A Woman to Know: Phryne

Phryne was once the most illustrious courtesans of us by far. — Poet Posiddippus


(
Phryne by Jean-Léon Gérome, image via Wikimedia Commons)


Phryne was one of the most notorious courtesans, or "heterai," of Ancient Greece. She'd dated around in Athens and posed for multiple sculptures of Aphrodite, and legend even has it that her frolicking in the ocean inspired Appelle's famous depiction of Venus rising from the waves. As the writer Posidippus recounted in his comic poetry:

And even though you are too young, girl, to remember that time
you must at least have heard of her trial.

Phryne was ultimately charged with "blasphemy" (sure). But get this: she was so beautiful and so brazen that before the entire court (of men, duh, this is ancient Greece), all she does is shrug off her robe and reveal her gorgeous naked body.

And then, of course, they acquitted her. How could men of Greece condemn such a "prophetess of Aphrodite," as they then called her?

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