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Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece

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Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece Cover

ISBN13: 9780300107630
ISBN10: 0300107633
Condition:
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Neaira grew up in a Corinthian brothel in the fourth century B.C., became a high-priced courtesan and a sex slave, then settled into a thirty-year relationship with Stephanos of Athens. But next she found herself in court, charged with transgressing Athenss marriage laws. This book reconstructs the amazing facts of Neairas life and trial, illuminating the social, legal, and cultural worlds of ancient Greece.

“Hamels treatment of this complicated story is outstanding . . . for its comprehensive [yet remarkably concise] presentation of the social and historical context of fourth-century Athens.”—Ingrid D. Rowland, New Republic

“[Trying Neaira] is an extraordinary tale, with more than an echo of Arthur Goldens Memoirs of a Geisha.”—Tom Holland, Daily Telegraph00

“A marvelous account of a fascinating series of events in the life of a Greek woman of the fourth century B.C. Hamel tells the tale with clarity and verve and, along the way, she teaches the reader a vast amount about Athenian society in the most interesting and entertaining way.”—Donald Kagan, Yale University

“Charmingly written (and) nicely illustrated. . . . Hamels account is engaging, accessible to nonexperts, and useful for courses on Athenian society.”—Choice

“As told by Debra Hamel, this true-life story offers an extraordinary window on a civilization that wasnt half so rarefied in its interests or affections as we tend to assume.”—The Scotsman

Synopsis:

Neaira grew up in a Corinthian brothel in the fourth century B.C., became a high-priced courtesan and a sex slave, then settled into a thirty-year relationship with Stephanos of Athens. But next she found herself in court, charged with transgressing Athens's marriage laws. This book reconstructs the amazing facts of Neaira's life and trial, illuminating the social, legal, and cultural worlds of ancient Greece.

Synopsis:

Neaira grew up in a Corinthian brothel in the fourth century B.C. and became one of the city-state's priciest courtesans while yet a teenager. In her twenties she served as the sex slave of two former clients and endured an abusive relationship with an unsavory Athenian. Finally she met Stephanos, an Athenian citizen with whom she lived for the next thirty years. Neaira's life with Stephanos was riddled with lawsuits. In the 340s Neaira was dragged into court and charged with transgressing Athens' marriage laws. During the trial, zealous prosecutors dredged up the most sordid details of her life. The stakes in the case were high; Neaira's freedom lay in the jurors' hands. The details of Neaira's life are known because the speech delivered in court by her prosecutor has survived. Here, with a more sympathetic eye toward the protagonist, Debra Hamel explains the historical, legal, and cultural context of the trial. In reconstructing the facts of Neaira's life, this book illuminates the social world of ancient Greece.

About the Author

Debra Hamel is the author of Athenian Generals: Military Authority in the Classical Period.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Gypsi, June 6, 2010 (view all comments by Gypsi)
Trying Neaira is just what one would NOT expect an historical nonfiction book to be: witty and easy to read, with little bizarre bits that one just MUST read out loud! Furthermore, her writing style is light and makes a normal dry subject (the ancient Athenian judicial system) interesting and comprehensible.

Neaira was a prostitute in the 4th century, who grew up in Corinth and eventually found herself in a stable relationship as the long-time mistress of an influential Athenian, Stephanos. Unfortunately, Stephanos had an equally influential enemy (or at least rival) Apollodoros. They battled back and forth in the courts, and eventually Apollodoros hit on a different way to attack Stephanos--through Neaira.

Athenian laws were quite strict about foreigners and allowed no intermarriage. Apollodoros set out to prove that Neaira was living with Stephanos as his wife, instead of as his mistress, and that their children were being given the rights of Athenian citizens--which, as Neaira's children, they never could be.

Using Apollodoros speech to the jury, Hamel recreates Neaira's life, while using other sources to fill out the story with interesting details about prostitution, jury duty, social customs and Athenian law.*

Hamel approaches Neaira's life (via the speech) as a detective would, piecing together bits, shifting out obvious falsehoods, and in the end presenting a surprising full picture of one woman's life.

This is an excellent book for anyone who is, or who is NOT, interested in ancient Athenian law. I, myself, had not the least curiosity in said subject and yet found myself fascinated, all the while being constantly entertained by her sly wit and bizarre trivia. I learned enough from this book to become quite interested in Athenian history and I feel it will have the same effect on any other casual historian.

*to quote from the Preface:
Apollodoros'speech, inevitably hostile to Neaira, must be the principal source for her biography, though we will need very often to question and reject the information he provides. Where what he tells us is not inherently unlikely, however, or contradicted by other sources, and when lying about the issue under discussion would not have furthered the prosecution's case, we can feel reasonably confident about accepting Apollodoros' testimony. Fleshing out Neaira's story, too, will require frequent dips into other source material.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780300107630
Author:
Hamel, Debra
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Subject:
Ancient - Greece
Subject:
Legal History
Subject:
World History-Ancient Near East
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20050231
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
224
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in 0.6 lb

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Law » General
History and Social Science » World History » Ancient Near East
History and Social Science » World History » General

Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece New Trade Paper
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Product details 224 pages Yale University Press - English 9780300107630 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Neaira grew up in a Corinthian brothel in the fourth century B.C., became a high-priced courtesan and a sex slave, then settled into a thirty-year relationship with Stephanos of Athens. But next she found herself in court, charged with transgressing Athens's marriage laws. This book reconstructs the amazing facts of Neaira's life and trial, illuminating the social, legal, and cultural worlds of ancient Greece.
"Synopsis" by , Neaira grew up in a Corinthian brothel in the fourth century B.C. and became one of the city-state's priciest courtesans while yet a teenager. In her twenties she served as the sex slave of two former clients and endured an abusive relationship with an unsavory Athenian. Finally she met Stephanos, an Athenian citizen with whom she lived for the next thirty years. Neaira's life with Stephanos was riddled with lawsuits. In the 340s Neaira was dragged into court and charged with transgressing Athens' marriage laws. During the trial, zealous prosecutors dredged up the most sordid details of her life. The stakes in the case were high; Neaira's freedom lay in the jurors' hands. The details of Neaira's life are known because the speech delivered in court by her prosecutor has survived. Here, with a more sympathetic eye toward the protagonist, Debra Hamel explains the historical, legal, and cultural context of the trial. In reconstructing the facts of Neaira's life, this book illuminates the social world of ancient Greece.
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