Lucas Cranach the Elder, Phyllis and Aristotle, 1530

The tale of Phyllis and Aristotle originated in medieval Europe and belongs to the ‘Power of Women’ stories, an artistic/literary topos showing ‘heroic or wise men dominated by women.’ The story varies from country to country, but the gist of it is that Aristotle warns his pupil Alexander (the king’s son) to stay away from Phyllis (the king’s mistress), but Aristotle can’t even take his own advice and is beguiled by Phyllis. She goes full dominatrix on him, and he agrees to be ridden like a horse, thereby humiliating him in front of the court and proving that women can overpower even the greatest male intellect.

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