Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Craig A. Gibson
First Committee Member
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Fourth Committee Member
Lucian's Dialogues of the Courtesans (Dialogi Meretricii) are fifteen short dialogues set in classical Athens. The Dialogues depict exchanges between courtesans and between courtesans and their clients. Dialogues of the Courtesans is part of a larger body of Greek literature featuring courtesans that begins with the first attested use of hetaira (ἑταίρα) for courtesan in Herodotus' Histories (2.134) and includes Attic oratory, philosophical dialogue, Hellenistic epigram, and New Comedy. Though Lucian borrows from this body of literature, especially from New Comedy, to craft his fictional world of courtesans, this dissertation illustrates how Lucian's depiction is unlike all previous representations. Lucian gives his courtesans a voice and places the focus of the dialogues on their lives and experiences rather than on the experiences of male characters. Moreover, Dialogues of the Courtesans features unpleasant aspects of a courtesan's life not often emphasized in other ancient Greek literature. These differences set his courtesans apart not only from depictions in previous literature but also from those of Lucian's closer contemporaries in the Second Sophistic. While other Second Sophistic portrayals of hetairai often feature witty, beautiful, flashy, and rich women, Lucian calls attention to the difficulties actual courtesans would have faced such as poverty, violence, and falling in love with an unattainable man. Lucian's use of traditional literary elements to create such a strikingly different picture of courtesan life displays his ability to assimilate and manipulate the tropes of courtesan literature effectively.
vi, 206 pages
Includes bibliographical references (pages 203-206).
Copyright 2014 Sharada Sue Shreve-Price
Shreve-Price, Sharada Sue. "Complicated courtesans: Lucian's Dialogues of the courtesans." PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) thesis, University of Iowa, 2014.