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Lais (m300 BC)

Related: Greece - hetaera - courtesan

Lais (1526) - Hans Holbein


Lais was a legendary prostitute or courtesan of ancient Greece who was active in Corinth. She was born in Hyccara in Sicily and was carried away by the Athenian general Nicias. The fees she charged for her sexual favors were legendary (10,000 drachmas when she began). She was well known not only for her beauty and fee, but also for her conversation and charm. Her services and attention were sought intensely by the greatest philosophers and leaders of her day. Demosthenes (who left when he found that her cost was the equivalent of 1,200 British pounds in today's money), Diogenes, and the sculptor Myron all sought her out. She ridiculed the social pretensions of Corinth and observed that the philosophers were as often at her door as the rest of Athens.

She moved to Thessaly and took up with a favorite youth named Hippostratus. The women of the area banded together and had her assassinated in the Temple of Aphrodite around 340 BC. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lais [Oct 2004]

Lais, a Sicilian by birth, was sold into slavery when her city was captured. The painter Apelles, struck by her beauty, bought her, gave her a superb education in his own household, set her free, and established her at Corinth--one of the largest trade centers and a hub of prostitution. Lais soon rose to the first rank in her career, and could pick and choose among her clients. She rejected the staggering sum offered by the orator Demosthenes, yet waived her fee for the poor, ragged cynic Diogenes of "I am looking for an honest man" fame. She generously spent her earnings on improving Corinth, and modeled for a statue at the request of the city's grateful citizens. --http://wondersmith.com/heroes/hetairae.htm [Oct 2004]

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