According to Xenophon, the hetaira "gratified" her patron as a philos, participating in an aristocratic network of gift exchange (Xen. Mem. 3.11), while the pornê, as her name signified, trafficked in sex as a commodity. Recent writers on Greek prostitution have acknowledged that hetaira vs. pornê may be as much a discursive opposition as a real difference in status, but still, very little attention has been paid to the period of the "invention" of this binary. Hetaira meaning "courtesan" first occurs in Herodotus (2.134-35) and does not exist in Homer: hence, the conceptual category of the hetaira is an invention of the archaic period. What needs generated the constitution of this category? And what conceptual "work" was the opposition hetaira-pornê doing in Greek culture in the period of its inception? This paper addresses these questions through a reading of fragments of archaic lyric-predominantly those of Anakreon-as well as consideration of Attic vase painting. I suggest that the hetaira-pornê opposition participates in the overarching tension between the aristocratic symposium and the public sphere in archaic Greece. Oswyn Murray has suggested that the symposium constitutes itself as a kind of anti-city with its own rules and conventions. Part of the discursive exclusion of the public sphere is the complete suppression of the city's monetarized economy from the domain of the aristocratic symposium, and it is this impulse to mystify economic relations for sex that generates the category of the hetaira within a framework of gift exchange. But if the motives for this discursive invention are economic, they are also (inextricably) political: the hetaira affirms and embodies the circulation of charis within a privileged elite, while the pornê figures the debased and promiscuous exchanges of the agora.
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