 112, lines 70-78).
For discussion of Seneca as an honorary Christian, see Barnes, Tertullian, 6.
Kamuf, Fictions of Desire, 8 also notes Heloise's capitulation in this letter to
"Abelard's consistent substitution of the Christian symbolic context for the
personal, erotic one."
7. Michele Le Doeuff, Hipparchia's Choice, 59 et pass.
8. For the development of feminist thought, see first Lerner, Creation of
Feminist Consciousness. For early modern feminist thought, see Joan Kelly,
"Early Feminist Theory and the Querelle des Femmes 1400-1789," Signs 8
(1982): 4-28. For the continued development of feminist thought, see Joan
Kelly, "Did Women Have a Renaissance?" in Becoming Visible: Women in
European History, ed. Renate Bridenthal and Claudia Koonz (Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 1977), 137-164. Catalogues of women have also been discussed recently by Glenda McLeod, Virtue and Venom: Catalogs of Women
from Antiquity to the Renaissance (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press,
1991). For information on the translation history of Plutarch, see R. R. Bolgar,
The Classical Heritage and Its Beneficiaries (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1963), 522; and Gilbert Highet, The Classical Tradition: Greek and
Roman Influences on Western Literature (Clarendon Press, 1949; reprint, New
York: Oxford University Press, 1970). The first French translation of Plutarch's



Lives was made by J. Amyot in 1557 (Classical Tradition, 210; Bolgar, Classical Heritage, 522, claimed it to be 1559), partial translations into German were
done in 1508 (thanks to Philip Stadter for the information), and a complete
translation into Italian of the Lives by Campano occurred in 1470 (Bolgar,
Classical Heritage: 523).
9. For this portrait, see Guillaume de Rouille, Promptuarium Iconum, 2 vols.
(Lyons 1553). The pictures of Aspasia and Pericles are found in vol. 1, 119.
10. Arcangela Tarbotti [pseud. Galerana Baratotti], La semplicita ingannata,
O Tirannia paterna (Leiden: Sambix, 1654) is cited in Garrard (1989), p. 153
and discussed by Ginevra Conti Odorisio, Donna e societd nel Seicento: Lucrezia Marinelli e Arcangela Tarabotti (Rome: Bulzoni, 1979), pass.
11. For recent translation of, and an introduction to, Menage, see Beatrice
Zedler, who uses the 1690 Latin edition, in Gilles Menage: The History of
Women Philosophers (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1984). On
p. vii, Zedler points out that Menage intended the Historia as a supplement to
Diogenes Laertius. An earlier French work on a similar topic, Madeleine de
Scudery, Lesfemmes illustres, ou les harangues heroiques de Mr Scudery avec
les veritables portraists de ces portraists heroines, tirez des medailles antiques
(Paris: Compagnie des Libraires du Palais, 1665), does not include Aspasia.
Menage's In Diogenem Laertiam Observationes et Emendationes was published
in 1663; the first (Latin) publication of Historia Mulierum Philosopharum occurred in 1690 at Lyons. The French translation appeared as Abrege de I'histoire
de la vie des femmes philosophes de I'antiquite in vol. 3 of Les vies les plus
illustres philosophes de I'antiquite (Amsterdam: J. H. Schneider, 1758; ref. in
Zedler, xvii, xxvi n. 23).
12. Sects covered by Menage included Platonists, Academicians, Dialecticians, Cyrenaics, Megarians, Cynics, Peripatetics, Epicureans, Stoics, and Pythagoreans. Menage's ancient sources for his comments on Aspasia are PI.
Menex., Clem. Strom., Souda s.v. Aspasia, Ar. Ach., Athenaeus (and, in him,
Herodicus the Cratetean), Plutarch (and, in him, Aeschines, Cratinus, and Hermippus), and Diogenes Laertius (and, in him, Antisthenes). As for Giovanni
Angelo Canini (1617-1666), Zedler, Gilles Menage, 67 n. 13, states that he
"designed from medals and antique gems a series of portraits of the most
illustrious characters of antiquity. His Iconogrqfia (1699) contains 150 engravings." Louis Aime Victor Becq de Fouquieres, Aspasie de Milet: Etude historique et morale (Paris: Didier et i.e., 1872), refers to a medallion of a very similar
description, illustrated in Gronovius. Zedler, Gilles Menage, also refers to a
picture of Aspasia in Peter Bellorio (16157-1696): Giovanni Pietro Bellorio,
Veterum Illustrium Philosophorum, Rhetorum et Oratorum Imagines (Rome: lo,
1685); she says Aspasia is found on p. 2 of the Rhetores section.
13. A typical encyclopedic dictionary was that of Pierre Bayle. Of its many
editions, I have seen The Dictionary Historical and Critical of Mr. Peter Bayle,



2d English ed. trans. Des Maiseaux, F. R. S. 5 vols (London: J. J. and

P. Knapton, 1734-1738). His articles on Aspasia and Pericles are heavily dependent on Plutarch; he corrects Souda on the matter of Xanthippus' and Paralus'
mother at vol. 4, 580 n. "P" (cf. chap. 4 n. 45, above). See Jean Joseph
Francois Leconte de Bievre, Histoire des deux Aspasies, femmes illustres de la
Grece. Avec des remarques historiques et critiques (Paris: Mesnier, 1736).
Important women deserve equal treatment: introduction, i-iii; Thargelia: 9;
Aspasia's education: 5-8; her ability to teach: 11-12; Pericles' love for her: 3132; his marriage to Aspasia: 32-33.
14. For Bouliar's life, see Francoise Maison, Tresors des du Nord de
la France, 11. Peinture francaise 1770-1830 (Arras, France: Musee d'Arras,
1975) for the entry on Bouliar, whose Aspasie was part of this exhibit (no. 17,
shown on p. 47; the entire entry on Bouliar is on pp. 46-48). I am indebted to my
friend and colleague, Frank Mariner, for locating additional bibliographic information on Bouliar in her dossier at the Musee du Louvre. The dossier contains
notes and correspondence regarding archival materials that suggest Bouliar was
not the daughter of an engraver, as has sometimes been thought, but of a tailor,
and that she died at the home of friends (letter from M. Maison to LaVeissiere of
the Musee du Louvre, July 29, 1975, reporting on research by Mme. RolandMichel). See also Ann Sutherland Harris and Linda Nochlin, eds., Women
Artists 1550-1950 (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art 1976;
reprint, New York: Knopf, 1989); for Bouliar, see pp. 202-204. Over forty of
her paintings and drawings are attested; ten paintings and one drawing survive.
15. For the influence of material circumstances on the development of
women's artistic genius, see Linda Nochlin, "Why Have There Been No Great
Women Artists?" Art News 69:9 (1971): 22-39, 67-71; and Germaine Greer,
The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work (New
York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1979). For a full treatment of a great woman artist,
see Garrard, Artemisia Gentileschi. For artistic representations of heroic or
antiheroic ancient women up to the Baroque period see Garrard's discussion of
literary and artistic femmes fortes and examples of Weibermacht, On women's
painters' attraction to heroic women as subjects, see Garrard, 178; the quote is
from p. 47. Bouliar was possibly inspired by Marie de Medici's cycle of heroic
women in the Luxembourg Palace.
16. Harris and Nochlin (Women Artists, 203) describe the Aspasie as
Bouliar's masterpiece. It may be the largest of her surviving works; it is 163 cm
x 127 cm. Compare this to two portraits by Bouliar in Harris and Nochlin,
which are, respectively, 73 cm x 60 cm and 82 x 62 cm. For the painting's
ownership history, see Harris and Nochlin, 348.
17. Harris and Nochlin, Women Artists, 204, imagined that the painting
pleads for women's equality.
18. The divine instructress' advice is given in Christine de Pizan, The Book of



the City of Ladies, trans. Earl Jeffrey Richards (New York: Persea Books, 1982),
1.3.2 (p. 9). For Christine and the mirror, see Garrard, Artemisia Gentileschi,
154. Garrard notes the pornographic and voyeuristic aspects of many paintings
of Susanna (pp. 188-194) and of Cleopatra and Lucretia (p. 214).
19. For more on the iconography of the mirror: Garrard, Artemisia Gentileschi, 337 ff., esp. p. 361, and 564 n. 58. For the use of the mirror by female
artists in particular to represent the search for self-knowledge, see ibid., 565 n.
71. The locus classicus for the mirror is D.L. 2.33.
20. See Garrard, Artemisia Gentileschi, 111, on the process by which early
feminists transformed women from "signifier to significant."
21. Note Mary Daly's observations on the "potted passions" in Pure Lust:
Elemental Feminist Philosophy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984), 206-221, especially 206: "they [the potted passions] are twisted and warped versions of
genuine passions. Like the nine-inch-high potted bonsai tree that could have
grown eighty feet tall, these passions are dwarfed; their roots are shallow." On
the difficulty of functioning as a "cognitive minority of one," see Mary Daly,
Outercourse (New York: HarperCollins, 1993), 112.
22. The view that Aspasia was a saloniere is expressed by Madame de Stae'l
in her entry on Aspasia in the Biographic universelle and in vol. 17 of Oeuvres
completes de Mme. la Baronne de Stael, 17 vols. (Paris: Treuttel and Wuertz,
1820), 339-345. For a study of Aspasia later in the century, see Becq de
Fouquieres, Aspasie de Milet. His statement about Pericles' and Aspasia's
union, p. 66; the view that she was the first saloniere, 225-226; the opinion that
Aspasia wanted women to have freedom of choice, 224.
Nicolas-Andre Monsiau (1755-1837) was an Academic painter who frequently rendered classical subjects. His first attempt to paint Aspasia seems to
have been the 1798 Aspasie s'entretenant avec Alcibiade et Socrate (Pushkin
Museum, Moscow); a chalk study for this painting entitled Socrate et Alcibiade
rendant visile a Aspasie is also in the Pushkin Museum. He followed this in 1801
with the oil Socrate et Aspasie, also in the Pushkin Museum (inv. 1248).
The 1806 work which is pictured in the present study is now at the Musee du
Chambery (inv. D.83.1.1). It shows Pericles, Socrates, Alcibiades, Xenophon,
Sophocles, Euripides, Plato, Phidias, Parrhasius, Isocrates, and Aspasia. There
is an ink drawing of the 1806 work at Smith College, Northampton, MA (inv.
TR 4985).
A curious Salon painting by J. L. Hamon, La comedie humaine (1852), now
in the Musee d'Orsay (inv. C 53 D 25) shows Aspasia synchronistically in the
company of various other sages of Western history (e.g. Diogenes the Cynic,
Dante, and Shakespeare) as all of them watch a performance of the Theatre
Guignol puppetshow.
I am deeply indebted to Frank Mariner for locating information on Monsiau
and Hamon in the former's dossier at the Musee du Louvre. Thanks to the



Musee du Louvre, Service d'Etude et Documentation du Departement des Peintures.

Jean-Leon Gerome (18241904 exhibited Socrates Seeking Alcibiades in the
House ofAspasia at the Salon of 1861 (now in a private collection), according to
Gerald M. Ackermann, The Life and Work of Jean-Leon Gerome with a Catalogue Raisonne (London: Sotheby's Publications/Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd.,
1986), pp. 54-55; see catalogue plate 131. According to Ackermann, p. 56, this
Salon was one of "the most important of Gerome's career." For more information on that Salon and on sketches of its paintings, see p. 210; see p. 337, n. 183
for other paintings of Alcibiades among prostitutes.
Narrative themes implied in Gerome's 1861 painting are developed by
Philippe-Auguste d'Villiers de 1'Isle-Adam in his short story "Sagacite d'Aspasie" (1886) and collected in vol. 5, pp. 33-39 of Oeuvres Completes de
Villiers de I'Isle-Adam. 11 volumes in 6 (Edition de Paris, 1922-1931; reprint,
Geneva, Slatkine, 1970). I am most grateful to Marie Lathers for the reference to
this story.
23. For text and commentary, see The Poems of Leopardi, ed. and trans.
Geoffrey L. Bickersteth (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1923; reprint, New York: Russell & Russell, 1973). For recent critical studies, see
Daniela Bini, A Fragrance from the Desert: Poetry and Philosophy in Giacomo
Leopardi, Stanford French and Italian Studies, vol. 27 (Saratoga, Calif.: ANMA
Libri & Company, 1983); and Gian Piero Barricelli, Giacomo Leopardi (Boston:
Twayne Publishers, 1986).
24. For a full study of Victorian classicism, see Frank Turner, The Greek
Heritage in Victorian Britain (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1981).
For the specific image of Athens, see Jennifer Tolbert Roberts, "Athenians on
the Sceptered Isle," Classical Journal 84 (1988): 193-205. For biographies of
Savage Landor, see John Forster, Walter Savage Landor, A Biography (Boston:
Fields, Osgood, and Co., 1869, reprint, St. Clair Shores, Mich.: Scholarly Press
Inc., 1972); R. H. Super, Walter Savage Landor: A Biography (London: John
Calder, 1957); and Malcolm Elwen, Savage Landor (New York: Macmillan,
1941). For a brief biocritical study, see Ernest Dilworth, Walter Savage Landor
(New York: Twayne Publishers, 1971). For a Savage Landor bibliography, see
Thomas J. Wise and Stephen Wheeler, A Bibliography of the Writings in Prose
and Verse of Walter Savage Landor (Folkestone, England: Dawsons of Pall
Mall, 1971). No article or book devoted solely to Landor has appeared in the last
ten years. Wise and Wheeler list the first printing of Pericles and Aspasia as
published in two volumes in 1836 by Saunders & Otley, a London publisher; it
was republished in 1876 in the fuller form of his collected works. My page
references are to the Chiswick Library of Noble Writers edition; numbers refer to
the numbering given the letters in that edition. The most recent edition of his
complete works is the sixteen-volume set edited by T. Earle Welby and Stephen



Wheeler (London: Chapman and Hall, 1927-1936). Landor discussed his

sources and construction of the novel in a letter to Robert Southey early in 1835
(quoted in Forster, Walter Savage Landor, 490); more is mentioned on the book
in an April 14, 1836, letter to an unidentified addressee (quoted in Forster, 498).
Aspasia was also mentioned very briefly in one of Lander's Imaginary Conversations between Plato and Diogenes. (Imaginary Conversations in Complete
Works, vol. 1, pp. 9495. Aspasia in Diogenes' view would never have spoken
"The chaff and litter" [p. 95] of the Menexenus.)
25. The letter can be divided into groups accordingly: 18 are from Pericles to
Aspasia, 17 from Aspasia to Pericles, 40 from Cleone to Aspasia, 108 from
Aspasia to Cleone; 12 from Anaxagoras to Aspasia, and 5 from Aspasia to
Anaxagoras. The rest are among Pericles, Aspasia, Anaxagoras, Herodotus,
Cimon, and Alcibiades, as well as several fictional individuals. Landor also
inserts 7 "replies" or speeches by Pericles.
26. References to Pericles' and Aspasia's common home are made in letters
162 and 163; Pericles is called Aspasia's husband in letter 166; Aspasia is named
as his wife at letter 186.
27. Of the fragments Landor ascribed to Aspasia, Forster says that they are
"for the intensity and vividness of the dramatic expression, unequalled in the
dramatic writings of our time" (p. 498). Dilworth, Walter Savage Landor, 40,
notes Lander's fondness for composing fragmentary verse dramas. In the
"tragic fragments," Iphigeneia praises daughters over wives upon welcoming
her father to the underworld (letter 225); Electra blames herself for inciting
Orestes to murder Clytemnestra (letter 227); and Electra prays that Orestes be
healed (letter 229).
28. Eliza Lynn Linton, Amymone, A Romance of the Days of Pericles, 3 vols.
(London: Richard Bentley, 1848). The title page reads "By the author of 'Azeth
the Egyptian.' " For the life of Linton, see An Encyclopedia of British Women
Writers (1988), 295-296, with recent bibliography; to which should be added
Kathryn Kress Osterholm, "Eliza Lynn Linton's Female Characters and the
Double Bind of the Feminine Novelist" (Ph.D. diss.), abstract in Dissertation
Abstracts International xx (1989): 1314A.
29. The painting is at the City Museum of Birmingham (inv. 118.23). For
studies of Alma-Tadema, see Helen Zimmern, L. Alma-Tadema R. A.: His Life
and Work (London: n.p., 1886); Vern G. Swanson, Sir Lawrence AlmaTadema: The Painter of the Victorian Vision of the Ancient World (London: Ash
& Grant, 1977) (biocritical study); and Richard Tomlinson, The Athens of Alma
Tadema (Wolfeboro Falls, N.Y.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1991). The characterization of Alma-Tadema's brand of classicism is given in Richard Jenkyns,
"Hellenism in Victorian Painting," in Rediscovering Hellenism: The Hellenic
Inheritance and the English Imagination, ed. G. W. Clarke (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 83-119.



30. Lynda Nead, Myths of Sexuality: Representations of Women in Victorian

Britain (New York: Blackwell, 1988), points out the polyvalent importance of
the prostitute in Victorian representations of women; it seems that Alma-Tadema
avoids suggesting that image in the work discussed here. On the other hand, his
paintings of Lesbia and Catullus can certainly be said to associate Lesbia with
"the soiled woman of men's projections at the time of the Contagious Diseases
Acts," as discussed by Joseph A. Kestner, Mythology and Misogyny: The Social
Discourse of Nineteenth-Century British Classical-Subject Painting (Madison:
University of Wisconsin Press, 1989), 274. Chrysis, the wife-like concubine and
former hetaira in Menander's fourth-century B.C. comedy, Samia, is represented
with similar ambivalence in an ancient mosaic; for discussion, see Henry, Menander's Courtesans, 73.
31. The positive interpretation of Alma-Tadema's Aspasia is given by Kestner, Mythology and Misogyny, 281; for his reading of Alma-Tadema's dangerous doubles, see p. 273; for his discussion of Sappho and Alcaeus, see
p. 274. At pp. 275-277, Kestner aptly compares the fear of and hostility toward
women's sexuality visible in some of Alma-Tadema's paintings with Linton's
lifelong antifeminism. See Eliza Lynn Linton, "The Partisans of the Wild
Women," Nineteenth Century 31 (1892): 455-^64, and "The Wild Women as
Social Insurgents," Nineteenth Century 30 (1891): 596-605. For recent discussion of Sappho's biographical tradition, see Holt Parker, "Sappho Schoolmistress," TAPA 123 (1993): 309-351.
32. C. Holland (pseud. Caroline Holgate, Aspasia (Philadelphia: Lippincott,
1869). = Wright's American Fiction vol. 2 (microfilm).
33. The reference to Aspasia's "saloon" was made by Caroline H. Dall, The
College, the Market, and the Court; or Woman's Relation to Education, Labor,
and the Law, pp. 52-53, quoted in Sarah B. Pomeroy, "The Persian King and
Queen Bee," American Journal of Ancient History 9 (1984), 103 and n. 31.
34. I have used the text of translator Mary Safford, Aspasia: A Romance of
Art and Love in Ancient Hellas, 2 vols. (New York: William S. Gottsberger,
1881). The music that this novel inspired is that of Kurt Karnauke, Aspasia;
Singspiel in zwei Akten nach dem Romane Hamerlings (Leipzig: Friedrich
Schuertner Verlag, n. d., 24 pp.). It may have been intended to accompany the
Hamerling-inspired play written by the Latvian feminist "Aspazija," q.v. inf.
At about the same time Hamerling was writing about Aspasia, there was a small
explosion of treatments of Theodora, the colorful and scandalous Byzantine
empress: Pottinger, Blue and Green; Debidour, The Empress Theodora; Rhangabe, Theodora (drama); Sardou, Theodora (drama).
35. Hamerling pointedly compares the boyishly beautiful Aspasia with the
mustached matrons at 1.25-26 and 1.41.
36. Thanks to Marie Lathers for the term register.
37. For the life and work of George Grote, see the entry by John Vaio in



Ward Briggs and William M. Calder III, eds., Classical Scholarship: A Biographical Encyclopedia, Garland Reference Library in the Humanities, vol. 928
(New York: Garland, 1990), 119-126. I have used George Grote, A History of
Greece; From the Earliest Period to the Close of the Generation Contemporary
with Alexander the Great, New Edition, 12 vols. (London: John Murray, 1870).
Aspasia is mentioned in vol. 5, 361-366. Grote calls her the mistress of Pericles
(361), claims it is unlikely she kept a brothel (362), discusses her role in the
Samian War (291), mentions the Megarian embargo (362-363), and expresses
the belief that the trial was historical (364365). For additional analysis of
Grote's general perspective and influence, see F. Turner, Greek Heritage, pass.,
esp. 213, 225; and Roberts, "Athenians on the Sceptered Isle," pass.
38. See William Watkiss Lloyd, The Age of Pericles: A History of the Politics and Art of Greece from the Persian to the Peloponnesian War, 2 vols.
(London: Macmillan, 1875). He mentions Aspasia as a hetaira in place of a wife
at 2.150 and as more interesting than Athenian wives at 2.149; he finds Pericles'
reserve to be due to his unhappiness at Aspasia's second-class status (2.150).
The Menexenus is literally taken at 2.153 and 2.154; Lloyd saw Aspasia's trial as
persecution at 2.306-307.
39. See Evelyn Abbott, Pericles and the Golden Age of Athens (New York:
Putnam, 1895 [copyright page says 1891]). Abbott was the general editor of
Putnam's Heroes of the Nations series, of which this volume was a member. He
states at p. v that Pericles destroyed democracy; at p. 339, that Pericles desired
the demos' pleasure; at p. 194, considers Aspasia as an adventuress; at p. 168,
discusses the destruction of Athenian domestic life. For comment on Abbott, see
Turner, Greek Heritage, 252.
40. For Curtius, see the entry by Mortimer Chambers (pp. 37-42) in Briggs
and Calder, Classical Scholarship. See Ernst Curtius, Griechische Geschichte,
3 vols. (Berlin: Weidmann, 1857-1861). I have used The History of Greece,
trans. Adolphus William Ward, 5 vols. (London: Richard Bentley, 1869). The
description of Aspasia is found at 3.461.
41. See Ivo Bruns, Frauenemancipation in Athen. Bruns' view of Euripides
as a champion of women, at odds with the opinions of Wilamowitz and Christ, is
found at p. 4. Euripides' and Aristophanes' works as evidence for a women's
movement, and their heroines drawn from real leaders of this movement, are
discussed at pp. 18-20; the opinion that hetairai were the leaders of the movement is found at p. 19. Bruns adopts views of Meyer, Forschungen zur alien
Geschichte 2.55 ff., against those of Wilamowitz at p. 19; the view that Aspasia,
Praxagora, and Lysistrata were all rhetorically instructed women who taught
other women is found at p. 20. Interestingly, Samuel Butler's protofeminist
The Authoress of the Odyssey had appeared only three years previously, in
42. For a lucid sketch of the conditions under which feminist consciousness



can arise, see Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy, 242-243, and The Creation of
Feminist Consciousness (1993), pass.
43. Brims' naive interpretation of Menexenus is found at p. 21; he acknowledges the irony but claims "a grain of historical truth.'' The reformist interpretation of Oeconomicus is given on pp. 28-31.
44. For the life and work of Wilamowitz, see the entry by Robert Fowler in
Briggs and Calder, Classical Scholarship, 489-522. The discussion of Aspasia
is given in Aristoteles und Athen, vol. 1, 263-264 n. 7. His statement that those
who need perfume in their history should turn to Hamerling is found at 2.99-100
n. 35. Wilamowitz attacks Brans' viewpoint in "Lesefruechte," sec. 66, 548553.
45. Wilamowitz' view that Aspasia's intellect is not a historical question is
found in "Lesefruechte," p. 553. His revised view is given in Ulrich von
Wilamowitz-Moellendorff. Platan: Sein Leben und seine Werke, 2 vols. (Berlin, 1919); rev. ed., ed. B. Snell (Berlin: Weidmann, 1948; reprint, 1959), 19.
The second and third editions appeared in 1920 and 1929, respectively.
46. For Rozenberga, see Astrida B. Stahnke, Aspazija: Her Life and Her
Drama (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1984). See also Aspazija's
autobiography, Mana Dzive un Darbi (Riga: Gulbis, 1931-1940). For her father
and mother, see Stahnke, 5-21; Stahnke takes this information from Aspazija's
autobiography (1.5). For the marriage, desertion, and adoption of pseudonym,
see Stahnke, 3436.
47. Stahnke characterizes both Aspasias, identifies Jansons as a source for
the pseudonym, and interprets Aspazija's psychological state at this time at
p. 36; she discusses The Avengeress at p. 37 and The Lost Rights at p. 42. The
papers of Victor Zednick (b. 1895), a state senator from Washington, contain
items related to an "Aspasia Club," possibly organized by his wife. The papers
are located in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. (This information
was found on the EUREKA database of the Research Libraries Group (RLG),
consulted on July 23, 1993, with the help of Jon Corelis of RLG, Stanford
University, Stanford, California.)
48. The quotation from Aspazija's writings is cited by Stahnke, Aspazija, 43,
without attribution to any particular work; the account of how Aspazija's career
was stifled is given at pp. 44-46; that Rainis found Aspazija a heroine is evident
in one of his letters to her, quoted on p. 49. During her years with Rainis,
Aspazija collaborated with him on a translation of Faust, which first appeared in
its entirety in 1898. Aspazija's part in this work has been denigrated; she herself
apparently abrogated claim to collaboration in 1903, when the reprint ascribed
authorship to Rainis alone. She later claimed co-authorship (see Stahnke, Aspazija, 54 and n. 28). Compare this to Colette and Willy's argument at about the
same time about who had written the Claudine novels.
49. For Aspazija's translations of Hamerling into Latvian, see Stahnke,



Aspazija, 57; for her work in the feminist movement, ibid., 119-122. The play
Aspasia premiered on September 1, 1923; for a discussion, see Stahnke, Aspazija, 124127. (Stahnke is translating this play from Latvian to English at
present (telephone conversation in October of 1991 j.) For the products of
Apazija's second phase of creativity, see Stahnke, Aspazija, 127; for her last
years, see ibid., 140-157.
50. The following is a partial list of twentieth-century novels not discussed
here but based closely or loosely on Aspasia's bios or its themes. Kristofer
Janson, Aspasia (Copenhagen: Nordisk Forlag, 1914); Jan Parandowsky, Aspazja (Lwow: H. Altenberg, 1925); Fritz Thurn (pseud, for Gustav Mueller),
Die Weisheiten der Aspasia (Paris: Edition des Livres d'Or, 192-); Carlos
Buenaventura Quiroga, Aspasia en Atenas: Novela griega (Buenos Aires: Editorial Claridad, 1965); Aleksander Krawczuk, Perykles i Aspazja (Wrocoaw:
Zakoad Narodowy im. Ossolinskich, 1967); Elisabeth Hering, Angeklagt ist
Aspasia (Leizig: Prisma-Verlag, 1967); Petros Pikros, He Hetaira pou Kyvernese ten Hellada (Athens: Ekdoseis Kaktos, 1976); Anna Twose, The Lion of
Athens (London: Chatto and Windus, 1976); Franciszek Conczynski, Aspazja z
Miletosu (London: Oficyna Poetow i Malarzy, 1979); Daniele Calvo Platero,
Aspasie: Roman (Paris: O. Orban, 1986). Gertude Atherton's The Immortal
Marriage (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1927) is an extravagant novel of
manners, in which Aspasia comes with her kinsman Hippodamas to Athens,
determined never to marry but, as an exceptional woman, falls in love with the
exceptional Pericles. Atherton's knowledge of the sources is clear, as is her
understanding of current scholarship on the subject; she appends a list of sources
and scholars (after p. 465). But the work never comes to life, and it resembles
Alma-Tadema's stiff picture of Aspasia among Phidian stones.
51. Berthe Le Barillier (pseud. Jean de Bertheroy), Aspasie etPhryne (Paris:
Editions d'Art et de Litterature, 1913). Le Barillier follows de Bievre's practice
of pairing Aspasia with another woman; like him, she provides a completely
bipartite structure. Aspasia is treated on pp. 1-135; Phryne is discussed on
pp. 139-270. There is no common conclusion.
52. W. L. Courtney, Old Saws and Modern Instances, 2d. ed. (London:
Chapman & Hall, 1919). The direct quotation is taken from p. 105; Aspasia is
identified as a great woman at p. 108.
53. R. E. Money-Kyrle, Aspasia: The Future of Amorality (London: Kegan
Paul, 1932). Aspasia is described as ' 'amiable'' at p. 19; we need to sacrifice our
morality, says the author at p. 10; remarks on removal of frustration appear at
p. 13 and on relaxation of sexual taboos at p. 15. For a perceptive analysis of
sexology in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, see Sheila Jeffreys, The
Spinster and Her Enemies: Feminism and Sexuality 1880-1930 (London: Pandora Press, 1985), and Anticlimax: A Feminist Perspective on the Sexual Revolution (London: Women's Press Limited, 1990). For intercourse as a practice



essential to constructing woman in patriarchy, see Andrea Dworkin, Intercourse

(New York: Free Press, 1987).
54. See Peter Green, Achilles His Armour (London: John Murray, 1955).
Green's comment on Aspasia's seduction of Alcibiades is found on p. 27; for the
idea that Pericles is incomplete until he meets Aspasia, see p. 28; for Aspasia's
origins, see pp. 29, 68.
55. Aspasia blames herself for Alcibiades' worldview on p. 47; she blames
herself for Pericles' strained relations with his kin on p. 93 and for the plague on
p. 107. Alcibiades is banished from Pericles' house on p. 50.
56. For Lysicles as a predator, see pp. 123-124 (cf. Linton's rendering of
Lysicles as a friend in need in Amymone). The quote "whether Athens won or
lost" is on pp. 136-137. Aspasia chooses to stay in Athens after the death of
Pericles at pp. 140-147. For Alcibiades' and Hipparete's wedding night, see
p. 222; he fears her love on p. 232. For the temporary exorcism of Aspasia's
ghost, see pp. 260-261; for the sexual relationship of Alcibiades and Timaea,
see pp. 379, 391-392; for Timaea's makeup awakening old memories, see
pp. 397, 398.
57. See Madelon Dimont, Darling Pericles (New York: Atheneum, 1972).
For the gynophilic behavior of Aspasia's father, see p. 6; for Aspasia's blissful
first sexual experience, see pp. 29-31.
58. See Taylor Caldwell, Glory and the Lightning (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1974). The novel is divided into parts: I. Aspasia; II. Pericles; III.
Pericles and Aspasia; IV. Prologue. The decision by her mother concerning
Aspasia is found at p. 5; for her view that women rule men, see p. 6. Aspasia's
mental growth and masculine mind are discussed on pp. 13-14; her first intercourse is described on p. 49.
59. Aspasia's sexual relationship with Ali Taliph is mentioned at p. 106; for
her emancipation in Damascus, see p. 158. For radical feminist analysis of the
concept of Sadeian woman, see Kappeler, Pornography of Representation,
pp. 90-91.
60. For Pericles' yearning for Aspasia, see p. 229; for Aspasia's school, see
p. 287. Pericles and Aspasia meet on pp. 287-288; Aspasia is said to combine
the best qualities of courtesan and wife at p. 312; Aspasia's realistic view of her
circumstances is found at p. 313.
61. Aspasia encourages honest courtships on p. 334. For her views on education, see p. 341; for her confidante Helena, see p. 360; for the birth of Pericles
junior, see pp. 372-375. She lives with Pericles on p. 392; for Aspasia's arrest
and trial, see pp. 448^149; for the death of Helena, see p. 450. Aspasia is called
a symbol on p. 464.
62. Quotations from the Prologue are found on p. 468.
63. See Gore Vidal, Creation (New York: Random House, 1981; reprint,
Ballantine Books, 1982). Darling Pericles did have a final page where Aspasia



appends to her memoirs the life events of other AtheniansSocrates, Euripides,

Sophocles, Alcibiades, and her own sonbut doesn't say anything about herself
except that "I have held court on my own for the last half of my life" (p. 218).
64. For Chicago's own account of the project, see Judy Chicago, The Dinner
Party: A Symbol of Our Heritage (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor/Doubleday,
1979). Aspasia's plate is described on pp. 66-67. See also Judy Chicago, Embroidering Our Heritage (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor, 1980), for discussion of
the embroideries. The guests are called symbolic images in Chicago, Dinner
Party, 52; women of achievement are described at p. 55. For discussion and
analysis of the work's vicissitudes, see Riane Eisler, "Sex, Art and Archetypes," The Women's Review of Books 8:6 (1991): 16.
65. The first table is described by Chicago, Dinner Party, 53; the schema
appears on p. 56; the description of Sappho's place setting on p. 66.

1. Le Doeuff, Hipparchia's Choice, 115.
2. See Cheryl Glenn, "Sex, Lies, and Manuscript: Refiguring Aspasia in the
History of Rhetoric," College Composition and Communication 45 (May 1994):
180-199; and Susan C. Jarratt, "The First Sophists and Feminism: Discourses of
the 'Other,'" Hypatia 5 (1990): 27-41.
3. Le Doeuff, 115, discusses the concept of the imaginary plane: "no philosophical thought is without its imaginary plane and it is perhaps on this level that
the most fundamental changes take place."
4. For a discussion of Xanthippe and others, see Teri Marsh, "The (Other)
Maiden's Tale," 269-284.
5. Le Doeuff, Hipparchia's Choice, 205, claims that Hipparchia's words
were the only words a woman philosopher of antiquity spoke about women's
lives. Aspasia's marital advice certainly is a statement about women's lives, and
from the philologist's or historian's point of view, is as well attested as the
speech of Hipparchia (in D.L. 6.98). Whether or not the real Aspasia gave such
advice, her bios presented it as such, and it could have been read as such by
6. Daughters: for Cleobulina, see Plutarch, Dinner of the Seven Wise Men
148C-e; 150e, f; for Hypatia, see Snyder, Woman and the Lyre, 113-121. For
mothers: see Didymus' catalogue and discussion in chap. 4, above. For Theano,
wife and/or student of Pythagoras: see D.L. 8.42-43 and Snyder, Woman and
the Lyre, 108-113. For Leontion, mistress of Epicurus: see D.L. 10.4-6 and
Synder, 103-105. For Hipparchia, partner of Crates: see D.L. 6.96-98 and
Snyder, 105-108.
7. The remark on polygenesis is made by Le Doeuff, Hipparchia's Choice,



170. Of her own polygenesis the author said,' 'I was born just about everywhere,
under the now shattered sky of the Greeks, in a Brittany farmer's clogs, in an
Elizabethan theatre, in my grandmothers' famines and destitution, and in the
secular, compulsory and free schooling that the state was so good as to make
available to me, but also in the rebellions that were mine alone" (p. 172).
8. For Thales and the Thracian girl, see PI. Tht. 174a, 175d; for the same
anecdote, but with Thales and a crone, see D.L. 1.33-34. At 1.33, Diogenes
Laertius also gave the statement, attributed to both Thales and Socrates, that he
was grateful to Fortune for having been born human and not animal, man and not
woman, and Greek and not barbarian. For the significance of this latter anecdote, see Page DuBois, Centaurs and Amazons: Women and the Pre-History of
the Great Chain of Being (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1982;
reprint, 1991), pass.

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Abbreviations and Short References

de Mag.

J. K. Davies, Athenian Propertied Families 600300 B.C.

Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae
Collectanea Alexandrinea
The Cambridge Ancient History
Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers
Fragmenta Comicorum Graecorum
Die Fragments der griechischen Historiker
Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum
Poetae Comici Graeci, ed. R. Kassel and
C. Austin
Comicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, ed. Theodor
Laurentius Lydus, de Magistratibus
The Oxyrhynchus Papyri
Parodorum Epicorum Graecorum
Paulys Realencyclopaedie der classischen
Die Schule des Aristoteles, ed. Fritz Wehrli
Supplementum Hellenisticum
Suidae Lexicon



Ancient Sources (Before A.D. 1100)

Unless otherwise indicated, all ancient sources are from Oxford Classical Texts,
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Aischines von Sphettos: Studien zur Literaturgeschichte der Sokratiker. Edited
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Scholia in Aristophanem. Edited by W. J. W. Koster, D. Holwerda, D. M.
Jones, and H. G. Wilson. Groningen: Wolters-Noordhoff, 1969-.
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17 9

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Abbott, Evelyn, 111; Pericles and the

Golden Age of Athens, 111
Abelard, Peter, 83-86, 90, 99, 120,
129; Historia Calamitatum, 83; Letters, 83-86
Aeschines of Sphettos (Aeschines Socraticus), 30, 41-45, 46, 50, 52,
54, 55, 56, 73, 75, 77, 84, 85, 112,
128; bios, 41
Aeschylus, Eumenides, 38
Alcibiades the Elder, 10, 11, 12
Alcibiades the Younger, 10, 31, 32,
64, 65, 101, 103, 117-118. See also
Alciphron, 76; Letters of Courtesans,
Alexandria, 58, 61, 78, 80-81; Library, 62
Alma-Tadema, Lawrence, 103-105;
Caracalla and Geta, 104; At Lesbia's, 104; Phidias and the Frieze of
the Parthenon, 103-104, 104 fig.
5.5; A Reading from Homer, 104
Amazons/Amazonian, 36, 42, 94
Ameling, W., 26
Ammonius grammaticus, 62, 64;
Komoidoumenoi, 62; Peri Hetairon,
Anaxagoras, 5, 69, 72, 73, 99-100

Antiphanes the Younger, 63; Peri

Hetairon, 63
Antisthenes Socraticus, 14, 3032, 41;
Aspasia, 30-32; as character, 54,
55; Choice of Heracles, 32; Cyrus,
Apollodorus of Athens, 62; Peri
Hetairon, 6263
Aporia (perplexity), 44, 66, 70, 125,
Arete (virtue), 31, 40, 43-45, 50, 54,
56; and Kakia (vice), 32
Arete, wife of Aristippus, 66
Arginusae, battle of, 15
Aristarchus, 62
Aristippus, 64, 65
Aristophanes comicus, 20-28; 111-112;
Acharnians, 25-27, 60, 72; Frogs,
23; Knights, 27; Peace, 27, 35;
Wasps, 15, 27, 35
Aristophanes of Byzantium, 6162;
Lexis Komike, 62; Peri Komoidias,
62; Peri Prosopon, 62; Peri ton Athenesin Hetairidon, 62
Aristotle, 59; Poetics, 61
Artemisia, 5
Artists, female, 91, 94
Aspasia of Miletus: as aesthete, 107; artistic representations of, 17,18, 80-81,

Aspasia of Miletus (Cont.)
87-88, 89, 90, 91-95, 96, 103-105,
111, 121-125; as concubine, 6, 15,
17, 20-22, 138-139n. 9; as dominatrix, 60, 71, 94, 117, 118; as "female Socrates," 17, 56; as feminist
activist, 107-108, 112, 122-123; as
friend of Socrates, 46, 57, 64; impiety trial, 15-16, 24, 43, 72-73, 94,
99, 100, 103, 108, 110, 120, 135n.
22; life events: birth, parentage, and
early years, 9-12, 132nn. 1-5; ,
collateral descendants, 10, 132n. 5;
, latter years and death, 1517,
33, 42; and Lysicles, 9, 16-17, 43;
as matchmaker, 48-52, 54-56, 151n.
53; as metic, 15; as mother, 6, 15,
23, 24, 120; , of Pericles junior,
9, 13, 16-17, 71, 91, 99, 133-134n.
13; , of "Poristes," 10, 43, 136n.
26; as phallic signifier, 37, 40, 94
95, 98, 127; as philosopher, 5, 2956, 66, 84, 89, 90, 102, 107, 110,
111, 114-116 (see also Salonieres);
physical appearance of, 17, 71; as
prostitute, 24, 25-28, 34-36, 4950, 58, 68, 71, 72, 74, 75, 76, 138139n. 9; reflected in Greek tragedy,
137n. 1; as relativist, 38, 44-45, 86;
as rhetorician, 33, 35, 36, 43, 71,
107; as role model, 83-86, 106, 114115; as solitary, 93, 95, 104-105,
106, 120; as teacher of Pericles, 29,
35, 43, 66, 77, 78, 88, 89; as
teacher of Socrates, 30, 33, 36, 51,
64, 66, 76, 78, 79, 89; as warmonger, 23, 26-27, 58, 70, 71-72, 74,
87; as wife of Pericles, 89, 91, 99,
101, 108
"Aspasia II" (concubine of Cyrus),
71, 89-91
Aspazija (Elza Rozenberga), 114-116;
Aspasia, 115; The Avengeress, 114;
The Lost Rights, 115
Atherton, G., 109; The Immortal Marriage, 109

Autarkeia (self-sufficiency), 32
Autochthony, 31, 33, 37, 47, 130
Axiochus, father of Aspasia, 9, 10, 11,
Becq de Fouquieres, L., 95-96, 130
Bellorio, P., 89
Bergk, Th., 138n. 8
Bicknell, P. J., 10
Bievre, Leconte de, 89-91; Histoire
des deux Aspasies, 89
Bios (biographical tradition), defined,
131n. 2
Bloedow, E., 34
Boccaccio, 88
Boethius, 85
Boudicca, 122
Bouliar, M.-G., 91-95, 104, 105, 124,
129; Aspasie, 91-95, 92 fig. 5.3
Bruns, I., 111-113; Frauenemancipation in Athen, 111-113
Calamis the Elder, 17
Caldwell, Taylor, 119-121; Glory and
the Lightning, 119-121
Callias, 17, 31, 42-43, 46, 59, 75
Callias comicus, Pedetai, 27-28,
Callistratus, 62; Peri Hetairon, 62
Canini, G., 89, 90 fig. 5.2
Catabasis, 23, 141n. 22
Catalogues, 87-89, 123
Chicago, Judy, 121-125; The Dinner
Party, 121-125 and figs. 5.6, 5.7,
Chreiai (witty sayings), 58-59
Christian writers, 66, 67-80
Christianity and paganism, 77-80, 8485, 105
Chronos (time), 20, 21
Cicero, 43, 57, 66, 87; de Inventione
Rhetorica, 43-44, 67, 85
Cimon, 12, 32, 69, 139n. 9
Citizens/Citizenship, 11-14, 30, 36,
38. See also Citizenship Law of
451/450; Metics


Citizenship Law of 451/450, 11-17, 31,
36, 74, 99
Clearchus of Soli, 60; Erotika, 60
Cleisophus of Selymbria, 60
Cleisthenes, 12
Clement of Alexandria, 7778;
Stromateis, 78
Cleobulina, 129
Cleon, 23, 35, 101
Cleopatra VII, 6
Cleophon, 26
Comnena, Anna, 89
Courtney, W. L., 116; Old Saws and
Modern Instances, 116
Cratinus, 17, 24, 27; Cheirons, 15,
20-22, 138n. 8; Dionysalexandros,
22; Nemesis, 22
Critias, 77
Critoboulus, 46-48, 49, 50-51
Crones, 42, 45, 55, 59, 130
Cross-dressing, 99, 101, 107
Curtius, E., Ill
Cynics, 31, 129
Dacier, A. L., 88
Dall, C., 106
Daly, M., 95, 166n. 21
The Dead/Death, 20, 21, 23, 24, 36,
37-38, 40, 97-98. See also Metaphor
Demes/Demesmen, 12, 133nn. 10, 12
Demosthenes, 16
Dictionaries, 89. See also, Catalogues;
Encyclopedias; Lexicographers; Medallion Books
Didymus Chalcenteros, 66, 75, 78,
129; Lexis Komike, 66; Symposiaka,
66, 78
Diodorus of Athens, 17, 113
Dimont, M., 118-119, 123; Darling
Pericles, 118-119
Diogenes Laertius, 88
Diotima, 6, 40, 76, 79, 80, 89, 98
Doubles/Doublets, 43, 63, 104-105,
108, 116, 136n. 26
Dover, K. J., 135n. 22

DuBois, P., 55-56

Dueling, I., 65
Duris of Samos, 19, 26, 58, 59, 72
Earth, 38-39
Ehlers, B., 41, 42, 43, 44, 49
Elpinike, 32, 69, 72, 107-108, 139n. 9
Encyclopedias/Encyclopedists, 79-80,
89. See also Catalogues; Dictionaries; Lexicographers; Medallion
Ephorus, 72
Epitaphios, 33^0, 46, 78, 120. See
also Plato, Menexenus
Eriphanis, 60
Eros, 32, 40, 43^5, 49, 50, 54, 55,
56, 64, 80, 97-98; erotic pedagogy,
55, 65

Essentialism, 63

Esther, 78
Euphemus, 32
Eupolis, 17, 22-24, 71; Denies, 23-24;
Marikas, 23, 24; Philoi, 23; Prospaltians, 23, 24
Euripides, 100, 106, 111
Favorinus, 76
Fellow-hunter, 45, 47, 48, 49, 50, 52,
54. See also Hunting; Metaphor
Female subjectivity, 32, 41, 45, 9395, 130
Feminist consciousness, 6, 83-87, 93,
112, 128-130, 134n. 15
Foreigners, 14, 31, 36. See also Metics
French Revolution, 91
Freudianism, popular, 116-117
Fuller, M., 106
Garrard, M., 91, 94, 95
Gentileschi, A., 91, 94-95
Gerome, J.-L., 96; Socrates Seeking
Alcibiades in the House of Aspasia,
Glykera (hetaira), 61
Gorgias of Athens, 63
Gorgias sophistes, 77

Green, P., 117-118; Achilles His Armor, 117-118
Grote, G., 110, 111; History of Greece,
Guardians/Guardianship, 13, 14, 16-17,
136n. 26
Gyges, 60

Hunting, 47, 49, 55, 65
Hybrids. See Monstrous births
Hypatia, 78, 120, 129
Hyperbolus, 23

Idomeneus of Lampsacus, 61; Peri ton

Sokratikon, 61
Inductio (induction), 84; defined, 67
Halperin, D., 32
Ischomachus, 50-52, 53, 106
Hamerling, R., 106-109, 110, 113, 116, Infanticide, 15, 135n. 20
119; Aspasia, 106-109
Jenkyns, R., 103
Harris, L. S., 92-93
Judith, 78
Redone, 32
Hegesander of Delphi, 59; HypoJulia Domna, 89, 104
mnemata, 59
Kagan, D., 26
Heilbrun, C., 4
Helen, 22, 23, 24, 26
Kamuf, P., 85
Heloise, 83-86, 89, 90, 114, 129, 130; Katapygosyne, 20, 21, 138n. 8
"Heloise complex," 86; Letters,
Katz, M. A., 40
Kelly, J., 86
Hera, 20, 21
Kennedy, G., 77
Heraclides Ponticus, 59-60; Peri
Komoidoumenoi, 62-64
Hedones, 59-60
Kynna, 27, 28, 35
Heracles, 23
Kynosarges, 31
Hermesianax of Colophon, 64, 65;
Leontion, 64
Laikastriai, 25-26
Hermippus, 15, 24-25, 26, 73, 102,
Lais, 64
103, 108; Artopolides, 25; Moirai,
Lamia, 27
Landor, W. S., 98-101, 103, 104, 108,
135n. 23
Herodicus of Babylon (the Cratetean),
109, 111, 116; Pericles and Aspasia,
6465; Komoidoumenoi, 64; Pros
ton Philosokraten, 64-65
Le Barillier, B., 116
Herodotus, 5, 25-26, 76; critique of, 68 Le Doeuff, M., 86; "Heloise comHeroic women in art, 78, 91-92, 94
plex," 86; "imaginary plane," 128,
Hesiod, 21
174nn. 3, 5; "imaginary plane" deHetairai (courtesans), 48, 58, 59, 102,
fined, 174n. 3; polygenesis, 130
110, 112; denned, 41
Leaina, mistress of the tyrannicides,
Hetairideia, 59
Hipparete, wife of Alcibiades, 118
Leontion, the Epicurean, 129
Hipparchia, the Cynic, 129
Leopardi, G., 96-98; "Aspasia" cyHolland, C., 105-106; Aspasia, 105cle, 96-98
Lerner, G., 13
Homer/Homeric language, 20, 21
Lesbia, 104
Homoeroticism, male, 32, 47-49, 50,
Lexicographers/Lexicography, 79-80.
See also Catalogues; Dictionaries;
Humphreys, S. C., 14
Encyclopedias; Medallion Books


Libraries, ancient, 81
Liminality, 37, 45, 52, 56, 67, 85,
91-92, 112
Linton, E. L., 101-103, 104, 105;
Amymone: A Romance of the Days
of Pericles, 101-103, 105
Lloyd, W. W., 110-111; The Age of
Pericles, 110-111
Logos/Ergon, 46
Loraux, N., 33, 34, 36, 37
Lucian, 66, 75-76; The Dance, 76,
79; The Dream, 76; Erotes, 76; The
Eunuch, 76; Imagines, 75; Okypous,
Lykon, 23
Lynceus of Samos, 58, 59, 61; Deipnetikai Epistolai, 58; Memorabilia,
58; Opsonitike Techne, 58
Lysias, 41
Lysicles, 16, 17, 27, 43, 103, 113, 117,
118. See also Aspasia of Miletus
MacDowell, D. M., 26
Machon of Sicyon, 58, 62; Chreiai,
Maison, F., 93
Marriage, 12, 46, 50-56, 67, 84, 96,
108, 111, 128-129, 134nn. 17, 18, 19.
See also Matchmaker; Wives
Matchmaker (Promnestris), 46, 47, 48,
49, 50, 52, 54-56, 128; defined, 45
Matro of Pitane, 59, 61; Deipnon Attikon, 59, 61
Maximus of Tyre, 74-75; Orations,
Medallion Books, 87, 89, 88 fig. 5.1,
90 fig. 5.2, 123
Megarian Decree, 25-26, 72-73,
Menage, G. de., 88-89, 99; Historia
Mulierum Philosopharum, 8889
Menander comicus, 13, 16-17, 61,
Metaneira (hetaira), 59
Metaphor, 32, 47, 54-56, 70, 137n. 1,
139n. 10

Metics (resident aliens), 11-15, 36,

101. See also Citizens; Citizenship
Law of 451/450
Metis, and Zeus, 130
Metonymy, 34, 36, 37, 40, 146147n. 19
Midwives, 45, 48, 52, 54-56
Miltiades, 12, 19, 23-24
Money-Kyrle, R. E., 116
Monsiau, N.-A., 95; Aspasie s'entretenant avec les hommes les plus illustres d'Athenes, 95, 96 fig. 5.4;
Moliere lisant son Tartufe chez
Ninon de I'Enclos, 95
Monstrous births, 21, 22, 27, 34, 38,
138n. 8
Motherhood/Mothers, 23, 24, 36-38,
40. See also Aspasia of Miletus as
Murray, O., 10
Muses, 46, 80; as harlots, 85
Mutuality, 55. See also Female subjectivity; Feminist consciousness
Nausicaa, 75, 78
Nicias, 23
Nochlin, L., 93
Nothoi (bastards)/bastardy, 14, 15, 16,
23, 24, 31, 34
Oikos (household), 45, 54
Outsiders. See Liminality
PallakailPallakia (concubines/
concubinage), 14, 15, 16, 17, 71, 84.
See also Aspasia of Miletus as concubine
Pander/Pandering (mastroposl
mastropeia), 45, 52-55, 69-70, 79
Pandora, 21
Parabasis, 20, 27, 138n. 6
Paralus, 23, 31, 32, 73, 103, 109
Patterson, C., 12, 14
Peloponnesian War, 12, 20, 22, 2526, 29, 30, 31, 39, 72-73, 110
Penelope, 75

Peri Hetairon treatises, 6364
Pericles of Athens, son of Xanthippus:
divorce, marriage(s), 13, 87, 89,
117; as intellectual, 5, 116, 131n. 9;
love for Aspasia, 13, 15, 32, 43, 44,
59, 60, 71, 72, 73, 74, 87, 94, 106;
sexuality, 16, 19, 24-25, 47, 69, 70,
71, 74. See also Aspasia of Miletus,
as wife of Pericles; Marriage; Plutarch, Life of Pericles
Pericles junior, 13, 14, 16, 23, 24, 31,
74, 109. See also Aspasia of
Miletus; Nothoi
Persian Wars, 5, 39
Phidias, 5, 24, 68, 69, 72, 73, 103,
106, 109
Philoi (Male loves). See Homoeroticism, male
Philosophers, female, 6, 29-30,
56, 65, 66, 76, 88-89, 129, 130,
132n. 10, 174n. 5. See also Aspasia
of Miletus; Hipparchia; Hypatia
Philostratus, 77; Letter 73, 11
Phratries, 12, 74, 133n. 12
Phryne, 62, 63, 116
Pizan, C. de, 86-87, 93-94; Book of
the City of Ladies, 86-87
Plague, at Athens, 16
Plato philosophus, 40, 50, 54, 55, 56,
59, 65, 75, 79; bios, 41; Euthydemus, 44; Gorgias, 31; Laws, 40;
Menexenus, 30, 31, 32-40, 41, 42,
44, 45, 46, 61, 71, 98, 110; Symposium, 40, 44, 56, 98; Theaetetus, 55
Platonism/Platonists, 74-75, 96-98,
110, 112
Plutarch, 19; de malignitate Herodoti,
68, 72; Life of Pericles, 9-10, 15,
16, 24, 61, 63, 67-74, 87, 88, 94,
96, 99; translation of Lives, 87
poristes (provider), 43
"Poristes." See Aspasia of Miletus
Pome, defined, 17. See also Prostitutes
pornography, 57-59, 61-64, 66, 93,
96, 138nn. 1, 5
Prodicus of Ceos, 59, 140n. 16

Prosopography, 57, 62, 156-157n. 12.
See also Komoidoumenoi; Peri
Hetairon treatises
Prostitutes/Prostitution, 62-64, 79; and
philosophers, 61, 65, 76-77; and
politicians, 21, 24-28, 35, 42, 62,
65, 76-77, 138n. 6, 139-140n. 9
Pythagoras, 64, 65, 79
Quintilian, 43, 57, 66, 87; Institutio
Oratoria, 67
Rainis, J. (Janis Plieksans), 114-115.
See also Aspazija
Rankin, H. D., 31, 32
Rhodia, wife of Lykon, 23
Rhodogyne, 42
Richter, G., 17
Ridgway, B., 17
Roman writers, 66, 67
Rouillc, G. de, 87-88; Promptuarium
Iconum, 87-88, 88 fig. 5.1
Rozenberga, E. See Aspazija
Salabaccho, 27, 28, 138n. 6
Salonieres/Salons, 88, 91, 94, 95, 96,
106, 111, 116. See also Aspasia of
Miletus as intellectual
Salvianus, 79; de Gubernitate Dei, 79
Samian War, 15, 26, 70, 71, 73, 100
Sansone, D., 26
Sappho, 6, 66, 75, 100, 105, 116, 122,
Sarah, 78
Satyrus, 61; Bioi, 61; Peri Charakteron, 61
Schaps, D., 14
Schefold, K., 80
Scudery, Mme. de, 88
Sealey, R., 14
Self/Other, 36-37, 94, 127
Seneca the Younger, 85
Sexology, 45, 116-117
Sexual intercourse, 36, 116-117, 118,
Sirens, 47


Socrates: artistic representations of, 17,
80-81; 136-137n. 27; as lover of
Alcibiades, 64-65; as lover of Aspasia, 64; as "male Aspasia," 56.
See also Aspasia of Miletus; Midwives; Pander; Platonism
Solon, 19, 20, 23, 79
Sommerstein, A., 139n. 9
Sophists, 5
Sophocles, 59, 100, 106; Antigone, 107
Spartans, 23
Stadter, P., 70, 72, 135n. 20
Stahnke, A., 114
de Stael, Madame, 95
Stasis, 20-22, 39-40; defined, 10
Stesimbrotus of Thasos, 70, 73
Subjectivity/Objectivity, 50
Suetonius, 63
Susanna, 78
Synesius of Cyrene, 77; Dion, 78

Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrrhus, 78-79,

Hellenikon Therapeutike Pathematon, 79
Theophrastus, 61; Peri Charakteron,
61; Peri Komoidias, 61
Thucydides historicus, 16, 72, 77, 87,
99, 113, 120
Thucydides, son of Melesias, 69

Tarabotti, A., 88, 89; La semplecitd

ingannata, o tirannia paterna, 88
Targioni-Tozzetti, F., 97, 98
Telecleides, Hesiods, 135n. 33
Telesilla of Corinth, 135n. 23
Tertullian, 79, Apologeticum, 79
Thargelia, 10, 42, 70, 71, 76, 90, 108
Theano the Pythagorean, 64, 66, 75,
Themistius, 77; Orations, 77
Themistocles, 12, 61
Theodote, 48-50

Xanthippe, wife of Socrates, 41, 53,

54, 65, 129, 130, 139n. 9
Xanthippus, son of Pericles, 23, 31,
32, 73, 103, 109
Xenophon, 16, 30, 32, 43-45, 67, 75,
84, 87; Memorabilia, 45, 46-50,
52, 53, 54, 55; Oeconomicus, 45,
46, 50-52, 53, 55, 65, 112; Symposium, 45, 47, 53-54, 65
Xenophon's wife, 43-44, 67, 85

Vidal, G., 121; Creation, 121

Whitehead, D., 12
Widows. See Crones
Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, U. von,
4, 17, 113; Aristoteles und Athen,
Wives, 41, 43-45, 79, 107. See also
Women's movement, 106, 111-113,

Zeno, 69