Hetaira

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For similarly spelled words, see Hetair- (disambiguation).
Jean-Léon Gérôme's painting Phryne Revealed Before the Areopagus depicts the hetaira Phryne on trial. The sight of her nude body, according to legend, persuaded the jurors to acquit her.

Hetairai (/hɪˈtr/; sing. hetaira /hɪˈtrə/; also hetaera /hɪˈtɪrə/, pl. hetaerae /hɪˈtɪr/; Ancient Greek: ἑταίρα, "companion," pl. ἑταῖραι) were a type of prostitute in ancient Greece.

Traditionally, historians of ancient Greece have distinguished between hetairai and pornai, another class of Greek prostitute. In contrast to pornai, who provided sex for a large number of clients in brothels or on the street, hetairai were thought to have had only a few men as clients at any one time, to have had long-term relationships with them, and to have provided companionship and intellectual stimulation as well as sex.[1] More recently, however, historians have questioned the extent to which there was really a distinction between hetaira and porne. The second edition of the Oxford Classical Dictionary, for instance, held that "hetaira" was a euphemism for any kind of prostitute.[2] This position is supported by Konstantinos Kapparis, who holds that Apollodorus' famous tripartite division of the types of women in the speech Against Neaera ("We have courtesans for pleasure, concubines for the daily tending of the body, and wives in order to beget legitimate children and have a trustworthy guardian of what is at home."[3]) classes all prostitutes together, under the term "hetairai".[4][5]

Even when the term "hetaira" was used to refer to a specific class of prostitute, though, scholars disagree on what precisely the line of demarcation was. Kurke emphasises the fact that hetairai veiled the fact that they were selling sex through the language of gift-exchange, while pornai explicitly commodified sex.[6] She claims that both hetairai and pornai could be slaves or free, and might or might not work for a pimp.[6] Kapparis says that hetairai were high-class prostitutes, and cites Dover as pointing to the long-term nature of hetairai's relationships with individual men.[7] Miner disagrees with Kurke, claiming that hetairai were always free, not slaves.[8]

This painting, on the inside of a kylix, depicts a hetaira playing kottabos, a drinking game played at symposia in which the participants flicked the dregs of their wine at a target.

Along with sexual services, women described as hetairai rather than pornai seem to have often been educated, and have provided companionship.[9] According to Kurke, the concept of hetairism was a product of the symposium, where hetairai were permitted as sexually-available companions of the male party-goers.[10] In Athenaeus' Deipnosophistai, hetairai are described as providing "flattering and skillful conversation": something which is, elsewhere in classical literature, seen as a significant part of the hetaira's role.[11] Particularly, being "witty" or "refined" (αστεία) were seen as attributes which distinguished hetairai from common pornai.[12] Hetairai are likely to have been musically educated, too.[13]

Free hetairai could become very wealthy, and control their own finances. However, their careers could be short, and if they did not earn enough to support themselves, they might have been forced to resort to working in brothels, or working as a pimp, in order to ensure a continued income as they got older.[14]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kurke, Leslie (1997). "Inventing the "Hetaira": Sex, Politics, and Discursive Conflict in Archaic Greece". Classical Antiquity 16 (1): 107–108. 
  2. ^ Hammond, N.G.L.; Scullard, H.H., eds. (1970). The Oxford Classical Dictionary (2 ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 512. 
  3. ^ Kapparis, Konstantinos A. (1999). Apollodoros 'Against Neaira' [D.59]. p. 161. 
  4. ^ Kapparis, Konstantinos A. (1999). Apollodoros 'Against Neaira' [D.59]. p. 5. 
  5. ^ Kapparis, Konstantinos A. (1999). Apollodoros 'Against Neaira' [D.59]. pp. 422–423. 
  6. ^ a b Kurke, Leslie (1997). "Inventing the "Hetaira": Sex, Politics, and Discursive Conflict in Archaic Greece". Classical Antiquity 16 (1): 108. 
  7. ^ Kapparis, Konstantinos A. (1999). Apollodoros 'Against Neaira' [D.59]. p. 408. 
  8. ^ Miner, Jess (2003). "Courtesan, Concubine, Whore: Apollodorus' Deliberate Use of Terms for Prostitutes". The American Journal of Philology 124 (1): 23. 
  9. ^ Kapparis, Konstantinos A. (1999). Apollodoros 'Against Neaira' [D.59]. p. 6. 
  10. ^ Kurke, Leslie (1997). "Inventing the "Hetaira": Sex, Politics, and Discursive Conflict in Archaic Greece". Classical Antiquity 16 (1): 115. 
  11. ^ McClure, Laura (2003). "Subversive Laughter: The Sayings of Courtesans in Book 13 of Athenaeus' Deipnosophistae". The American Journal of Philology 124 (2): 265. 
  12. ^ McClure, Laura (2003). "Subversive Laughter: The Sayings of Courtesans in Book 13 of Athenaeus' Deipnosophistae". The American Journal of Philology 124 (2): 268. 
  13. ^ Hamel, Debra (2003). Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. New Haven & London: Yale University Press. p. 12. 
  14. ^ Kapparis, Konstantinos A. (1999). Apollodoros 'Against Neaira' [D.59]. p. 7. 

Further Reading[edit]