Thaïs (pron. "Tha-is") was a famous Greek hetaera who lived during the time of Alexander the Great and accompanied him on his campaigns.

According to Cleitarchus's report, she made Alexander burn down Persepolis on a whim. Other sources indicate the burning of Persepolis had been a well-premeditated act of revenge against the Persians. Thaïs later became the Queen consort of Ptolemy I Soter, king of Egypt. After he divorced her, she stayed on in the kingdom as his trusted friend and Queen of Memphis.

Her larger than life persona has been the subject of many novels, the most famous of which are listed below.


Thais is this, the harlot, whose false lip
Answer'd her doting paramour that ask'd,
'Thankest me much!',
Dante, The Divine Comedy

In the Divine Comedy, Thaïs is one of just a few females whom Dante Alighieri sees on his journey through Hell. She is located in the circle of the flatterers, plunged in a trench of excrement, having been consigned there, we are told by Virgil, for having uttered to her lover that she was "marvellously" grateful to him.

Anatole France wove a historical novel, Thais (1901) about the figure of Thais, in which the ascetic Paphnutius, a hermit from the Egyptian desert tries to convert the libertine beauty of Alexandria, but finds himself enmeshed in his own pride in reforming the famous beauty.

Thaïs is also an opera by Jules Massenet that was inspired by the historical figure.

Thais is also the heroine of a novel by the Russian author Ivan Efremov, called Thais of Athens. It chronicles her life from meeting Alexander The Great to her death as queen of Memphis in Egypt. Similarly to Mika Waltari's Sinuhe, The Egyptian, Ivan Efremov's well researched novel is a great introduction in the history, customs and geography of the ancient world, since it follows Thais' travels throughout the Hellenic lands.


Thais calls upon Alexander the Great to put the palace of Persepolis to the torch by Gustavo Simoni


Madame Geraldine Farrar as Thaïs in the opera of that name.

Thais is also the name of the biggest city in the MMORPG Tibia.

Her name is not to be confused with the plural of a citizen of Thailand.


A transcript of Cleitarchus's account of the burning of Persepolis

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