ISSN ONLINE: 2558-815X
ISSN PRINT: 1584-9244
ISSN-L: 1584-9244

Female prostitution, hygiene, and medicine in ancient Greece: a peculiar relationship


In ancient Greece, many textbooks were written in order to provide comprehensive, pioneering, and ingenious guides on the philosophy and medical aspects of sexual behaviour. Unfortunately, only fragments of these texts have survived among the treatises from Greek and Roman antiquity. The aim of this study is to examine these texts and understand the triad of the female prostitution-hygiene-medicine in ancient Greek populations. We conduct a thorough study of ancient texts, using PubMed, Google Scholar, and medical libraries of Athens, Greece. Prostitution in ancient Greece symbolized both lust and sexual freedom of women, while at the same time it could signal the relationship of female potency to control men. Most prostitutes served men in need of medical and psychological services. They also addressed issues like physical violence, sexually transmitted infections, post-traumatic stress, and unplanned pregnancies. The contribution of female prostitution in ancient Greece, demonstrates the polysemous development of terms such as «sexual pleasure», «lust», and «eroticism» in the medico-philosophical texts of that era.
Keywords: sexual medicine, hetaira, medical literature, ancient Greece.

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Correspondence address:
Department of History of Medicine and Medical Ethics, Medical School, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece
Address: 4, Themidos Kifissia Str., 15564, Athens, Greece


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Tsoucalas G, Michaleas SN, Androutsos G, Vlahos N, Karamanou M. Female prostitution, hygiene, and medicine in ancient Greece:  a peculiar relationship. Arch Balk Med Union. 2021;56(2):229-233.