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nor can I conceive Socrates constantly visiting her, and advising his friends to send their sons to her to be educated, if the charges of Aristophanes and his fellows were in any sense true. No doubt many Athenian citizens were very jealous of the position of this foreigner-a position which one of their own daughters ought, by right, to have held—and the conversations at her house, which brought ladies there from their dull and secluded homes, were to the old-fashioned Athenian dangerous innovations1.
We have some very instructive parallel cases, which, I think, can be fully cleared up, and which will show the nature of the comic charges against Aspasia and Pericles. The very same charge of making his house a meeting-place for Pericles and his lady friends, is preferred against the sculptor Phidias, who was, if I may so say, the minister of art under Pericles. also hear, strangely enough, accusations of Pericles having induced another friend, who possessed peacocks, to make presents of them to these ladies. Peacocks had then been lately introduced into Athens, as we know from allusions in Antiphon. One Athenian gentleman, who kept them, had an open day every new
Camélias. Yet even such a suggestion is deemed dangerous by our respectable people, and this remarkable play could not be represented in England without being concealed by an Italian translation, and Verdi's music (La Traviata).
1 The whole question about Aspasia has been discussed with great ability by M. Becq de Fouquières in his very interesting monograph Aspasie de Milet. If his enthusiasm leads him too far, he has nevertheless brought out the main points, I think rightly. He need not have dogmatised about her life before and after Pericles' union with her.
moon, on which the public might come to see them freely, but he refused all admission at other times. Their screaming is complained of by the comic poets. The gift of a peacock was therefore a handsome present, as the bird could not be bought for money, owing to its rarity. To those who will not believe that the great Phidias, and the greater Pericles, combined for the lowest and most scandalous purposes, an explanation' of these suspicions and charges readily presents itself. The Greek sculptors and painters must have required, like our own artists, suitable models. We know of no class of people at Athens thus employed; and if there had been, the comedy would certainly have told us of it. Whoever thinks for a moment of the pure and noble types of female beauty in Greek art, can hardly conceive the models to have been anything but the very highest and best of society. I imagine Pericles and Phidias to have been under great difficulties in procuring the best models, owing to the seclusion of women at Athens, and I conjecture that they were induced with difficulty to come to the sculptor's studio, where Pericles no doubt often met them, and that they were rewarded upon some few occasions with the present of a peacock, as money payments would have been unseemly. Thus I conceive the suspicion of the Athenian public to have been excited. We know that Phidias copied himself and Pericles on the shield of Pallas. Of course he must have copied some fair woman of Athens for the goddess herself, though he dared not confess it to the public.
We chance to have from the same epoch a strictly
parallel case. Plutarch tells us (Cimon, c. 4) that the celebrated sister of Cimon, Elpinice, who appears from various anecdotes to have gone about Athens with some liberty, is said to have transgressed with the painter Polygnotus, and that accordingly when painting the Trojan women (in his famous portico called Toilŋ) he made his figure of Laodice a portrait of Elpinice. This Polygnotus was the Phidias of Greek painting. Here, I take it, there can be no doubt, that Elpinice was a model to Polygnotus, and we see her charged with the same suspicions as the ladies who went to Phidias' studio. These considerations are, in my mind, quite sufficient to overthrow the bare presumption against Aspasia, raised by the comedians' scurrilous buffoonery.
I turn with more pleasure to the casual glimpses given us into her home life with Pericles. We are indebted to the invaluable Plutarch for having collected from numerous anecdotists these slighter touches in the portraits of the great Periclean Athenians. From him we can quote something on the aristocratic side of Athenian life to compare with the homely scenes in the Acharnians and Wasps. Some of the anecdotists, such as Ion of Chios and Stesimbrotus of Thasos, were contemporary with the men they described, and are trustworthy in some details; while in others Plutarch's notice of their bias enables us to doubt and to criticise. They agreed in making Pericles haughty and cold, avoiding society altogether, and hardly to be seen except on the way from his house. to the assembly. He had once condescended to go
to a cousin's wedding-feast, but left the moment grace was said, I have no doubt to the great relief of the company. This cold contempt of men appeared plainly enough in his speeches, and was, I think, transmitted by him, without his dignity and soberness, to his ward Alcibiades. It was clearly this feeling, and not pressure of business, which kept him from going into society. Nicias, on the contrary, a stupid but excellent and high-spirited man, felt himself bound to deny access to his friends, and to avoid society, on account of the pressure of public business, which he performed most conscientiously, but, like many conscientious men, stupidly and slowly1. They both were very careful of their private affairs and of the management of their income, but Pericles had the sense to find a trusty person to whom he committed them, just as he committed routine business in the assembly to friends; whereas Nicias, as Thucydides says of him, with deep insight, in the last great crisis of his life (vii, 69.) was ever thinking that things were not perfectly ready and complete, or had not been sufficiently explained, and so wearied himself in doing other people's work as well as his own. But there was a gap in Pericles' cares, when he was at home with Aspasia, whom he never left in the morning, they tell us, without affectionately kissing her, and in whose brilliant conversation he found better solace and recreation than in men's wine parties, or in the excesses with which he has been falsely charged. Cimon and Alcibiades, on the contrary, though both
1 Cp. Plut. Nic. chap. v.
public men, were essentially men of society, indulging in all the amusements of Athenian life, and not free from stain in their morals. But Cimon was rather a general than a politician; he was not oppressed, when at Athens, with the burdens of the Home Office and the Exchequer. He was reckless in expenditure, and was often to be met in society, where Ion of Chios, when a youth, had met him, and whose interesting account of him is preserved by Plutarch. Cimon, who was, of course, the great man of the party, was asked to sing, and did it so well and pleasantly, that some of the company politely observed how in this he had beaten Themistocles, who was no doubt an equal politician, but no musician. Cimon then begins to tell of his military experiences, apparently to show that he was not deficient in cleverness like that of Themistocles.
The conversation seems to have turned exactly on the line suggested in a pleasant passage in Aristophanes' Wasps, when Bdelycleon is teaching his father how to behave in good society (vv. 1174-1264). The old man is exceedingly rude and boorish, and suggests coarse and vulgar subjects of conversation, whereupon the son objects, and suggests fine talk, 'about your being at a show-embassy along with Androcles and Cleisthenes.' 'But I was never at a show, save once to see Punch and Judy, and that for a fee of two obols.' 'Well then, you should tell how, for example, Ephudion fought a fine pancratium with Ascondas, though already old and gray-haired, but showing great form and muscle. This is the sort of talk usual among refined people. But come to another point. When