Aspasia, a Milesian woman who fixed her residence at Athens about the middle of the 5th century B. C. By her great eloquence, political and literary ability, and personal fascination, she at once obtained a commanding position among the leaders of the state, and gained the affection of Pericles so far that he separated himself from his wife and made As-pasia his consort as well in private life as in political affairs. The fact that the laws of Athens conferred no rights upon foreign women, and allowed no actually legitimate marriage with them, has given rise to the impression that Aspasia was a courtesan. The many enemies of Pericles, especially the satirists of the time, also conveyed this idea by their attacks, but it seems to have been without foundation; she was held in universal esteem, and her union with Pericles was as close as the Athenian law allowed, and continued through his life. The enemies of Pericles attributed to her influence the outbreak of the war with Samos and of the Peloponnesian war; but the best historians deny this. She is also said with obvious exaggeration to have instructed Pericles in oratory; but it is certain that she assisted him greatly in the government, and that her own eloquence was remarkable.
When the Athenians named Pericles the Olympian Zeus, Aspasia was called Hera (Juno). Her house was the resort of all the leading statesmen and philosophers of Athens; and in many of their works her great abilities are celebrated. After the death of Pericles (429) she attached herself to a cattle dealer named Lysicles, whom she instructed in oratory and by her influence raised in position. Her son by Pericles took his father's name, being legitimated by a popular decree, and became a general of high rank. He was put to death with five others in consequence of the unsuccessful result of the battle of Arginusoa (406).