#NaPoWriMo – Day Eleven – Aspasia

The greatest honour a woman can have is to be least spoken of in men’s company, whether in praise or in criticism.

Pericles’ Funeral Oration (after 490 BCE) from Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War


The Assassin’s Creed games have taken your image,
placed you at the centre of their storyline
as the ultimate villain
and laid Pericles’ death at your feet.
It makes me wonder if Thucydides was wishing you away
when he wrote the Funeral Oration in his play,
tongued words of rebuke into Pericles’ mouth
to made it clear that you would have been best,
sticking to your shadows
with the other none-citizens.
Or better yet, if you could have pretended the role
of a true Athenian wife:
silent, and isolated at her spinning
in another room,
while the men burned hot in their political worlds
instead of staking yourself a place among them,
and into history,
as just too brilliant to possibly be respectable
for where’s there is smoke there is always fire.


The men may have their forums, but I still speak
and build my own places of discussion,
for there is a freedom in love
without the binds of law
when means my tongue has no need to bow down
to politicians or their stages.
After two and a half millennium I am dust
and nothing remains of what I wrote
except in the gossip of others’
which is always a shade of fiction on the truth
and too often without inspiration
for how to bring down another woman
stepping outside the chalk lines men draw.
Do not believe all that is written,
or all that is said,
it becomes too easy to make figures
when the known history is soft enough to mould
into shapes that suit the reader best.

write a two-part poem, in the form of an exchange of letters. The first stanza (or part) should be in the form of a letter that you write either to yourself or to a famous fictional or historical person. The second part should be the letter you receive in response.

NaPoWriMo – Day Eleven Prompt

If you would like a half-an-hour podcast of who Aspasia was exactly, then I thoroughly recommend Natalie Haynes episode on her from Natalie Haynes Stands Up For The Classics on BBC 4. She was the lover of the Athenian politician Pericles, (known as the father of Democracy) and utterly unique for her time. Once I’ve finished my post on the women of the Peasant Revolt I think I’ll have to spend some time pulling together a blog post about her, because she was an amazing historical figure pushing the boundaries of what women were allowed to do, and what was assumed about them.


    1. The Natalie Haynes podcast is a great place to start, and she tries to focus in on a woman for a least one episode each series which isn’t all that easy when doing a series on ancient history. The surviving documentation regarding women is spotty to say the best.
      I stumbled on another podcast called Badass Women Of History on Spotify today which might also interest you. I’m currently working on building a second poetry collection and I want it to focus in on women from history so I’m spending a lot of time searching out resources that look at women in history and try to uncover the ones that we may have forgotten.


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