Greek woman's face (part of statue)

4.2 Neaira: A Slave in Ancient Greece

Neaira: A Slave in Ancient Greece

Warning: Nothing in this podcast is intended to be explicit, not now or ever, but there is no dodging the fact that Neaira’s story is one of sexual exploitation, beginning when she was very young. Just keep that in mind before listening.

Details on ancient Greek women are scarce, but one of the few we do know about was Neaira, who grew up as a slave in a brothel in Corinth. In her twenties, she was able to purchase her freedom with a little help from some friends. Sadly, we know her story only from the court records against her, when she was accused of having the temerity to live with an Athenian citizen as husband and wife, which was illegal for a non-Athenian woman.

Unfortunately, her story also ends on a cliffhanger as we do not know the jury’s verdict. But certainly she lived as a free woman for decades, and we can hope that things ended well for her.

This episode is part of the series “A Slave, but Now I’m Free.”

Selected Sources

My main source for this week is Debra Hamel’s Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan’s Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece.

If you are up for reading the whole of Apollodorus’s speech, an annotated version can be found here. Note that the speech is preserved as Demosthenes’ 59th speech, but it is one of the Pseudo-Demosthenes speeches, meaning that it was in the Demosthenes’ collection, but not thought to be authored by him.

Feature Image from Getty Villa, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons. (The image is not of Neaira, since we have no images of her, but of an unnamed Greek woman from approximately the same time.)

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