Phryne shows naked assets, wows jury…

Athens, 340 B.C.

Phryne, one of the most famous and beautiful of the hetaerae (high-class, highly educated courtesans, aka prostitutes), is on trial for her life–and your Horny Time Traveler has managed to sneak into the court to witness her judgment before a stern jury of city fathers. Her crime? Displaying her fantastic beauty in the nude at the religious festival at Eleusis that honors the sea god Poseidon. Her action was taken as an affront to the goddess Aphrodite.

Actually, Phyrne had posed for a famous statue of Aphrodite

Actually, Phyrne had famously posed for a famous statue of Aphrodite...

I can’t believe the shape she’s in. After all, Phryne was born in 390 B.C., and she’s packed decades of tough-minded living (and lucrative whoring) on that frame. I move forward for a closer look.

Phryne gave the philosopher Diogenes a freebie, because she admired his mind...

Phryne gave the philosopher Diogenes a freebie, just because she admired his mind...

Charged with the capital offense of profaning the ceremony at Eleusis, she’s defended by one of her lovers, the golden-tongued orator Hypereides. Despite the fact that she charged him one hundred times the going Athenian rate for nookie in that era (100 times 1 drachma), he’s unstinting in her defense. But it’s not going well, until suddenly Hypereides gets an inspiration. Whipping off Phyrne’s clothes, he displays her fabulous body to the graybeards.

Although she was stunning, it wasn't just her nudity that frazzled the oligarchs...

Although she was stunning, it wasn't just her nudity that frazzled the oligarchs...

I hope nobody notices me standing behind a pillar! I’m fidgeting so much–Phryne is so gorgeous I have to restrain the urge to give her a tip, like a topless dancer back in 2009. Well, she probably would only be puzzled by a piece of paper with the face of a president who won’t be born for almost two thousand years…

I guess you don't want to get on the bad side of a powerful courtesan!

I guess you don't want to get on the bad side of a powerful courtesan!

But my fantasies are getting ahead of me. Instead, I listen to Hypereides’ impassioned speech, punctuated by the audible anguish of Phryne. The orator is not only boggling the jury’s head with the sight of Phryne’s bod (and it’s rumored that her unseen private parts are even more beautiful than everything else), but they are starting to feel just a little bit afraid, I think–after all, someone who looks so good is obviously on very good terms with Aphrodite, and perhaps it would be a wee bit dangerous to condemn her to death. When she is finally exonerated, she tearfully thanks the oligarchs, working her way through the crowd, pressing their hands. I remember seeing a stripper work her way through an audience like that once.

A Roman copy of Praxitele's Aphrodite at Knidos. The original is now lost...

A Roman copy of Praxitele's Aphrodite at Knidos. The original is now lost...

After the trial, I realize I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell to hook up with Phryne. It would be like trying to hook up with an A-lister in my own time. Hey, Phryne’s extremely wealthy, and she’s got plenty of customers–everybody from her lawyer Hypereides to the penniless Diogenes to the master artist Praxiteles. It was Prax who made that very famous statue of her as Aphrodite at Knidos that supposedly made the goddess quip, “When did that sculptor ever see me naked??” Maybe I just don’t know what I’d say to Phryne, or maybe I’m just not up to haggling for a discount if we don’t have much chemistry. If she doesn’t like someone, like the King of Lydia, she asks an outrageous price. I heard he had to levy a tax on his populace to make up all the dough he spent on Phryne! Because when he met her price, she gave him what he wanted. That’s her credo: “You pay, I’ll play.” That’s a pro.

Maybe my night with Phryne is better left to fantasy.

Meanwhile, I take a walk outside of town to cool off and whaddaya know? I run into this cute gal just sitting by a stream.

There's something about her eyes that tells me she could use a few laughs...

There's something about her eyes that tells me she could use a few laughs...

I don’t know ancient Hellenic (or modern Hellenic, for that matter), but it’s funny how you can communicate with a few gestures and funny faces. Is she human or a wood nymph? Hey, it doesn’t matter. What ‘s really nice is that she seems to agree with what the playwright Sophocles, who was stuck on a younger courtesan in his later years, once said:

“Hear me now praying, goddess, nurse of youths,

And grant that this my love may scorn young men,

And their most feeble fancies and embraces;

And rather cling to gray-headed old men,

Whose minds are vigorous, though their limbs be weak.”

I'll have to come back to ancient Greece for another blog post soon!

I'll have to come back to ancient Greece for another blog post soon!

Afterward I went back to my own time with a smile on my face, and it didn’t cost me a drachma!

—————–

The first painting of Phryne at Eleusis is by the Polish painter Henryk Siemiradzki (1843-1902); Phryne in the Areopagus is by Jean-Leon Gerome; Phryne solo (and looking like she wants to kick my ass) is by Boulanger; and the nymph is by Siemiradzki.

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Published in: on January 13, 2009 at 3:30 am  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Herr Traveler, your erudition is superb– at once diverting and educational! So much so, that I now realize why I failed miserably at my studies of Greek mythology at university in Vienna–the lamentable absence of the erotic element to add spice to the unrelentingly dull discourse of my professor. Denied this spicy leavening, I spent my days and nights dueling and chasing frauleins. Ah, wasted youth!

    I was particularly struck by the Gerome painting–he is one of my favorites.

    Sir, you must not waver in your educational mission! Hoch!

    Count von Pauli (older and wiser)

  2. With your vigorous support, Count von Pauli, I shall prevail. Today Athens, tomorrow–who knows?

  3. Herr Traveler:

    I forgot to mention “Pygmalion and His Statue,” also by Gerome, I believe. It is surely one of the most wonderfully erotic works of art that my jaundiced eyes have ever gazed upon. If are not familiar with it, you are missing a supreme treat!

    Count von Pauli

  4. Thank you, Count von Pauli. I am indeed aware of it, and I believe he painted the theme from two different angles, one emphasizing Galatea’s naked backside, and the other a bit more modest. I came across both in my “travels” as I searched for the Phryne painting.

  5. Simply beautiful. I love Gerome.


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