Humanities › History & Culture Hetaira, the Greek Courtesans Share Flipboard Email Print Culture Club / Getty Images History & Culture Ancient History and Culture Greece Figures & Events Ancient Languages Egypt Asia Rome Mythology & Religion American History African American History African History Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By N.S. Gill Ancient History and Latin Expert M.A., Linguistics, University of Minnesota B.A., Latin, University of Minnesota N.S. Gill is a Latinist, writer, and teacher of ancient history and Latin. She has been featured by NPR and National Geographic for her ancient history expertise. our editorial process N.S. Gill Updated August 26, 2018 Hetaira—or hetaera—is the ancient Greek word for a type of highly skilled prostitute or courtesan. The daughters and wives of Athenian citizens were sheltered from men and most serious education at least partly in order to assure their suitability as citizen wives. Adult female companionship at drinking parties (the famous symposium) could be supplied by a high priced prostitute—or hetaira. Such women might be accomplished musicians, rich, well-educated, and agreeable companions. Aspasia of Miletus Pericles—one of the most important leaders of his time—had a mistress named Aspasia of Miletus. Due to her status as a foreigner, she may have been doomed to become a hetaira. At the time, those who were not native citizens of Athens were unable to marry Athenian citizens. Her life was likely the richer for it, however. Erotic Entertainers Other hetairai (hetairai is a plural form of hetaira) provided funds for civic improvements. According to an article from the Perseus Digital Library titled, "The Representation Of Prostitutes Versus Respectable Women On Ancient Greek Vases:" "These women were essentially sexual entertainers and often had artistic skills. Hetairai had physical beauty but also had intellectual training and possessed artistic talents; attributes that made them more entertaining companions to Athenian men at parties than their legitimate wives."—Perseus Digital Library Daughters of Demeter on Hetaira According to Daughters of Demeter, women in Athens, though not trained in athletics, seem nevertheless to have had opportunities for sport and exercise. They go on to say that the wealthy learned to read and gathered in private homes to share music and poetry.