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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Athens is the only capital city in Europe where the air is more polluted outside than inside.

In AD 380, the Catholic Church issued a law specifically forbidding anyone to read the Bible whilst naked.

There is a plant called Hooker’s Lips (Psychotria Elata).

In 2006, later Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

Since 1963, the reverse of the United States ten-dollar-bill has stated “In God we trust”. Between 2000 and 2017, the reverse of the Bank of England ten-pound-note has portrayed Charles Darwin.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

Leap Day Trivia


Throughout the ages, the leap day, or the 29th of February, has driven people from all over the world to rather odd behaviour – for one reason or another. Here is a selection of curious or special leap day related facts:

  • Julius Caesar introduced the first leap year around 46 BCE.
  • In Ireland, February 29 is called Bachelor’s Day, when women are allowed to propose to men. It is held that Queen Margaret of Scotland began the tradition in 1288. If a man refused the proposal, he would be fined a kiss, a silk dress or 12 pairs of gloves.
  • One in five engaged couples in Greece will plan to avoid getting married in a leap year. They believe it is bad luck.
  • In Taiwan, married daughters traditionally return home during the leap month as it is believed the lunar month can bring bad health to parents. Daughters bring pig trotter noodles to wish them good health and good fortune.
  • In Finland, the tradition is that if a man refuses a woman’s proposal on leap day, he should buy her the fabrics for a skirt.
  • According to the BBC, the chances of having a birthday on a leap day are about one in 1,461.
  • According to the New York Daily News, in modern times, at least two women have given birth to three leap day babies.
  • The Honor Society of Leap Year Babies is a club for people born on the 29th of February. More than 10,000 people worldwide are members.
  • On February 29, 1946, in Tokyo, the February 26 Incident ends.
  • In France, since 1980, a satirical newspaper entitled La Bougie du Sapeur is published only in a leap year, on February 29, making it a quadrennial publication and the least frequently published newspaper in the world.
  • On February 29, 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first black woman to win an Oscar. She was awarded for her role in Gone With the Wind.
  • According to the World Heritage Encyclopaedia, the eighth premier of Tasmania, James Milne Wilson, was born in 1812 and died in 1880, both on February 29.

Frasier: Yeah dad, you should go.
Martin: Ah, Montana’s too far away.
Frasier: Well dad, his birthday only comes around once every four years. As a matter of fact, this day only comes around every four years. You know, it’s like a free day, a gift. We should do something special, be bold!  It’s leap year, take a leap!
Martin: You know, I was just about to say the same thing to you.
[…]
Frasier: Dad, Jimmy’s already sixteen. How many more birthdays is he going to have?
Martin: [smiles] You know, I would kind of hate not being there when Jimmy brings out the big ham.
Frasier Season 3, Episode 16; “Look Before You Leap” [No. 66]

Protasis and Apodosis


In grammar, conditional sentences are “If …, then …” statements. They make a statement that if something happens, then something else will happen.

The ‘if’ clause is referred to as the protasis by grammarians. It comes from the Greek words ‘pro’ (meaning before) and ‘stasis’ (meaning ‘stand’). So, the protasis means ‘what stands before’ or ‘comes first’ as far as these two clauses are concerned. The ‘then’ clause is termed the apodosis; it is what ‘comes after’ the protasis.

Laconic [Adj.]


Using as few words as possible; pithy and concise.

From Latin adjective Lacōnicus meaning ‘Spartan, from Ancient Greek Λακωνικός. Laconia was the region inhabited and ruled by the Spartans, who were known for their brevity in speech.

Hidden Sexuality of the Ancients


With regard to their attitude towards sexuality, the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans fundamentally different from today’s Christian-occidental, Jewish or Islamic world. For a long time, classical studies avoided the subject; today it is a natural topic of research.

Eroticism and sexuality were present in all areas of ancient life. Be it at a banquet, at sports in the palaestra, on walls or in the gardens of Roman villas, in the Lupanar (brothel), in temples or even in the grave – everywhere there were pictures or allusions with a sexual connotation, depictions of genitalia, symbols of fertility and lust.

Even children were adorned with phallic amulets around their necks as talismans. Ancient literature dealt with the subject in all imaginable facets. The Ars Armatoria (Art of Love) by the Roman author Ovid is one of the most subtle poems on the subject ever written.

“Nay, seeing how very beautiful you are, I won’t deny you a few frailties. But what I don’t want, and can’t stand, is to know about them.” – Ovid, Ars Armatoria, Elegy XIV, ‘To His Mistress’

In the Archaeological National Museum of Naples, objects with erotic content from Pompeii and Herculaneum were collected in a room with limited access for centuries, known as the Gabinetto Segreto (secret cabinet).

In 1849, the collection was bricked off and remained off limits to women, youngsters, and the general public. For a century and a half the collection remained out of sight, it was only opened to the public in 2000 and moved into a separate gallery in 2005.

Some of the most famous objects in the former secret collection of the Naples Museum are the ‘Satyr Pan Copulating With Goat’ and the ‘Venus Kallipygos’ (Venus with the lovely ass); the museum also hold one of the world’s most famous collection of assorted Roma terra cotta penises – in Roman times, they were used for good luck, obviously.

Was Alexander The Great Really That Great?


Alexander (356-323BC) was to become one the greatest soldier-generals the world had ever seen.

According to ancient sources, however, he was physically unprepossessing. Short and stocky, he was a hard drinker with a ruddy complexion, a rasping voice, and an impulsive temper which on one occasion led him to kill his companion Cleitus in a violent rage.

As his years progressed he became paranoid and megalomaniacal. However, in 10 short years from the age of 20 he forged a vast empire stretching from Egypt to India. Never defeated in battle, he made use of innovative siege engines every bit as as effective as the fabled Trojan Horse, and founded 20 cities that bore his name, including Alexandria in Egypt.

His military success was little short of miraculous, and in the eyes of an ancient world devoted to warfare and conquest it was only right to accord him the title of “Great”.

See other: Which Greek Legends Were Really True?

What Made Socrates Think About Becoming A Philosopher?


Socrates (469-399BC) may have had his head in the clouds, and was portrayed in Aristophanes’ comedy as entertaining ideas ranging from the scientifically absurd (“How do you measure a flea’s jump?”) to the socially subversive (“I can teach anyone to win any argument, even if they’re in the wrong”).

This picture is at odds with the main sources of biographical data on Socrates, the writings of his pupils Plato and Xenophon. Both the latter treat him with great respect as a moral questioner and guide, but they say almost nothing of Socrates’ earlier activities.

In fact our first description of Socrates, dating to his thirties, show him as a man of action. He served in a military campaign in northern Greece in 432BC, and during a brutal battle he saved the life of his beloved young friend Alcibiades. Subsequently he never left Athens, and spent his time trying to get his fellow Athenians to examine their own lives and thoughts.

We might speculate that Socrates had toyed with science and politics in his youth, until a life-and-death experience in battle turned him to devoting the remainder of his life to the search for wisdom and truth.

As he wrote nothing himself, our strongest image of Socrates as a philosopher comes from the dialogues of his devoted pupil Plato, whose own pupil Aristotle was tutor of Alexander, prince of Macedon.

See other: Which Greek Legends Were Really True?