The story of Socrates is well known from the writings of his student and amanuensis Plato. Less well known is the story of his wife, Xanthippe.

Described by Plato as "shrewish and scolding," she was constantly upbraiding Socrates for their poverty and low social standing. She could not understand why he did not spend much time at home, preferring to get naked and oiled and have dinner in the company of other naked, oiled men while they discussed philosophy.

This medieval brass sculpture, which doubles as a vinegar cruet-- thus slyly playing on Xanthippe's temperament-- depicts one of their landmark domestic disturbances in the Athens neighborhood where they lived. Annoyed that all of her neighbors had horses while their stable held only manuscripts and bills, she one day threw a saddle on Socrates and demanded to be taken to the shopping mall.

Ever the obliging philosopher, Socrates promptly galloped off to the local agora, pausing now and then to nibble grass, which embarrassed Xanthippe no end. After dropping her off he trotted over to his buddy Meno's place where they got naked and oiled and discussed geometry until it was time to pick her up again.

 

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"Sidesaddle on Socrates"
Gaul, c. 1400
33.5 cm ~ Brass