Friday, August 2, 2019

Socrates in Love: Aspasia's lover (video)

Armand D'Angour, Center for Hellenic Studies; Mitch Jeserich (Letters & Politics); CC Liu, Dhr. Seven, Crystal Q., Wisdom Quarterly; Tim Whitmarsh,, May 9, 2019
"The Death of Socrates" by Jacques Louis David, 1787 (photograph: FineArt/Alamy)

Socrates had an Asian female teacher named Aspasia of Miletus
Viewers can find a PDF handout of focal passages from related ancient Greek texts at

Prof. Armand D'Angour gives his best short interview on "Letters and Politics" on Thursday, August 1, 2019 at 10:00 am with Host Mitch Jeserich (

REVIEW: Socrates in Love: The Making of a Philosopher
Socrates in Love (Armand D'Angour)
Was the leading figure in Western philosophy taught by an Asian female (Aspasia Miletus a.k.a. Diotima)?

Was Socrates really turned on to philosophy due to unrequited bisexual desire? This is an erudite guide to the intellectual culture of classical Athens.
  • The pivotal piece of evidence is Plato’s Symposium, in which Socrates appears as a character recalling the transformative effects of a conversation with a prophetess called Diotima [a title]. Diotima, Socrates says, taught him to think of erōs (desire) in a new way: not as lust for physical bodies, but as a quest for a higher truth. D’Angour thinks that Diotima is Aspasia in disguise. Socrates, he speculates, may have fallen for her; unconvinced by his suit, she gave him what was probably the most erudite brush-off in history, prompting him to turn from sex to philosophy. (He doesn’t address the fact that Diotima speaks only of Socrates’ love for boys [and the Greek custom of homosexual grooming known as pederasty]).
What do we know for sure about Socrates? Perhaps his famous utterance, “The one thing I know is that I know nothing”?

Sadly, there’s no real evidence that he ever said it: It’s first attested in a work of Cicero’s written more than 300 years after Socrates’ execution in Athens in 399 BC. It’s always worth reminding ourselves how little we know of the most alluring of Athenian philosophers.

Like Jesus (to whom he was often compared in antiquity), Socrates wrote nothing himself. He was the subject of competitive mythmaking in his own lifetime. As Bettany Hughes, the author of a rival biography of Socrates, once put it to me: He is like a ring doughnut: tasty on the outside, but there’s nothing in the center.

Celebrated classicist and polymath Armand D’Angour would disagree....This is a learned, agile, and slickly written book, but it is not without its problems. More

Socrates' teacher was an Asian female
Socrates in Love is an innovative and insightful exploration of the passionate early life of Socrates and the influences that led him to become the first and greatest of Western philosophers.

Socrates is the philosopher whose questioning gave birth to the foundations of Western thought and whose execution marked the end of the Athens' "Golden Age."

Yet, despite his preeminence among the great thinkers of history, little of his life story is known. What we know tends to begin in his middle age and end with his trial and death. Our conception of Socrates has relied upon Plato and Xenophon -- men who met him when he was in his fifties, a well-known figure in war-torn Athens.

There is mystery at the heart of Socrates's story: What turned the young Socrates into a philosopher? What drove him to pursue with such persistence, at the cost of social acceptance and ultimately his life, a whole new way of thinking about the meaning of existence?

In this revisionist biography, classicist Armand D'Angour draws on neglected sources to explore the passions and motivations of young Socrates, showing how love transformed him into the philosopher he was to become.

What emerges is the figure of Socrates as never previously portrayed: a heroic warrior, an athletic wrestler and dancer, and a passionate bisexual lover. Socrates in Love sheds new light on the formative journey of the philosopher.

Finally, it reveals the identity of the woman who Socrates claimed inspired him to develop ideas that have captivated thinkers for 2,500 years: Aspasia of Asia Minor. More

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