Lasthenia of Mantinea was a female student at the Acedemy. Mantinea was a Greek city state in Acadia. It was defeated by the Spartans in 418 BCE. We know of the existence of this woman philosopher through Diogenes Laertius. In his Lives of the Eminent Philosophers , Diogenes Laeritus states:
"The female pupils of Plato, Lasthenia of Mantinea, and Axiothea of Phlius, are said to have become disciples of Speusippus also."
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Speussippus is the philosopher to whom Dionysius wrote rather petulantly:
"And one may learn philosophy too from your female disciple from Arcadia; moreover, Plato used to take his pupils without exacting any fee from them; but you collect tribute from yours, whether willing or unwilling." Source: Life of Speusippus in Lives of the Eminent Philosophers
What is it about Mantinea that it could give rise to more than one woman philosopher?
In the Symposium of Plato, Socrates says that he learned about Beauty and Love from Diotima of Mantinea. She is not the only woman who Socrates acknowledges as his teacher in the field of philosophy but she is the one for whom we have so much of her doctrine.
In the Symposium Socrates gives a full description of her view of the progress from natural beauty to the grasp of the essential Eidos of Beauty itself.
Lathenia of Mantinea comes on the scene at a much later time. She is a 'free woman of the stranger class' in Athens. As you recall Athens had its slave class. Of the free classes, there were two categories. Citizens and Strangers.
Women citizens in Athens were circumscribed socially and by law. No woman could live on her own. Women were either in the household of their fathers or their husbands. If her husband died, his will could designate both her and her dowry to another man (citizen) of his choice. If there was no will, she could return to her fathers home or in some cases marry again - often to a widower relative. If her second husband died, she could, if she chose, go to live with one of her grown sons. But in no case could a citizen women live on her own.
The 'stranger women' who came to Athens from other city states were in a different situation. They could live on their own BUT they had absolutely no protection of the law. As a result many developed liaisons with Athenian citizen men in order to secure their protection.
Aspasia of Miletus is one woman who made such a choice when she came to Athens.
But Lasthenia of Mantinea choose a different route. Instead of seeking an Athenian male citizen as friend and protector, she dressed in men's clothing and attended Plato's Academy openly.
Lasthenia of Mantinea was not the only woman to make such a choice in order to study philosophy 'with the boys'. We know that Axiothea of Philesia also disguised herself as a man in order to attend classes in philosophy at the Academy.
What is somewhat puzzling about this is that dressing in mens clothing by Lasthenia of Matninea and Axiothea of Philesia was well enough known that no less than Diogenes remarks on it in his, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers
We know nothing of Lasthenia of Mantinea's thought or work. All we know is that there was a woman from Mantinea, a city state in Arcadia, who wanted to study philosophy so much...who wanted to be a philosopher that she, Lasthenia of Mantiniea disguised herself in men's attire each and every day that she attended the Academy.
We know that she studied with Speusippus also, becoming one of his disciples, presumably after the death of Plato.
If you wish to see her name in Diogenes Laertius' book, just scroll down this section about Plato until you come to the section about Plato's disciples and you will see Lasthenia of Mantinea.
Lasthenia of Mantinea is one of more than 40 philosophers featured in Busted!! A Pictorial History of Women Philosophers DVD Volume 1.
Society for the Study of Women Philosophers