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Ancient Greek Philosopher Women

 

Plato wrote (Protagotas, 342d), “And in these states (Crete and Sparta) there are not only men but also women who are proud of their intellectual culture.”

Education was not required of women but some women were educated by their father, brother, or husband. A list of educated women who became philosophers follows:

  1. Arete of Cyrene(fl. 4th cent. BC), daughter of Aristippus and his sucessor as head of the Cyrenaic school. Aristippus raised Arete on the principal of despising excess. She grew up to become an egalitarian, and her philosophy refelected this. She wrote: “I dream of a world where there are neither masters nor slave…” The epitaph on Arete of Cyrene’s tomb called her “the
    splendour of Greece” with the “beauty of Helen, the virtue of Therma, the Aristippus, the soul of Socrates and the tongue of Homer.”
  2. Aristoclea
  3. Aspasia (c. 469 BC- c. 406 BC) female philosopher and rhetorician, companion of Socrates. Aspasia (c. 469 BC- c. 406 BC) was the mistress of Pericles. Although she lived in Athens, she was not from there, having been born in Miletus. Being a foreigner, she could not legally marry an Athenian. Aside from her foreign birth, she was also a hetaira, essentially a high-class
    prostitute or courtesan, who could not marry Athenian citizens. These laws were established by Pericles and his predecessors before he met Aspasia. However, Pericles thought so much of her beauty and talents that he considered her his wife and she lived with him until his death.
  4. Damo
  5. Diotima — “And now I shall let you alone, and proceed with the discourse upon Love which I heard one day from a Mantinean woman named Diotima: in this subject she was skilled, and in many others too; for once, by bidding the Athenians offer sacrifices ten years before the plague, she procured them so much delay in the advent of the sickness. Well, I also had my lesson from her in love-matters;” Plat. Sym. 201d
  6. Hipparchia — “Crates, a rich Theban, gave away a large fortune, and assumed the wallet and staff of a Cynic philosopher. Hipparchia, a Thracian lady, forsook wealth and friends to share his poverty, in spite of his advice to the contrary. Diogenes Laertius: Crates.” Diogenes Laertius: Crates
  7. Leontium
  8. Perictyone — “said to have been the mother of Plato, who was born B. C. 429.” A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology
  9. Theano(fl. 6th cent. BC), female philosopher, pupil of Pythagoras and later his wife.
    “Pythagoras had a wife, Theano by name, daughter of Brontinus of Croton, though some call her Brontinus’s wife and Pythagoras’s pupil.” and “Theano wrote a few things. Further, a story is told that being asked how many days it was before a woman becomes pure after intercourse, she replied, ‘With her own husband at once, with another man never.’ And she advised a woman going in to her own husband to put off her shame with her clothes, and on leaving him to put it on again along with them. Asked ‘Put on what?’ she replied, ‘What makes me to be called a woman.'” Diogenes Laertius
  10. Themistoclea of Delphi (6th century BC) – teacher of Pythagoras. “The same authority(Aristoxenus), as we have seen, asserts that Pythagoras took his doctrines from the Delphic priestess Themistoclea.” Diogenes Laertius, 8.1.
  11. Theoclea
  12. Axiothea — “His (Plato’s) disciples were Speusippus of Athens, Xenocrates of Chalcedon, Aristotle of Stagira, Philippus of Opus, Hestiaeus of Perinthus, Dion of Syracuse, Amyclus of Heraclea, Erastus and Coriscus of Scepsus, Timolaus of Cyzicus, Euaeon of Lampsacus, Python and Heraclides of Aenus, Hippothales and Callippus of Athens, Demetrius of Amphipolis, Heraclides of Pontus, and many others, among them two women, Lastheneia of Mantinea and Axiothea of Phlius, who is reported by Dicaearchus to have worn men’s clothes.” Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers book3, chapter 1, line 46

Resources

  1. Greek women philosophers
  2. Hipparchia – The World’s First Liberated Woman
  3. Aspasia of Miletus – Aspasia, the Ancient Philosopher and Teacher of Athens