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The Mimes of the Courtesans
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Pages (PDF): 52
Publication Date: This translation, 1928
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Living at the height of the Roman Empire, Lucian wrote these short dialogues of working girls competing for clients, dishing gossip and candid tips of the trade, men trying to keep their girls' attention with expensive gifts. It also portrays the dark side of the hetaera's life: out-of-control parties, blowhard men, and putting up with rough treatment by clients. This translation was published during the 1920s. The identity of the translator is only known by the initials 'A.L.H.' on the Translator's Foreword page.
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THE EDUCATION OF CORINNA
Well, Corinna, you see now that it wasn't so terrible to lose your virginity. You have spent your first night with a man. You have earned your first gift, no less than a hundred drachmas. With that I'll buy you a necklace.
Yes, dear mother, do buy me a necklace. Let it be a necklace made of fine, shining stones like the one Philainis wears.
I promise. It will be just like the one Philainis wears. But listen: I want to teach you how you should conduct yourself with men. Take my words to heart, daughter. We have only your favor with men to depend on for a living.
You can't imagine how hard it has been for us to get along since your blessed father's death. We lacked nothing when he was alive. He had quite a reputation as a blacksmith in the Piræus. People say there will never be another blacksmith like Philipinos. After his death I sold his tongs, anvil and hammer for two hundred drachmas. We lived on that for some time. I found work weaving and turning thread, barely earning enough to buy bread with. I have raised you, however, my precious little daughter. You are the only hope left me.
Weren't you going to say something about my hundred drachmas, mother?
No, child. But I thought you were now big enough to support your tired mother. Not only that: you can even earn enough to dress richly, to buy yourself the newest robes of purple, and slaves.
What do you mean, mother? Why do you say that?
Don't you understand, little fool? Why, you will earn a great deal being attentive to nice young men, drinking in their company and going to bed with them--for money, of course.
You mean like Lyra, the daughter of Daphnis?
But she is--a courtesan!
What of it? There is no harm in that. You will become rich. You are sure to have many lovers.
Why, Corinna! Why do you weep? Don't you see how many courtesans there are, how they are all sought after, and how they all make money? I knew Daphnis when she was in rags--that was before she got sense enough to make use of her body. Look at her now! She struts like a queen, all bespangled with gold, wearing flowery dresses, and no less than four slaves behind her.
And how did she get all that, dear mother?
Well, in the first place, by dressing elegantly and being amiable and cheery with everybody. She does not giggle at any little thing, as you do; instead, she only smiles, which is much more attractive. She treats shrewdly, but without double-crossing, the men that come to see her or take her to their houses. She never approaches them first. When she is paid to assist at a banquet, she takes care not to get drunk--it is foolish and men can't bear it--and she does not stuff herself with food like an imbecile, so that when she gets into bed she is in condition to serve her lover well. She no more than touches the various dishes served--delicately, with her fingertips, and always in silence. And she never guzzles her wine, but drinks slowly, quietly, in gentle little sips.
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