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Phryne  

Melissa Funke

Phryne, a Boeotian hetaira, was active in Athens in the mid-to-late 4th century bce. Said to have been born in Thespiae (Ath. 13.591c) and originally named Mnesarete, she took the name Phryne from a nickname given due to her sallow complexion (Plut. De Pyth. or. 401b). Along with several other famous hetairai of the time, she is mentioned in several comedies produced at Athens during her lifetime (Anaxilas Nottis fr. 22; Timocles Orestautocleides fr. 27, and Neaira fr. 25). Narratives about her life associating her with prominent artists and philosophers from 4th-century Athens first became popular in Hellenistic collections of anecdotes influenced by Middle and New Comedy and then featured prominently in Imperial Greek literature. While most scholars acknowledge that Phryne was a real woman living in 4th-century Athens, the majority of the sources on her are Hellenistic and Imperial Greek, casting doubt on the historicity of the biographical details they preserve.