Socrates may have been one of the ancient world's greatest philosophers, but even he wasn't immune from having a Peg Bundy of his own. Meet Xanthippe, Socksy's first wife and his biggest pain in the ass.
In his Life of Socrates, Diogenes Laertius quotes Aristotle on Socrates's personal life. By his first wife, Xanthippe, he had a son named Lamprocles, but wife number two - whom he took without a dowry - gave him two boys. But Laertius speculates that Socrates might've been a bigamist, that "he had them both at the same time." Apparently, though, this was legal. At the time, the Athenians needed more men to flesh out their population, so their government allowed guys to take a second, sort-of-unofficial spouse.
Xanthippe wasn't the easiest of women to live with. Once, when Socrates had some friends over, she was ashamed of their family's status in life in comparison to that of their guests. He told his wife that their pals, if they were really good friends, would bear with them. Laertius reports that Xanthippe abused her husband (at least verbally) and "then threw water at him." Socrates shot back, "Did I not say that Xanthippe was thundering now, and would soon rain?" They even got into a scrap in the market-place, and rumor has it that Xanthippe once dumped the contents of a chamberpot (or dirty water, depending on the translation) on him.
Xanthippe dumps crap on her husband. Image via Purple Motes.
When Aristotle told Socksy that he shouldn't put up with Xanthippe's temper, Socrates said he was used to it, like the sound of geese cackling in the background was for the other philosopher. Aristotle retorted that at least geese gave him chicks, to which Socrates responded, "And Xanthippe brings me children." Socrates even boasted that he recommended living with a spirited women like Xanthippe because, after putting up with her, he could live with absolutely anyone. But at least Socksy was equable; even when times in Athens were bad, Socrates always had a smile on his face. When he was mocked in comic plays, he "laughed as heartily as when his wife Xanthippe drenched him with foul water," according to Seneca.
Socrates didn't necessarily regret getting married. Valerius Maximus reports that, when a youth asked Socksy if he should get married, the philosopher said the single life and the wedded life were both nightmares. If he tied the knot, he'd "fall prey to loneliness and childlessness," but, if he took a wife, he'd be subject to "perpetual anxiety, a tissue of complaints, harping on the dowry," and more.
But Xanthippe wasn't always portrayed as a huge nuisance. In Plato's Phaedo, on the day Socksy died, Xan hung out next to him and held their kid in her arms; when she saw his friends come by, she cried, "O Socrates, this is the last time that either you will converse with your friends, or they with you." As Sententiae Antiquae noted, "she appears to increase the pathos of the philosopher’s death."
Feature image via the Independent.