People - Ancient Greece: Phryne
She was an ancient Greek hetaera, who lived in 4th
Phrȳné in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)
（Φρύνη). A celebrated Athenian courtesan, born at Thespis in Boeotia. She flourished in the times of Philip and Alexander the Great, and was the mistress of some of the most distinguished men of the day. She became so wealthy that she is said to have offered to rebuild the walls of Thebes, when destroyed by Alexander, if only she might inscribe upon the walls, “Alexander destroyed these; but Phryné, the hetaera, rebuilt them”—an offer which was rejected. The famous painting of Apelles, entitled “Aphrodité Anadyomené,” or Aphrodité rising from the sea, is said to have had Phryné for its model. (See Apelles.) Praxiteles, the sculptor, who was another of her lovers, used her as a model for his “Cnidian Aphrodité.” At one time she was accused of profaning the Eleusinian Mysteries, and was brought before the court of the Heliasts; but her advocate, Hyperides, threw off her veil, and exposed her breasts to the judges, who at once acquitted her amid the applause of the people, by whom she was carried in triumph to the temple of Aphrodité. See Meretrix.
Phryne in Wikipedia
Phryne (Φρύνη) was a famous hetaera (courtesan) of Ancient Greece (4th century BC).
Her real name was Mnesarete (Ancient Greek Μνησαρετή (commemorating virtue)), but owing to her yellowish complexion she was called Phryne (toad), a name given to other courtesans. She was born at Thespiae in Boeotia, but seems to have lived at Athens. She acquired so much wealth by her extraordinary beauty that she offered to rebuild the walls of Thebes, which had been destroyed by Alexander the Great (336 BC), on condition that the words destroyed by Alexander, restored by Phryne the courtesan, were inscribed upon them. The authorities turned down her offer.
She was famously beautiful. On the occasion of a festival of Poseidon at Eleusis, she laid aside her garments, let down her hair, and stepped nude into the sea in the sight of the people, thus suggesting to the painter Apelles his great picture of Aphrodite Anadyomene (also portrayed at times as this Venus Anadyomene), for which Phryne herself sat as model. Other works of art from the period are alleged to be modeled after Phryne.
Due to her beauty, she also inspired the much later painting by artist Jean-Léon Gérôme, Phryné devant l'Areopage, (Phryne before the Areopagus, 1861) as well as other works of art throughout history. She was also (according to some) the model for the statue of the Aphrodite of Knidos by Praxiteles.
Charles Baudelaire in his poems Lesbos and La beauté and Rainer Maria Rilke in his poem Die Flamingos were inspired by her beauty and fame. Phryné was also the subject of an opera by Camille Saint-Saëns: Phryné (1893).
When accused of profaning the Eleusinian mysteries, she was defended by the orator Hypereides, one of her lovers. The speech for the prosecution, according to Diodorus Periegetes, quoted by Athenaeus XIII.591e, was written by Anaximenes of Lampsacus. When it seemed as if the verdict would be unfavourable, Hypereides tore open her robe and displayed her breasts, which so moved her judges that they acquitted her. According to others, she herself removed her clothing. The judges' change of heart was not simply because they were overcome by the beauty of her nude body, but because such unusual physical beauty was often seen as a facet of divinity or a mark of divine favor during those times.
A statue of Phryne, the work of Praxiteles, was placed in a temple at Thespiae by the side of a statue of Aphrodite by the same artist. Diogenes Laertius narrates a failed attempt Phryne made on the virtue of the philosopher Xenocrates.
Dimitris Varos, modern Greek poet and writer, wrote a book called Phryne. Witold Jabłoński, Polish fantasy writer, also wrote a book called Phryne the Hetaera.
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