(Necessary) Bigamy in Classical Athens? Socrates’ Two Wives

Last week when I was collecting some anecdotes about Socrates’ wife Xanthippê, I willfully ignored the Suda’s comments on his second wife:

“And Socrates took home two wives: he had a son Lamprokles from Xanthippê and two sons with Myrto the daughter of Aristeides the just, Sophroniskos and Menedêmos or Menexenos, as some believe.”

καὶ γαμεταῖς δὲ συνῴκησε δύο, Ξανθίππῃ, ἀφ’ ἧς ἔσχεν υἱὸν Λαμπροκλέα·καὶ δευτέρᾳ Μυρτοῖ, τῇ ᾿Αριστείδου τοῦ δικαίου θυγατρί, ἐξ ἧς ἐγένετο Σωφρονίσκος καὶ Μενέδημος ἢ Μενέξενος, ὥς τισι δοκεῖ.

This detail doesn’t fit the basic narrative of  an impoverished philosopher with a nagging wife. There is an explanation in the tradition found in Diogenes Laertius’, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers 2.26

“Aristotle records that Socrates had two wives. The first was Xanthippe who gave him a son, Lamprokles. The second was Myrto, who was the daughter of Aristeides the Just, whom he married without a dowry. She gave him two sons, Sophroniskos and Menexenos. Others report that he married Myrto second. And some—including Satyros and Hieronymous of Rhodes— claim that he married both at the same time. (They assert that because the Athenians had a lack of men and wanted to increase their number, they voted that citizen may marry one woman and have children with another. This is what Socrates did.)”

Φησὶ δ’ ᾿Αριστοτέλης (Rose 93) δύο γυναῖκας αὐτὸν ἀγαγέσθαι· προτέραν μὲν Ξανθίππην, ἐξ ἧς αὐτῷ γενέσθαι Λαμπροκλέα· δευτέραν δὲ Μυρτώ, τὴν ᾿Αριστείδου τοῦ δικαίου θυγατέρα, ἣν καὶ  ἄπροικον λαβεῖν, ἐξ ἧς γενέσθαι Σωφρονίσκον καὶ Μενέξενον. οἱ δὲ προτέραν γῆμαι τὴν Μυρτώ φασιν· ἔνιοι δὲ καὶ ἀμφοτέρας ἔχειν ὁμοῦ, ὧν ἐστι Σάτυρός τε (FHG iii. 163) καὶ ῾Ιερώνυμος ὁ῾Ρόδιος (Hiller, xxvi. 3). φασὶ γὰρ βουληθέντας ᾿Αθηναίους διὰ τὸ λειπανδρεῖν συναυξῆσαι τὸ πλῆθος, ψηφίσασθαι γαμεῖν μὲν ἀστὴν μίαν, παιδοποιεῖσθαι δὲ καὶ ἐξ ἑτέρας· ὅθεν τοῦτο ποιῆσαι καὶ Σωκράτην.

Most of the anecdotes in Diogenes’ life speak of Xanthippe and not Myrto. Athenaeus repeats the detail (13.556a)  and notes that if it were true, it probably would have been mentioned by the comic poets. But are there other records of legalized polygamy in classical Greece?

And what about the sons?  Regardless of the mother, the number accords with what Plato has Socrates say in the Apology (34d) “I have three sons, Athenians, one an adolescent and two still children….” (μοί εἰσι καὶ ὑεῖς γε, ὦ ἄνδρες ᾿Αθηναῖοι, τρεῖς, εἷς μὲν μειράκιον ἤδη, δύο δὲ παιδία·)

A face only (two) women could love….

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