plato on aspasia

Plato. “From Menexenus.” The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present. Ed. Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg. 2nd ed. Boston & New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001. 56-63. Print.

Aspasia [5th century B.C.E] intro:

  • daughter of Axiochus
  • Born in Miletus, Ionian Greek city in Asia Minor
  • lived with Pericles (could not marry as foreigner, but was established concubine)
  • famous teacher of rhetoric – possibly taught Socrates the Socratic method, wrote several of Pericles’ speeches
  • no hard evidence about details of her life – only through work written by others
  • persistently viewed through a lens that emphasized her gender as well as her putatively illicit sexuality
  • role of Diotima in Plato’s Symposium parallels Aspasia’s history
  • legally, Athenian women were on par with minor children
  • her home was an intellectual salon (unlike the homes of other women of her station)
  • after Pericles died, she married a sheep dealer named Lycicles who she groomed to be a leader
  • autochthony: a common trope in funeral orations for fallen soldiers, refers to the imagined birth of male heroes from the soil of the motherland, rather than from human wombs.
  • Aspasia has no voice. Her oration (62-63) is repeated by Socrates.
  • Plato is making fun of something … Aspasia or Socrates – embellished phrasing/style, uses autochthony
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