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Archeanassa or Archaeanassa (Greek Ἀρχεάνασσα, Ἀρχαιάνασσα), a native of Colophon, was a hetaera or courtesan living in Athens in the late 5th century BC. According to biographical sources about Plato, the philosopher as a young man was deeply in love with Archeanassa and addressed a four-line epigram to her. The poem is quoted in full by Diogenes Laertius in his biography of Plato and by Athenaeus in a survey of famous courtesans.[1] The same poem is also found, in almost identical form, in the Byzantine compilation called Anthologia Palatina. In that source, although it is still addressed to Archeanassa, its authorship is attributed not to Plato but to Asclepiades.[2] Modern scholars tend to accept the attribution to Plato as valid.[3]


  1. ^ Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 3.31; Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 13.589c
  2. ^ Anthologia Graeca 7.217
  3. ^ E.g. E. Diehl, Anthologia Lyrica Graeca fasc. 1 (1954) p. 104 ("Plato. 8"); D. L. Page, Epigrammata Graeca (1975) p. 49 ("Plato. IX")

The existence of Archeanassa (also known by Archaenassa or Archianassa) cannot be proven today with any direct primary sources. She is well known for being Plato's hetaera or courtesan because of the epigram he dedicated to her. Diogenes Laertius, biographer of philosophers, and Athenaeus both directly acknowledge Plato as both created and speaker of the four line epigram dedicated to Archeanassa.

In "The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers" by Diogenes Laertius, (translated by C.D. Yonge), Laertius says: "There is also a tradition that he had a mistress named Archianassa, on whom he wrote the following lines:

         I have a misstress fair from Colophon,
         Archianassa, on whose very wrinkles
         Sits genial love: hard must have been the fate,
         of him who met her earliest blaze of beauty,
         Surely he must have been completely scorched"

In his 13th book, "Athenaeus: The Deiosophists", Athenaeus argues: "...and did not our admirable Plato love Archeanassa, a courtesan of Colophon? So that he even composed this song in her honor:-

         My mistress is the fair Archeanassa
         From Colophon, a damsel in whom Love
         Sits on her very wrinkles irresistible.
         Wretched are those, whom in the flower of youth,
         when first she came across the sea, she met;
         They must have been entirely consumed" (p. 589).

The discrepancy in Archeanassa's existence, and furthermore the exact wording of Plato's epigram to her, is the work of Dikrearchus and his importance with Greek philosophers. He censured Plato's impulses and fancies because relations with Hetaerae's was seen as risky business during this time. Women like Archeanassa came with a chase, and exhaustive and expensive pursuit.

Her life is assumed to have been an extraordinary one, considering her being a woman living in Athens, Ancient Greece during the late 5th century. She was a hetara/courtesan, which entailed her to a list of astounding things. Hetaeras in Ancient Greece were viewed completely differently from the majority of women in Ancient Greece.

Archeanassa was a highly educated, independent, un-wed woman. She was well known for her intelligence and achievements, so much so that she was welcomed in the conversations and gatherings of high-ranked men of the time period. Ancient Greek society dictated her to dress apart from that of regular women and to pay taxes just as the men did.

That Archeanassa was a heater, and that hetaera's were known for their love affairs with powerful men of this time period, is true; she should not be confused for a prostitute. She had the respect of these powerful philosophers and politicians. She is quoted as being "the first (womanly) snare at the summit." In other words, she was the first to trap the highest level of government officials.