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

(Right side Venus and Amor, Hans Holbein the Younger as a symbol of true love)

Hyccara in North Sicily

Lais was a legendary courtesan of ancient Greece who was active in Corinth. She was born in Hyccara in Sicily and was carried away by the Athenian general Nicias. The fees she charged for her sexual favors were legendary (10,000 drachmas when she began). She was well known not only for her beauty and fee, but also for her conversation and charm. Her services and attention were sought intensely by the greatest philosophers and leaders of her day. Diogenes and the sculptor Myron both sought her out. Demosthenes famously walked out after being told her price, saying ‘I do not buy repentance for ten thousand drachmae.’ (In Greek: Οὐκ ὠνοῦμαι μυρίων δραχμῶν μεταμέλειαν.) She ridiculed the social pretensions of Corinth and observed that the philosophers were as often at her door as the rest of Athens.

She moved to Thessaly and took up with a favorite youth named Hippostratus. The women of the area banded together and had her assassinated in the Temple of Aphrodite around 340 BC.

I Lais, once of Greece the pride,
For whom so many suitors sigh'd,
Now aged grown, at Venus' shrine
The mirror of my youth resign ;
Since what I am I will not see,
And what I was I cannot be
. Greek Anthology

See also



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