What is a hetaera?

I’m often asked what the title of my book means, and I think the most readily accessible response is that a HETAERA was something akin to a Japanese geisha in ancient Greece.  Due the inferences of geisha in pop culture, I think that’s the easiest to digest.

Demosthenes said:

“We have hetaerae for pleasure, pallakae to care for our daily body’s needs and gynaekes to bear us legitimate children and to be faithful guardians of our households.”




They were less concerned with the more base carnal pleasures, and more renowned for their wit, beauty and other talents. There was a certain amount of status and stature involved, and hetaerae could lose either in an instant. This is very different than a common pornai, or streetwalker. Prostitution was rampant in ancient cultures, (and was even temple-sanctioned, as I’m discovering for my next novel).royal-harem

So, to be hetaerae was to be an art form–an exemplar of grace, beauty, wit and charm–somewhere between an entertainer and a prostitute. Hetaerae (or the male equivalent hetaeros) had talents and had fewer societal restrictions than marriageable women. Sex may or may not have been part of that equation, and most hetaerae were associated with a specific patron or patrons.

There are many resources and websites devoted to this specific class of companions. If you’re interested, I invite you to dig around and learn more!


Tell me what you think!