). The word
signifies originally a female
companion, but in its most common use denotes any woman who lived with
(συνεῖναι, πλησιάζειν, χρῆσθαι,
p. 762.197) a man in any other connexion than
lawful wedlock. It included every shade of meaning from a concubine who
might be a wife in all but the legal qualification of citizenship (e. g.
Aspasia to Pericles; cf. CONCUBINA
) to the lowest prostitute. The latter was properly called
a more opprobrious term; but
usually by the euphemistic name [p. 1.957]ἑταίρα
(Ath. xiii. p. 571 d-f, citing comic
writers; Anaxil. fr.
22 Meineke; Plut. Sol. 15
). Between different classes of
we find much the same
distinctions as in dissolute cities in modern times, modified of course by
the prevalence of slavery; the New Comedy, with its Latin adapters Plautus
and Terence, and the ἑταιρικοὶ διάλογοι
of Lucian, exhibit slave-girls owned by πορνοβοσκοί,
kept mistresses, whether bond or free;
private hetaerae living in houses by themselves, or sometimes two or three
together; the demi-monde,
with more or less fashionable
surroundings, represented by the great historic courtesans, Phryne, Lais,
&c.; and finally the assertors of women's rights to education and
culture, whose lives were almost without reproach, and of whom Aspasia is
the type. As persons of this class acted a prominent and influential part in
some of the Greek states, we cannot avoid in this work stating their
position and their relations to other classes of society. But as their
conduct, manners, ensnaring artifices, and impositions have at all times and
in all countries been the same, we shall confine ourselves to those points
which were peculiar to the hetaerae of Greece.
As might be expected, the fact that young men at Athens, previous to their
marriage, spent a great part of their time in the company of hetaerae, was
very leniently viewed; though stern moralists thought that it had been
otherwise in the “good old times” (Isocr. Areop.
§ 48). Marriage, indeed, produced on the whole a change in this
mode of living of young men, but in innumerable instances even married men
continued their intercourse with hetaerae, without drawing upon themselves
the censure of public opinion; it seems, on the contrary, evident from the
manner in which the history of one Lysias, a sophist, is told in the speech
(p. 1351.21 ff.), that such connexions
after marriage were not looked upon as anything extraordinary or
inconsistent, provided a man did not offend against public decency, or
altogether neglect his legitimate wife and the affairs of his household, as
was the case with Alcibiades. (Andoc. c. Alcib.
14). This irregular condition of private life among the Greeks seems to have
arisen chiefly from two causes: first from the unrestrained sensuality of
the Creek character; and, secondly, from the generally prevailing
indifference between husbands and wives. As regards the latter point,
matrimonial life in the historical times of Greece was very different from
that which we find described in the heroic age. How this change was brought
about is not clear; but it can scarcely be doubted that, generally speaking,
the Greeks looked upon marriage merely as a means of producing citizens for
the state. (Dem. c. Neaer.
p. 1386.122; Becker-Göll,
3.390 ff., &c.) The education of women
was almost entirely neglected; they were thought a kind of inferior beings,
less endowed by nature, and incapable of taking any part in public affairs
and of sympathising with their husbands. In an intellectual point of view,
therefore, they were not fit to be agreeable companions to their husbands,
who consequently sought elsewhere that which they did not find at home. It
is true that the history of Greece furnishes many pleasing examples of
domestic happiness and well-educated women, but these are exceptions, and
only confirm the general rule. A consequence of all this was, that women
were bound down by rules which men might violate with impunity; and a wife
appears to have had no right to proceed against her husband, even if she
could prove that he was unfaithful (Plaut. Mercat.
although she herself was subject to divorce if she was detected. But
neglect, cruelty, or riotous waste of the wife's fortune, superadded to
adultery, rendered the husband liable to a δίκη
The case in Alciphron (Epist.
who represents a wife threatening her husband, that unless he would give up
his dissolute mode of living, she would induce her father to bring a charge
against him, must have been of this latter kind (Becker-Göll,
2.88; Att. Process,
But to return to the hetaerae: the state not only tolerated, but protected
them, and obtained profit from them. Solon is said to have established a
(also called παιδισκεῖον, ἐργαστήριον
), in which prostitutes were kept (Athen. 13.569
d), and to have
built the temple of Aphrodite Pandemos with the profit which had been
obtained from them. At a later period the number of such houses at Athens
was increased, and the persons who kept them were called πορνοβοσκοί,
The conduct of the hetaerae in these
houses is described in Athenaeus (xiii. p. 568). All the hetaerae of such
houses, as well as individuals who lived by themselves and gained their
livelihood by prostitution, had to pay to the state a license-duty (πορνικὸν τέλος,
§ § 119, 120), and the collecting of this
tax was every year let by the senate to such persons (τελῶναι,
Philonides, ap. Polluc. 7.202) as were best acquainted with those who had to
pay it. The hetaerae were under the superintendence of the ἀγορανόμοι
(Suidas, s. v. Διάγραμμα
), and their places of abode were chiefly in the
Cerameicus. (Hesych. sub voce
) A ridiculous mistake of some
late grammarians as to the nature of the πορνικὸν
has been noticed under AGORANOMI
Even Boeckh thinks that it was a kind of
income-tax on their supposed profits! (P. E.
The number of private hetaerae, or such as did not live in a πορνεῖον,
was very great at Athens. They were,
however, generally not mere prostitutes, but acted at the same time as flute
or cithara players, and as dancers, and were as such frequently engaged to
add to the splendour of family sacrifices (Plaut. Epid.
64), or to enliven and heighten the pleasures of men at their symposia.
Their private abodes, where often two, three, and more lived together, were
also frequently places of resort for young men. (Isocr.
§ 48.) Most of these hetaerae not only took
the greatest care to preserve their physical beauty, and to acquire such
accomplishments as we just mentioned, but also paid considerable attention
to the cultivation of their minds. Thus the Arcadian Lastheneia was a
disciple of Plato (Athen. 12.
d), and Leontion a disciple of Epicurus (Athen. 13.588
b); Aspasia is
even said to have instructed Socrates and Pericles. Whatever [p. 1.958]
we may think of the historical truth of these and
similar reports, they are of importance to the historian, inasmuch as they
show in what light these hetaerae were looked upon by the ancients. It seems
to have been owing especially to their superiority in intellectual
cultivation over the female citizens, that men preferred their society and
conversation to those of citizens and wives; and that some hetaerae, such as
Aspasis, Lais, Phryne, and others, formed connexions with the most eminent
men of their age, and acquired considerable influence over their
contemporaries. The free and unrestrained conduct and conversation, which
were not subject to the strict conventional rules which honest women had to
observe; their wit and humour, of which so many instances are recorded; were
well calculated to ensnare young men, and to draw the attention of husbands
away from their wives. Women, however, of the intellect and character of
Aspasia were exceptions; and even Athenian citizens did not scruple to
introduce their wives and daughters to her circles, that they might learn
there the secrets by which they might gain and preserve the affections of
their husbands. The disorderly life of the majority of Greek hetaerae is
nowhere set forth in better colours than in the works of the writers who
belong to the so-called school of the Middle Comedy, and in the plays of
Plautus and Terence; with which may be compared Demosth. c.
p. 1355 ff., and Athen. xiii. It was formerly supposed that
at Athens a peculiar dress was by law prescribed to the hetaerae, but this
opinion is without any foundation. (Becker-Göll,
The town most notorious in Greece for the number of its hetaerae, as well as
for their refined manners and beauty, was Corinth. (Plato,
iii. p. 404 D; Dio Chrysost. Orat.
xxxvii. p. 119, Reiske; Aristoph. Pl. 149
, with the Schol.; and Schol ad
90; Athen. 13.
, &c.; Müller, Dor.
2.10.7.) Strabo (viii. p.378
) states that
the temple of Aphrodite in this town possessed more than one thousand
hetaerae, who were called ἱερόδουλοι,
who were the ruin of many a stranger who visited Corinth. (Wachsmuth,
vol. ii. p. 392.) Hence the name
was used as synonymous
was equivalent to ἑταιρεῖν.
(Eustath. ad Il.
Sparta, and in most other Doric states, the hetaerae seem never to have
acquired that importance which they had in other parts of Greece, and among
the Greeks of Asia Minor.
An important question is, who the hetaerae generally were? The ἱερόδουλοι
of Corinth were, as their name
indicates, persons who had dedicated themselves as slaves to Aphrodite; and
their prostitution was a kind of service to the goddess. [HIERODULI
] Those πόρναι
who were kept at Athens in public
brothels by the πορνοβοσκοὶ
slaves belonging to these πορνοβοσκοί,
compelled them to prostitute their persons for the purpose of enriching
themselves. The owners of these πόρναι
justly held in greater contempt than the unhappy victims themselves.
Sometimes, however, they were real prostitutes, who voluntarily entered into
a contract with a πορνοβοσκός:
were females who had been educated in better circumstances and for a better
fate, but had by misfortunes lost their liberty, and were compelled by want
to take to this mode of living. Among this last class we may also reckon
those girls who had been picked up as young children, and brought up by
for the purpose of
prostitution. An instance of this kind is Nicarete, a freed-woman, who had
contrived to procure seven young children, and afterwards compelled them to
prostitution, or sold them to men who wished to have the exclusive
possession of them. (Dem. c. Neaer.
p. 1351.18 ff.) Other
instances of the same kind are mentioned in the comedies of Plautus.
(Compare Isacus, Or.
19.) Thus all prostitutes kept in public or private houses were either real
slaves or at least looked upon and treated as such. Those hetaerae, on the
other hand, who lived alone either as mistresses of certain individuals or
as common hetaerae, were almost invariably strangers or aliens, or
freed-women. The cases in which daughters of Athenian citizens adopted the
life of a hetaera, as Lamia, the daughter of Cleanor (Athen. 13.577
), seem to have
occurred very seldom; and whenever such a case happened, the woman was by
law excluded from all public sacrifices and offices, sank down to the rank
of an alien, and as such became subject to the πορνικὸν τέλος
: she generally also changed her name. The
same degradation took place when an Athenian citizen kept a πορνεῖον,
which seems to have happened very
seldom. (Boeckh, P. E.
(Fr. Jacobs, Beiträge zur Gesch. des weiblich.
in his Vermischte Schriften,
Limburg-Brouwer, Histoire de la Civilisation morale et religieuse des
Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alterth.
p. 254 ff.)