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This class of women were even associated to religion, by the arts. The famous Phryné, who had amassed such a treasure by the free use of her captivating person, as to have proposed taking upon herself the whole expence of re-building* the walls of Thebes, which had been demolished by Alexander, served as a model to the great masters of sculpture and painting, Praxiteles and Apelles, for their most unrivalled productions. Her exquisite beauty is said to have inspired the former with the idea of his Cnidian Venus, so rapturously extolled by Lucian+, and for the possession of which, Nicomedes, king of Bithynia, in vain offered to discharge the immense debts of that republict: and the celebrated picture of Venus Anadyomene, which adorned the temple of Æsculapius, in the island
* Provided, however, that the following unparalleled inscription was placed on them :—Alexander diruit, sed meretrix Phryné refecit; but it was refused.—See Pliny, Lib. xxxiv. cap. 8.-Lib. xxxvii. cap. 5.
+ See Lucian, in the Epwrns. The illusion of the Greeks was so great with this celebrated production, says that writer, that they fancied the marble moved, that it seemed to speak, and they ended by applying their lips to those of the Goddess.-See likewise the Anthologia, cap. xi. rii. xiii. upon this subject.
See Pausanias, Lib. i. cap. 40.-Lib. viii. cap. 9. and Pliny, lib. vii. cap. 34.
of Cos*, was undertaken by the latter, from having seen Phryné on the sea-shore, with no other covering than her long and floating tresses. The greater part of the courtezans were likewise musicians; and in an art so much admired in Greece+, and so well adapted to inflame and nourish every voluptuous passion, and consequently, so deeply connected with their own interests and fame, we can readily believe their skill to have been prodigious.
It is also known, how grateful the sight of beauty
The supposed place where Apelles was born: but Augustus afterwards obtained this incomparable painting, and remitted to the inhabitants as an equivalent for it, the sum of three hundred talents, upon the tribute which they owed to his exchequer.-“ Φασι δε τοις Κωοις ἀντι της γραφης ἑκατον ταλαντων ἀφεσιν γενεσθαι τε προσταχθεντος φορε.”—SeeStrabo, lib. xiv.—Athenæus asserts, that both those famous productions, the picture as well as the statue, were copied after the courtezan Phryné. The celebrated statue of the Venus de Medicis is likewise supposed by many connoisseurs, to be only a copy of the Venus of Cnidus.
The use of the flute formed part of the education of the young Athenians, previous to the Peloponnesian war; but conceiving that that instrument marred their beauty, (a circumstance to which they were uncommonly attentive,) by communicating a disagreeable protuberance to their lips and cheeks, it was condemned and abandoned by the general consent of the nation. Omnium tum Atheniensium consensu disciplina tibiis canendi desita est.-Vide Aulus Gellius, Lib. xv. cap. 17.From similar motives, perhaps, Plato banished the Boeotian flute from his republic, and preferred the lyre or cithern for schools of music.
was to the Greeks, and how often they were the dupes and instruments of it in their military and civil transactions. Enthusiastic in all their feelings, the ardent souls and inflammable imaginations of this people adored beauty in the temples, admired it in master-pieces of the arts*, contemplated it in the games and exercises, and gave prizes to it in the public festivals: but the restraint and seclusion in which the married women, especially among the Athenians, were kept, and the incessant toil and drudgery to which they were exposed, extinguished in them all solicitude to set off whatever natural beauty they possessed to the greatest advantage. That homage, therefore, which they ought, and would have received, if they had not been excluded by the law from cultivating a refinement of taste and manners, by mixing in society+, was necessarily engrossed by the courtezans, who, fettered by no occupations of that kind, were left at full leisure to study every captivating variety of dress, and to heighten the effect of their personal charms by a display of
* See Wincklemann Histoire de l' Art, chez les Anciens.—Tom. II. Liv. iv. cap. 2.
+ Except for the purpose of attending a procession or a funeral, (see Lysia Orationes, pro cade Erastothenis Defensio, p. 3.) they were scarcely ever permitted to appear abroad, as we have before observed.
all those accomplishments, which can engage and delight. The courtezans of Athens lived in a public manner; and to their entertainments, orators, philosophers and poets, and all who were eminent in any department of art or science, constantly repaired, for the sake of those qualities, that were so attractive. Thus they imparted to the men of letters, an elegance of manners, a playfulness of wit, and turn of pleasantry delicately ironical; while they, in return, by occasionally frequenting their schools, gained from them an elevation and enlargement of mind, which rendered their conversation brilliant in the highest degree.
Among this meretricious class, there was one who acquired such an ascendency over superior minds, as even to become the object of public consideration. The name of the celebrated Aspasia, the mistress of Pericles, will here, doubtless, present itself to the recollection of the classical reader. She is said to have been born at Miletus, the chief town of Ionia; and such was the combination of extraordinary endowments found in her, that the historians who have recorded her praises seem to be undetermined whether she most excelled in her person or in her mind. The grave and enlightened Socrates was mute and attentive when she
spoke; and Pericles placed such confidence in her judgment, as to consult her on all state matters of great moment. Plato, whose character for sagacity and political knowledge was equalled by few, and surpassed by none, of his contemporaries, hesitates not to pay her the remarkable compliment of saying, that her instructions contributed powerfully to form the greatest and most eloquent orators of her age*; while Plutarch+, although inclined to consider her as the author of the Peloponnesian war, and to stigmatize her licentiousness with a manly indignation, relates, as an indisputable proof of her deep skill in the science of politics, that one Lysicles, by attaching himself to her society, after the death of Pericles, arose from the meanest origin and education to the first employment in the republic. So various and splendid, indeed, were her attainments, that they seem to have communicated a degree of glory to her profligate profession: yet, we cannot help thinking, there is too much exaggeration in the remark, that her example and instruction rendered Athens the school of vice and pleasure, when it is stated, at the same time,
* See Harpocration voce Aspasia.-Plato in Menexeno.
+ See Vita Periclis.