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The Hetaerae Women of Ancient Greece Report (Assessment)

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Ancient Greece has great history and civilization. This is one of the most documented parts of history. The history of Greece therefore provides a basis for the understanding of many elements of social and cultural life. Right from politics and philosophy the Greek history has been cited to explain many concepts. The aim of this paper is to take a look at the life and experiences of the Hetaerae women of ancient Greece.

Thesis Statement

The Hetaerae women were independent than all other women in the society. They lived on their own and were empowered in several aspects that guaranteed their independence. For instance they were educated and were conversant with politics, matters of intelligence and public policy (Freeman 234). Typical Hetaerae women were answerable to no one and had no family affiliations or obligations. Hetaerae women were predominantly free and independent in all aspects of social life. The paper aims to portray the manner in which the Hetaerae women were independence in their social lives.


The Hetaerae women of Greece were a product of war and despondency. Most of these women had been captured as slaves who were then sold to investors. Theses investors then educated them and used them for acts of prostitution and entertainment. Others had been sold off by their poor parents into prostitution. The beautiful of these were introduced into the sex business form where they were to earn their freedom by guaranteeing a good return to their investor.

As a result the paper establishes that theses women had little or no choice over the nature of lives they lived. In one way or the other they were forced into this experience by their circumstances. As a result as much as they were successful in public life and occupied a slot in among the intelligentsia, Hetaerae women were a disadvantaged lot who had no alternative a part from that chosen for them (Blundell 56). However despite all theses the Hetaerae women were independent in society and were considered influential in society and its affairs at large.

Hetaerai Women in Ancient Greece

In the Greek society, the hetaerae women consisted of women who were liberal and commanded great influence in the society. Majority of theses women were outsiders and former slaves. The Hetaerai were elegant in their manner of dressing and were distinct in all aspects. They played a great role ion the society and as a result they were honoured by many. One of their most pronounced contribution to society was the payment of taxes. Men in particular have been said to have held theses women in high esteem (Classical Association 132). This was evident in the manner in which they honoured their opinions during public debates. Hetaerai women were accomplished academicians who had received noble education.

They were successful women with greatness in music, dance, and public debate and were gifted by nature. The hetaerae women were noble in one aspect of the other. Having acquired education and hence conversant with the aspects of politics and philosophy, they received a lot of accolades and played a crucial role in the society. For instance the symposium was synonymous with the hetaerae women. It was these great achievements in education coupled with their independence that earned them respect from men at a time when women were not held in high esteem.

The Hetaerae women were better known for their participation in sexual pleasures. They were popular for their roles as prostitutes. First they had to earn their freedom by engaging is paid sex so as to give returns for the investors who bought them. Theses women were used predominantly for the satisfaction of men’s sexual needs. As a result they were considered separate from wives whose roles were domestic and the rearing of children.

Apart from the sexual role they were considered great entertainers and companions. Theses roles gave them a lot of significance and role in the society. As a result they were considered the cornerstone of social life. One major avenue where the hetaerae women were dominant was the symposium. The symposium was a social event in which a number of activities took place. Part of the activities of the symposium was the entertainment section where the hetaerae women performed music and played instruments.

They were well trained in music, dance and the playing of instruments. Apart from theses the hetaerae women were also key players in the debates during the symposiums. For instance they could engage in a debate over philosophy, religion or other intellectual aspects. The men used to enjoy these kinds of debates by these women who were well acquainted with the on goings of the affairs of society. However the symposium did not end with entertainment and debate. The sexual acts were also part and parcel of the event. The hetaerae were well aware of their role as prostitutes and sexual objects during such an event.

The following is a picture of a hetaerae woman playing a musical instrument during the symposium

The hetaerae women of Greece

The hetaerae women of Greece actually originated from war as slaves or had been sold of by their poor parents. As result they were women who were out to seek for alternative means. They were bought by wealthy investors who then had to make money from them before releasing them to freedom. As a result majority of the women had to earn their freedom by indulging in prostitution. They virtually had a difficult life since their activities were not necessitated by choice but circumstances.

Lack of family protection and security was a major flip side of their lives. Though they were considered elegant and noble, the lives of the hetaerae women remained to be empty since they were regarded as objects of sex and pleasure. The men who used them for pleasure had their families and took good care of their wives (Wilson 645). It therefore appears that the women only indulged in this type of living for security and safety reasons. The elegance and nobility manifested at social events was elusive in their real lives.


The symposiums represented an event of entertainment mostly for men. Several activates took place during these events. The activities involved dance, music, discussions and sexual acts. The hetaerae women were the major players in the whole event. During these events the hetaerae women participated in dances and music. The women had been trained ion dance and therefore were perfect in all aspects. The hetaerae women were also established players of instruments.

During the symposiums they provided entertainment by playing the various musical instruments. Debates and discussions of several topics was a major activity during this event. Due to their education and knowledge on virtually all fields the hetaerae women were very instrumental in the discussions. Among the topics discussed included philosophy, politics, social life and other intellectual aspects. The hetaerae women played a huge role in the sexual part pf the event. During this time the women could be nude or semi nude and they entertained men as well as indulged in sexual acts (Levick & Hawley 121). As far as ex was concerned the hetaerae women were essentially prostitutes. They were regarded as objects of sex and pleasure.

The symposium was the highest form of the hetaerae women’s career. This was the one time opportunity to expose their real selves. There was an aspect of competition amongst them, this was symbolised by the various acts and activities that manifested during the symposium. The guests in the symposiums who were men expected to be granted sexual favours by the hetaerae women. The symposium also represented the major role of the women was entertainment and pleasure.

Political and Social Influence

Hetaerae women were potentially powerful and influential both political circles and in the social scenes. As a result of their education the women were considered in high esteem in the society. They had a say in the manner in which the affairs of the society were concerned. For instance during symposiums, it was the hetaerae women who carried the day. The discussions and debates concerning topics of social, political and intellectual importance were discussed. The discussions at the symposiums portrayed the women as being highly learned and informed. As a result they had a lot of influence on society and influence various issues in the society (Association of College and Research Libraries 34).

Politically the aspect of paying taxes gave the Hetaerae women political force. This was due to the perception that since they paid taxes they were of great importance to the state. This aspect alone gave them an edge over the rest in as far as influence was concerned. Another aspect worth mentioning in the context of influence and power of the Hetaerae women was the prostitution. Since they were considered as sexual entertainers to the rich and powerful, the Hetaerae women had access to the abode of power.

The men who were in positions of power listened to their opinions and held them in high esteem. The respect the women got from the leaders stems from two different sources. One of them was their education status. Since they were educated the women commanded knowledge and were conversant with various aspects of life. This made the men to hold them is high esteem since they could come to them for direction and guidance. The second source of respect and attention to their opinion was the access they had to the noble men in their profession of prostitution. As much as they were more or less objects of sex t the noble men, this very act gave them the privilege to have certain control over the men and eventually over the society.

Hetaerae women of Greek society were essentially independent. This primarily came from the fact that they were not subject to family authority and obligations. However the real factor behind their independence was their high level of education which put them above the rest. Theses women were elegant in al manner of life. They wore noble dresses and were regarded in high esteem. The Hetaerae were extremely beautiful women who were highly talented.

As a result they commanded a lot of respect and influence in society. The women were considered successful and society held them in high esteem. Among all women in the society only the Hetaerae could participate in the symposium. Being the pinnacle of social events, the symposium symbolized the highest form of social recognition. It was here that the society’s major affairs were made.

The Hetaerae women were not only the dominant participants but their views were taken seriously by the men as well as the entire society. As a result they had social influence over the rest. Their political influence can also be said to have emanated from their roles in the social arena. Power and the society are synonymous therefore the women being of great social essence automatically commanded political influence. The Hetaerae women were not a force to ignore. The played a crucial role in society and were of great significance all together.

In comparison to the other women in the ancient Greek society the Hetaerae women enjoyed greater influence in the social as well as political circles. Theirs was a distinct class in which they had access to the wealthy and noble men of the society. Their education was instrumental in their emancipation. As a research they were considered elite among the women in the society. A better example is the difference between the Hetaerae women and the housewives.

There exists a lot of difference between these two categories. The housewives were limited by culture and education. Most of the women in the society were not privileged like the Hetaerae women to earn education. As a result they were left in the darkness. Their social lives were insignificant since they played no role in social affairs of the society. They were enclosed in their homes since they were considered to play the role of bearing legitimate children and bringing them up.

The roles played by the Hetaerae women gave them m a lot of power and influence on the social and political scenes. The Hetaerae women acted as entertainment, planners and consultants. As far as entertainment is concerned they provided the wealthy and noble men with the much needed recreation they craved for. As a result they were rewarded by the attention and respect the got from these men who were in power. Education was another key player, the Hetaerae women acted as advisors and consultants to the men in power. This role was equal to their vast education and experience in the matters of state and society.

Through their roles as entertainment and consultants the Hetaerae women exerted a lot of influence on the society. They were a strong force in the political circles since their opinions were taken seriously and they could also manipulate the activities of the society through their roles as advisors.

A good example of the Hetaerae women who were practically influential in the political arena was Aspasia. Her first experience was the involvement with Pericles who was a ruler in Athens (Vallera & Reese 100). Aspasia spend majority of her life playing a crucial role in matters of politics and society. Although a lot of controversy still exists about the origin and status of Aspasia all those who have written about her agree that she played a bid role in matters of leadership and politics. There have also been indications that Aspasia was a prostitute and also kept prostitutes. However this was nothing strange since prostitution was part of the career of the Hetaerae women.

Total Seclusion of Housewives

In the ancient Greek society the fate of house wives was in the domestic arena. The house wives were considered instrumental in the rearing of legitimate children and caring for their husbands. As a result they paled totally no role in the affairs of the society (Toohey & Golden 315). They were enclosed in domestic affairs and hardly knew anything about the society. All the affairs of social life and power were left to the men who took acre of everything. This was one of the reasons why the Hetaerae women were of great significance to the men and society at large.

First and foremost the Hetaerae women were highly educated and had mastered the various concepts of society. They were therefore instrumental in social events and other affairs that needed education and independence. For the housewives majority of them were not educated and had no clue of what happens outside their homes. Social life was left to men who sought the company and services of prostitutes. However apart from the seclusion housewives in ancient Greek were taken good care of by their husbands.

They were made happy and virtually every need was satisfied. It was the nature of the ancient Greek culture to have the women preoccupied with domestic roles. Male dominance was common and acceptable in the society. Further more education was mostly for men and few women had acquired education. As a result most of theses housewives were not educated. Therefore they did not have the qualifications to indulge on public life. The housewives were thus disadvantaged by culture on one hand and the lack of education on the other hand.

The following is an illustration of women (housewives) telling stories around the fire after meals

Illustration of women (housewives) telling stories around the fire after meals

The house wives were generally enclosed in the domestic arena and were shielded away from the normal activities of the society. As much as the culture advocated for this kind of arrangement the men were satisfied with the minimum role their wives played in society. However the housewives were subjected to this kind of living by the forces of culture and ignorance. Only the Hetaerae women were of great significance to the social life of Greece. One of the greatest factors that contributed to their participation was the training they had received. Another important aspect was the independence they had.

The Hetaerae women were free and liberal as compared to the ordinary housewives who were primitive and unexposed. As a result social life was the dominion of men and only the Hetaerae women could provide possible competition to the men. Education and independence were the key determinants of the roles of housewives and the Hetaerae women (Nardo 112). Since the housewives were uneducated and conservative they remained enclosed in the domestic circles. However since the Hetaerae women were liberal, educated and talented they found a niche for themselves in the social circles.


The Hetaerae women of ancient Greece were originally slaves and foreigners who served as prostitutes and entertainers for the wealthy men. However they had opportunities through which they acquired education and trained. This changed their status and as a result they played a crucial role in the social and political arenas. The paper has taken a historical perspective of the ancient Greek society. Special reference has been given to the Hetaerae women.

Works cited

Association of College and Research Libraries. Choice: publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association. Washington: American Library Association, 1997.

Blundell Sue. Women in ancient Greece, Volume 1995, Part 2. Harvard University Press, 1995.

Classical Association. Greece and Rome. Michigan: Clarendon, 2007.

Freeman, Charles. Egypt, Greece, and Rome: civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean. Oxford: University of Oxford Press, 1992.

Levick, Barbara and Hawley, Richard. Women in antiquity: new assessments. New York: Routledge, 1995.

Nardo, Don. Living in ancient Greece. Washington: Greenhaven Press, 2004.

Toohey Peter and Golden Mark. Sex and difference in ancient Greece and Rome. Virginia: University of Virginia, 2008.

Vallera, Rickerson and Reese, Anne. Athletries: the untold history of ancient Greek women athletes. Michigan: Nightowl Publication, 2003.

Wilson, Nigel. Encyclopedia of ancient Greece. New York: Routledge, 2006.

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