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2016FallSymposiumURCreativityEngagement has ended
Tuesday, December 6 • 2:20pm - 2:40pm
On The Virtue Of Women: Aspasia And Diotima

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In the works of Socrates’ disciples two women are presented exceptionally; Aspasia, famed courtesan and lover of Pericles from Miletus, and Diotima, a priestess from Mantinea of Arcadia. Both characters are represented as teachers of Socrates, an individual hailed as a progenitor of Western philosophy. This representation of women is a striking difference from how ancient Athenian society often depicts women, as a threat to men, or less than men in respect to intellect, physical strength, and attractiveness. I will explore why these women are represented as teachers of Socrates in Plato’s Menexenus and Symposium, and in Xenophon’s Symposium and Memorabilia; and I shall examine whether they possess “aretê,” the ideal of Socratic philosophy. Given that both of these characters were foreigners in Athens and in social positions outside of the family, I also consider what example these two characters could serve for the women of ancient Athens, and whether or not women could attain “aretê” by following the Socratic tradition. However, due to the stigmatization of these two characters, with Aspasia being a courtesan and Diotima being a foreigner, I propose that the characters of Aspasia and Diotima reveal positive Socratic assumptions about the potential for women’s virtue but are undermined by the models of virtue established for women by Athenian tradition.

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Tuesday December 6, 2016 2:20pm - 2:40pm
237 Owen Hall

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