After this, when peace had been made for thirty years between the Athenians and the Lacedaemonians, be got a decree passed for his expedition to Samos,1
alleging against its people that, though they were ordered to break off their war against the Milesians, they were not complying.
Now, since it is thought that he proceeded thus against the Samians to gratify Aspasia, this may be a fitting place to raise the query what great art or power this woman had, that she managed as she pleased the foremost men of the state, and afforded the philosophers occasion to discuss her in exalted terms and at great length.
That she was a Milesian by birth, daughter of one Axiochus, is generally agreed; and they say that it was in emulation of Thargelia, an Ionian woman of ancient times, that she made her onslaughts upon the most influential men. This Thargelia came to be a great beauty and was endowed with grace of manners as well as clever wits. Inasmuch as she lived on terms of intimacy with numberless Greeks, and attached all her consorts to the king of Persia, she stealthily sowed the seeds of Persian sympathy in the cities of Greece by means of these lovers of hers, who were men of the greatest power and influence.
And so Aspasia, as some say, was held in high favour by Pericles because of her rare political wisdom. Socrates sometimes came to see her with his disciples, and his intimate friends brought their wives to her to hear her discourse, although she presided over a business that was any- thing but honest or even reputable, since she kept a house of young courtesans.
says that Lysicles the sheep-dealer, a man of low birth and nature, came to be the first man at Athens by living with Aspasia after the death of Pericles. And in the
‘Menexenus’ of Plato, even though the first part of it be written in a sportive vein, there is, at any rate, thus much of fact, that the woman had the reputation of associating with many Athenians as a teacher of rhetoric.
However, the affection which Pericles had for Aspasia seems to have been rather of an amatory sort. For his own wife was near of kin to him, and had been wedded first to Hipponicus, to whom she bore Callias, surnamed the Rich; she bore also, as the wife of Pericles, Xanthippus and Paralus. Afterwards, since their married life was not agreeable, he legally bestowed her upon another man, with her own consent, and himself took Aspasia, and loved her exceedingly.
Twice a day, as they say, on going out and on coming in from the market-place, he would salute her with a loving kiss.
But in the comedies she is styled now the New Omphale, now Deianeira, and now Hera. Cratinus3
flatly called her a prostitute in these lines:—
As his Hera, Aspasia was born, the child of Unnatural Lust,
A prostitute past shaming.
And it appears also that he begat from her that bastard son about whom Eupolis, in his
‘Demes,’ represented him as inquiring with these words:—
And my bastard, doth he live?
to which Myronides replies:—
Yea, and long had been a man,
Had he not feared the mischief of his harlot-birth.
So renowned and celebrated did Aspasia become, they say, that even Cyrus, the one who went to war with the Great King for the sovereignty of the Persians, gave the name of Aspasia to that one of his concubines whom he loved best, who before was called Milto. She was a Phocaean by birth, daughter of one Hermotimus, and, after Cyrus had fallen in battle, was carried captive to the King,5
and acquired the greatest influence with him. These things coming to my recollection as I write, it were perhaps unnatural to reject and pass them by.