Did Ancient Greece Have Prostitutes?

Did Ancient Greece Have Prostitutes?

In ancient Greece, the presence of prostitutes was not only prevalent but also widely accepted. Prostitution played a significant role in the social and cultural life of this ancient civilization.

Let’s delve deeper into this fascinating aspect of Greek society.

The Role of Prostitutes in Ancient Greece

Prostitutes, known as “hetaerae,” held a unique position in ancient Greek society. Unlike modern perceptions of prostitution, hetaerae were not solely engaged in sexual services but also provided intellectual companionship to their clients.

They were educated, witty, and skilled in arts such as music and dance.

It’s important to note that hetaerae were distinct from “porne,” who were women engaged solely in sexual acts for monetary gain. Hetaerae had more autonomy and often enjoyed higher social status than porne.

1. The Influence of Hetaerae

Hetaerae held significant influence over influential men, including politicians, philosophers, and artists. They were sought after for their intellect and charm, often participating in intellectual discussions and cultural events alongside their male counterparts.

2. The Role of Hetaerae in Social Gatherings

Hetaerae played an integral role in symposiums – drinking parties where men gathered to discuss various topics ranging from politics to philosophy. These gatherings provided an opportunity for hetaerae to showcase their talents and engage with influential individuals.

The Regulation of Prostitution in Ancient Greece

While prostitution was widely accepted in ancient Greece, it was not entirely unregulated. City-states implemented laws to ensure the safety and fair treatment of both prostitutes and clients.

These laws aimed to prevent exploitation and maintain a certain level of professionalism in the industry.

1. Registration and Licensing

Prostitutes were required to register with the state and obtain licenses. This process ensured that they were of legal age, physically fit, and met specific criteria set by the authorities.

The licenses also protected the rights of both parties involved in transactions.

2. Health Standards

To safeguard public health, city-states enforced health standards for prostitutes. Regular medical examinations were conducted to ensure they were free from sexually transmitted diseases.

This practice aimed to protect both prostitutes and clients from potential harm.


Prostitution was an integral part of ancient Greek society, with hetaerae playing a unique role as intellectual companions to influential men. Despite its acceptance, regulations were implemented to ensure the well-being of both parties involved in these transactions.

Understanding the historical context surrounding prostitution in ancient Greece helps us gain insights into their societal norms, values, and cultural practices.