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A celebrated woman, a native of Miletus. She came as an adventuress to Athens, in the time of Pericles, and, by the combined charms of her person, manners, and conversation, completely won the affection and esteem of that distinguished statesman. Her station had freed her from the restraints which custom laid on the education of the Athenian matron, and she had enriched her mind with accomplishments which were rare even among men. Her acquaintance with Pericles seems to have begun while he was still united to a lady of high birth, and we can hardly doubt that it was Aspasia who first disturbed this union, although it is said to have been dissolved by mutual consent. But after parting from his wife, who had borne him two sons, Pericles attached himself to Aspasia by the most intimate relation which the laws permitted him to contract with a foreign woman; and she acquired an ascendency over him which soon became notorious, and furnished the comic poets with an inexhaustible fund of ridicule and his enemies with a ground for serious charges. The Samian War was ascribed to her interposition on behalf of her birthplace, and rumours were set afloat which represented her as ministering to the vices of Pericles by the most odious and degrading of offices. There was, perhaps, as little foundation for this report

Aspasia. (Vatican.)

as for a similar one in which Phidias was implicated (Pericl. 13); though among all the imputations brought against Pericles, this is that which it is the most difficult clearly to refute. But we are inclined to believe that it may have arisen from the peculiar nature of Aspasia's private circles, which, with a bold neglect of established usage, were composed not only of the most intelligent and accomplished men to be found at Athens, but also of matrons, who, it is said, were brought by their husbands to listen to her conversation. This must have been highly instructive as well as brilliant, since Plato did not hesitate to describe her as the preceptress of Socrates, and to assert in the Menexenus that she both formed the rhetoric of Pericles and composed one of his most admired harangues, the celebrated funeral oration. The innovation, which drew women of free birth and good standing into her company for such a purpose, must, even where the truth was understood, have surprised and offended many, and it was liable to the grossest misconstruction. And if her female friends were sometimes seen watching the progress of the works of Phidias, it was easy, through his intimacy with Pericles, to connect this fact with a calumny of the same kind.

There was another rumour still more dangerous, which grew out of the character of the persons who were admitted to the society of Pericles and Aspasia. No persons were more welcome at the house of Pericles than such as were distinguished by philosophical studies, and especially by the profession of new philosophical tenets. The mere presence of Anaxagoras, Zeno, Protagoras, and other celebrated men, who were known to hold doctrines very remote from the religious conceptions of the vulgar, was sufficient to make a circle in which they were familiar pass for a school of impiety. Such were the materials out of which the comic poet Hermippus formed a criminal prosecution against Aspasia. His indictment included two heads: an offence against religion, and that of corrupting Athenian women to gratify the passions of Pericles. The danger was averted; but it seems that Pericles, who pleaded her cause, found need of his most strenuous exertions to save Aspasia, and that he even descended, in her behalf, to tears and entreaties, which no similar emergency of his own could ever draw from him.

After the death of Pericles, Aspasia attached herself to a young man of obscure birth, named Lysicles, who rose through her influence in moulding his character to some of the highest employments in the Republic. (See Plut. Pericl.; Xen. Mem. ii. 6.


Daughter of Hermotimus, and a native of Phocaea in Asia Minor. She was so remarkable for her beauty that a satrap of Persia carried her off and made her a present to Cyrus the Younger. Her modest deportment soon won the affections of the prince, who lived with her as with a lawful wife. Her name at first was Milto (vermilion), which had been given her in early life on account of the brilliancy of her complexion. Cyrus, however, changed it to Aspasia, calling her thus after the mistress of Pericles. After the death of the prince she fell into the hands of Artaxerxes, who for a long time vainly sought to gain her affections. She only yielded at last to his suit through absolute necessity. When the monarch declared his son Darius his successor, the latter, as it was customary in Persia for an heir to ask a favour of him who had declared him such, requested Aspasia of his father. Aspasia was accordingly sent for, and, contrary to the king's expectation, made choice of Darius. Artaxerxes therefore gave her up, in accordance with established custom, but soon took her away again, and made her a priestess of Artemis at Ecbatana, or of the goddess whom the Persians called Anaïtis. This station required her to pass the rest of her days in chastity (Artax.). Justin, however, says (x. 1) that Artaxerxes made her one of the priestesses of the sun.

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