A Nuanced Look at Prostitution in Ancient Greece


In ancient times, the Greek port Corinth was famous for its sacred prostitutes.

After landing at the Corinthian docks, sailors would apparently wheeze up the thousand-odd steps to the top of a stunning crag of rock called the Acrocorinth, which offered 360-degree vistas of the sparkling Mediterranean. There they would pass beneath the marble columns of the Temple of Aphrodite, goddess of Beauty and Love, within whose incense-filled, candlelit confines 1,000 comely girls supposedly worked around the clock gathering funds for their deity.

Since the Renaissance, this idea had gripped antiquarians, who liked to imagine that congress with one of Aphrodite’s servants offered a mystical union with the goddess herself — uninhibited pagans coupling in ecstasy before her statue in the perpetual twilight of the temple.

In fact, this lusty vision of Corinth was created entirely from a three-line report by the Greek geographer Strabo, who writes around 20 CE:

The temple of Aphrodite was once so rich that it had acquired more than a thousand prostitutes, donated by both men and women to the service of the goddess. And because of them, the city used to be jam-packed and became wealthy. The ship-captains would spend fortunes there, and so the proverb says: “The voyage to Corinth isn’t for just any man.”

Having said that, modern historians have found that the image of a pagan free-for-all needs some serious qualification. Continue reading

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On Doormats and Prostitutes


“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat, or a prostitute.”

– Rebecca West

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In the Aztec language, the words for sun and eagle are the same – so are the words for moon and rabbit.

In 2011, ASAPS (American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery) surgeons performed 316,848 breast-augmentation procedures.

If you drilled a tunnel straight through the Earth and jumped in, it would take you exactly 42 minutes and 12 seconds to get to the other side.

In Cambodia, male prostitutes outnumber female prostitutes by a ratio of three to one.

Iran is one of the few countries in the world where a couple can have a “temporary marriage” in order to facilitate sex within wedlock – essentially prostitution. These so-called marriages can be valid for as short as an hour.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

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The Great Council of Venice declared prostitution to be “absolutely indispensable to the world” in 1358, and government-funded brothels were established in major Italian cities throughout the 14th and 15th centuries.

The British Crown Jewels are not insured.

A government laboratory in Beijing uses electric eels to predict the time and location of earthquakes. In 2005, its accuracy rate was 89 percent.

Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires means “Good air”.

The Han Chinese are an ethnic group native to East Asia. They constitute approximately 20% of the entire global human population, making it the largest ethnic group in the world.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

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North Dakota is the least-visited state in the United States. Curiously, it also has more churches per capita than any other state and the highest percentage of church-going population in the country.

Peer is Dutch for ‘pear’ and ‘light bulb’.

John I of Portugal (1385–1433) defended his kingdom against Castile. In Portugal he is known as John the Good or John the Great; in Spain he is known as John the Bastard.

Jane Austen shared a bedroom with her sister Cassandra her whole life.

Karl Marx viewed prostitutes as victims of the capitalist system. In his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, he described sex work as being “only a specific expression of the general prostitution of the labourer,” and viewed the abolition of prostitution as a necessary part of ending capitalism. Similarly, in The Communist Manifesto, he called prostitution the “complement” of the bourgeois family, and predicted that both institutions would one day vanish.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

Harem (v)


‘The harem, under various regulations, is found in all eastern countries where polygamy and concubinage are permitted or practised. While the Japanese generally have but one wife, the princes and nobles keep as many concubines as they please, securing them in harems, but much less rigorously than is done in Mohammedan countries. At Hiogo, in October, 1870, Mr. Seward saw a gay Japanese yacht on board of which was a daimio surrounded by numerous retainers and bevy of highly painted and elegantly dressed young women. The daimio was “giving his harem a picnic.”

In Siam the law allows but le wife, except to the king; concubinage, however, is limited only by the means of the man. Within the capital, Bangkok, stands enclosed in a double wall the city of the Nang Harm, or veiled women, which is fully described by Mrs. Leonowens in “The Romance of the Harem” (Boston, 1873):

“In this city live none but women and children. Here the houses of the royal princesses, the wives, concubines, and relatives of the king, with their numerous slaves and personal attendants, form regular streets and avenues, with small parks, artificial lakes, and groups of fine trees scattered over miniature lawns and beautiful flower gardens. In the southern part of this strange city the mechanical slaves of the wives, concubines, and princesses live, and ply their trades for the profit of their mistresses.”

This woman’s city has its own laws, and its female judges, guards, police, prison keepers, executioners, merchants, brokers, teachers, and mechanics in every trade. No man can enter the city except the king and the priests, who may be admitted every morning under amazon guard.

The slave women can go out to see their husbands, or on business for their mistresses; the mistresses can never leave it, except by the covered passages to the palaces, temples, and gardens, until age and position have given them a certain degree of freedom. No fewer than 9,000 women, it is asserted, are thus secluded, and the Nang Harm presents the most extensive and rigorous instance of the harem system.’

– Ripley. G., Dana. C.A., Ed. (1879) The American Cyclopædia – A Popular Dictionary Of General Knowledge New York, United States: D. Appleton and Company (Entrance: “Harem” [between “Hare Lip” and “Harfleur”], written by Parke Godwin).

Harem (iv)


‘Capt. Burton, who travelled extensively in Mohammedan countries in the disguise of a native, and who in the character of a physician saw something of the interior of the harem, says that the oriental is “the only state of society in which jealousy and quarrels about the sex are the exception and not the rule of life.” […]

The two ladies of W. H. Seward’s party, in his tour around the world, in May, 1871, visited the harem in the palace of the khedive’s mother (the princess valideh) at Cairo. After traversing a succession of saloons superbly furnished with velvet carpets, lace and damask curtains, satin-covered sofas and divans, large French mirrors, and crystal chandeliers, they were presented to the princess, who was surrounded by the ladies of the harem and Circassian slave girls. The princess wife of the khedive wore a green silk dress with lace, hat, gloves, boots, and fan, all from London or Paris, and her light brown hair was dressed in the latest Parisian style.

The ladies of the harem, many of them displaying diamond solitaires of immense size, confessed their partiality for European modes, all of them had ordered outfits from London, with the request that they might be counterparts of the trousseau of the princess Louise. The princess mother said that “since the ladies the harem were allowed to see the European opera and ballet at the theatre in Alexandria, they have become quite disgusted with the native performances of their own country.” She explained the condition of the slave women; they were brought from their native land when quite young, were provided with husbands and dowries, and were “very lucky.”

But the system as a domestic institution is summed up by Mr. Seward as follows: “The Mohammedan provision for woman is a prison in which her sufferings from jealousy are consoled by the indulgence of her vanity. She is allowed the society of her own sex with far less restraint than is ordinarily supposed, and she displays before her visiting friends with pride the wealth and ornaments which lighten her chains.” She goes abroad only in a carriage, and under strict surveillance; “she never reads, and, so far as possible, is required never to think.”’

– Ripley. G., Dana. C.A., Ed. (1879) The American Cyclopædia – A Popular Dictionary Of General Knowledge New York, United States: D. Appleton and Company (Entrance: “Harem” [between “Hare Lip” and “Harfleur”], written by Parke Godwin).