Aspasia, Doctor of Rhetoric and Doctor of Love

Athenaeus, Deiphnosophists 5.61

“Indeed, wise Aspasia, Sophocles’ rhetoric teacher, says in those words that are attributed to her which Herodicus, Crates’ student, includes:

Socrates, you can’t fool me—your mind is paralyzed by desire
For the son of Deinomakhê and Kleinias*. But listen
If you want to seduce boys well and don’t doubt
The messenger, but believe and it will be much better for you.
When I heard this, happiness made my body shine with sweat
And a cry fell from my eyes—and I was not unhappy.
“Prepare by filling your hearth with a persuasive muse
Who will help you capture him, and pour her onto desirous ears.
She is the beginning of mutual friendship—you will master him
With her by providing his ears visions of your soul.

The fine Socrates then went hunting with his love-teacher, the Milesian at his side. But he is not hunted, as Plato claims, a beast trapped by Alcibiades. And, surely, he never stops weeping as it were just not his day. For, when Aspasia sees what kind of state he’s in, she says:

Why have you been crying, dear Socrates?
Does the broken desire residing in your chest
And streaking across your eyes move you for the unmoveable boy?
I promised I would domesticate him for you!

Plato makes it clear in his Protagoras that Socrates really loves Alcibiades, even though he is just a bit under thirty!”


Aspasia was married to Perikles



᾿Ασπασία μέντοι ἡ σοφὴ τοῦ Σωκράτους διδάσκαλος τῶν ῥητορικῶν λόγων ἐν τοῖς φερομένοις ὡς αὐτῆς ἔπεσιν, ἅπερ ῾Ηρόδικος ὁ Κρατήτειος παρέθετο, φησὶν οὕτως (cf. Bergk PL II 288)·

Σώκρατες, οὐκ ἔλαθές με πόθῳ δηχθεὶς φρένα τὴν

σὴν παιδὸς Δεινομάχης καὶ Κλεινίου. ἀλλ’ ὑπάκουσον,
εἰ βούλει σοι ἔχειν εὖ παιδικά· μηδ’ ἀπιθήσῃς
ἀγγέλῳ, ἀλλὰ πιθοῦ· καί σοι πολὺ βέλτιον ἔσται.
κἀγὼ ὅπως ἤκουσα, χαρᾶς ὕπο σῶμα λιπάνθη
ἱδρῶτι, βλεφάρων δὲ γόος πέσεν οὐκ ἀθελήτῳ.
στέλλου πλησάμενος θυμὸν Μούσης κατόχοιο,
ᾗ τόνδ’ αἱρήσεις, ὠσὶν δ’ ἐνίει ποθέουσιν·
ἀμφοῖν γὰρ φιλίας ἥδ’ ἀρχή· τῇδε καθέξεις
αὐτόν, προσβάλλων ἀκοαῖς ὀπτήρια θυμοῦ.

κυνηγεῖ οὖν ὁ καλὸς Σωκράτης ἐρωτοδιδάσκαλον ἔχων τὴν Μιλησίαν, ἀλλ’ οὐκ αὐτὸς θηρεύεται, ὡς ὁ Πλάτων ἔφη, λινοστατούμενος ὑπὸ ᾿Αλκιβιάδου. καὶ μὴν
οὐ διαλείπει γε κλαίων ὡς ἄν, οἶμαι, δυσημερῶν. ἰδοῦσα γὰρ αὐτὸν ἐν οἵῳ ἦν καταστήματι ᾿Ασπασία φησίν·

τίπτε δεδάκρυσαι, φίλε Σώκρατες; ἦ σ’ ἀνακινεῖ
στέρνοις ἐνναίων σκηπτὸς πόθος ὄμμασι θραυσθεὶς
παιδὸς ἀνικήτου; τὸν ἐγὼ τιθασόν σοι ὑπέστην

ὅτι δὲ ὄντως ἤρα τοῦ ᾿Αλκιβιάδου δῆλον ποιεῖ Πλά-των ἐν τῷ Πρωταγόρᾳ, καίτοι μικρὸν ἀπολείποντος τῶν τριάκοντα ἐτῶν.


Euripides, Fr. 388: There’s a Better Kind of Love…

“But mortals truly have a different kind of love,
One of a just, prudent, and good soul.
It would be better if it were the custom among mortals,
of reverent men and all those with reason,
To love this way, and to leave Zeus’ daughter Cypris alone.”

ἀλλ’ ἔστι δή τις ἄλλος ἐν βροτοῖς ἔρως
ψυχῆς δικαίας σώφρονός τε κἀγαθῆς.
καὶ χρῆν δὲ τοῖς βροτοῖσι τόνδ’ εἶναι νόμον
τῶν εὐσεβούντων οἵτινές τε σώφρονες
ἐρᾶν, Κύπριν δὲ τὴν Διὸς χαίρειν ἐᾶν.

This comes from the fragmentary Theseus and is attributed by some to a speech by Athena. It also sounds like something from Plato’s Symposium

Philodemus and Mimnermus Get old and Throw Down (Anth. 5.112; Mimn. fr 1)

“I was in love—who wasn’t? I partied. Who didn’t?
But what made me crazy? Was it a god?
Let him go. For now in place of my dark hair
I am growing gray, announcing the age of ‘knowing better’.
When it was the time to play, we played. Now the time is done,
We will reach for more elevated thought.”

᾿Ηράσθην• τίς δ’ οὐχί; κεκώμακα• τίς δ’ ἀμύητος
κώμων; ἀλλ’ ἐμάνην• ἐκ τίνος; οὐχὶ θεοῦ;
ἐρρίφθω• πολιὴ γὰρ ἐπείγεται ἀντὶ μελαίνης
θρὶξ ἤδη, συνετῆς ἄγγελος ἡλικίης.
καὶ παίζειν ὅτε καιρός, ἐπαίξαμεν• ἡνίκα καιρὸς
οὐκέτι, λωιτέρης φροντίδος ἁψόμεθα.

Perhaps Philodemos is trying to argue against the wisdom of Mimnermus (fr. 1):

“What is life? What enjoyment is there without golden Aphrodite?
May I die when these things no longer interest me…”

τίς δὲ βίος, τί δὲ τερπνὸν ἄτερ χρυσῆς ᾿Αφροδίτης;
τεθναίην, ὅτε μοι μηκέτι ταῦτα μέλοι,

Homer, Iliad 3.146-160: Fighting Over Helen Makes Some Sense…

Palaiophron brought out a great passage from Herodotus that shows the historian trying to make sense of the mythical accounts of the Trojan War. In the Iliad, Homer actually has Antenor suggest in an assembly in book 7 that the Trojans should give her back. But before then, the elders speak on the topic:


The men who were near Priam, Panthoos, Thymoites
Lampos, Klutios, and Hiketaôn, the descendent of Ares,
Were Oukalegôn and Antênôr, two intelligent men.
The council of elders sat there on the Skaian gates
Slowed by old age, but still fine public speakers
Something like cicadas who sit on the leaf
Of a tree trailing along their lily-thin voices.
When they saw Helen approaching the wall,
They addressed each other with winged words:
“There’s no reason to criticize the Trojans and well-greaved Achaeans
For suffering pain for so long for this woman.
She has the terrible appearance of the immortal goddesses.
But, even though she is like this, let her return in the ships,
To prevent more pain from being left for our children.”

Οἳ δ’ ἀμφὶ Πρίαμον καὶ Πάνθοον ἠδὲ Θυμοίτην
Λάμπόν τε Κλυτίον θ’ ῾Ικετάονά τ’ ὄζον ῎Αρηος
Οὐκαλέγων τε καὶ ᾿Αντήνωρ πεπνυμένω ἄμφω
ἥατο δημογέροντες ἐπὶ Σκαιῇσι πύλῃσι,
γήραϊ δὴ πολέμοιο πεπαυμένοι, ἀλλ’ ἀγορηταὶ
ἐσθλοί, τεττίγεσσιν ἐοικότες οἵ τε καθ’ ὕλην
δενδρέῳ ἐφεζόμενοι ὄπα λειριόεσσαν ἱεῖσι·
τοῖοι ἄρα Τρώων ἡγήτορες ἧντ’ ἐπὶ πύργῳ.
οἳ δ’ ὡς οὖν εἴδονθ’ ῾Ελένην ἐπὶ πύργον ἰοῦσαν,
ἦκα πρὸς ἀλλήλους ἔπεα πτερόεντ’ ἀγόρευον·
οὐ νέμεσις Τρῶας καὶ ἐϋκνήμιδας ᾿Αχαιοὺς
τοιῇδ’ ἀμφὶ γυναικὶ πολὺν χρόνον ἄλγεα πάσχειν·
αἰνῶς ἀθανάτῃσι θεῇς εἰς ὦπα ἔοικεν·
ἀλλὰ καὶ ὧς τοίη περ ἐοῦσ’ ἐν νηυσὶ νεέσθω,
μηδ’ ἡμῖν τεκέεσσί τ’ ὀπίσσω πῆμα λίποιτο.

This passage is famous for showing the marginalization of the Trojan elders and for acting as a preface to the famous (and sometimes thought illogical) “viewing from the walls” (Teikhoskopia) when Helen names the Greek warriors for Priam (even though they’ve been fighting before Troy for 9 years). The elders essentially say, yeah, we get it, she’s hot. But, in the wisdom brought by old age, they insist she isn’t worth it.

Perhaps the Trojan elders understand better the insanity of lust than Herodotus…