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1. The celebrated Milesian, daughter of Axiochus, came to reside at Athens, and there gained and fixed the affections of Pericles, not more by her beauty than by her high mental accomplishments. With his wife. who was a lady of rank, and by whom he had two sons, he seems to have lived unhappily; and, having parted from her by mutual consent, he attached himself to Aspasia during the rest of his life as closely as was allowed by the law, which forbade marriage with a foreign woman under severe penalties. (Plut. Per. 24; Demosth. c. Neaer. p. 1350.) Nor can there be any doubt that she acquired over him a great ascendancy; though this perhaps comes before us in an exaggerated shape in the statements which ascribe to her influence the war with Samos on behalf of Miletus in B. C. 440, as well as the Peloponnesian war itself. (Plut. Peric. l.c.; Aristoph. Ach. 497, &c.; Schol. ad loc.; comp. Aristoph. Peace 587, &c.; Thuc. 1.115.) The connexion, indeed, of Pericles with Aspasia appears to have been a favourite subject of attack in Athenian comedy (Aristoph. Acharn. l.c.; Plut. Per. 24; Schol. ad Plat. Menex. p. 235), as also with certain writers of philosophical dialogues, between whom and the comic poets, in respect of their abusive propensities, Athenaeus remarks a strong family likeness. (Athen. 5.220; Casaub. ad loc.) Nor was their bitterness satisfied with the vent of satire; for it was Hermippus, the comic poet, who brought against Aspasia the double charge of impiety and of infamously pandering to the vices of Pericles; and it required all the personal influence of the latter with the people, and his most earnest entreaties and tears, to procure her acquittal. (Plut. Per. 32; Athen. 13.589e.; comp. Thirlwall's Greece, vol. iii. p. 87, &c., and Append. ii.) The house of Aspasia was the great centre of the highest literary and philosophical society of Athens, nor was the seclusion of the Athenian matrons so strictly preserved, but that many even of them resorted thither with their husbands for the pleasure and improvement of her conversation (Plut. Per. 24); so that the intellectual influence which she ex ercised was undoubtedly considerable, even though we reject the story of her being the preceptress of Socrates, on the probable ground of the irony of those passages in which such statement is made (Plat. Menex. pp. 235, 249; Xen. Occon. 3.14, Memor. 2.6.36; Herm. de Soc. magist. et disc. juren.; Schleiennacher's Introd. to the Menexenus); for Plato certainly was no approver of the administration of Pericles (Gorg. p. 515d. &c.), and thought perhaps that the refinement introduced by Aspasia had only added a new temptation to the licentiousness from which it was not disconnected. (Athen. 13.569f.) On the death of Pericles, Aspasia is said to have attached herself to one Lysicles, a dealer in cattle, and to have made him by her instructions a first-rate orator. (Aesch. apud Plut. Peric. 24; Schol. ad Plat. Menex. p. 235.) For an amusing account of a sophistical argument ascribed to her by Aeschines the philosopher, see Cic. de Inxent. 1.31; Quintil. Inst. Orat. 5.11. The son of Pericles by Aspasia was legitimated by a special decree of the people, and took his father's name. (Plut. Per. 37.) He was one of the six generals who were put to death after the victory at Arginusae. (Comp. Jacobs, Verm. Schriften, vol. iv. pp. 349-397.)

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440 BC (1)
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  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Aristophanes, Acharnians, 497
    • Aristophanes, Peace, 587
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.115
    • Plutarch, Pericles, 32
    • Plutarch, Pericles, 37
    • Plutarch, Pericles, 24
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