Hetaira

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Definition

A hetaira (pl. hetairai) was an educated female prostitute in ancient Greece and a common participant in symposia or drinking parties in private homes. Sometimes referred to in English as a courtesan, the Greek term hetaira was a euphemism and meant 'companion'. Typically slaves but not always, their status could be ambiguous and is ill-defined in surviving Greek sources. Besides their more obvious abilities as prostitutes, hetairai were skilled in entertaining men with their music, dancing, culture, and wit. Hetairai are referenced in many forms of Greek art and literature and so are distinct from the more common brothel or street prostitute (pornē) who offered only physical pleasure to their clients and did so at a much lower price than the hetairai.

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