In ancient Greece, hetaerae (in Greek , hetairai) were courtesans, that is to say, sophisticated companions and prostitutes.
In ancient Greek society, hetaerae were independent and sometimes influential women who were required to wear distinctive dresses and had to pay taxes. Composed mostly of ex-slaves and foreigners, these courtesans were renowned for their achievements in dance and music, as well as for their physical talents. There is evidence that, unlike most other women in Greek society at the time, hetaerae were educated. It is remarkable that hetaerae not only were the only women who would actively take part in the symposia, but also that their opinions and beliefs were respected by men, possibly due to the importance of pillow talk.
Some similarities have been found between the ancient Greek hetaera, the earlier Babylonian Nadītu, the Japanese Oiran, and the Korean kisaeng, complex figures that are perhaps in an intermediate position between prostitutes and entertainers.
Among the most famous were Thargelia, a renowned Ionian hetaera of ancient times, Aspasia, long-time companion of the Athenian politician Pericles, Archeanassa companion of Plato, the famous Neaira, and Thaïs, a concubine of Ptolemy, general on the expedition of Alexander the Great and later king of Egypt.
Hetaerae appear to have been regarded as distinct from pornê or simple prostitutes, and also distinguished from mistresses or wives. In the oration Against Neaera, Demosthenes said:
In this same oration, Demosthenes mentions that Neaira's purchase price (both at her original purchase by Timanoridas of Corinth and Eucrates of Leucas and her own subsequent purchase of her freedom) was 30 minas. Since the mina was equal to 100 drachmae and the drachma can be thought of as equivalent to the daily wage of a skilled worker, this would make her purchase price over 8 years salary—obviously beyond the means of the average person.
The male form of the word, hetaeros (pl. hetaeroi), signified male companions in the sense of a business or political associate. Most famously, it referred to Alexander the Great's bodyguard cavalry unit (see Companion cavalry).
hetaerism in Breton: Hetaira
hetaerism in Catalan: Hetera
hetaerism in Czech: Hetéra
hetaerism in German: Hetäre
hetaerism in Estonian: Hetäär
hetaerism in Spanish: Hetera
hetaerism in French: Prostitution en Grèce antique#H.C3.A9ta.C3.AFres
hetaerism in Icelandic: Hofgleðikona
hetaerism in Italian: Etera
hetaerism in Hebrew: הטאירה
hetaerism in Kazakh: Гетера
hetaerism in Latvian: Hetēra
hetaerism in Lithuanian: Hetera
hetaerism in Dutch: Hetaere
hetaerism in Polish: Hetera
hetaerism in Portuguese: Hetaira
hetaerism in Russian: Гетера
hetaerism in Swedish: Hetär