Hetairan

Houses-of-Pleasure-in-Ancient-Pompeii

Ὅστις ἀνθρώπων ἑταίραν ἠγάπησε πώποτε,
οὗ γένος τίς ἂν δύναιτο παρανομώτερον φράσαι;
τίς γὰρ ἢ δράκαιν’ ἄμικτος ἢ Χίμαιρα πύρπνοος,
ἢ Χάρυβδις, ἢ τρίκρανος Σκύλλα, ποντία κύων,
Σφίγξ, ῞Υδρα, λέαιν’, ἔχιδνα, πτηνά θ’ ῾Αρπυιῶν γένη,
εἰς ὑπερβολὴν ἀφῖκται τοῦ καταπτύστου γένους;
οὐκ ἔνεσθ’· αὖται δ’ ἁπάντων ὑπερέχουσι τῶν κακῶν.
ἔστι δὲ σκοπεῖν ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πρῶτα μὲν τὴν Πλαγγόνα,
ἥτις ὥσπερ ἡ Χίμαιρα πυρπολεῖ τοὺς βαρβάρους.
εἷς μόνος δ’ ἱππεύς τις αὐτῆς τὸν βίον παρείλετο·
πάντα τὰ σκεύη γὰρ ἕλκων ᾤχετ’ ἐκ τῆς οἰκίας.
οἱ Σινώπῃ δ’ αὖ συνόντες οὐχ ῞Υδρᾳ σύνεισι νῦν;
γραῦς μὲν αὐτή, παραπέφυκε δ’ ἡ Γνάθαινα πλησίον,
ὥστ’ ἀπαλλαγεῖσι ταύτης ἐστὶ διπλάσιον κακόν.
ἡ δὲ Νάννιον τί νυνὶ διαφέρειν Σκύλλης δοκεῖ;
οὐ δύ’ ἀποπνίξασ’ ἑταίρους τὸν τρίτον θηρεύεται
ἔτι λαβεῖν; ἀλλ’ †ἐξέπεσε† πορθμὶς ἐλατίνῳ πλάτῃ.
ἡ δὲ Φρύνη τὴν Χάρυβδιν οὐχὶ πόρρω που ποεῖ,
τόν τε ναύκληρον λαβοῦσα καταπέπωκ’ αὐτῷ σκάφει;
ἡ Θεανὼ δ’ οὐχὶ Σειρήν ἐστιν ἀποτετιλμένη;
βλέμμα καὶ φωνὴ γυναικός, τὰ σκέλη δὲ κοψίχου.
Σφίγγα Θηβαίαν δὲ πάσας ἔστι τὰς πόρνας καλεῖν,
αἳ λαλοῦσ’ ἁπλῶς μὲν οὐδέν, ἀλλ’ ἐν αἰνιγμοῖς τισιν,
ὡς ἐρῶσι καὶ φιλοῦσι καὶ σύνεισιν ἡδέως.
εἶτα “τετράπους μοι γένοιτο”, φησί, “†τήνπρος† ἢ θρόνος,”
εἶτα δὴ “τρίπους τις”, εἶτα, φησί, “παιδίσκη δίπους.”
εἶθ’ ὃ μὲν γνοὺς ταῦτ’ ἀπῆλθεν εὐθὺς ὥσπερ <Οἰδίπους>,
οὐδ’ ἰδειν δόξας ἐκείνην, σῴζεται δ’ ἄκων μόνος.
οἱ δ’ ἐρᾶσθαι προσδοκῶντες εὐθύς εἰσιν ἠρμένοι
καὶ φέρονθ’ ὑψοῦ πρὸς αἴθραν · συντεμόντι δ’ οὐδὲ ἓν
ἔσθ’ ἑταίρας ὅσα πέρ ἔστιν θηρί’ ἐξωλέστερον.
(Anaxilas, Neottis fr. 22)

If anyone’s ever grown attached to a courtesan—
could you name a more criminal bunch?
Because what fearsome dragon, or fire-breathing Chimaera,
or Charybdis, or three-headed Scylla, or shark,
Sphinx, Hydra, lion, poisonous snake, or winged flock of Harpies
outdoes this revolting group?
It’s impossible; they’re worse than the worst!
You can think about it systematically, starting with Plangon,
who reduces the barbarians to cinders, like the Chimaera.
But one solitary horseman* stripped her of her livelihood;
when he left her house, he took all the furniture with him!
As for the people who sleep with Sinope—aren’t they sleeping with a Hydra now?
She’s an old woman, but Gnathaena’s appeared next door;
so if they escape the first, the other one’s twice as bad.
What difference can you see today between Nannion and Scylla?
After she strangled two boyfriends, isn’t she angling now
to catch a third? But †fell out† a ship with a fir-wood oar.
And isn’t Phryne behaving just like Charybdis,
by grabbing the ship-owner and gulping him down, boat and all?
Isn’t Theano a siren with no feathers?
She looks and sounds like a woman—but she’s got the legs of a blackbird!
You could call any whore a Theban Sphinx,
because they never talk straight, but speak in riddles,
claiming to love you, and be sweet on you, and enjoy sleeping with you.
Then she says: “I’d like a [corrupt] or a chair with four feet!”
Then: “or a table with three feet!” And then she says: “or a slave-girl with two feet!”
Then anyone who can solve these riddles leaves immediately, like Oedipus,
pretending he doesn’t see her; and he’s the only one to get away, even if she doesn’t want to.
But the others, who think she loves them, are immediately grabbed
and carried off high into the air. To sum up, however many wild beasts
there are, nothing’s more dangerous than a courtesan!

* Recalling Bellerophon, who rode Pegasus when he killed the Chimaera.

(tr. Stuart Douglas Olson, with his note)

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