Prostitutes could range from the expensive high-class hetairai who had their own
expensive houses and a choice of lovers, to the flute-girls who worked parties (hired for
entertainment and sex), the brothel-girls and the streetwalkers. It is not always easy to tell
the differences amongst the types of prostitutes in the evidence, visual or literary, as
Davidson points out, and many authors refer to prostitutes generally as hetairai, no
matter what kind they are. They were marginal figures yet depicted frequently in art and
on the stage by playwrights; very much a part of the urban scene.
1. High-class courtesans were at the top of the social scale of prostitutes in
Greek society, and often had intellectual training (their witticisms were collected by a
few authors), possessed artistic talents, were richly dressed and ornamented, had their
own carriages and houses.
2. flute-girls/slave-entertainers Most high-class call girls seem to have begun
their careers as slave-entertainers— music girls taught to play the flute or the lyre at a
young age. Neaera's procuress Nikarete "was skilled in recognizing the budding beauty of
young girls and knew well how to bring them up and train them artfully." These slave
girls would be hired out to parties, or to customers as temporary concubines. They could
also be hired for mere companionship and flirting (not necessarily sex). They could also
work in the day as brothel-girls or streetwalkers.
3. brothel workers/streetwalkers (pornai) little is known about these women;
ext to nothing about casual practitioners of prostitution. They plied their trade in
alleyways and would sometimes take their customers into cemeteries. They would work 2
in Athens’ red-light district, the Keramikos (also the site of a large cemetery), or the port
(the Piraeus). Brothel workers had an especially sordid life, and the brothel was despised
and feared by other prostitutes: the women “…smell of the stable and stall, whom hardly
any free man has touched or taken home, the two-obol sluts of dirty little slaves.” There
is a tale in a law speech that when a man wanted to pack his slave-concubine off to a
brothel, she poisoned his food, killing him and a friend (she was tortured and then
executed). Girls stood around half-naked or clad in diaphanous fabrics for clients to make
a selection. Normal word for brothel was ergasterion (a factory).
Life of a prostitute The high-class prostitute had relative freedom in her
household and financial matters (the only women in Athens who exercised control over
her own money), and could attend the symposium; the courtesan Neaera “drank and
dined [with her lovers] in the presence of many men as any courtesan would do ."
However, the hetaira (and lower-class flute girls) had no protection against unwelcome
advances, and music girls could be abused at parties "which might cost a man his life if
he attempted it with a woman of citizen status." Neaera’s