L'esperienza della Cortigiana
The Courtesan Experience
Nowadays the word "Courtesan" has become a synonymous of expensive prostitute. Few centuries ago in Europe it had a completely different meaning. Moreover, in many parts of the world Courtesans began their existence long before the arrival of modern civilization and played a very important role in the society. So what does the term "Courtesan" mean? What is the essence of her occupation? What were the names of Courtesans in different part of the world?
Where did the word "Courtesan" come from?
Courtesan (courtesane) is a French word derived from the word "courtier" and originally meant a person who attends a royal court as a companion or adviser to the king or the queen. In feudal Europe Courtesans passed on an important information to visitors of the dignitary at court when this info could not be trusted by the servants. Since the fourteenth century during the Renaissance the role of Courtesans in a high society became very important. Since the kings were marrying to conclude alliances and leading separate lives with their spouses, that's why they sought the society of court women. If earlier "to be at court" meant "to be or to live there", this phrase began to mean "to have amorous affairs with someone" in the Renaissance. The closest to the monarch Courtesans began to be called their "favorites".
The word "Courtesan" itself appeared in French by analogy with Italian "court ladies" - donna di palazzo. But in Italy of that time (Venice, Rome and Florence) "Courtesan" (Cortigiana) did not mean just a woman who served at the court. She was highly educated and independent, skilled in singing and dancing and used to entertain the highest society.
The essence of the Courtesan
Since the sixteenth century, the word "Courtesan" began to mean a high-class mistress, who was maintained by VIP men - the rich and powerful of this world. And in exchange for her favor they gave her money and jewelry as well as her high status in society.
Courtesans at court had a much more freedom than other women of that time. They were independent and had a stable financial position. Courtesans often married their patrons, but it happened that their chosen ones were men standing below them on the social ladder. And due to the relationship of the Courtesans with those who had a high social status usually resulted a higher status for their spouses as well.
The first courtesans in ancient times appeared in Europe and were called Hetaerae. Courtesans similar to Hetaerae, especially Athenian ones, wouldn't be founded anywhere except in Greece as these women had a very high status in society. In addition to the fact that the Hetaerae were unprecedentedly independent and wealthy, they were also women of distinguished education and various talents, worthy to be companions of the most prominent and wealthiest people of their era. For example, Thais of Athens, who became famous as a mistress of Alexander the Great.
Another type of Greek courtesans were called Auletrides - artists, musicians and dancers who mostly performed at symposia - Greek parties for the nobility. They were able to blow any man's mind with their art of seduction. While both types were offering their companionship only for wealthy people, the main difference between Hetaerae and Auletrides was that highly educated Hetaerae could choose a lover by their own taste and will.