Another Phryne Story

Phryne gathered a fortune from the gifts her many besotted lovers bestowed on her. She might in fact have been the richest private woman in Greece.

When Alexander the Great pulled down the walls of Thebes in punishment for rebellion, Phryne offered to rebuild them at her own expense. She set just one condition: the Thebans had to agree to place a plaque on the walls where everyone would see it, saying:

Alexander pulled it down, but Phryne the Hetaera got it erect again.

Phryne The Hetaera

Phryne The Hetaera was the most famous courtesan of her day. She lived more than a hundred years after the time of my tales, despite which she was the inspiration for one of my favourite scenes. Here is the story of what really happened.

Phryne's beauty was such that every important and rich man lined up to be with her. She was particularly...ummm...friendly with Praxiteles, the greatest sculptor of ancient times. He used her as the model for his most famous work, the Aphrodite of Knidus; that statue made Phryne the gold standard for female beauty for ages to come.

Phryne's habit of modeling as Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, got her into trouble. Phryne was charged in Athens with impiety, the same charge that had got Socrates killed.

Needless to say, the best lawyer of the day was among her lovers. Hyperides struggled to save her, but he was failing because the complainants had her dead to rights; for a mortal to pretend to divine attributes was a crime. It looked like Phryne would be sent to her death.

With nothing to lose, Hyperides walked over to Phryne, standing in the court, and in one movement ripped down her dress.

The entire (all male) court took a close look at exhibit A.

The charges were dismissed.

Phryne thus became the only woman in history to be declared divinely beautiful, by order of court.