Ancient Greek Prostitutes

Ancient Greek Prostitutes

In order to advertise their services, prostitutes in ancient Greece wore sandals that left the words "follow me" imprinted in the dirt as they walked.

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Prostitution involved both sexes differently; women of all ages and young men were prostitutes, for a predominantly male clientele. The social conditions of prostitutes are difficult to evaluate; as women, they were already marginalized in Greek society. It is quite clear what ancient Greek men thought of prostitutes: primarily, they are reproached for the commercial nature of the activity. The greed of prostitutes is a running theme in Greek comedy. An explanation for their behavior is that a prostitute's career tended to be short, and their income decreased with the passage of time: a young and pretty prostitute, across all levels of the trade, could earn more money than her older, less attractive colleagues.

Finally, a number of vases represent scenes of abuse, where the prostitute is threatened with a stick or sandal, and forced to perform acts considered by the Greeks to be degrading: fellatio, sodomy or sex with two partners. Sexual relations with slaves does not appear to have been a widespread option; first mention of it does not occur until 390 BC. Another reason for resorting to prostitutes was sexual taboo: fellatio was considered degrading by the Greeks. The Greek reasoning is explained by Aeschines, as he cites the dokimasia: the citizen who prostituted himself or causes himself to be so maintained is deprived of making public statements because "he who has sold his own body for the pleasure of others would not hesitate to sell the interests of the community as a whole". According to Polybius, the accusations of Timaeus against Agathocles reprise the same theme: a prostitute is someone who abdicates their own dignity for the desires of another, "a common prostitute available to the most dissolute, a jackdaw, a buzzard presenting his behind to whoever wants it. The categories of male prostitution should be so separated: Aeschines, in his The Prosecution of Timarkhos distinguishes between the prostitute and the kept boy.

Categories: History

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