Prostitution is a taboo culture of sex-trade that exists as an open secret but illegal. Prostitution is largely based on organizational setups like brothels or furthered by individual call girls.
During the Middle Ages, The Ancient Greek Prostitute who was the perfect combination of beauty, brains, and wittiness. Phryne, From the fourth century BC. She is best known for her trial for impiety, where she was defended by the orator Hypereides.
Phryne's real name was Mnesarete, but owing to her yellowish complexion she was called Phrýnē. This was a nickname frequently given to other courtesans and prostitutes as well.
Phryne was born around 371 BC in Thespiae but spent most of her life in Athens. Because of her stunning beauty, she became a much sought after model, posing for various painters and sculptors, including Praxiteles, who made her the face of his most famous work Aphrodite of Cnidus, one of the most famous works of Greek art. Needless to say, her nude statue became the tourist magnet for the city of Cnidus, propelling her into being the most famous courtesan of ancient Greece.
She became so rich and powerful that she even proposed paying for the reconstruction of the walls of Thebes, which had been destroyed by Alexander the Great in 336 BC. Peeved by the idea that a woman could put in such an offer, Phryne’s offer was rejected by the local authorities of Thebes. But her fame continued to grow unabated far and wide.
But Phryne was more than just beauty. She interacted and held her own with some of the most famous intellects of those times. She was also noted for her independent views, wittiness, and curiosity that could put the most famous Greek philosophers in shame. Many of the famous writers( like Plutarch) of those times conveniently ignore her intelligence in favor of her exquisite physical body.
A good number of anecdotes showcasing Phryne’s wit and education are mentioned n the book Deipnosophists by Athenaeus, who calls her a goddess of wordplay and practical thinking. Athenaeus also goes a bit overboard when he describes her supposedly overpowering beauty in the below sentences.
“Phryne was a really beautiful woman, even in those parts of her person which were not generally seen: on which account it was not easy to see her naked; for she used to wear a tunic which covered her whole person, and she never used the public baths. But on the solemn assembly of the Eleusinian festival, and the feast of the Poseidonia, then she laid aside her garments in the sight of all the assembled Greeks and having undone her hair, she went to bathe in the sea, and it was from her that Apelles took his picture of Aphrodite Anadyomene; and Praxiteles the sculptor, who was a lover of hers, modeled the Aphrodite of Cnidus from her body.”
Athenaeus also recorded that Phryne was possibly the richest and most powerful self-made woman of her time.
Around 340 BC, Phryne was accused of affronting the gods by appearing nude during a religious ceremony. At her trial, the orator Hyyperides -her defender and also one of her lovers- ripped open Phryne’s robe and exposed her to the court.
It seemed to have worked. The judges ruled in Phryne’s favor after the inspired action of Hypereides and her story went on to inspire many works of art, including the iconic painting Phryne before the Areopagus by Jean-Léon Gérôme, the 1904 painting Phryne, by José Frappa, and the sculpture Phryne Before the Judges, by Albert Weine.
Phryne became one of the most famous women of her day, celebrated in word, painting, and stone alike. Her story has survived thousands of years simply because it became the ultimate symbol of freedom against sexism and repression and the advocating of equal rights for women.
Yes, some might argue that some of her choices in life weren’t the most ideal or moral for a lady. But, then she created her own space and a strong identity at a time when women just lived a cloistered existence under the ever perpetual male control.it is this fiercely independent streak of hers worth remembering and saluting from her nearly forgotten story in history.