Associating the auletris: flute girls and prostitutes in the classical Greek symposium.
Symposiasts in the late archaic Greek period began hiring trained female slaves to furnish musical entertainment. (1) The profession grew so pervasive that the female aulos player, the auletris, came to seem as necessary to a proper party as wreaths and wine. While shopping for party supplies, for example, Theophrastus's repulsive man hires some pipers. What is so repulsive? He shows off his supplies, makes indiscriminate invitations, and boasts at the barber's and perfumer's shops that he will get drunk. (2) And how do the pipers fit? James Diggle (2004, 318-9) suggests that Mr. Repulsive, in addition to being a braggart, also offends when he insinuates that his guests can have sex with the women. Although I am not convinced that the neuter tauta includes the pipers with the other supplies, as Higgle infers, in any case the only sexual insinuation in the text would have to stem from the nature of the pipers themselves. Mr. Repulsive does not mention sex, but drunkenness. The question becomes, Must the female piper imply venal sex?
Recent scholarship has indeed emphasized the female piper's sexual labor, even taking the word auletris as a synonym for prostitute. (3) James Davidson (1997, 81) has influentially highlighted the sexual role of the female piper, one that not only has her regularly provide sex for the guests at the end of the symposium, but also imagines her soliciting men on the street. Many scholars follow Davidson to a greater or lesser degree. (4) Matthew Dillon (2002, 183), for example, presumes that female pipers ended their performances by having sex with the guests. Warren Anderson (1994, 143) follows a similar assumption and unaccountably undresses them: "Auletrides, scantily clad young women, were paid to provide all-male gatherings of symposiasts with aulos music and fellation." Marina Fischer (2013, 222) claims that entertainers provided "not only musical and acrobatic entertainment during banquets but also engaged in sexual activities with the symposiasts (D. 59.33; Is. 3.13-17)." Fischer's claim is particularly difficult to evaluate because neither passage cited mentions entertainers. Other scholars have underplayed the element of prostitution. Kenneth Dover (1968, 220) says that "it would be unfair to say" that slaves hired to entertain at the symposium "were necessarily prostitutes, although they could be prostituted." Chester Starr (1978, 409) believes that the evidence does not allow us to imagine that the symposium with female entertainers "always, or even usually" resulted in orgies. Given the servile status of the auletris and her frequent presence among groups of carousing men, she was likely at times subject to prostitution. I have found no certain evidence, however, that she ever engaged in venal sex within the symposium and evidence for prostitution is slim and vague. What the evidence, written and visual, does reveal is that the female piper in classical Athens had a far more complex and nuanced set of associations than venal sex, and this raises important methodological questions for how we talk about slave women in classical Athens, the role of prostitution in our reconstructions, and the nature of the symposium.
We encounter female pipers at the center of intersecting Athenian discourses on sexuality, luxury, music, and gender. These discourses form the subject of the sections in this article. First, I briefly recount some evidence for female pipers outside of the symposium. I then treat evidence where she stands in synecdoche for the party itself, where she serves as an instrument of moral condemnation and where men eroticize her. Next, I examine her activities within the party, including evidence for how the prostitution may have worked. This examination raises questions about the life of the female piper. I limit my focus to the female performer in classical Athens, for as the postclassical period progressed, the status and role of performers appear to have changed sufficiently to require a separate treatment. (5) It is impossible, however, to draw a sharp terminus for the classical period. In addition, a significant amount of evidence reaches us filtered through much later sources. The evidence is slender, scattered, fragmentary, and open to multiple interpretations.
I. Outside the Symposium
Although the symposium was the prototypical space for the female piper, it was not the only place where she might perform. Aulos music accompanied many communal events at Athens (Wilson 1999, 58); although men performed much of this music, women had opportunities as well. In Menander's Samia (730), a female piper is present to accompany a wedding procession (Gomme and Sandbach 1973, 630). A woman plays an aulos on the Attic red-figure calyx-krater by the Painter of the Athens Wedding. (6) In private festive contexts, we find the occasional female piper. The auletris Parthenis, who accompanies Sostratos's mother and sister to the feast at Pan's shrine in the Dyskolos, is told to play "Pan's tune" as they enter (432). It is very unlikely that Parthenis's responsibilities were at all sexual in this context. It is also possible that other public occasions, such as women-only festivals, provided female pipers with a context in which to perform the musical skill that defined them. An Attic red-figure hydria from the middle of the fourth century shows women celebrating, accompanied by a female piper (Fig. 1). (7) Is the piper a hired performer or an amateur participant? A third-century BCE law from Dyme in Achaia forbade women at the festival of Demeter from wearing expensive clothing and playing the aulos (Sokolowski 1962, 33). This law does not address the playing of aulos by professionals; it simply adds playing the aulos to a list of luxury items forbidden to participants and implies that the rejection was sumptuary in nature. (8) Nevertheless, we cannot reject the possibility that the professional piper might have performed at women-only festivals (Starr 1978, 405).
The aulos appears at the other end of the spectrum as well, lightening the tedium of repetitive work. Theocritus (Id. 10.15-6) mentions a woman who accompanied reaping, causing one laborer to fall in love with her. (9) Although Hellenistic Sicily is distant from classical Athens, it is not unlikely that there were many tedious tasks that could be made less burdensome by listening to a female piper. Perhaps this sort of activity is what Eryximachus has in mind when he sends the hired piper away to "pipe to herself or, if she likes, for the women inside the house" in Plato's Symposium (176E). Martin West (1992, 28 note 80) reasonably suggests that "music while you work" may have been part of what induced Lysander to gather together female pipers in the late spring of 404 BCE to accompany the tearing down of Athens' walls (Xenophon, Hell. 2.2.23). In all cases where the female piper performed in non-sympotic contexts, it seems reasonable to view her labor as musical and not sexual.
II. Drinking to the Flute
"Whenever there is drinking, bring us an auletris" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Adespota comica, fr. 1018.7-8 K-A). Thus does the unknown speaker in a comic fragment express the close connection between communal drinking and the female piper. (10) This idea--where there is wine, so there should be the music of the aulos--is not unique. Dicaeopolis, comically misunderstanding the fasting Megarian, states that feasting is nice if there is aulos music too ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]: Aristophanes, Ach. 752). (11) This idea is so basic that it also appears in the contrary: Anacharis apparently explained that the Scythians have no female pipers because they have no vines (Aristotle, An. post. 78830). What stands behind this connection between female pipers and wine? Rather than venal sex, these passages suggest that the connection comes from the association of commensality and music. In the first stasimon of Euripides' Bacchae, to give one further example, the Chorus express outrage at violence against Dionysus, whom they refer to as "the primary god of wreath-wearing merriment" (375-8):
This is his sphere of influence: to celebrate bacchic rites in dance and to laugh with the aulos [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]] and to put a stop to cares whenever the gleam of wine appears among the feasts of the gods and whenever the mixing bowl in ivy-clad festivities brings sleep. (378-86)
The language is allusive and does not refer explicitly to the female piper at the symposium. The mixing bowl, however, suggests sympotic drinking, and when the Chorus ascribe to Dionysus the divine duty to laugh with the aulos, the allusion is to the basic association of the music of the aulos with wine. The bacchic revel is by no means unproblematic for the ideology of classical Athens, and the complex set of resonances between wine, Dionysus and the music of the aulos certainly contain allusions to sexuality among other aspects that involve the release of social control. (12) Nevertheless, the buzzing strains from the female piper's aulos provided one important pleasure of the symposium.
The female piper, with other symposium apparatus, can symbolize the party itself. She shows up in a list of party favors from the fourth-century comic poet Amphis's play Gynaikomania (Girl-Crazy) (fr. 9 K-A = Athenaeus 14.642a):
A. Have you ever heard of a civilized life [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]?
B. Yes. It is obviously this: wheat cakes, sweet wine, eggs, sesame bread, perfume, wreath, a female piper.
A. Castor and Pollux! You have listed the names of the twelve gods.
The elements form a general shopping list for a festive party, and the female piper here appears as one element to enjoy. Amphis implies that the elements have an air of luxurious "refinement" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). (13) The comically exaggerated response of speaker A, comparing seven items to the twelve gods, thus characterizes him as overly fond of luxurious living. The list centers on the party itself, rather than any sexual aftermath. The female piper appears because her music is connected to commensality. Similarly, Aristophanes' Achamians presents a compact list of materials for a wild final party before the fleet sets out, a list that includes "wreaths, sprats, female pipers, and black eyes" (Ach. 551). The last element of the list refers to the violence that could be a result of symposiasts' drinking, especially after the party and during the komos. There may be some innuendo linking the female pipers to fights, which we find elsewhere (e.g., Aristophanes' Wasps, discussed below), but the bare list presents material and events that are more or less symbolic of symposia. I find it difficult to understand how Achamians 551 can be so frequently cited as evidence for prostitution; catalogues of sympotic materials are poor evidence for prostitution. (14)
In sum, the evidence shows how the piper can symbolize commensality and the symposium as a performer of the indispensable aulos. At times the auletris becomes little more than a piece of sympotic furniture, with the individuality or sexuality of a wreath or a herring. These unerotic lists complement the many painted pots that include a female piper or an allusion to the aulos. Figure 2, for example, shows men enjoying the music of a piper at a symposium; the piper herself is not eroticized. (15)
III. No Pipers for Young Men
Writers striving for a high moral tone love to condemn the young for wasting time and money. Orators and historians suggest that in Athens one could waste time in frivolous pursuits in the Piraeus and among the female pipers there. The piper thus often serves as a rhetorical device against wasteful men. The shallow young men in Isocrates 15.287 are an example: "Some of them are chilling their wine at the Nine-Fountains, others drink in the taverns; some play dice in gambling houses and many waste their time in the training schools of the female pipers." A similar description appears in Isocrates 7.48, where Isocrates contrasts the former proper behavior of young men with those who "waste their time in the gambling-dens or with the female pipers or in the kind of company in which they now spend their days." (16) Richard Jebb (1906, 306) notes that the expression [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] probably means in the part of town where the female pipers are likely to be found. (17) The passages together reveal that the female piper could serve rhetorically to symbolize frivolous activities like drinking in taverns, gambling, or just hanging out in the Piraeus.
Orators treat wasting of time and money as indicating a lack of self-mastery. Such ideas motivate Aeschines' abuse of Timarchus: "He acted in this way because he was enslaved to the most shameful pleasures, to gluttony and extravagant meals and female pipers and hetairai and dice and the rest of the sort of things that a wellborn and free man aught to have mastery over" (42.6). Aeschines later insinuates even more shameful behavior in Timarchus: "What should be said when a handsome young man ... dines richly without contributing to the costs and maintains female pipers and the most expensive hetairai and gambles but lets another pay for it?" (75.9). The associations recall the condemnation of the dissolute youth in the Piraeus: gambling, eating, hetairai, and female pipers. The female piper is represented as a luxury good, associated with gambling, parties, and frivolity. It is not clear, however, that the pipers are themselves understood to be engaging in venal sex. What do the female pipers add to the presence of hetairai? It seems likely that the condemnation stems from the idea of waste that is implied in the expense of keeping women on hand to supply the musical and other entertainment for frequent symposia. In Machon (258-322 Gow = Athenaeus 13.610d), Diphilus goes to Gnathea's place to celebrate the Aphrodisia, bringing with him all the apparatus for the party, including perfume, garlands, snacks, a kid goat, ribbons, fish, a cook, and a piper for later ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). Unless we imagine that Diphilus plans a menage-a-trois with Gnathea and the piper, the piper indicates that Diphilus is bringing all that is necessary for the meal and the drinking party to follow (cf. Catullus 13). Turning back to Aeschines' abuse of Timarchus, the terms of outrage appear to stem from wasting money on too many symposia. In this discourse the female pipers suggest wasting money associated with frequent banquets or wasting time in bad parts of town.
In all these cases, the authors do not criticize the female pipers, who instead serve to condemn men for not behaving appropriately and for not controlling their desire for luxury and frivolity. These passages, which treat the piper in purely instrumental terms, do not allow us to determine the typical activities of these women. This rhetoric does associate the female piper with the hetaira insofar as both can be objects of excessive fascination, wasteful spending, and misdirected interest, an interest that may at times have an erotic element.
IV. An Instrument of Eros
A slave hired to perform at symposia, the female piper was vulnerable to erotic or sexual approaches, a vulnerability that can be glimpsed in literary and visual representations. Being subject to sexual representations does not itself make someone a prostitute. Of course, the Greek language for sexuality is often imprecise, making it is difficult to distinguish between venal sex and eroticization. In English as well, language used to describe the activity of selling sex (e.g., 'whore') is frequently used to denigrate women seen as sexually available. Our ancient sources, not surprisingly, often show no interest in making careful distinctions in the case of the female piper, who, like other hired performers, was at times prostituted. Consider the case presented by Menander's Perikeiromene. In this play, Moschion eagerly hopes to make Glykera his mistress. She has recently embraced him (he is unaware that they are siblings) and is living at his house, raising his hopes even higher. Daos, his slave, has also encouraged this hope. But when Moschion's mother will not let the young man come into the house, Daos fears a beating. He makes excuses, suggesting that Glykera requires a more moderate wooing in comparison with two other types of women: "It is not a piper or a wretched little whore who has come to your house" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 340-1). This phrase is the source for Davidson's (1997, 82) claim that by the fourth century the word auletris could be "used almost as a synonym for 'cheap prostitute.'" Simple collocation is insufficient to establish that the word auletris could denote prostitute. The word by itself should denote a person who engages in venal sex. The fuller context shows the extent of this collocation equivalence: the similarity lies in connotation and not denotation. The women are types that Daos believes an elite young man need not treat respectfully (cf. Philocleon with Dardanis below). Daos expresses an attitude, not surprisingly dismissive, to women he sees as socially low and sexually available. Daos's statement, typical of the imprecise language describing women's sexuality, does not in fact establish that the word auletris means prostitute; it does establish an attitude to female pipers that considers them available for an aggressive erotic approach. (18)
We need to avoid confusing an erotic representation for evidence of prostitution. It appears to me unsound to categorize a woman as a prostitute because some Athenian man has represented her sexually: eroticization is not always evidence of prostitution. (19) Even if we put aside for the moment the problem of accepting men's locker-room talk for unmediated reality, erotic entertainment includes a broad range of activities that need not include payment for sexual acts. This fact requires us to define prostitution in some way (McGinn 1998, 17-8). (20) I would not classify as prostitution the performance of an erotic tableaux during a symposium, such as occurs in Xenophon (Symp. 9.2-4). Instead, some explicitly sexual act must be exchanged for payment, such as occurs in Aristophanes (Thesm. 1195). Prostitution, for my argument, requires payment for a sexual act. Thus eroticization is not the same as prostitution. (21)
A visual representation can further illustrate the distinction between eroticization and prostitution. In the tondo of a late sixth-century BCE cup (ARV2 66), a naked woman straddles an upside down amphora while holding an aulos in each of her raised hands. According to Helen Coccagna (2011, 119 note 3), "It is generally agreed that a combination of factors such as nudity, auloi, and a sympotic context makes the identification as a prostitute secure." I cannot see how the woman can be securely identified as a prostitute. Because the image likely does not represent a real woman who engaged in prostitution, we must be speaking of a weaker sense of identification, signifying that the artist intended to represent a prostitute and expected his audience to recognize it. Identification in this sense is difficult to substantiate from the image itself. (22) The image has eroticism (among other features), but nothing internal to the image shows financial exchange. The auloi could induce a viewer to interpret the woman as the slave performer. The woman's status, however, might be irrelevant: a viewer might just as well think of any woman in the presence of wine and aulos music. A female viewer might interpret the image as a warning. Prostitution does not appear in the image and the identification adds very little to the interpretation of the pot. An approach that distinguishes between eroticization and prostitution provides a more nuanced and richer appreciation of the sexual and erotic role played by the female piper in Athenian culture.
An explicit eroticization of the piper appears in Aristophanes' Wasps (1345-85), where the drunken Philocleon has abducted the piper Dardanis from the party and brought her home. She is a silent character and apparently represented naked on stage. Although often cited, this passage does not provide unambiguous evidence for identifying the piper as prostitute. Philocleon does not offer her money for a sexual act; instead he tries to persuade her to have sex with him. The passage, therefore, suggests that sexual activity was not part of her expected services. One statement, however, has been taken to suggest that sexual activity was in fact required. When Philocleon first attempts to persuade Dardanis, he claims that she owes him because he saved her from having to fellate the other guests: "You see how skillfully I stole you away just as you were about to give the guests blow jobs [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]--thank my penis here for that favor" (1345-7). Jeffrey Henderson (1981, 81, 183 note 120) interprets this statement as evidence for the typical symposium behavior required by the piper, raising the activity to a sympotic ritual and a possible "duty" for the female piper. He cites three other passages to support the claim that this is a typical "duty," but there are problems in interpretation. Peace 853ff. is a fellatio joke without reference to symposia or entertainers. Alexis 50 K-A (= Athenaeus 14.663c-d) places fellatio in the context of a prospective symposium without reference to entertainers or context to establish typicality. Finally, Nicophron 8 K-A (= Pollux 4.55) has a character tell someone to play the winnowing song ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) on the aulos. The song could be an allusion to fellatio as well. These passages do not substantiate the interpretation that this was a normal activity rather than a typical joke. In fact, the joke for the piper does not depend on typical or standard behavior, but on the visual similarity between fellatio and playing auloi. Philocleon's rhetorical point is stronger if he claims that she was about to be treated in a shameful, rather than a typical, way (see below on Neaira).
If we should not treat Philocleon's statement as evidence for the typical or standard duties of an auletris at the symposium, how are we to interpret Philocleon's other attempt at persuasion? "If you don't act the wicked woman (gune) now, when my son dies, I will free you, my little pussy, and establish you as my pallake" (1351-3). The role reversal of son and father shows that this promise is comically exaggerated. Philocleon's comically exaggerated behavior cannot serve as evidence for the establishment of pipers as pallakai of citizen men any more than his mention of fellatio establishes a real-life job description. It is worth noting as well that Philocleon refers to Dardanis as a gune in line 1351, although Sommerstein translates it as "girl." The old translation of auletris as flute-girl may in fact be misleading both in treating the aulos as a flute and in implying that the auletris was always young. (23) I will return below to the violence that erupts between father and son over the silent Dardanis, but it is worth observing that Philocleon's attempts at persuasion, comic in their inefficacy, may hint at a darker view. It is possible that evidence cited in support of the prostitution of pipers may in fact be referring to behavior that we would classify as rape. As a whole, the evidence of Aristophanes' Wasps shows how an eroticized piper was seen as sexually available with the right sort of persuasion--precisely what Daos said in Menander--but it does not provide evidence for prostitution.
V. At the Party
The female piper was prototypical of the symposium, standing with wine and wreaths in synecdoche for the party as a whole. She was the subject of erotic discourse and an instrument for social condemnation. The moralizing rhetoric is found primarily in oratory and the eroticism in comedy. The female piper also appears in philosophy, in both Xenophon's and Plato's Symposium, where the characters treat her quite austerely, an austerity that is tied to complex philosophical agendas. What, if anything, can we say about her real life through the filters of rhetoric and genre? The problem is acute. It often seems to be an a priori assumption that comedy or oratory is closer to the normal, unmediated reality of everyday life than the philosophical treatments. The comic evidence, however, at least where there is enough context, shows exaggeration and manipulation. We cannot say a priori that one genre is more likely to reflect reality unmediated. But more fundamentally problematic is the assumption that we can identify a 'normal symposium' that any individual representations deviate from. (24) In Xenophon's Symposium, the party dissolves after hired performers put on a highly erotic dance, a tableaux that implants in the unmarried men a desire to marry and induces the married men to rush home to their wives. The arousal does not lead to an orgy at the party. It does not lead to prostitution of the hired performers within the symposium. It does not even lead to a trip to a brothel or to a cheaper option by the cemetery. From one perspective, James Davidson (1997, 96) is correct to write that "with less subtlety than Plato, Xenophon tries to tame the naughty symposium, bringing it safely within the libidinal confines of the family." The "naughty symposium," however, is internal to Xenophon's Symposium, which contains a good deal of eroticism, even if there is no sex. (25) The problem stems from the way that the "naughty symposium" is rhetorically presented as 'typical' in Davidson's argument. The evidence of Xenophon cannot be taken as establishing the real life 'normal' symposium any more than we can class it as typical of an imaginary "naughty" symposium; nor does this mean that the evidence should be wholly rejected either. From the perspective of ethical behavior, what matters is how the guests and performers interact.
The piper was expected, it seems, to accompany the symposium's opening paian (Peschel 1987, 35-6). This role as musical initiator of the symposium is perhaps what caused the female piper to become a synecdoche for the symposium as a whole. Other entertainers do not have such a structural role in the context of the symposium. But like other entertainers, the piper could provide musical entertainment beyond this opening. The musical performances of the piper pertain to the shared pleasure of the symposiasts, and thus her role intersects with the contested ideas of the proper way to enjoy that shared pleasure. In Xenophon's Symposium, in fact, the female piper is not sent off. The Syracusan, responsible for the hired entertainment, brings to Callias's party a good piper ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), (26) a female dancer, and a good-looking young man who dances and plays the kithara: "The female piper played her aulos, the young man played his kithara, and everyone seemed to be quite entertained" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 2.1-2). The response to the performance is shared pleasure, signaled by the verb [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. The "unpleasant man," in Theophrastus's presentation, will not let the female piper get on with her performance, but hums along and keeps time by clapping (Char. 19.9). His behavior inhibits the shared nature of the pleasure by getting in the way of other symposiasts' enjoyment of the music. Figure 3, a red-figure kylix from the British Museum (E 38), shows a man listening to a woman perform on her aulos. The image, however it relates to the real life of symposia, may be interpreted as illustrating a proper manner of enjoyment (euphrainesthai). In none of the cases can we establish the normal way that a symposiast interacted with a piper in real life. When a piper came to a symposium, she might be sent off or she might stay to provide shared pleasure to the guests with her musical talents. Our sources focus on how the symposiasts behaved with her.
The proper way for gentlemen at a symposium to interact with a female piper, according to Plato's Socrates, was not to interact at all. Socrates compares discussing poetry to listening to the borrowed voice of the piper:
Protagoras, talking about poetry is very much like the symposia of common folk. They cannot enjoy each other's company in wine with their own voice or educated discussions, and so they raise the cost of female pipers, hiring for exorbitant prices the voice of another, that of the aulos, and they enjoy each other's company with the voice of female pipers. Where the symposiasts are gentlemen (kaloi kagathoi) and well brought up (pepaideumenoi), you would not see female pipers, dancers, or female harpists, but they are self-sufficient companions without the puerile nonsense of a borrowed voice, each taking turns talking and listening in good order, even if they drink a lot of wine. (347B9-d5)
Socrates repudiates the shared pleasure from hired entertainers when he locates the proper (elite) sympotic behavior in self-sufficient conversation. The pipers are snubbed not because they provide inappropriate sexual enticement but because they impede the proper symposium conversation. When Eryximachus proposes that they dismiss the piper in Plato's Symposium, he behaves appropriately in the terms of the Protagoras. The significance of this exclusion goes beyond simply advocating for the pleasure of self-sufficient educated conversation. Kate Gilhuly (2009, 58-96) has shown the significance of a feminine continuum in Plato's dismissal of the piper. While she provides a balanced general discussion of the female piper, stressing her music, she identifies (2009, 65) the piper with the prostitute, making the forced claim that "as a character in a text devoted to eras, the erotic dimension of the aulos-player's identity is implicitly invoked." Not only does this claim take us far from the text, but it conflates eroticism with prostitution. Peter Wilson has discussed the same dialogue. Starting from how the aulos can inflame emotions, he shows (1999, 89-92) how the piper's dismissal suits Plato broader philosophic aims. The approaches complement each other. Each picks out a different aspect of the piper: her gender and her music. These philosophic texts have agendas, but that should not lead us to dismiss them because of assumed atypicality. They also reveal interesting aspects of the pipers place in Athenian mentality.
I have shown the musical labor of the female piper outside the symposium, her instrumental role in the discourse of luxury, and the significance of her musical labor within the symposium. I have also argued that eroticization is not the same as prostitution. And yet the female piper could also be prostituted. In principle, of course, any slave could be prostituted, a fact that makes the bare statement of prostitution tautological from social status. The evidence for prostitution, scant and vague, renders it difficult to answer the important questions: Was sexual labor part of her job as piper at symposia? How frequently did she engage in venal sex? Did it take place during the symposium? Contemporary scholarship tends to emphasize her sexual labor, often to the exclusion of her musical labor, frequently giving the impression that she engaged in venal sex regularly at the end of the symposium. The evidence is open to multiple interpretations, but it suggests that prostitution was, if it occurred, separate from both her musical labor and the context of the symposium.
In Aristophanes' Thesmophoriazusae, Euripides (dressed as an old woman) prostitutes a dancer to the Scythian Archer for a drachma while the piper stands by (1195). (27) The Scythian takes the girl away for sex after buying her, as the plot requires. The writer of the Hippocratic treatise On the Generating Seed and the Nature of the Child mentions (c. 13) that his kinswoman keeps an expensive entertainer ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) whom she prostitutes ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). Unless we are to imagine that this kinswoman is a professional pimp, we may have to understand that it was possible for a broader section of the population, at least in Ionia, to engage in small-scale business operations involving venal sex with their slaves. In neither case are we dealing with a symposium and the prostituted women are not identified as pipers, but they have similar status and occupation.
When Theophrastus describes the disagreeable man, he appears to link the female piper, symposium, and prostitution. The disagreeable man has not provided for a female piper to be present at the start of his party and offers to get her only after the party has started. Over the wine, he says:
A pleasure [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]] has been arranged for the guests and that on their request a slave will go get her right away from the pimp [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]] so that we can all be serenaded by her aulos and enjoy ourselves [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]. (Char. 20.10)
As is often the case with the characters in Theophrastus, one must deduce from the presentation alone precisely the scope of bad behavior. It does seem to be bad form not to have already provided a female piper before the wine because she should be there to pipe accompaniment to the opening ceremony (Diggle 2004, 403-4). The presence of the pimp suggests that this passage is evidence for prostitution, since we might imagine that any woman hired from a pimp would be de facto a prostitute. But a pimp might maintain entertainers without necessarily always prostituting them. In Plautus's Poenulus, the pimp offers the soldier Antamynides the tihicina in place of the girl he has paid for, but the soldier refuses because he claims that he cannot tell if her breasts or cheeks are bigger (1415-6). This piper here is considered a poor substitute for a prostitute. If the joke goes back to Alexis, it supports the idea that female pipers could live with pimps in a somewhat different status than the other prostitutes. (28) Some brothels seem to have maintained the apparatus of pleasure more broadly than sex, providing guests with sympotic elements, which should have included musical performers (Glazebrook 2011, 43). Starr (1978, 409) compares T'ang China, and I suspect that other cross cultural comparisons with houses of prostitution would likely show similar structures of entertainers, who provide the atmosphere of pleasure, and separate prostitutes, who provide the sexual services, with only some overlap between the two groups.
Returning to the piper from Theophrastus, what service is she supposed to supply? Readers have found sexual innuendo in the superficially bland "piping and enjoyment." A reference to fellatio is often seen in the unusual passive use of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which Diggle (2004, 403-4) rejected in favor of an innuendo in [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. However, one can compare the same use of the verb euphrainesthai in the erotic but nonsexual enjoyment of the female piper in Xenophon's Symposium 2.1 (discussed above). The vague language leaves the exact nature of the piper's services uncertain, an uncertainty that is only compounded by the fact that we do not know precisely what aspects of the statement are disagreeable. Was it normal or bad form to get your piper from a pimp? Were such pipers considered lower-quality performers? Did getting her from a pimp imply sex but hiring her from elsewhere did not? The evidence allows us to say that pimps could maintain female pipers; it does not explain their activities as sex laborers.
A similar connection between brothels and female pipers appears in a fragment of Theopompus, which equates the Piraeus, female pipers, and revelry: "the female pipers in the Piraeus and the brothels and the men playing the aulos and singing and dancing" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], FGrH 115 F290 = Demetrius, Eloc. 240). Demetrius quotes this phrase because the subject matter is forceful, but the expression is not. We cannot, therefore, reconstruct the context. While the brothels in the passage may appear to give evidence for the piper as prostitute, the phrase is frustratingly vague. All we have is the accusative phrase and no idea what verb might have governed it or what the syntax of the original sentence was. It is unclear what connection Theopompus made between the female pipers in the Piraeus, brothels, and reveling men, men who themselves are playing auloi, singing, and dancing. The word order of the first phrase suggests that he focused on the Piraean pipers (as opposed to those found elsewhere), though the significance of that expression remains obscure. The passage can be pressed into service as evidence for prostitution based on simple proximity of the words, although this type of argument, the familiar 'collocation equivalence,' does not provide an unambiguous way to connect its elements nor answer any of our questions about the venal sex of female pipers. It is not even clear that the Piraean pipers are exchanging sexual acts for money. I prefer to interpret the passage following the description in Isocrates, a description that highlights where Athenians should not waste too much time. (29)
The Piraeus may also be the location of the pipers mentioned by Metagenes, in a fragment that discusses erotic female pipers and makes an explicit reference to payment. In Athenaeus's book of hetaira, Ulpian has complained about wasting money on expensive hetairai when so many cheaper options are available and Myrtilus quotes from Metagenes (fr. 4 K-A = Athenaeus 13.571b) in response. The fragment is deployed to contrast the cheaper options with the "true hetairai" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]):
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Because I did not ... discuss dancing-hetairai, ripe, young ones, nor do I now mention to you recently pubescent pipers, who quickly weaken the knees of merchants for a price.
This passage seem clear on the surface, but not surprisingly I believe it is less clear than it has seemed to others. Davidson (1997, 81) uses the passage to suggest that female pipers were available for venal sex outside the symposium, locating the passage at the docks of the Piraeus because of the phortegoi (merchant porters), translated by him as "cargo men." (30) Placing the scene at the docks is a stretch, although the Piraeus certainly makes sense as a location for merchants, and the sources cited earlier suggest that the Piraeus had a supply of entertainments on hand. The lack of context makes it particularly difficult to say precisely who these merchants are or where their knees are weakened in this un-Homeric fashion. Are they traders from abroad who are planning to enjoy themselves with the entertainment available in the Piraeus? Does the innuendo suggest these pipers are imagined as performing at a symposium, perhaps in a brothel catering to travelers? And is it not just as possible that the knee weakening refers to the erotic viewing of pretty young girls playing music at a symposium? Myrtilus deploys the passage in reference to prostitution, but we simply do not know what Metagenes' point was. We know that female pipers were slaves for hire, that they were objects of erotic interest, and that pimps and brothels might maintain some for the entertainment of their guests and even at times try to substitute them for their more popular prostitutes. This passage, if it refers to prostitution at all, corroborates all of this without adding much information.
The passage is even less useful as evidence for prostitution outside the symposium. The only other evidence for this non-sympotic prostitution comes from the comic Adespota 1025.1 K-A where pipers are mentioned as "smiling on the crossroads" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). Hardly straightforward evidence. The smiling pipers can imply that they are looking to be hired for an evening's musical labor. Compare Figure 4, the red-figure kylix attributed to Makron (British Museum E 61), which Sian Lewis (2002, 94-5) argues represents a scene of men purchasing the required symposia materials for an evening party. Without more original context, it is hard to deduce what the passages suggest for the behavior and life of pipers aside the fact that they were for hire and objects of erotic interest.
Although these passages support the conclusion that pipers could also work as prostitutes, none of them make clear the relationship between her musical and sexual labor. Two connected anecdotes in Athenaeus (13.607d-f) may provide a clue. In a general discussion of the place of pleasure in the symposium, the speaker mentions a philosopher who acts indifferent to a piper earlier in a symposium, only to lose control later:
A female piper entered and, there being room next to a certain philosopher drinking with us, the girl [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]] desired to recline next to him. He would not let her and put on a show of austerity. Later they were auctioning off the piper, as is the custom in drinking parties [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]], he behaved like a wild youth [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]] during the bidding and he disputed with the seller for awarding her too quickly and claimed that the sale was invalid. In the end, this austere philosopher got into a brawl. In the beginning he would not even allow the piper to recline next to him! Perhaps this guy who got into a fight over a piper was Persaeus himself. I say this because Antigonos of Carystus tells the following anecdote in his writings On Zeno: Persaeus once purchased a little piper [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]] at a drinking party [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]], but he hesitated to take her home because he lived in the same house as Zeno. When Zeno recognized this, he dragged the girl [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]] inside and locked her up with Persaeus.
The first anecdote is designed to support moderate enjoyment by showing that excessive austerity is often false and leads to extreme behavior. The second anecdote seems designed simply to identify the character in the first with a similar story. Although these anecdotes are the only evidence I know of that explicitly describe a female piper being prostituted in the course of the symposium, we should not necessarily take this auction procedure as a blueprint for the normal symposium activities, despite the temptingly off-hand expression of its commonality.
There is, moreover, the obvious problem of date and source: Persaeus himself can only go back to the early third century BCE. This same Persaeus is in fact mentioned just earlier as the composer of Sympotic Commentaries ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) in which "he shouts and claims that it is suitable to discuss sex when in wine since we are prone to these things when drinking" (Athenaeus 13.607b). (31) His views, which are represented as extreme (no less than "shouting" in a treatise), show that he is not a figure who easily lends himself to typicality. Even ignoring the problem of source and date, the anecdotes are hardly interested in representing a 'normal' symposium; they follow the well-established pattern of using behavior within the symposium to examine ethical behavior. The first anecdote reads like a short comic script with typecast roles such as the austere philosopher and hotheaded young man, comically inhabiting the same person. Although we should not take these scenarios as typical, this does not imply that they are pure fiction. The auction itself seems designed to redirect the eroticism aroused during the symposium towards a more controlled and financially lucrative conclusion, although not successfully in this case. Because the second anecdote follows so closely on the first, it is tempting to think that Persaeus's purchase may have come from a similar auction, although all that we can say for sure is that he purchased her at the party, and thus she had already been hired for music and the prostitution is a separate cost. Persaeus worries about how Zeno will interpret his behavior, a baseless worry as it turns out. At the same time, the violence of Zeno's manhandling of the girl--dragging her inside and locking her in with Persaeus--is troubling.
The preponderance of the admittedly very sparse evidence for prostitution suggests that the proper way to behave when purchasing a piper as a prostitute was to take her away from the party at the end. The first anecdote from Athenaeus locates the prostitution toward the end of the party, while the second is explicit in removing venal sex from the party. Euripides' plot in Aristophanes' Thesmophoriazusae requires the Scythian to take the prostituted dancer away after he hires her. In the Wasps, Philocleon's attempted seduction takes place outside of the symposium. If his joke about fellatio is only a joke, as I argued earlier, rather than an expression of normal symposium events, his behavior follows roughly the same pattern. All this evidence separates the sexual from the musical labor of the female piper.
A law regulating the prices of female performers has seemed to suggest that the sexual and musical labor was considered together. In fact, nothing in the language describing the law regulating the price of hired entertainers encourages us to connect it to prostitution.
These [the astynomoi] observe the female pipers, harpists, and lyre players so that they are not hired out at a price greater than two drachmas. If several people desire to hire the same woman, they draw lots and the winner hires her. ([Ath. Pol.] 50.2)
It is the a priori assumption that the entertainers are primarily prostitutes which had led to the suggestion that the law regulates venal sex, and so it is circular to use the law as evidence for entertainers as prostitutes. A more plausible explanation for this unique example of price fixing in classical Athens may be found in a limited supply of musical entertainers for the symposium; this limited supply would drive up costs as the practice of holding symposia became more widespread, a fact that the passage from Plato's Protagoras, cited above, supports. The law appears both to be sumptuary in intention and to regulate conflicts. It is difficult to imagine a context in which it would be necessary to construct such a law for only one group of servile labor that could be prostituted. (32) Why only the sexual labor of these slaves? That the law was enforced is shown by Hyperides. Complaining that eisangelia used to be only for very serious offenses but is now used for absurd charges, Hyperides (4.3) uses the following example: "Diognides and Antidorus the metic are subject to an eisangelia prosecution on a charge of hiring out female pipers at a higher price than that fixed by law."
In none of the written evidence do we find female pipers engaging in venal sex during the course of the symposium. Of course, I do not mean to suggest that sex could never occur within the symposium. It is simply the case that our sources do not give us the evidence that we would need to establish how frequently symposia involved sex in the course of the party. They do allow us to formulate an answer to the question of how would such behavior be judged. When Apollodorus prosecutes Neaira, he narrates the abuse that she suffers from Phrynion:
When Phrynion came to Athens with Neaira, he treated her with uncontrolled lewdness [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]] ... he had intercourse with her openly whenever and wherever he wished, making his privilege a display to the onlookers ... And when celebrating a victory feast [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]] at Kolias, many men had sex with her when she was drunk and Phrynion was sleeping, including the servants. ([Dem.j 59.33)
Apollodorus's luridly painted picture is not intended to describe the 'normal symposium' but to condemn behavior. Neaira, according to Apollodoros, felt this public sexuality to constitute "wanton abuse" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 59.35) and hubris ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 59.37). (33) Of course, it is not necessarily the case that what a woman might feel to be shameful would also be shameful for a man. The Dissoi Logoi also present the idea from the perspective of the woman: "To have sexual intercourse with one's husband in private, where one will be concealed from view by walls, is seemly: to do it outside, however, where somebody will see, is shameful" (2.4). We face the double perspective: a man might not balk at shaming an enslaved performer, but what is the performer's experience? Our sources are frustratingly uninterested in that question; rather, they ask how a male symposiast's behavior is to be interpreted. Apollodorus suggests that Phrynion is not well-behaved while simultaneously attempting to shame Neaira to the jury. A similar problem arises with the red-figure kylix attributed to the Byrgos painter (Florence 3921; ARV2 372.31). (34) The visual image of orgiastic behavior is not framed within a discourse and so appears to raise the question of the image's relationship to real life, a relationship to real life, however, that may be as much of a red herring as typicality. The literary representations of symposia all encourage us to judge the behavior rather than simply recognize a reality. Thus it is possible to maintain that an image such as on this kylix may reflect what could happen in a symposium (some certainly could get out of hand), without losing sight of the fact that the scene is not being represented for its typicality but to allow the viewer to subject it to an ethical evaluation. Sexual acts, even with a prostitute, in the often small andron would not likely be seen as the action of a well-ordered man or indicative of the values of shared pleasure. (35) The evidence does not stigmatize the fulfillment of the desires aroused in the symposium by individual sexual acts outside its confines, but in general we find eroticism within the symposium and sex after. It is not possible to say how frequently the hired entertainment also provided venal sex after the party, but the availability of other options, such as general prostitutes in brothels and outside, suggest that it need not have been a regular duty. In addition, the ability of men to bring home prostitutes would be limited if they had a wife or other female relatives (or austere philosophers) in their home.
VII. Song and Dance
Whether or not the female piper was auctioned off, we find them occasionally accompanying men during the komos. When Alcibiades stumbles drunkenly into Agathon's house, he is being held up by a female piper (Plato, Symp.212D). A number of pots represent komoi with a piper in accompaniment. Discussing the so-called Anacreontic vases, Frontisi-Ducroux and Lissarrague (1990, 220-8) convincingly argue that the female pipers represented in komastic scenes serve only an unerotic instrumental function: they are symbolic of music. As in the symposium, the pipers may also serve an erotic purpose afterwards.
It seems that roving bands might wander the street of Athens at night in search of sexual or erotic entertainment. In Lysias 4, the speaker admits that he was drunk and on the hunt for boys and female pipers, a fact he hopes will prove that he did not enter the victim's house in murderous premeditation: "On the contrary, we admit that we were buzzed and on route to see boys and female pipers. How then is this premeditation? For my part, I think it simply cannot be" (4.7). It is not clear what these tipsy symposiasts hoped to do with the boys and female pipers when they found them at the house. Erotic entertainment can take many forms, but the speaker admits his nocturnal erotic wanderings because he expects that his audience will judge them to be the understandable behavior of an excitable rich young man in his cups, not praiseworthy but not terrible (Todd 2007, 373). A similar erotic passeggiare can be found in Aristophanes' Ecclesiazusae. Praxagora promises the drunken komasts that they will find many prostitutes to meet their demands:
We will provide everything in full for everyone. Each man, drunk and wreathed, will depart the party holding his torch. And the women from the byways will swarm in upon the men after their dinner, saying "Come over to our place: there's a ripe young girl there." "There's another at my place," someone says from the balcony above. "She is really pretty and with the whitest skin; before you get her, however, you've got to sleep with me." (Eccl. 690-701)
Praxagora is a politician making promises about what she will do for her constituents. Her promise of "pretty prostitutes on every corner" is calculated to win support from her audience. The campaign promise was perhaps not so fantastical. Xenophon also stresses the ready availability of prostitutes in his claim that desire for sex is not what leads people to have children: 'And do not suppose that people produce children simply because of desire for sex when the roads and the brothels are full of means to satisfy desire" (Mem. 2.2.4). When Xenophon lists means to satisfy sexual desire outside marriage, he does not include symposia. Despite the differences of genre and purpose, both sources locate prostitutes outside the context of the party and insist on their ready availability.
When so many writers locate venal sex separately from the party, what purpose do prostitutes serve at the party? In the Achamians, the priest of Dionysus invites Dicaeopolis to the state dinner celebrating the Choes festival. The messenger entices Dicaeopolis with the party preparations: couches, tables, pillows, blankets, wreaths, myrrh, desserts, whores (ai Trogvai), sesame honey cakes, and pretty dancing girls (1090-3). The party apparatus, appearing as so often in a list, contains both prostitutes and dancers, apparently conceived separately. Pornai at a state dinner? I would suggest that these prostitutes signal comic exaggeration, depicting a communal public feast as the worst sort of private symposium. It is also possible that state dinners did involve prostitutes, present for the erotic titillation of the guests. It is even possible, although I think it highly unlikely, that Athenian state diners involved venal sex as part of the fare. In any case, when Dicaeopolis returns onstage after the feast, he is drunk and supported by two silent female characters. Just as in the Wasps, the stage requires characters to leave the party so that audience can enjoy the erotic jokes. This stage convention limits the value of the evidence for answering the questions raised by their presence; however, nearly all the evidence locates explicit sexual contact with hired women after and outside the context of the symposium.
When our sources tell us that pornai, hetairai, or hired entertainers were present for commensality, they seem uninterested in carefully distinguishing the status of the women. For the female piper, they rarely describe her nonmusical labor at the party. In fact, they show profound disinterest in the behavior of the pipers, being focused instead on carefully attending to how men behaved with them. The disinterest in the individuality of the pipers corresponds to her silence in the sources. (36) Silent characters, like Dardanis, are standard features of drama. However, Dardanis's silence is more than a consequence of dramatic conventions: the paradigmatic unspeaking piper makes her ideally suited for silent roles. The aulos, which prohibits speech when played, is imagined as contrary to logos. As Peter Wilson has demonstrated, it is more than the simple fact that it is impossible to talk while playing an aulos: the emotional music of aulos itself can impede logical speech. (37) The complex intersection of ideas that leads to the instrumentality of a female piper temptingly naturalizes her silence: even outside of comedy, she is often an unspeaking character.
Because our authors mention pipers to illustrate the behavior of men, we need to read against the grain and reimagine the evidence from the piper's perspective to ask the important questions. The piper who is auctioned off has little agency since the auction decides where she will go. Did the piper attempt to gain some control by cozying up to the philosopher? Or should we image her working the room, trying to rile up the men to get the highest price? Did the performer earn any part of the money? Is the auctioneer also her owner? The Syracusan in Xenophon's text watches over his performers at the party. How often was her owner present? Was the man who hired her for her music also able to dispose of her sexual labor? Would an Athenian host at a symposium hold an auction among his guests in which he himself would profit? Was the piper responsible for collecting in cases where there was no auction or the owner was not present? Philocleon makes no reference to payment or to Dardanis's owner; at least she does not go to the highest bidder. When we look more closely into the mechanics of prostitution at the symposium, our ignorance becomes apparent. At the same time, reading against the grain raises further questions about the life of a female piper. She is a trained slave, a valuable commodity. Her value as a prostitute would decrease with age and the Metagenes fragment above hints at the Athenian man's preference for young girls. As a musician, her value remains. What was the practical Athenian owner to do with an older musician? Did a female piper continue her profession if she was freed? A woman refers to herself as an auletris on the Phialae inscriptions (SEG 25.178), which suggests that one could hire independent, metic pipers. (38) So much is unknown about the life and activities of the female pipers.
VIII. Sexual Violence
Modern references to the female piper rarely consider sexual violence. Violence was, apparently, one prototypical result of symposia, finding a place in basic lists of revelry (Aristophanes, Ach. 551). When father and son clash over Dardanis in Aristophanes, their fight reveals a piper subject to violence and manhandling. The scholia to Demosthenes 21, Against Meidias, provides an intriguing further hint. Demosthenes mentions that the thesmothetes had recently been struck as he was trying to rescue a female piper (21.6). The scholiast explains:
The themsmothetai are in charge of many things but especially of orderly behavior and one night they were making the rounds to prevent theft/ rape [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]. And so finding some young men seeking to snatch/ rape a piper [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]], he desired to prevent them and was struck by them.
The story is unclear. Are the young men trying to steal for their own symposium a piper who had been hired by another? Or is the thesmothetes attempting to stop a rape? The scholiast probably did not have inside information about the case; he extrapolates based on a likely situation. Whatever happened, a female piper might feel unsafe on the streets of Athens. The thesmothetes could provide some minor protection against the violence threatening the piper. In addition, potential legal repercussions faced a man who assaulted another's slave. (39) When Themistius of Aphidna assaulted (hubrizein) a Rhodian lyre player at the Eleusinian festival, he suffered a capital sentence (Dinarchus, In Demosth. 23). The female piper's servile status and place within Athenian erotic discourse made her vulnerable; social and legal constraints against violence offered some protection, while her musical profession made her valuable to her owner. And yet drunken men did run amok in the unlighted Athenian streets, hunting erotic diversions (Lysias 4.7); a female piper might find herself expected to supply such diversions whether she wished to or not.
Proteas described himself attending a Hellenistic banquet:
We had happily escaped sobriety, when some female entertainers entered: female pipers, singers, Rhodian sambuke-players. They looked naked to me, although some of the guests claimed that they were wearing tunics. After playing a prelude, they went out again. (Athenaeus 4.129a)
Proteas's reaction illustrates the pitfalls of investigating female pipers. When a piper is subsumed under the category of prostitute, she tends to appear in scholarship as naked even when fully dressed. Methodological and substantive problems also result from assimilation of the piper to the prostitute.
The female piper in classical Athens was a slave, present at symposia, and thus a frequent source of eroticization. Perhaps it is such associations that cause scholars to categorize the piper as a non-respectable woman. While true from the elite male perspective, the case of the piper renders especially unsatisfying the binary division of women into respectable and disreputable. (40) Sommerstein (1980, 406) claims that a woman is respectable "who is, or who is capable of being, lawfully married and who has not forfeited her respectability by (for example) notorious or promiscuous adultery." Although Sommerstein does not discuss the legal issues surrounding marriage to support or explain his usage of "lawfully," the first part of the definition is based on class. The second half addresses behavior, but is still predicated on class. Thus it is not a particularly descriptive marker, especially for women of low status. If a piper were freed, became a metic, and married another metic, did that render her respectable? (41) The classification encodes as universal a particularly elite citizen male view and tends to obscure the fact that 'respectability' is based first and foremost on status. It is misleading, then, as well as inaccurate (Bundrick 2005, 41), for Warren Anderson (1994, 143 note 54) to assert in the context of the sexual behavior of auletrides that "Greek art never shows a respectable woman playing the aulos." The binary of respectable and disreputable may have some value in the case of a woman whom a male speaker wishes to defame and slander, typically in order to sabotage a man associated with her (Schaps 1977), but it should be obvious that the shaming of a woman as disreputable, of course, does not necessarily make the woman so. In short, aside from a rough and vague representation of certain elite views about women, the respectability binary is of limited heuristic or descriptive value.
The piper was not always prostituted in real life, nor is venal sex necessarily implied when she appears in ancient texts and on pots. Numerous authors associate the female aulos player with playing the aulos. The tautological claim sounds like a shockingly banal research result until one realizes how much the focus on prostitution obscures. The problem reveals itself most clearly when the word auletris itself is assumed to be a synonym for prostitute. The claim for synonymy either misleadingly substitutes a sometimes activity for terminology or unfairly represents only one strand of elite Athenian male discourse about women they see as sexually available. At worst, the claim leads to a misreading of our sources, written and visual, while concealing her polyvalent significance in Athenian discourse. The piper may prototypically symbolize the party itself: a man who hires her signals his intention to have a party and enjoy the shared musical pleasure she provides. The piper at the symposium or in the Piraeus allows authors to investigate men's proper ethical behavior. She could be portrayed erotically; however, it is methodologically problematic to conflate eroticization with prostitution. The female piper appears in fragmentary and scattered sources, a fact that requires care before asserting that particular ideas or behavior is typical or normal. In most cases, our sources bring her in to condemn or represent the behavior of men. The piper, with other participants of the symposium, provides a window into the complex social protocols and judgments that attend the behavior of participants. When we pay careful attention to what our sources tell us and where they keep silent, we can see prostitution as only one element in the life and activities of female pipers in classical Athens, and perhaps not the most important one. (42)
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(1.) Starr 1978, 402-3, who based his date on red-figure vases. Starr's article remains fundamental for the auletris.
(2.) Theophrastus, Char. 11.7-8: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].
(3.) Landels (1999, 7) states without evidence that "the Greek word for a female aulos-player, auletris, was regularly used to mean a high-class [sic] prostitute." McClure (2003, 9-10) and Kapparis (2011, 223) assume, without citing evidence, that the word means 'prostitute.' Davidson (1997, 82) does cites a phrase from Menander to support "near" synonymy (discussed below). There may be some confusion between connotation and denotation: the fact that an auletris could be prostituted does not entail that the word means prostitute--it means "female piper."
(4.) Davidson (2006, 40) has apparently softened his view: "We may well have exaggerated the extent to which musicians, even aulos girls, were freely available, but their masters or mistresses were always probably open to bids." Surely most Athenians would entertain financial proposals regarding their slaves. I remain uncomfortable with the way Davidson's expression ("even aulos girls") parrots a dismissive Athenian elite male attitude (Plato, Symp. 215C). Some distance from elite male perspectives in our evaluative stance may at times be salutary.
(5.) For postclassical performers, see Pomeroy 1977.
(6.) Athens, National Archeological Museum 1388 (ARV2 1317.1). See Oakley and Sinos 1993, 33, 99, Fig. 87.
(7.) Fig. 1 (British Museum E 241). Edwards (1984, 68) identifies the image as the worship of Aphrodite Ourania. Compare representations of women celebrating the Lenaia, such as the Attic red-figure stamnos by the Villa Giulia Painter from the mid-fifth century (Oxford, Ashmolean Museum G 289).
(8.) [Ath. Pol.] 50.2, discussed below, may also be sumptuary in nature.
(9.) See Gow's (1950) note ad loc. It is not clear if this player is a slave or a daughter of the owner of the farm.
(10.) The fragment appears to describe a symposium to be held during a military campaign. Plutarch (Lys. 15.4) states that Lysander had some female pipers in his camp, presumably to play for symposia during campaigns.
(11.) Olson 2002, 264: "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]: i.e. by extension an [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]."
(12.) Dionysus's followers appear reveling in vase painting and playing auloi. There is at times explicit eroticism as well, e.g., the satyr holding auloi with a [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] hanging from his erect penis on the red-figure plate in Paris (Cliche Bibliotheque nationale de France, Paris: Cabinet des Medailles no. 509; ARV 77 no. 91).
(13.) Literally, 'ground'; see LSJ, s.v. [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].
(14.) Other catalogues: Nicostratus, fr. 27 K-A (= Athenaeus 15.685c); Menander, fr. 224.1-6 (= Athenaeus 4.146e); Alexander, fr. 3 K-A (= Athenaeus 4.170e).
(15.) Attic red-figure column-krater from the mid-fifth century (British Museum E 486).
(16.) See also Theopompus, FGrH 115 F 49 (= Athenaeus12.527a) and F 213 (= Athenaeus 12.532c).
(17.) The Attic red-figure phiale by the Boston Phiale Painter (Boston Museum of Fine Arts 97.371) may show entertainers in training and men observing them.
(18.) Some speakers in Athenaeus do use the word auletris in the sense of 'prostitute' (e.g., 13.587), as does Photius. The focus on the eroticism of the piper can be found in the self-contradictory sense of the non-instrumentalist female piper (see Eupolis 184 K-A).
(19.) Sian Lewis (2002, 99) makes a related point worth remembering: "Prostitution is a trade, not an identity."
(20.) Redfield (2003, 35) suggests with respect to Menander, Dys. 57-68, that the Athenian definition of prostitution was "sex without consequences." Although it is helpful to have an elite Athenian male view, it cannot serve as a rigorous study of prostitution.
(21.) Cohen 2006, 121: "La prostitution ... implique toujours un paiement en echange de sexe." In my definition, a person can be hired to perform erotic material (as in Xenophon or a modern strip club) without being a prostitute. Such a distinction is undoubtedly anachronistic with respect to the elite Athenian male perspective.
(22.) On the issue of nudity, see Kilmer 1993, 159-68, although he believes that the presence of the aulos is the most solid piece of evidence for identifying a woman as a prostitute in imagery, even if it is only "suggestive" (159).
(23.) The "girl" may serve to capture the slave status and generally dismissive aspect of male linguistic usage, yet it disguises the issue of age. West 1992, 85: "It must be admitted that 'oboe-girl' is less evocative than the 'flute-girl' to which classicists have become accustomed, and when it is a question of translating Greek poetry 'oboe' is likely to sound odd. For the latter case I favour 'pipe' or 'shawm'. I have found no very satisfactory solution to the girl problem." 'Female piper,' which I use, is certainly unsatisfactory for Greek poetry.
(24.) E.g., McClure 2003, 22: "In a reversal of normal sympotic protocol, Socrates [sic] dismisses the flute player at the beginning of Plato's Symposium with the words 'let her play to herself, or if she wishes, to the women within."
(25.) For a reading of the philosophical motives behind the eroticism in Xenophon, see Wohl 2004.
(26.) This offhand mention of her musical ability suggests that there might have been a differentiation among female pipers. Some might have been better musicians, some more prized for their erotic accomplishments. There may also have been divisions based on age; after all, a piper is likely to lose her sexual attraction to Athenian men over time while still retaining her musical ability. What did her owner do then? There is much about the life of the piper that is unknown.
(27.) A piper is present, but not prostituted in this scene. The emphasis on the piper as prostitute may have misled King (2013, 275) to imagine that the piper was prostituted when it was the dancer.
(28.) Cf. in this context the piper in the Thesmophoriazusae discussed above.
(29.) See also Theopompus, FGrH 115 F 49 (= Athenaeus 12.527a and 12.532c-d).
(30.) Cf. Simonides, Anth. Pal. 5.159 (see Gow-Page, Hellenistic Epigrams 3300): "The auletris Boidion and Pythia, loving girls, / for you, Kypris, dedicated their belts and the captions. / Merchant and porter (phortege), your little money bag / spear (double entendre?) knows, / where these belts and labels came from."
(31.) It seems that too explicit a sexual discussion could be socially unacceptable in the context of the symposium. What else could Persaeus be reacting against? Aside from certain literary genres (e.g., old comedy or iambic), explicit sexual discussion is often vague or euphemistic. Consider how the orators frequently apologize for certain types of language when discussing sex.
(32.) On the wages of non-slave female aulos players with reference to this passage, see Kennedy 2014, 126-9.
(33.) On the actions of Phrynion as hubris, see Kennedy 2014, 103-6.
(34.) Sutton 1992, 13, Fig. 1.3.
(35.) See Dover 1994, 206-7.
(36.) Athenaeus (13.577c) mentions a few pipers who are not silent, but they are not slave women of the classical symposium. Lamia, for example, a lover of Demetrius Poliorcetes, is not only as an auletris but also the daughter of an Athenian citizen, Cleanor, and the woman responsible for constructing the painted stoa at Sicyon.
(37.) Wilson 1999, 84: "The auletris is, as it were, pure body, with no logos; or she is the transmitter of voices (phonal) not her own. She is defined by the instrument (with which her body is in a sense continuous) and which has a more than ambivalent relationship to logos, often troped as its enemy or opposite."
(38.) Scholars debate the significance of the Phialae inscriptions. 1 find the arguments of Elizabeth Meyer 2010 convincing.
(39.) Cohen 2007, 206-7; cf. Cohen 2000, 159-67 and Herodas 2.
(40.) See Harmon 2005, 351 on Pomeroy 1977.
(41.) On the issue of respectability for metic women, see Kennedy 2014, passim.
(42.) Early drafts benefited from the astute criticisms of my colleagues Barbara Tsakirgis and Thomas McGinn. The comments of Allison Glazebrook likewise have greatly improved this essay. My thanks to audiences at the APA in Seattle 2013 and Rhodes College for their feedback. The responsibility for this essay's existence belongs to Rebecca Kennedy since it was in many conversations with her that I was convinced that a reassessment of the female piper might prove of some value.
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|Author:||Goldman, Max L.|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2015|
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