Hetaera’s, one of a class of professional independent courtesans (prostitutes) of ancient Greece who, besides developing physical beauty, cultivated their minds and talents to a degree far beyond that allowed to by the average woman. Usually living fashionably alone, or sometimes two or three together, the hetairai enjoyed an enviable and respected position of wealth and were protected and taxed by the state. Though they were generally foreigners, slaves, or freedwomen, their freedom was greater than that of the married woman, who was bound to seclusion. That their homes were frequented by married men was not censured by society. They were often hired as entertainers for symposia and family sacrifices. The hetairai of Corinth and Athens were especially noted for their outstanding physical and cultural accomplishments. Phryne and Lais are historical representatives.
Phryne was a famous hetaera (courtesan) of Ancient Greece (4th century BC). Phryne's real name was Mnēsarétē, she was also known for her yellowish, or "golden", complexion so she was called Phrýnē, "toad", a name given to other courtesans as well. She was born at Thespiae in Boeotia, but seems to have lived in Athens for a lot of her life. According to Athenaeus, she acquired so much wealth by her extraordinary beauty that she offered to fund the rebuilding of the walls of Thebes, which had been destroyed by Alexander the Great (336 BC), on the condition that the words, "Destroyed by Alexander” were placed along the wall, restored by Phryne the courtesan." Due to her beauty, she also inspired the much later painting by artist Jean-Léon Gérôme, Phryné devant l'Areopage (Phryne before the Areopagus, 1861)
Prostitution was legal in Athens, as long as it was not practiced by an Athenian citizen. This meant that prostitutes tended either to be slaves, whether female or male, or metics, who, not being born of Athenian parents could not themselves be citizens but who did have certain rights as...
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