Two banqueters and an hetaera

In ancient Greek society, prostitutes were independent and sometimes influential women who were required to wear distinctive dresses and had to pay taxes. There is evidence that, unlike most other women in Greek society at the time, hetaerae were educated. Some similarities have been found between the ancient Greek Hetaera and the Japanese Geisha, complex figures that are perhaps in an intermediate position between prostitution and courtesans.

Hetaera, Phintias Painter, c. 510 BC

Among the most famous were Aspasia, long-time companion of the Athenian politician Pericles, and Thais, a concubine of Alexander the Great.

Hetaerae appear to have been regarded as distinct from pornê or simple prostitutes, and also distinguished from mistresses or wives. In his speech Against Neaera, Demosthenes is quoted as saying:

"We have hetaerae for pleasure, pallakae to care for our daily body’s needs and gynaekes to bear us legitimate children and to be faithful guardians of our households."

The male form of the word, hetaeros (pl. hetaeroi) signified male companions in the sense of a business or political associate. A hetaera would perform the same role along with her sexual aspects, while a mistress and wife would not.



Euphronios, St. Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum, 644

Lais of Corinth, Hans Holbein the Younger, 1526, Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland

Alcibiades with Hetaerae


Lais of Corinth


See also



Courtesan fastening her sandal. Neck of a red-figured amphora (525-515 BC) attributed to the Oltos Painter , Louvre

Prostitutes and courtesans in the ancient world , Christopher A. Faraone (Editor), Laura K. McClure (Editor), University of Wisconsin Press 2006

Index Greek Life

Index Greek Life

Ancient Greece

Science, Technology , Medicine , Warfare, , Biographies , Life , Cities/Places/Maps , Arts , Literature , Philosophy ,Olympics, Mythology , History , Images

Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire

Science, Technology, Arts, , Warfare , Literature, Biographies, Icons, History

Modern Greece

Cities, Islands, Regions, Fauna/Flora ,Biographies , History , Warfare, Science/Technology, Literature, Music , Arts , Film/Actors , Sport , Fashion



Greek-Library - Scientific Library

Retrieved from ""
All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License





Hellenica World