AskDefine | Define hetaera

User Contributed Dictionary



From , feminine of ‘companion’.




  1. A mistress, especially in ancient Greece.
    • 1980: Christ appeared, only to reveal himself as the naked god Pan. Ballet of hetaerae and houris, choreography by Italo Castaldi. — Anthony Burgess, Earthly Powers



Extensive Definition

For the elite Ancient Macedonian cavalry (hetairoi, "companions"), see Companion cavalry.
In ancient Greece, hetaerae (in Greek , hetairai) were courtesans, that is to say, sophisticated companions and prostitutes.


In ancient Greek society, hetaerae were independent and sometimes influential women who were required to wear distinctive dresses and had to pay taxes. Composed mostly of ex-slaves and foreigners, these courtesans were renowned for their achievements in dance and music, as well as for their physical talents. There is evidence that, unlike most other women in Greek society at the time, hetaerae were educated. It is remarkable that hetaerae not only were the only women who would actively take part in the symposia, but also that their opinions and beliefs were respected by men, possibly due to the importance of pillow talk.
Some similarities have been found between the ancient Greek hetaera, the earlier Babylonian Nadītu, the Japanese Oiran, and the Korean kisaeng, complex figures that are perhaps in an intermediate position between prostitutes and entertainers.
Among the most famous were Thargelia, a renowned Ionian hetaera of ancient times, Aspasia, long-time companion of the Athenian politician Pericles, Archeanassa companion of Plato, the famous Neaira, and Thaïs, a concubine of Ptolemy, general on the expedition of Alexander the Great and later king of Egypt.
Hetaerae appear to have been regarded as distinct from pornê or simple prostitutes, and also distinguished from mistresses or wives. In the oration Against Neaera, 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.”
In this same oration, Demosthenes mentions that Neaira's purchase price (both at her original purchase by Timanoridas of Corinth and Eucrates of Leucas and her own subsequent purchase of her freedom) was 30 minas. Since the mina was equal to 100 drachmae and the drachma can be thought of as equivalent to the daily wage of a skilled worker, this would make her purchase price over 8 years salary—obviously beyond the means of the average person.
The male form of the word, hetaeros (pl. hetaeroi), signified male companions in the sense of a business or political associate. Most famously, it referred to Alexander the Great's bodyguard cavalry unit (see Companion cavalry).
In Jungian psychology, the hetaere is one of Toni Wolff's four feminine archetypes.


hetaera in Breton: Hetaira
hetaera in Catalan: Hetera
hetaera in Czech: Hetéra
hetaera in German: Hetäre
hetaera in Estonian: Hetäär
hetaera in Spanish: Hetera
hetaera in French: Prostitution en Grèce antique#H.C3.A9ta.C3.AFres
hetaera in Icelandic: Hofgleðikona
hetaera in Italian: Etera
hetaera in Hebrew: הטאירה
hetaera in Kazakh: Гетера
hetaera in Latvian: Hetēra
hetaera in Lithuanian: Hetera
hetaera in Dutch: Hetaere
hetaera in Polish: Hetera
hetaera in Portuguese: Hetaira
hetaera in Russian: Гетера
hetaera in Swedish: Hetär
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