I will now mention to you, O Cynulcus, an Ionian story (spinning it out, as Aeschylus says,) about courtesans, beginning with the beautiful Corinth, since you have reproached me with having been a schoolmaster in that city. It is an ancient custom at Corinth (as Chamæleon of Heraclea relates, in his treatise on Pindar), whenever the city addresses any supplication to Venus about any important matter, to employ as many courtesans as possible to join in the supplication; and they, too, pray to the goddess, and afterwards they are present at the sacrifices. And when the king of Persia was leading his army against Greece (as Theopompus also relates, and so does Timæus, in his seventh book), the Corinthian courtesans offered prayers for the safety of Greece, going to the temple of Venus. On which account, after the Corinthians had consecrated a picture to the goddess (which remains even to this day), and as in this picture they had painted the portraits of the courtesans who made this [p. 917] supplication at the time, and who were present afterwards, Simonides composed this epigram:—
These damsels, in behalf of Greece, and allAnd even private individuals sometimes vow to Venus, that if they succeed in the objects for which they are offering their vows, they will bring her a stated number of courtesans.
Their gallant countrymen, stood nobly forth,
Praying to Venus, the all-powerful goddess;
Nor was the queen of beauty willing ever
To leave the citadel of Greece to fall
Beneath the arrows of the unwarlike Persians.