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Private Life

217. A female philosopher.[1] Athens, 3rd cent. B.C. (Diogenes Laertius 6.96-8. 3rd cent. A.D. G)

Hipparchia fell in love with both Crates' discourses and his way of life. She paid no attention to any of her suitors, their money, their high birth, or their good looks. To her Crates was everything. And in fact she threatened her parents that she would kill herself, if they didn't let her marry him. Her parents begged Crates to dissuade her. He did everything he could, but finally when he couldn't persuade her, he stood up and took off his clothes in front of her and said: 'This is your bridegroom; these are his possessions; plan accordingly!' He didn't think she would be able to be his partner unless she could share in the same pursuits.

But the girl chose him. She adopted the same dress and went about with him; she made love to him in public; she went to dinner parties with him.[2] Once, when she went to a dinner party at Lysimachus' house, she put down Theodorus called the Atheist by using the following trick of logic: if an action could not be called wrong when done by Theodorus it could not be called wrong when done by Hipparchia. Therefore, if Theodorus does nothing wrong when he hits himself, Hipparchia does nothing wrong if she hits Theodorus. He had no defence against her logic, and started to pull off her cloak.[3]

But Hipparchia did not get upset or excited as other women would. Then when he said to her: 'Here I am, Agave, who left behind my shuttles beside my loom'.[4] 'Indeed it is I,' said Hipparchia; 'Theodorus-you don't think that I have arranged my life so badly, do you, if I have used the time I would have wasted on weaving for my education?' These and many other stories are told about the woman philosopher.


Notes:

1. Her brother Metrocles was also a philosopher. Cf. Magnilla (no. 221).

2. Two of Plato's women disciples were said to have worn men's clothing; see no. 216. Usually the only women at men's dinner parties were courtesans, e.g. Neaera, no. 90.

3. Cf. how the prefect sentences the scholarly Irene to a brothel, no. 446.

4. Agave's boast to her father in Euripides, Bacchae 1236, when she returns from the hunt, thinking she has caught a lion; but the head she is carrying turns out to be her son's.