The University of Wisconsin Press

Classics / Women's Studies / Ancient History


Prostitutes and Courtesans in the Ancient World
Edited by Christopher A. Faraone and Laura K. McClure

Wisconsin Studies in Classics
William Aylward, Nicholas D. Cahill, and Patricia A. Rosenmeyer, Series Editors

“Demonstrates, quite splendidly, how the study of prostitution in the ancient world provides crucial insight into the nature of ancient life, its mores, social practices, and political ideologies and discourses.”
—Ellen Greene, author of The Erotics of Domination

Prostitutes and Courtesans in the Ancient World explores the implications of sex-for-pay across a broad span of time, from ancient Mesopotamia to the early Christian period. In ancient times, although they were socially marginal, prostitutes connected with almost every aspect of daily life. They sat in brothels and walked the streets; they paid taxes and set up dedications in religious sanctuaries; they appeared as characters—sometimes admirable, sometimes despicable—on the comic stage and in the law courts; they lived lavishly, consorting with famous poets and politicians; and they participated in otherwise all-male banquets and drinking parties, where they aroused jealousy among their anxious lovers.

The chapters in this volume examine a wide variety of genres and sources, from legal and religious tracts to the genres of lyric poetry, love elegy, and comic drama to the graffiti scrawled on the walls of ancient Pompeii. These essays reflect the variety and vitality of the debates engendered by the last three decades of research by confronting the ambiguous terms for prostitution in ancient languages, the difficulty of distinguishing the prostitute from the woman who is merely promiscuous or adulterous, the question of whether sacred or temple prostitution actually existed in the ancient Near East and Greece, and the political and social implications of literary representations of prostitutes and courtesans.

Christopher A. Faraone is professor of classics at the University of Chicago, author of Ancient Greek Love Magic, and coeditor of Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion. Laura K. McClure is professor of classics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, author of Courtesans at Table: Gender and Greek Literary Culture in Athenaeus, and editor of Sexuality and Gender in the Ancient World.


“This volume engages provocatively with previous studies on the topic of prostitution in Greece, Rome, and the Near East. The readable style and lively English translations will make this book accessible not only to students and specialists but also to the broader reading public.”
—Judith P. Hallett, coeditor of Roman Sexualities

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cover of Faraone and McClure's book is rouge red, with a Greek krater featured. The painting on the krater illustrates a woman being groped, or examined by a man.

January 2006
LC: 2005005455 HQ
496 pp.  6 x 9   1 b/w photo

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Paper $24.95 a
ISBN 978-0-299-21314-5
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The cloth edition, ISBN 978-0-299-21310-7, is out of print.


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