History of Europe

When I traveled to Ancient Greece and found that the Greeks, in addition to being philosophers, were horny

Last updated:2022-07-25

Do you know that feeling that everyone is looking at you and you don't know why? Well that's how I felt. Had something gone wrong on the trip or in my transformation process to a countryman from Ancient Greece? I was standing in the middle of a street in Athens and everyone was pointing at me and giggling at my expense. I looked at my clothes and there was nothing strange or out of place. What's more, I was very cute in my sandals and my pristine white short tunic. And when I put my head in my hands, I understood:the time machine had decided to adorn me with a flower crown. The device had turned out funny. I quickly took it off and… there was Phryné, covered by a snowy gauze that, without showing anything, hinted at a statuesque silhouette. If Leonardo da Vinci, in his study of the ideal proportions of the human body, had drawn Vitruvian Woman instead of Vitruvian Man, he would have used Phryné as a model. It was easy to understand the artists of the time and also the judges who acquitted her. And what about her face! Eyes the color of honey, an aquiline nose, a fleshy mouth, a radiant and olive complexion and long blonde hair gathered at the back from which two precise strands escape that covered the ears... Seeing is believing. She came to stand in front of me...

Trial of Phryne

I guess you're Xavier. Is that so?

That's how it is. And you must be Phryné, my hostess?

As soon as I answered, she approached me and… she kissed me on the mouth! A chaste and pure kiss, but on her mouth. The truth is, she caught me by surprise, because such a kiss was common between parents and children, siblings or very close friends, but never between strangers. So, I interpreted that greeting as a gesture that showed trust and closeness.

-I wasn't sure exactly where I was going to find you, but when I started to hear people talk about a foreigner standing in the middle of the street with a flower crown on his head, I knew it was you and I just had to follow the trail of the murmurs.
-Yes, I realized from the looks that something was wrong and I took off the crown.
-We will need it in a moment, but now it is better than the carry in your hand If you like, let's go for a walk to my friend's house where the symposium we've been invited to is going to be held.

On that walk through the streets of Athens in the company of Phryne, I noticed in the eyes of the men a mixture of envy and hatred. So, I decided to ignore those looks and focus on my work. After some trivial questions and answers, typical of two strangers who want to make friends, I got down to business by asking him about the trial.

-It's a subject that hurt me a lot, Javier. It is the price I have had to pay for trying to be the owner of my destiny despite being a woman, being able to choose, saying no... and that is paid. Everything ended well, but it is a subject that is very difficult for me to talk about.
-Well, we will stay with the fact that, despite the fact that Hyperides had to resort to other arguments that were not those of his oratory to refute a false accusation, the judges ruled in your favor.
-Let's say that Hyperides' maneuver was successful because the jury was made up of elderly and indigent people who had not seen a woman's naked body for a long time. I was very lucky.
-How old and homeless? I judge you a popular jury chosen from among the citizens.
-That is the theory, the reality is quite different. Here, 6,000 citizens are chosen by lottery each year from among the volunteers over 30 years of age who register to be part of the courts of justice. Every day, and depending on the number of lawsuits, they are distributed through a lottery, which is done with the clergy, at a rate of no less than 201 members per court that, in some relevant cases, could reach up to 2,001. But always an odd number to avoid ties. After listening to the parties during the time marked by the clepsydra, and without prior joint deliberation, they cast their vote (a black or white pebble). The process seems clean and fair. And I say it seems, because the fact of being part of a jury is financially remunerated but with such a small amount that the only volunteers who sign up to be part of the jury lists are indigent, sick people who cannot work, elderly people without resources... people without office or benefit. In addition, since the defense and the prosecution are carried out by the interested parties themselves, justice is not based on evidence and truth but on the art and grace that each one has when making speeches and influencing the jury. . Here, justice depends on the speaker you can hire and, furthermore, on how lucky you are with the jury.
-Yes, it seems true that justice is not blind.
-What do you say?
-Nothing, nothing, my things. Well, tell me what I'm going to find at the symposium.
-The symposium ritual is divided into two acts:one gastronomic, barely relevant except today that it will be something special for you, and another playful one that begins after the meal; It is the time for drinks and chatting among the guests, enlivened with music, dances and games that can last until late at night.
-It doesn't look bad at all. Thank you very much for the invitation Friné.
-Only one thing, I must warn you that during dinner I cannot be with you, I will only be able to accompany you during the entertainment part and, honestly, you will need me there. I will be indicating and advising you, but you must bear in mind that when the wine flows without measure, unforeseen situations can arise or that you cannot control, and you must be willing to face them.
-For better or for worse, I will try to be one more.
-So be it. It's here. This is the house of the great sculptor Praxiteles where the banquet will be held... and everything else.

As he understood it, besides being the model for his marvelous statues, Phryné also frequented the artist's bed. I don't know how she would take it if she were the one to bring a stranger into her own home. Apparently we were the last to arrive. Phryné went ahead and greeted everyone present. When they saw her, everyone's eyes lit up and they smiled mischievously. She made a gesture with her hand and I approached…

This is my friend Javier, the foreigner from across the seas that I told you I would invite so that he could learn about one of the most typical rituals of Greece.

I was relieved to find that my presence had already been announced and that it was not a surprise. Still, he had arrived with Phryné, and there were too many of the hetaira's suitors here. So, he had to act with caution and prudence. As he was introducing me, I was saying hello...

The sculptor and host Praxiteles, the lawyer Hyperides, the politician Demosthenes...

And many more names that I couldn't remember. Yes, all men. As my hostess had warned me, she left the room and said goodbye to her until later. And there I was, in the hands of the cream of Athenian society. I don't know if it was arranged previously or if it was just a coincidence, but both Hyperides and Demosthenes adopted me. They sat me down next to them and they told me.

-Don't think that it is common for a woman to be allowed to bring a guest, that only happens because she is who she is, -pointed out Hyperides, her lawyer during the trial.
-I know. I thank her and all of you who have allowed it.
-Well, now they will serve us dinner that today, due to your presence, will consist of more elaborate dishes than normal. In fact, some of them are recipes from chefs from the ancient city of Sybaris, when it was a colony of our Magna Graecia. These gourmets were very refined, they even had a container under the bed to relieve themselves in the middle of the night, but they also had chefs who prepared exquisite dishes with sophisticated recipes. In fact, to protect the work of its creators, they had laws that gave them exclusive rights to exploit their new dishes for a year. And it was a pity that many of those recipes were lost when Croton razed the city to the ground, Demosthenes informed me in detail.

And I thought that the first law that referred to copyright was the Statute of Queen Anne of Great Britain promulgated on April 10, 1710, and in ancient times they already existed. How I like these trips! At that moment slaves, men and women, began to circulate through that room, coming and going with dishes and bowls with cakes of bread, cheese, olives, lentil puree, pork stews, salted fish, seafood seasoned with spices. , honey cakes, figs… and some wine-colored water. Dishes and more dishes that we ate directly with our hands and that, for the most part, were returned to the kitchen unfinished. It was clear that, despite being a special occasion and wanting to entertain me with something different, those present were more of a frugal dinner or that they were in a hurry to move on to the next act.

When he deemed it opportune, rather sooner than later, Praxiteles ordered the tables to be cleared and the room prepared for what the philosopher Xenophon described as the moment when “ sorrows fall asleep and the amorous instinct awakens ”. When everything was clear, they brought each of us a glass of pure wine, the only time I was going to drink it without mixing it with water, and we performed the corresponding ritual libations in honor of the gods Dionysus and Zeus, who It consisted of taking a sip of wine, for which they then told me to barely wet their lips, and spill the rest on the floor. Once the ban was opened, the mess began. Praxiteles, acting as symposiarch , took the floor and established, because it had to be done from the beginning, that 6 craters were going to be taken, the clay pots where the wine was lowered and from which we would serve ourselves directly, and that the mixture of wine and water was going to be be 3/5 parts water. As Demosthenes told me, the mix always had more water than wine, even in equal parts it was too strong for them, and normally three kraters were served. So, it was clear that the host wanted that symposium to be remembered. For better or for worse, we would see as events unfolded. They put the krater in the center, around it they placed divans to sit or recline, and the slaves placed flower crowns on us, although I preferred to wear mine, and sprayed us with perfumes. The symposiarch fired the starting gun and we all filled our glasses directly from the krater. Logically, there is no “guateque” worth its salt without music and women for the “agarrao” dance, at least in my time. That problem was solved by Praxiteles with a couple of claps:a few women entered with flutes and after them Phryné, leading a group of hetairas. Now we had all the basic elements for a great party. The comings and goings to fill the cup in the crater were constant, the flutists entertained with their music, while some hetarias danced, others intervened in the conversations of the men, and I... I tried not to look like an octopus in a garage at that time. pleasant atmosphere that was being created. Phryné noticed that he was a little absent and approached me to introduce me to a group that included Praxiteles, Hyperides, Demosthenes and one they called the Spartan talking about politics, women and the phaininda . Talking about the first topic, it is not pleasant for me or doing it today; of the second, better to wait to see where the shots were going, and of the third… I had no idea. So, in order not to stay out of the game…

-Excuse me for interrupting, what is the phaininda?
-If we start talking and we don't remember that we have a barbarian among us. Well, and some xeno like the Spartan. Phaininda is a sport that is practiced on a rectangular field divided into two halves with a central part where points are scored. Two teams made up of between 10 or 12 players face each other with the aim of passing the ball with their feet or hands and getting it to the central scoring area; and as a good contact sport, you can grab and knock down the player carrying the ball, but not hit.

Come on, we have hardly changed, because in Ancient Greece in a men's meeting they also talked about politics, women and a sport somewhere between soccer and rugby. Luckily, despite the neural disorders he suffered from travel, he still remembered that the Greeks used the term barbarian as a synonym for foreigner, specifically to designate any person who did not come from Hellenic territory, and xenos for citizens of other polis than their own. And since we were in Athens, the Spartan was a xeno.

Friné continued serving other guests and I, like the rest, go a glass and a glass comes. Since it was impossible for me to get into the conversation, I tried to imitate the expressions on his faces so that it seemed that I knew what was going on there. So, they laughed when they did and I got serious when the occasion called for it. Of course, we ventilate two craters at a time. When Praxiteles ordered the third to be drawn, they started a round of jokes.

-A fortune teller told a man:“I'm sorry but you can't have children”. When the man replied that he had 7, the fortune teller replied:“Oh, yes? Take a good look at them -said Praxiteles.
-A friend told a philosopher:“Congratulations! I heard that your wife just had a child.” The philosopher, with a face of few friends, replied:"Yes, thanks to friends like you" -Hyperides continued.

When it was Demosthenes' turn, the taunts began.

-A Spartan found a eunuch talking to a woman and asked her if she was his wife. The eunuch replied that he was a eunuch, and therefore he had no wife. The Spartan asked:"Oh, so, is she your daughter?"

The Spartan's reply was immediate:

An Athenian was surprised by his father while he was sleeping with his grandmother and beat him up. The Athenian, between sobs, complained:“You have slept with my mother many times and I don't say anything! Why do you hit me for sleeping only once with yours?”

Seeing that things could get bigger, Friné intervened with a joke that would please everyone...

A wife tells her dying husband:"If you die, I'll kill myself." The sick man looked up from her and said:"No, do me a favor and kill yourself while I'm still alive"

They all laughed and drank and… turned their eyes towards me. It was my turn, luckily I had read the Philogelos , a collection of 256 short jokes from Antiquity compiled by Hierocles and Philagrios, because I realized that I couldn't take a turn here. So, seeing the success of Friné, I decided to follow that line…

While a funeral was taking place, a man approached and asked, "Who rests here?" The widower replied:"Me, now that I've gotten rid of her!"

From Friné's wink and the laughter of the rest, I understood that I had passed the test. So, I relaxed, enjoyed that moment in which I already felt part of it and, following the wheel, I came up and counted two more:

-A man at the doctor:"Doctor, when I get up I'm dizzy, but half an hour later I'm much better." “Then get up half an hour later,” the doctor told him.
-A man took his father's body to the Egyptian embalmers in Alexandria. When he went to retrieve it for burial, the embalmer, who has several bodies, asked him if his father had any identifying marks. "A bad cough," replies the son.

When we had already given a good account of the third crater, all the attendees began to shout:

Cótabo, cótabo, cótabo…

And I, not to be outdone, did too. Phryné approached me and told me...

-You don't know what it is, do you?
-No idea – I replied
-Do you remember when I told you before entering that unforeseen situations could arise or that I could not control, and that you should you be willing to face them? Well, that can happen from now on. The cótabo is a game in which you have to drink the wine from the glasses but leaving one last sip to throw it into a container to pour into it. Both the distance at which the container is placed and the container itself, can be a simple saucer to make it easier to hole or a narrow mouth claw in which it is very difficult, it is determined by the symposiarch, in this case Praxiteles. And from the chosen dish and the short distance from which they are placing it, it is clear that my friend wants to party.
-The truth, beyond the aim that each one has and the effect that the wine is having on him I don't see any problem with the game. And much less for situations to arise that cannot be controlled.
-The mechanics of the game is not the problem, it is the prize for pocketing what can be.
-And what is the prize?
-When you flick your wrist to launch the wine, you must say the name of a person present here with whom you want to sleep, and if you hole that is the prize. Normally the names of the hetairas and slaves, men or women, are said, but I have been present in some cótabo in which they have used the game to pay off some pending debt and have said the name of one of the guests. It doesn't look like it's going to happen here, but you never know. By the way, what name are you going to say? Because you're going to have to participate and, with the short distance and how big the plate is, it's very difficult to fail unless it's done on purpose.
-Well, I don't know. I didn't know I was going to have to sleep with someone. Yours? You're the only one I know.
-I was going to suggest it to you, and don't worry. If you are right, we will say that you are not used to sleeping with a woman in full view of everyone and we will go to an adjoining room. And if you fail… yourself.

At the suggestion of Praxiteles, they all agreed that I should be the first to try my luck. So, I drank, leaving the last sip, and I threw it at the same time that I shouted:Phryné. And yes, I was right. Everyone shouted for joy, as if I had scored the winning goal in the last minute of the Champions League final, and in an instant I was surrounded by all the men congratulating me and giving me hugs. I turned to Phryne and she nodded. As we had arranged, she excused us and we went to an adjoining room. I sat on the divan and… what happened or didn't happen there will remain for Phryné and me. Just as we made our way back to the main room, two slaves were attempting to place the fourth krater by dodging and avoiding frolicking pairs. Except for a few who drowned their bad pulse in wine, the rest lay paired with the rest of the hetairas, the slaves, some male slave and even a flutist. Since it seemed like they still had a while, we filled our wine glasses and went back to the living room to kill time.

-What are those bags that all you hetairas have left there? -I asked Friné
-Well, our work tools. We carry olisbos of different sizes and they can be made of stone, leather or wood.
-Olisbos? What are olisbos?
"Aristophanes called them "widows' dildos," Phryné replied as he took a phallic-shaped leather object out of a bag. It helps us to practice the art of self-love or to be consoled in case we don't measure up.

Obviously, after showing me the dildo, no further explanation would have been necessary, but…

-And what else do you bring?
-Well, a little bottle of olive oil for massages and for…
-Yeah, yeah, I guess what for -I interrupted
-And most importantly, a twig of silphium And this surely you do not know. Silphium is a wild plant brought from the Greek city of Cyrene. The resin that is extracted from the stem and roots is used to prepare various medicinal remedies and also to season certain stews, but we use it for its estrogenic properties as an abortifacient. A pregnant hetaira, she stops being a hetaira. The problem is that it is getting more and more expensive because no one has managed to cultivate silphium and it is only produced in the outskirts of that city. There is less and less left and they abuse prices.


-Well, as a saying from my land says, “prevention is better than cure”.
-I had never heard of it, but you are absolutely right. And now that you mention curing, here in Athens we women have it much easier than in any other polis. For Athenian women we have a woman who is dedicated to medicine.
-But... legally? I understood that women here couldn't practice medicine.
-And they can't. Except Agnodice. From a very young age she wanted to follow the family tradition and dedicate herself to medicine. She surprisingly had the support of her father, but in order to study she had to pass herself off as a man - she dressed in male clothes, cut her hair and bandaged her breasts to hide them - and they sent her to Alexandria, where no one knew her. There she was a disciple of Herophilus, one of the best doctors of the time, and when she finished her studies she returned to Athens to begin practicing, logically maintaining her masculine appearance. From a very early age, she gained the trust of women because, although she was apparently a man, her condition as a woman allowed her to understand our bodies and our problems much better. Word of her spread among the Athenians until the high society women of Athens began to request her services. So much work monopolized that the rest of the doctors saw her clientele decrease and, worse still, her income. One of those affected by the popularity of Agnodice decided to denounce her for alleged abuse of some of her patients. This complaint was joined by others, affected by the fame of her colleague, and they got her to be brought to trial. She forced before that injustice, she had no choice but to reveal her status as a woman in court. Needless to say, the judges acquitted her of the accusations of abuse, while condemning her to death for practicing medicine as a woman.
-I see that here envy and revenge are responsible for many complaints.
-That's how Javier is, that's how.
-And how did he get rid of the sentence? Because if you've said that he's now exercising...
-Yes, yes, he got away. Thanks to the pressure of all the women she had cared for, especially those from the wealthiest families, she managed to have her life spared and, furthermore, from that moment on the laws were modified so that women could be cared for by her.
-And what were the pressure measures?
-Well, the only one that all men on the face of the earth understand at any time and place:a sex strike. They told her husbands that if she couldn't go near her sick bodies, they wouldn't go near her healthy bodies either. So, they had to give in.

At that moment, a slave stuck his head out to tell us that we were wanted in the main room. They must have thought that all this time we had been at work, because when they arrived they only needed to carry me on their shoulders. And I, the truth, was not going to spoil the party, the wine was already quite watered down. So, with the complicity of Friné, this barbarian was left as a champion of champions. Total, my moment of glory was going to be ephemeral. When I returned home, no one, not even Phryné, would remember me. While they were taking out the fifth krater, Praxítles, as mediator and arbitrator of the disputes, had to go and put order in the heated discussion in which Demosthenes and the Spartan had gotten involved.

-Although you have been living in Athens for a long time, you were born a Spartan and I understand that you defend what was your homeland. What you can never defend is that we were defeated in the Peloponnesian Wars by Lysander's strategy. I do not deny that he was a great sailor and general, which he was, but if it had not been for the ships provided by the Persians and their money that bought the loyalty of several allied polis of ours, the result would have been different - Demosthenes blamed the Spartan.
-That hardly counted, it was a trifle -replied the Spartan.
-Do you know what a trifle was? That with a simple cloth on the ass we Athenians were able to maintain hegemony in the sea for so long.
-What nonsense is that? A cloth on the ass?
-Yes, the hyperesion, a kind of rowing cushion made of oiled animal skin and that the oarsmen put on as a culera. Instead of sitting still, with this simple cloth the rower moved along the seat, shrinking and stretching his legs, lengthening the stroke of the oar and increasing the efficiency of each stroke. In this way, our triremes could sail faster than yours and, more importantly, turn sharply to attack broadside and ram your ships.

Given these arguments, Praxiteles declared Demosthenes victorious in the dialectical dispute, and the Spartan did not take it well because his cup ended up shattered when he threw it against a column. They all laughed and the loser ordered another glass, filled it and drank it in one gulp... and repeated until the fifth krater was empty. The wine was beginning to do its thing, in fact some were already further away than here and had difficulty staying on their feet. The most intelligent, once their hunger, thirst and carnal needs had been satisfied, they lay down to sleep in a corner. And a krater was still missing! Just as Praxiteles had passed. I, thanks to the fact that the wine was very discounted and that, following Friné's advice, on many occasions I simply wet my lips and then emptied the glass where I could, endured without much difficulty.

-What a friend you've brought Phriné! Take what they throw at you – commented Hipérides
-As a guest, I have to try to live up to the hosts
-Well, to finish off the job, all that remains is to continue the party in the street -concluded Praxiteles

I looked at Phryné, as if asking what was happening now, and she intervened

"Praxiteles, do you think this is a good idea?" Remember that the last time we did it, it got out of hand and you had to face several fines for the damage.
-Today is a special day, we have to treat our guest as he deserves. So…let the komos begin!

Phryné insisted, but there was no convincing the host. He approached me and told me…

-I didn't think we were going to get to this point, because the komos is optional. It doesn't always happen.
-But, what is the komos?
-The same as here but abroad. We fill jars with the wine that remains in the crater and we go to the streets with the music. What happens in the symposium stays here and nobody bothers, but what happens in the komos does bother. Sleeping people complain about the music and the chants and, above all, because the most out of date break things or pee on doors. And, logically, they denounce us and the authorities intervene.

What I was missing, after having dodged the police for some pranks committed in one of my moments of youthful lag, was going to be involved in a street binge in Ancient Greece.

If there is no other way, we will have to go -I answered Phryné.

Praxiteles ordered everyone who was asleep to wake up and told us that the komos was beginning.

-Let's continue with the party in the street. If someone does not want to continue and prefers to stay here to sleep it off, I warn you that I am going to set the alarm clock to ring at midnight, and at that time you must leave the house. The slaves must clean up your vomit and pick up everything you've dropped or broken, and I don't want anyone left here. Understood?

Most of us proceeded to fill our jars and only a few preferred to stay the night. Did you hear correctly? Did you say alarm clock?

-Friné, did you say alarm clock?
-Yes, that's right. It is an invention of Plato, the founder of the Academy of Athens. They say that the philosopher decided to adapt a clepsydra to turn it into the first alarm clock so that his students would not be late for his talks. What he did was to add to a clepsydra a second hermetically sealed vessel located on a lower level and he communicated them through a tube. Inside the first, he placed a siphon that, when the time is right, makes the water come out with enough force that, when filling the second, the displaced air escapes through a small hole located in the upper part and produces a sound that, if you're not a very heavy sleeper, it wakes you up. Aunque para la ocasión sería mejor que cuando suene el despertador los esclavos los despierten a patadas, porque van tan borrachos que no se enterarán.

A la orden del anfitrión, los invitados con sus jarras llenas, las flautistas con sus instrumentos, la bailarinas con su arte y las hetairas con sus artes, todos salimos fuera para recorrer las calles en una versión de la Antigüedad de nuestras charangas. Y aquí cambiaron el estilo musical y, sobre todo, las canciones que entonaban. De las letras lúdico-festivas pasamos a las de tono satírico y burlesco. Lógicamente, para los que ya dormían aquello no tenían ninguna gracia. Al principio, se oyeron algunas quejas que iban acompañadas de sus correspondientes insultos, supongo que acordándose de las madres de los allí presentes, pero la cosa se complicó cuando algunos objetos comenzaron a llover del cielo. Y para rematar, la respuesta de mis compañeros de parranda fue arrojar las jarras contra puertas, ventanas y fachadas. Tal y como había advertido Friné, no había sido buena idea.

La cosa se estaba poniendo fea y entendí que era el momento adecuado para volver al presente.

-Friné, tengo que irme.
-Lo sé Javier. Me habría gustado…

Tapé su boca con mi dedo, ella sonrió, lo bajé a su barbilla y le di un beso en la boca.

Sé libre, coge las riendas de tu destino, no te doblegues y, recuerda, juntas podréis demostrar a los hombres que sois iguales que ellos. Adiós

De regreso a casa, busqué más información del komos y descubrí que, aunque siguiendo el tono burlesco y satírico de las canciones, con el tiempo estos cantantes nocturnos, que se llamaban komoidós , pasaron de cantar a interpretar breves piezas teatrales. A estas piezas se les llamó komoidía , palabra que pasó al latín como comoedĭa y de aquí nuestra comedia. Así que podemos concluir que nuestra comedia tuvo su origen en las noches de parranda de la Antigua Grecia, y que las hetairas, obviando el componente sexual, eran las mujeres más libres de la época.

Source:Stories of History (Storytel)

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