Aspasia of Miletus

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” 
Socrates

Aspasia

In every age, you will find a woman that captures the imagination of an entire generation.  And then there are the exceptionally rare ones that capture the imagination of history.  Names like Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, Mary Magdalene, Marie Antoinette, and Joan of Arc have archetypal influence even until this very day.  I believe that Aspasia, the lady of Classical Athens, is one of these remarkable women.

Bold, beautiful, intelligent and educated, Aspasia sought equality within a male-dominated society that allowed women few rights and little opportunity to take part in public life.  Aspasia became the consort of Pericles, leader of democratic Athens, the most prominent and influential Greek statesman, orator and general.  They were a power couple that lived in the Golden Age of Athens, between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars.  Her life was lived in extremes, her intelligence and power both admired and scorned.  Praised by her admirers and blamed for unpopular events by her enemies, she remained politically progressive until the very end.

Aspasia’s narrative is more riveting than a best seller, yet it was her ability to live her philosophy that garners our admiration. She came from Miletus, the city known for knowledge and cultural diversity.  Long before she conversed with philosophers, poets and politicians, she was in the classroom, immersed in study.  In those formative years, Aspasia was preparing to take centre stage.  Her life is a testament to the power of education.

“The really important thing is not to live, but to live well. And to live well meant, along with more enjoyable things in life, to live according to your principles.” 
Socrates

20 thoughts on “Aspasia of Miletus

    • I agree! The one that that has become clear to me over these past weeks – the joy of discovery is the precursor to dramatic change, first within ourselves and then within community. I am so glad that you have joined this dialogue!

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  1. I need to create a new folder to hold all your beautiful quotes in this series of Greek philosophers! Socrates’ quote today is another great quote! Thanks, Rebecca.

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    • I have quotes stuck all over my desk, on the fridge – I love quotes! It seems that when I start the day with a life-affirming thought, everything becomes more meaningful.

      “Life itself is a quotation.” Jorge Luis Borges

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  2. Aha! Another woman, beautiful, educated, influential and standing tall among the great men of long ago. I hadn’t heard of her, thank you for this new discovery. And, another great quote from Socrates!!

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    • Aspasia lived a remarkable life, marked by triumphs and great tragedies. Through it all, her conduct was always in keeping with her firmly held beliefs and values. Socrates thoughts highly of her…

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    • Socrates has a way of touching the part of us that longs to aspire to that nobility that we know lies within us. I really appreciate your comments – they add so my to my knowledge.

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  3. I thought Socrates’ closing quote was the best, and reminds me of an old Italian saying: Chi manga bene, vive bene. He who eats well, lives well! (Pardon the poor Italian).

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