By James Owen
Throughout the various eras of history, figures emerge from the masses that overcome obstacles and ultimately defy what was accepted as a societal norm of the times.
Most often it is the underdog of the history books that is to thank for defying odds and questioning the status quo. Such is the case for a woman by the name of Aspasia (c. 470 BC to c. 400 BC).
Aspasia lived to be a significant influence in Greek history as we know it, yet there are still many unanswered questions surrounding her origins and her relationships with those around her in the era she had lived in. Many theories have sought to solve these mysteries of her life, yet none have exactly been proven still to this day. Nonetheless, Aspasia’s impact was profound, leaving a large mark on the history of the world and the role women played in history.
Historians believe … Aspasia’s teachings made an impact on Socrates and his respective writings.
Aspasia was born in the city of Miletus, a set of boundaries that at the time was located in Greece (it is however, a region now considered to be a part of Turkey).
Many scholars have yet to identify some of the more significant characteristics surrounding her upbringing, but it is understood that her father was named Axiochus. Due to her high level of education, Aspasia has been believed to be of a wealthier family, as it was rare for citizens to receive an education without paying a high price.
Much of her younger life is still unknown, yet in the early 440s Aspasia made her way to Athens, where she was noted as having become a mistress of the statesman Pericles. Following Pericles’s divorce in 445 BC, Aspasia and Pericles began living with each other, although it has not been confirmed whether or not they had gotten married.
They did however have a son by the name of Pericles the Younger, who was born sometime by 440 BC.
From prostitute to powerful influence in Athens
Researchers and scholars alike believed that Aspasia had worked as a hetaira, a type of prostitute during ancient Greek times.
Although this may have been the case, Aspasia was much more known for her contributions to the world of academia and intellect, as Plutarch, a Greek essayist and biographer suggests that her home came to be known as an intellectual center in Athens, wherein it attracted the company of some of the most influential writers, philosophers, and thinkers, including Socrates.
Historians believe it to be true that much of Aspasia’s teachings made an impact on Socrates and his respective writings. Aspasia’s existence and influence has even been mentioned in pieces composed by Plato, Aristophanes, Xenophon, and others. Aspasia made a name for herself with her teachings, resulting in men across the city bringing their wives to witness her words of intellect.
Her impact was so great in fact, that she even played a role in the rulings of the city.
Although Aspasia and Pericles proved to influence much of the city, this did not come without harsh criticisms and accusations. Citizens of Athens had blamed Aspasia for various conflicts, of which included the Samian war of 440 BC, as well as the Peloponnesian War (431 BC to 404 BC).
Despite these harsh criticisms of the time, Aspasia still proved to achieve more than anyone may have expected, as she was able to show more than just her beauty, with her undeniable intellect, quick wit, and charisma.