Stumbling Toward Enlightenment

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Remember the Ladies: Xanthippe

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Wikipeida Commons

Xanthippe (born in Athens, Greece, in the fifth century) was the wife of Socrates and mother of their three sons Lamprocles,Sophroniscus, and Menexenus. There are far more stories about her than there are facts. She was likely much younger than the philosopher, perhaps by as much as forty years.

Xanthippe means “blonde horse”, from the Greek “xanthos” (blonde) and “hippos” (horse). Hers is one of many Greek personal names with a horse theme (cf. Philippos: “horse lover”; Hippocrates: “horse tamer” etc). The “hippos” in an ancient Greek name often suggested aristocratic heritage. One additional reason for thinking Xanthippe’s family was socially prominent was that her eldest son was named Lamprocles instead of “Sophroniscus” (after Socrates’ father). The ancient Greek custom was to name one’s first child after the more illustrious of the two grandfathers. Xanthippe’s father is believed to have been named Lamprocles. Since he was even more well-established in Athenian aristocracy than was Socrates’ father, his name would have been the preferred choice for the name of the first-born son. [Wikipedia]

Odds are that she didn’t deserver her shrewish reputation. She was probably married young, as most Athenian girls were, and had nothing to say about the husband she was given. She was sympathetic, thrifty and, most importantly, fertile. Socrates was often brutally insensitive, and his disciples were less tolerant than he was. There is every reason to believe she loved him, she spent the night in prison with him before his execution and had to be led away sobbing. [Remember the Ladies, Kirsten Olsen]

Author: barenose

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