28 April 2011



Xanthippe was the wife of the philosopher Socrates. Think about that for a second: you're a hot young thing, married to the ugliest and smartest man in Athens. He's running around town, being wined and dined by all the hip younger dudes, and he's screwing them, to boot. You're stuck at home with three kids and nothing to feed them.

You want your husband to smarten up when it comes to keeping you happy.

Xanthippe was a scrapper.

Head, meet shit.
The iconic image of Xanthippe is this one, of her emptying a chamber pot on Socrates's head.

Socrates claimed he married Xanthippe because she wouldn't back down when it came to arguing. Away from home, he boasted that he was only trying to challenge himself by choosing to marry her. In the Symposium dialogue, he claimed:
It is the example of the rider who wishes to become an expert horseman: "None of your soft-mouthed, docile animals for me," he says; "the horse for me to own must show some spirit" in the belief, no doubt, if he can manage such an animal, it will be easy enough to deal with every other horse besides. And that is just my case. I wish to deal with human beings, to associate with man in general; hence my choice of wife. I know full well, if I can tolerate her spirit, I can with ease attach myself to every human being else. (Symposium 17-19 [= 2.10])
In my view, any man who compares his wife to a horse and himself to a rider deserves to have a chamber pot emptied on his head. (No matter that her name meant "yellow horse" - some plays on words are not clever.) So hard did Xanthippe fight for herself, she became the iconic figure of the fractious woman throughout the Renaissance. To this day "a xanthippe" is a shrewish, argumentative woman.


Trisha said...

I haven't actually heard of that definition before, but I can see where it came from. Love that image! :D

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

I like this lady! A woman of style - chamber pot or no chamber pot!

Margo Lerwill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Margo Lerwill said...

Sorry, mangled post. I wish we could edit comments!

The Roman orators were pretty bad about this as well. Yet another reason why I loved my Classical Latin but hated doing the actual translations - the crap that came out of these guys. Cicero is the one who *really* aggravates me.