marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,
marycatelli
marycatelli

Courtesans and Fishcakes

Courtesans and Fishcakes:  The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens by James Davidson

Quite consuming.  When men were criticized for squandering their patrimony, they were said to spend it on hetaera and fishmongers.

All sorts of information.  The Gospel according to St. John gets pressed into duty to explain the semantic drift of the term opsum, which is -- well -- you have your wine, you have your bread, and then you have everything else, which is opsum, which is why greedy eaters are called opsophagos -- they ought to eat more bread -- except that by the time of the Gospel, opsum means seafood. The meanings were competing even in Athens.  Socrates deliberately lists nothing but non-seafood when talking about what the ideal republic would eat.

The tavern vs. the symposium.  The tavern gets decried as commercial but they were unquestionably local taverns and comedies talk about the tavern keeper knows how he likes the wine, and the mark of a deeply in debt man is that the taverns won't extend credit.  And the danger of damage is less at a symposium since there are rich men who can buy off the problem.

The sober effort of pro-Spartans to defend scarlet cloaks as unwomanly, and accustoming men to the red of blood; long hair as making them look more impressive or making it harder to do menial labor; and large cups as containing only water -- because what these things do, after all, is make the Spartans look effeminate in Athenian eyes.

The unpleasant life of a flute-girl.  Brothels cheap enough to be frequented by slaves.  And the delicate art of a hetaera, a companion, who received gifts from her friends -- a delicate art there, to avoid a quid pro quo, and still more to avoid charging a set fee.  Orators would argue someone was a prostitute on the grounds he or she took all clients at the same price.

Many of hetaera lived with men as if wives, before, or after, or sometimes instead of their citizen wives.  It was entirely too shocking to introduce a hetaera into your wife's home, and only a few could set up separate establishments.  On one hand, one man said that a wife was worse because she didn't have to please you; on the other hand, one contract for a hetaera is so jealous that the woman is forbidden to swear except by female deities.

The frequency with which men with money or gifts are depicted approaching spinning women.  Some thought it was an image of seduction, but it appears to the low-class whores making money on the side.

Excessive drinking was scorned, but Demostheses was criticized for drinking water.  Obviously this showed that he calculated his language, rather than speaking from the heart.

Conspicuous consumption -- not so much.  Yes, there are men who are famous for dinners, but the gap of rich and poor was not that large.  (And rich and poor rose and fell all the time.)  Rhetoricians argue from large spending that a man was obviously poor, and from lack thereof, that a man was obviously rich.

The adulterer -- whom you can identify because he's a dandy, all dressed up.  The very personification of lack of self-control.  (Given that the husband could kill him or extort a fortune from him, well, yes, probably lacking in self-control.)

The various passions they could see men losing their heads over.  Like drink or dice -- or women, which you really had to be crazy about to be woman-mad.  Aristophanes invented "sacrificial-feast-mad" as a possible problem with a man in The Wasps before revealing that he's really jury-mad, always running off to selected.

And lots of other interesting stuff.
Tags: ethos, foils, history reviews: classical, secondary source, world-building: economics, world-building: social structure
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