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ASPASIA IN THE COMPANY OF THE
Two courtezans have rendered the name of Aspasia illustrious in Greece.-One was the mistress of the younger Cyrus, who became, after the defeat of that prince, the favourite of Artaxerxes Mnemon. This personage, it is said, possessed her thirty-seven years, and then surrendered her to his son Darius, who was smitten with her charms. Such, however, was the ascendancy of her beauty, that Artaxerxes repented of the separation, and took her from his rival, in order to make her a priestess of the sun. We must be careful, however, not to confound this Aspasia, called originally Milto, with the celebrated Ionian, who seduced the Athenians, no less by the strength and purity of her mind, the extent of her acquirements, and the charms of her eloquence, than by her beauty and her grace. This Aspasia (the subject of the present picture) who was born at Miletium, is connected with the political history of Greece, in consequence of the influence she displayed over Pericles, who quitted his former wife to marry her. She induced this prince to undertake several wars contrary to the interest of the Athenians. But it does not appear that she excited their resentment; for upon the death of Pericles, she had sufficient authority to raise an obscure person, to whose fortunes she did not disdain to attach herself, to the first offices of the republic. The eulogiums
of philosophers contributed to extend the reputation of Aspasia, which was advanced, in a particular manner, by the applause of Socrates. Her society was courted by persons of the first distinction; and it is not unreasonable to suppose that so skilful a politician as Pericles, was highly gratified at possessing, in this seducing woman, the means of captivating the most learned and illustrious characters in Athens.
M. Monsiau has represented Aspasia seated amid the greatest men of the age. Pericles is observed leaning upon her chair, while she disputes with a degree of energy that interests her auditors, Socrates is opposite to her, and turns round to address himself to Alcibiades; beside him, is the noted warrior and historian, Xenophon. The personage wreathed with laurel is Parrhasius, the famous painter. Sophocles and Euripides, the great ornaments of the Greek drama; and Phidris, the most perfect sculptor of antiquity, are among the characters, placed by the artist, in this composition. Plato, and the orator Isocrates, are likewise introduced, which presents an anachronism, in some sort pardonable, it being the object of the painter to exhibit Aspasia surrounded by all those who were pleased to pay homage to her charms.
This picture, the figures of which are about two feet high, is composed with much judgment and effect.