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WOMEN PHILOSOPHERS IN ANCIENT GREECE AND ROME

Why aren't there any women philosophers from ancient Greece and Rome who became well known?

The history of Western philosophy has been dominated by men for several reasons: 1) until the twentieth century, few women were systematically educated in ways that enabled the practice of philosophy; 2) women's family and social roles did not afford them the leisure to practice philosophy; and 3) male philosophers have traditionally seen the field as restricted to men and have sometimes gone to lengths to exclude women. Nevertheless, in every philosophical period some women have been associated with philosophy as practiced by men, and others have been philosophers in their own right. It cannot be known how much of the work of women philosophers has been ignored, forgotten, or never received the attention it deserved because, until the twentieth century, little work by women philosophers was preserved or even mentioned as part of the tradition.

The ancient period in Greece and Rome was a foundation for this general, maledominated trend. Upper-class women were sequestered in special quarters in their homes and not educated for public life. Poor women were heavily burdened by motherhood, domestic drudgery, and agricultural work. Women with some leisure might sew, spin, weave, or listen to men converse, but always in their homes, whereas most philosophical interaction occurred in public places. Overall, women in ancient times rarely had the rights accorded to men. Nevertheless, the names and philosophical work of a small number of women philosophers in antiquity have survived.

Who were some important women philosophers from antiquity?

Although they probably are but the tip of an iceberg, Themostocles, Theano of crotona, Diotima of Mantinea, Aspasia of Miletus, Aesara of Lucania, Phintis of Sparta,

Who were some other women philosophers of note from antiquity?

In the third century c.e., Julia Domna, the wife of the Roman Emperor Septimius, supported a group of stoic philosophers, studied with them, and helped them flourish. In the fourth century, Makrina preserved Greek philosophy after her family was persecuted by christians.

Perictione I, Theano II, Hypatia of Alexandria, Ascepigenia of Athens, and Arete of cyrene deserve specific mention.

Who was Themistocles?

According to some accounts, Pythagoras (c. 570-495 b.c.e.), the Pre-Socratic who founded a "brotherhood" based on the religious idea that everything is made up of numbers, was taught his ethical beliefs by Themistocles (c. 524-459 B.c.E.), the Priestess of Delphi. It is known that Apollo was both the god at the Temple of Delphi and a deity worshipped by Pythagoreans. Pythagoras and his followers practiced self-examination and dietary and ritualistic purification (including their vegetarianism), based on a belief in the sameness of all life. This principle of sameness might have implied that women should be included in philosophical activities.

Who were some female Pythagoreans?

Pythagoras' wife, Theano of crotona (Italy, c. 546 B.c.E.), and their three daughters were members of Pythagoras' first group of followers. Theano was said to have discussed metaphysics and written about marriage, sex, women, and ethics. After Pythagoras died, Theano and her three sons succeeded him as leaders of the Pythagorean school. Theano II (her birth and death dates are uncertain except that she was not Theano I), a later Pythagorean, addressed moral contexualism, or the theory that what is right to do should take particular circumstances into account. She also believed that harmonia (harmony) is, or should be, the foundation of morality and education. Some historians believe that Perictione I (late fourth to third centuries b.c.e.), another Pythagorean, said to have written On the Harmony of Women, was Plato's mother.

Who was Aspasia of Miletus?

Aspasia of Miletus (c. 470-c. 400 b.c.e.) was an influential member of the Sophistic movement. She was married to Pericles (495-429 B.c.E.), considered to be knowledgeable about statecraft, and was said to have taught Socrates himself rhetoric. When she was put on trial on charges of impiety, her husband secured her acquittal.

Who was Arete of Cyrene?

Arete of Cyrene (c. 400-c. 340 b.c.e.), the daughter of Aristipus, a friend and student of Socrates, who was present at his death, succeeded her father as head of the cyrenic school. She taught ethics in the Hedonistic tradition and natural philosophy, for 30 years.

Was Diotima of Mantinea a real or fictional female philosopher?

Diotima of Mantinea, who is said to have instructed Socrates on love in Plato's Symposium, has been believed to be a fictional invention since the Renaissance. Before then, she was assumed to have been a real person.

When did women philosophers first start to become recognized as part of philosophy?

Beginning in the early christian era, the scholarly work and educational activities of at least some women philosophers were recognized, and some male philosophers made special efforts to interact with them intellectually.

 
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