Volume 2, Issue 1, 2021
The Meanings of History
Nicole Loraux, Alex Ling
Aspasia, Foreigner, Intellectual
The brilliant Aspasia owes her fame to two men. She was the beloved and revered companion of Pericles, the most powerful and prestigious Athenian of the city’s golden age (460–430 BCE), and the privileged and respected interlocutor of Socrates. Her position as a valued companion and recognised intellectual—exceptional in a city where custom dictated that silence and invisibility represented a woman’s greatest glory—was no doubt connected with her status as a metic (resident alien). This status, while denying her the right to become the legal spouse of the man whose life she shared, allowed her—at the risk of a somewhat sulphurous reputation—the freedom to be seen, to think, and to express herself. While the beautiful woman from Miletus has remained silent, if we assume that the insults she was showered with were essentially aimed at her lover, the leader of the democrats, the sources we have at our disposal allow us to study her relationships with Socrates and Pericles.