We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Greek Prostitutes in the Ancient Mediterranean, 800 BCE–200 CE

Allison Glazebrook

Publication Year: 2011

Greek Prostitutes in the Ancient Mediterranean, 800 BCE–200 CE challenges the often-romanticized view of the prostitute as an urbane and liberated courtesan by examining the social and economic realities of the sex industry in Greco-Roman culture. Departing from the conventional focus on elite society, these essays consider the Greek prostitute as displaced foreigner, slave, and member of an urban underclass.
    The contributors draw on a wide range of material and textual evidence to discuss portrayals of prostitutes on painted vases and in the literary tradition, their roles at symposia (Greek drinking parties), and their place in the everyday life of the polis. Reassessing many assumptions about the people who provided and purchased sexual services, this volume yields a new look at gender, sexuality, urbanism, and economy in the ancient Mediterranean world.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (46.1 KB)
pp. v-vi

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (45.7 KB)
pp. vii

This project began over breakfast at the 2005 APA/AIA meetings in Boston. The first step was a panel at the AIA in San Diego in 2007. We wish to thank Laura K. McClure for suggesting at the end of that session that we consider publishing the papers as a collection. The volume is not simply a publication of those papers, however, but a continuation and an expansion of the explorations on the brothel ...

Abbreviations and Transliterations

pdf iconDownload PDF (61.6 KB)
pp. ix-xi

read more

Introduction: Why Prostitutes? Why Greek? Why Now?

pdf iconDownload PDF (95.4 KB)
pp. 16-26

Our topic is part of a larger scholarly trend. In the last two decades research into prostitution has become mainstream, rescued “from the literature of deviancy and crime” (Gilfoyle 1999).1 Scholars now recognize that the study of prostitution richly enhances our understanding of political, economic, and cultural history.More specifically, studies on prostitution cut to the core of societal ...

read more

1. The Traffic in Women: From Homer to Hipponax, from War to Commerce

pdf iconDownload PDF (144.0 KB)
pp. 14-33

Much of the scholarship on women and the female in Homer has examined elite women and goddesses. But if we gaze with a steady eye, we see lowly women everywhere. These women are the precursors of sexually disposable females in lyric poetry, most obvious and evident as slave prostitutes, necessary for patriarchal state formation and state maintenance. These are women who are ...

read more

2. Porneion: Prostitution in Athenian Civic Space

pdf iconDownload PDF (259.9 KB)
pp. 34-59

Social histories of prostitution in ancient Greece have often assumed that what applies to prostitution in Rome applies to Greece—that, for example, we should expect Greek attitudes toward prostitution to be similar to those of the Romans or that prostitution will have taken place in the same venues in Greece as in Rome. But this is not necessarily the case. We should be particularly careful ...

read more

3. Bringing the Outside In: The Andrön as Brothel and the Symposium’s Civic Sexuality

pdf iconDownload PDF (212.4 KB)
pp. 60-85

According to the view currently prevalent in scholarship, the symposium was an elitist institution at odds with the egalitarian community of the polis. It was an elite “anti-city.”1 Boundaries of gender, sexuality, and space are central to discussion of how the symposium situated itself in society. Occurring behind the closed doors of the oikos, as Ian Morris puts it, and further set apart in its own exclusive ...

read more

4. Woman Wine = Prostitute in Classical Athens?

pdf iconDownload PDF (191.2 KB)
pp. 86-105

The image in figure 4.1 depicts two women; one holds a drinking cup to her chest while holding out another to her companion who plays the aulos. They recline against cushions and are naked apart from jewelry and headwear. To someone unfamiliar with the scholarship surrounding Attic red-figure pottery, the scene represents nothing more than two women enjoying wine, music, and each ...

read more

5. Embodying Sympotic Pleasure: A Visual Pun on the Body of an Aul

pdf iconDownload PDF (156.2 KB)
pp. 106-121

In the tondo of a late sixth-century BCE red-figure cup attributed to Oltos, now unfortunately lost, a naked woman, depicted frontally, straddles an overturned pointed amphora, its toe disappearing into her body (see fig. 5.1).1 John Beazley describes the image as a “naked flute-girl raping a pointed amphora” (ARV2 66), and subsequent scholars have viewed it as a masturbation scene and ...

read more

6. Sex for Sale? Interpreting Erotica in the Havana Collection

pdf iconDownload PDF (212.4 KB)
pp. 122-146

This essay is located at the crossroads of some very thorny paths—debates about the status of women in ancient Greece, male homoeroticism, and the status of vase painting as evidence. Earlier research on women in antiquity was often framed as the question of the “status of women” and has only recently been redefined as the study of sex and gender (Katz 1992, 71). From the eighteenth century ...

read more

7. The Brothels at Delos: The Evidence for Prostitution in the Maritime World

pdf iconDownload PDF (345.6 KB)
pp. 147-171

Few suggestions about the identification of functional space in the remains of ancient “domestic quarters” have generated as much controversy as Nicholas Rauh’s hypothesis that the House of the Lake in the harbor district of Delos was a tabernaria deversoria, a tavern-inn that incorporated prostitution as a component commercial enterprise.1 The argument is based on some eccentricities ...

read more

8. Ballio’s Brothel, Phoenicium’s Letter, and the Literary Education of Greco-Roman Prostitutes: The Evidence of Plautus’s Pseudolus

pdf iconDownload PDF (146.7 KB)
pp. 172-196

My essay initially adopts a philological approach to the topic of ancient Greek prostitution by focusing on the language associated with sex work at an ancient commercial establishment in Hellenistic Athens. It also views Hellenistic Greek prostitution through a later, fictionalizing Roman lens by analyzing the language employed by both the labor and management of Ballio’s imaginary ...

read more

9. Prostitutes, Pimps, and Political Conspiracies during the Late Roman Republic

pdf iconDownload PDF (144.9 KB)
pp. 197-221

A recurring pattern of subversive behavior by courtesans, pimps, and prostitutes, including participation in political conspiracies and underclass violence, is visible in literature of the late Roman Republic (133–27 BCE). Since many of these sex professionals were of eastern Mediterranean origin and reflected trends in the wider Hellenistic world (Herter 1960, 71; Kleberg 1957, 77), the topic falls ...

read more

10. The Terminology of Prostitution in the Ancient Greek World

pdf iconDownload PDF (168.0 KB)
pp. 222-255

Words have power and they can hurt. This conclusion jumps out of the pages of Leora Tanenbaum’s study of the sexual reputation of young women in the United States (1999, xvi). The words we use are very telling of what we believe. They reveal our value system, what we consider acceptable and appropriate and what we do not; they reveal our intent and attitudes, whether we ...

read more

Conclusion: Greek Brothels and More

pdf iconDownload PDF (96.4 KB)
pp. 256-268

This book, which traces its origins to a panel organized at the annual meetings of the Archaeological Institute of America, presents a number of new developments welcome not only to students of ancient Greek women, sexuality, and material culture but also to those who investigate these phenomena as they are manifested at other times and places.1 Its salient issues are: What can we know of ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (149.5 KB)
pp. 269-292


pdf iconDownload PDF (52.6 KB)
pp. 293-294


pdf iconDownload PDF (115.9 KB)
pp. 295-310

Index Locorum

pdf iconDownload PDF (91.3 KB)
pp. 311-324

E-ISBN-13: 9780299235635
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299235642

Page Count: 324
Publication Year: 2011