Aspasia Greatest Philosopher of Antiquity?

What if we got the history of thought wrong? 

What if we present as very important, detached, cogent and deep, anti-democratic plutocratic cockroaches such as Plato or Socrates, not to speak of the pro-Macedonian agent known as Aristotle?

What if we don’t even understand the concept of great idea, let alone how one gives birth to it, let alone how a society generates great idea, and most societies, none?

Ideas are more or less significant. The most significant thinker is the one who thinks the highest significance first.

The case of Aspasia and her great ideas is striking. The lack of appreciation she received is not just an attack on all women, thus humanity, but also an attack against the all-important concept of spearhead of thought. Gedankenspitze (here, I created a German word! Did even Nietzsche do that? Let all those who accused me of Germanophobia shrink back in their tint slimy holes…)

I believe in the first creator system: the creator of an idea does the hard work. Being a parrot is easy. This is what the Nobel Circus often misses. An example is Poincaré‘s establishment in the Nineteenth Century, and teaching at La Sorbonne in 1899, with a wonderfully deep proof the relationship between energy and inertial mass: E= mcc. That’s viewed as so important it’s systematically to Parrot-stein (who reproduced, sort of, Poincaré‘s proof in 1905): as long as the discovery is not attributed to cheese eating French monkeys, the great Pluto Lack-of-Civilization, busy cooking the planets, and the books, is safe and sound.  

Doro Böhm wrote to me:

“The Greek democracy did have one major flaw: It left out women! In this aspect we could do better. No. We have to do better 👍🏼🍀🏆 We should not fall back but evolve 😉”

Teacher of the most famous thinkers: a woman, Aspasia of Miletus

Well excruciatingly scholarly books have been written in France about the weird relationship between Athens’ citizenry and feminism. It was an extremely complex situation. Athens was very sexist, in appearance, at first sight… maybe because Athena was her goddess, it should have been obvious to Athenians then, that Athens couldn’t possibly be sexist? One can one be misogynist in a society where the protecting God is not just female, but incarnates wisdom?

So Athenian women didn’t vote. How could they have done so? As Athens was a DIRECT democracy, fiercely independent Athenian farmers had to travel to the Ekklesia, a building in Athens, to vote. They typically had to pay somebody to help their wife at home, in their absence. After 400 BCE (and the half destruction of Athens, voters were paid, so they would come to the Ekklesia and vote). So having the wives do the trip too, was, too much, and actually, impossible. They didn’t have horses (only aristocrats and plutocrats could afford them). 

Sparta was NOT sexist (maybe because it was otherwise so racist & fascist?).

Nobody is suggesting to fall back into sexism, when adopting Direct Democracy, just the opposite. Now farmers and nursing mothers can stay at home, and vote with the Internet.

In truth, though, Athens’ most important philosopher was… ASPASIA, Pericles’ 2nd wife. She wrote Pericles’ most important discourses, invented the concept of “OPEN SOCIETY”, and the so-called “SOCRATIC METHOD”.

Like Poincaré with Einstein, she was Socrates’ teacher. However, Socrates didn’t hide his debt and admiration!

Ever since, sexist men have insisted there were only men in Athens, doing the thinking. Well, that’s vicious sexist propaganda.

Great civilizations invent great ideas, that’s why they are great. That’s how we know they are great. And their great idea machinery is intrinsic to them. However, this is not all arcane posturing of a maniacal pseudo-intellectual. Far from it: finding great ideas is as practical as it gets. The Roman state collapsed, as deserved, because the situation had changed, militarily, civilizationally, geopolitically, economically, climatologically, ecologically, and Rome had run out of ideas. More exactly the Roman big idea machine had collapsed. Supposing it ever existed. Did it? No. Rome was practical common sense, grafted upon Etruscan (itself having greatly borrowed to the Near East) and Greek civilization (in Naples, just to the south).

Aspasia came from Miletus. So did  Thales. Thales, his student Anaximander, and the students of the latter: Aximenes, Pythagoras were some of the summities of the Milesian School. Miletus was as great as civilization goes. Before the Persian invasion in the middle of the 6th century BC, Miletus was considered the greatest and wealthiest of Greek cities. Then crushed by the all sorts of fascists, it disappeared from history as genius producing machine (so did the rest of Greece)… But it lives on, through its ideas: we all come from Miletus… Even Erdogan descends from “Milet”. [1]

Several of Aspasia’s ideas were the greatest. Too bad Pericles didn’t understand them well enough to abide by them. Some civilizations are great, others are small, too small to produce enough new ideas to survive. Survival is of the essence, especially when extinction rules

Patrice Ayme

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P/S: Aspasia c. 470 BCE–c. 400 BCE was the wife, lover and intellectual power behind the statesman Pericles. Pericles dominated Athens politically for decades, as he kept being re-elected (he was also tried when the Peloponnese  War went very wrong). The couple had a son, Pericles the Younger (a long story in itself with many twists and turns, as the son became victim of laws passed by his own father). According to Plutarch, Aspasia’s house became THE intellectual center in Athens, attracting the most prominent writers and thinkers, including the (then baby) philosopher Socrates. Aspasia is mentioned in the writings of PlatoAristophanesXenophon, inter Alia.

Though she spent most of her adult life in Athens, few details of her life are fully known. Many scholars have credited ancient comic depictions of Aspasia as a brothel keeper and a prostitute despite their inherent implausibility, and obvious defamation. Aspasia’s role in history provides a crucial hint to the understanding of the women of ancient Greece. Powerful, but hidden. Very little is known about women in her lifetime (except Socrates reveals he learned his theory of love… “Platonic Love”… from another expert woman, widely viewed as a philosopher. In “Prisoner of History: Aspasia of Miletus and Her Biographical Tradition”, Madeleine Mary Henry, Chair and Associate Professor of Classical Studies said: To ask questions about Aspasia’s life is to ask questions about half of humanity.

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[1] Present day Turkey occupies half of ancient Ionian Greece. Turks arrived in the area in the last 800 years. Greeks were there three millennia.

 

 

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8 Responses to “Aspasia Greatest Philosopher of Antiquity?”

  1. brodix Says:

    Patrice,
    Well, if the Greeks and the West had settled on a less monolithic, more diametric and cyclical premise of reality, the polarity of the sexes wouldn’t have been such a monkey wrench in social and political issues.
    God Almighty is more effective than yin and yang, in a linear, goal oriented paradigm, but we are reaching the point of reductio ad absurdum, as the whole of life is being reduced to its lowest economic common denominator.
    After 25+ centuries of conflating the ideal with the absolute, the bubble is imploding.
    The opposite of the absolute is the infinite.
    Thus this tension between the heart and the head.
    The anarchy of desire(infinite) versus the tyranny of judgement(absolute).
    The ideal is just slippery hope. The cake we want to have and eat.
    Trying to project processes marching towards the future, with the patterns generated fading into the past as a singular idea.
    Cosmic convection cycles. Like galaxies of energy radiating toward infinity, while mass coalesces toward equilibrium.
    Meanwhile humanity is enthralled by this swirl of money and media.
    Another Tower of Babel.

    Like

  2. Benjamin David Steele Says:

    Reblogged this on Marmalade and commented:
    “In truth, though, Athens’ most important philosopher was… ASPASIA, Pericles’ 2nd wife. She wrote Pericles’ most important discourses, invented the concept of “OPEN SOCIETY”, and the so-called “SOCRATIC METHOD”.

    “Like Poincaré with Einstein, she was Socrates’ teacher. However, Socrates didn’t hide his debt and admiration!…

    “According to Plutarch, Aspasia’s house became THE intellectual center in Athens, attracting the most prominent writers and thinkers, including the (then baby) philosopher Socrates. Aspasia is mentioned in the writings of Plato, Aristophanes, Xenophon, inter Alia…

    “Aspasia’s role in history provides a crucial hint to the understanding of the women of ancient Greece. Powerful, but hidden. Very little is known about women in her lifetime (except Socrates reveals he learned his theory of love… “Platonic Love”… from another expert woman, widely viewed as a philosopher. In “Prisoner of History: Aspasia of Miletus and Her Biographical Tradition”, Madeleine Mary Henry, Chair and Associate Professor of Classical Studies said: “To ask questions about Aspasia’s life is to ask questions about half of humanity.””

    Like

  3. Benjamin David Steele Says:

    This is fascinating. I’m a fairly well informed person. But I don’t recall ever hearing Aspasia’s name. How many other powerful and brilliant women were there that have been lost to history? And what influence did they have that was never recorded?

    It makes one rethink the ancient world. Maybe women were more prominent in early Greece than we realize. Maybe the society was less absolutely patriarchal with room for women to wield immense influence. We have no clue what was written out of the later histories, what records were destroyed, and what was forgotten.

    It reminds me of the cults in ancient Israel and Judea. All we have is what survived. But much can be read between the lines. When the new temple elite enforced Yahwist propaganda onto the population, the priests listed all the things banned and forbidden. This indicates how widespread these other traditions and practices were in the general population.

    The texts that were saved, interpolated, and rewritten are simply what various revisionist interpreters wanted to be known. The world as it actually was might have been far different than we typically imagine it.

    Like

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Thanks for finding my essay “fascinating”, Benjamin. Well, feel good about yourself: most cultured people, say with a full college education in so-called “humanities” will not know about Aspasia. Sexist propaganda is of the essence. Yes this ignorance of Aspasia by official philosophy riled me up for a long time, because it does not require much digging in Socrates”/Plato, to find the truth.

      I am NO Plato/Aristotle specialist, BUT I focus on the most SIGNIFICANT statements therein, and thus, everywhere: thinking is about discriminating for significance… Plato clearly says that some of his, and Socrates, big breakthroughs were made by women, and names are given… So why didn’t official philosophy focus on that? Basic machismo? To support the established elite?

      One must rethink the Ancient World, indeed. As archaeology progresses, the Bronze Age civilizational collapse, has been studied as never before, there is an excellent recent book on that by a university prof…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Benjamin David Steele Says:

        Do you happen to know the title of that recent book or the name of the university prof who is the author? It sounds like the type of thing that would interest me.

        Like

        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          All too very exact somewhat tongue in cheek date….

          1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed (Turning Points in Ancient History) Paperback – September 22, 2015
          by Eric H. Cline (DR. ERIC H. CLINE is Professor of Classics and Anthropology, Director of the Capitol Archaeological Institute, and former Chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at The George Washington University, in Washington DC. A National Geographic Explorer, Fulbright scholar)

          In 1177 B.C., marauding groups known only as the “Sea Peoples” invaded Egypt. The pharaoh’s army and navy managed to defeat them, but the victory so weakened Egypt that it soon slid into decline, as did most of the surrounding civilizations. After centuries of brilliance, the civilized world of the Bronze Age came to an abrupt and cataclysmic end. Kingdoms fell like dominoes over the course of just a few decades. No more Minoans or Mycenaeans. No more Trojans, Hittites, or Babylonians. The thriving economy and cultures of the late second millennium B.C., which had stretched from Greece to Egypt and Mesopotamia, suddenly ceased to exist, along with writing systems, technology, and monumental architecture. But the Sea Peoples alone could not have caused such widespread breakdown. How did it happen?

          In this major new account of the causes of this “First Dark Ages,” Eric Cline tells the gripping story of how the end was brought about by multiple interconnected failures, ranging from invasion and revolt to earthquakes, drought, and the cutting of international trade routes. Bringing to life the vibrant multicultural world of these great civilizations, he draws a sweeping panorama of the empires and globalized peoples of the Late Bronze Age and shows that it was their very interdependence that hastened their dramatic collapse and ushered in a dark age that lasted centuries.

          A compelling combination of narrative and the latest scholarship, 1177 B.C. sheds new light on the complex ties that gave rise to, and ultimately destroyed, the flourishing civilizations of the Late Bronze Age―and that set the stage for the emergence of classical Greece.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Doro Böhm Says:

    Well written and inspiring, thxs 👍🏼

    Like

  5. Gmax Says:

    Superbly informative. Sexism obviously made Aspasia disappear from history.. BTW the Nobel made big noise about giving Nobel to a FRENCH woman today.

    Like

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