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

Conversations: Unintelligent Design?

The biologist J.B.S. Haldane is reported to have said that, if there is a God, He has “an inordinate fondness for beetles.” What do you think about that observation?

To be honest, one would have hoped that an observation this devastating would have closed the book on creationism for all time.

The truth is that, while there are now around three hundred and fifty thousand known species of beetles, God appears to have an even greater fondness for viruses. Biologists estimate that there are at least ten strains of virus for every species of animal on earth. Many viruses are benign, of course, and some ancient virus may have played an important role in the emergence of complex organisms.

Unfortunately, viruses tend to use organisms like you and me as their borrowed genitalia. Many of them invade our cells only to destroy them, destroying us in the process—horribly, mercilessly, relentlessly. Viruses like HIV, as well as a wide range of harmful bacteria, can be seen evolving right under our noses, developing resistance to antiviral and antibiotic drugs to the detriment of everyone.

Evolution both predicts and explains this phenomenon; the book of Genesis does not. How can you imagine that religious faith offers the best account of these realities, or that they suggest some deeper, compassionate purpose of an omniscient being? Continue reading

Double Marketing Standards

[The typical commercial directed at women.]

Generic woman: Ouch, my stomach!

Male voice over: Do you suffer from gut agony?

Generic woman: And my head!

Male voice over: Tension head? Got that bloated feeling? Inevitable wrinkles? The beginnings of lady moustache? And now you’ve pissed yourself again? Women, you’re leaking, ageing, hairy, overweight, and everything hurts. And your children’s clothes are filthy. No wonder men long for other less clammy women. For god’s sake sort yourself out!

Generic woman: Now I’m free to live my own life, my way!

[The typical commercial directed at men.]

Male voice over: Men, shave and get drunk! Because you’re already brilliant!

That Mitchell and Webb Look (2006-2010)


In sexology, there are numerous terms for the attraction to transgender people. The most common variety is the attraction of men who identify themselves as straight or bisexual to transgender women; in the academic world, these men are often (rather originally) referred to as men sexually interested in transwomen (MSTW). This phenomenon is known as gynemimetophilia:

Gynemimesis is a subtype of gender transposition or gender dysphoria in which a person with male anatomy and morphology lives in society as a woman without genital sex-reassignment surgery, and with or without taking female sex-hormonal therapy. The lover of such a person is a gynemimetophile. The corresponding terms that apply to the female are andromimesis and andromimetophile. In most large cities of the West there exists an unnamed gynemimetic community that corresponds to the social institution of hijras in India and xanith in Oman.’

– Weinberg, M. S.; Williams, C. J. (2010). “Men Sexually Interested in Transwomen (MSTW): Gendered Embodiment and the Construction of Sexual Desire”. Journal of Sex Research 47 (4)

On Anatomy

“Anatomy is destiny.”

– Sigmund Freud

This appeared in The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex (1924) and is adapted from Napoleon. Not many people remember what comes next: ‘The little girl’s clitoris behaves just like a penis to begin with; but, when she makes a comparison with a playfellow of the other sex, she perceives that she has ‘come off badly…’ The rest is history.

Ten Million Years

Not taking into account the first 1,000,000 years, the following events make up a very brief overview of the next 10,000,000 years:

  • [+1,450,000] Galactic Near Miss: The star Gliese 710 will pass about 1.1 light years from the Sun. Close enough to perturb the Oort cloud, triggering penetration of comets into the inner solar system.
  • [+4,000,000] Pioneer 11: The probe will pass the Lambda Aquilea system, 125 light years from Earth.
  • [+5,000,000] Men Extinct: The Y chromosome will have weakened to the point of crumbling – making men impossible.
  • [+7,200,000] Mount Rushmore: Mount Rushmore will have eroded away.
  • [+8,400,000] LAGEOS Re-entry: The satellite’s orbits are programmed to decay and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere carrying messages and maps to future descendents of humanity.
  • [+10,000,000] New Ocean: The Red Sea will flood, dividing the continent of Africa.
  • [+10,000,000] Earth Irradiated: Star T Pyxidi, 3,260 light years away goes supernova. Close enough to bathe the planet with gamma radiation, triggering mass extinctions.

See other: Events of the Far Future