You’re undoubtedly considered by your friends and wishers-of-well to be a reasonably smart person. Most likely you consider yourself fairly well-read. Even an educated person.
And yet it is possible – even probable – that you were not aware, before this moment, that one of the most popular legends and artistic motifs of the Northern Renaissance was the tale of a woman named Phyllis who once rode the Greek philosopher Aristotle like a pony.
But she did. She rode him. Like a pony.
It is likely as true as any other legend that has been passed down to us about Aristotle and Alexander the Great, so I have decided to give it the same credence I give the others.
Don’t believe me? “Surely I would have learned about this in my many Greek lessons as I pu’ed the gowans fine, Mallory. No one would have kept this from me.” I GIVE YOU THE LAY OF ARISTOTLE AND PHYLLIS:
Once upon a time, Aristotle taught Alexander that he should restrain himself from frequently approaching his wife, who was very beautiful, lest he should impede his spirit from seeking the general good. Alexander acquiesed to him. The queen, when she perceived this and was upset, began to draw Aristotle to love her. Many times she crossed paths with him alone, with bare feet and disheveled hair, so that she might entice him.
At last, being enticed, he began to solicit her carnally. She says,
“This I will certainly not do, unless I see a sign of love, lest you be testing me. Therefore, come to my chamber crawling on hand and foot, in order to carry me like a horse. Then I’ll know that you aren’t deluding me.”
When he had consented to that condition, she secretly told the matter to Alexander, who lying in wait apprehended him carrying the queen. When Alexander wished to kill Aristotle, in order to excuse himself, Aristotle says,
“If thus it happened to me, an old man most wise, that I was deceived by a woman, you can see that I taught you well, that it could happen to you, a young man.”
We could talk about the “Power of Women” motif popular at the time, which had more to do with reinforcing gender norms than with riding men like ponies, but let’s not!
Here is Phyllis, wearing a beautiful feathered hat, riding one of the most significant philosophers in Western history like a wee little pony at the greatest birthday party in the world.
Here is Phyllis with a whip, riding Aristotle as if he were a beautiful baby horse.
I’ve tried to hold off on “Pony” lyrics for as long as I can, but:
I’M JUST A BACHELOR
LOOKING FOR A PARTNER
SOMEONE WHO KNOWS HOW TO RIDE
WITHOUT EVEN FALLING OFF
IF YOU’RE HORNY
LET’S DO IT
COME AND JUMP ON IT
HEY ARISTOTLE, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE EFFICIENT CAUSE OF THIS NAKED LADY RIDING ON YOU LIKE A PONY
ON HIS HANDS AND KNEES, SO MUCH FOR THAT ACTIVE, ENSOULING MASCULINE ELEMENT HUH BUDDY
YOU RIDE PLATO’S MOST FAMOUS STUDENT, PHYLLIS
RIDE HIM LIKE HE RODE ON PLATO’S REPUTATION ALL THE WAY TO THESSALONIKI
REMEMBER HOW ARISTOTLE WAS PRETTY MUCH RESPONSIBLE FOR WESTERN PHILOSOPHY, WELL GUESS WHAT, A LADY RODE ON HIS BACK LIKE HE WAS A PRETTY MARE NAMED MISTY OF CHINCOTEAGUE
Anyhow, that’s all I know about philosophy.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.