Meet the Anemoi, the Greek Gods of Weather

anemoi greek gods wind
A detail from Sandro Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus,” featuring Zephyrus and Chloris. Credit: Public Domain

Ancient Greeks believed that the weather, like nearly everything else on earth, was the result of divine activity. Wind, specifically, was associated with the Anemoi, or the Greek gods of the wind.

The Anemoi are the four gods named Boreas, Zephyrus, Notus, and Eurus. Each is ascribed both a cardinal direction based on the direction the wind blows and a season.

Boreas is the Greek god of the North wind, which is cold, and is therefore linked to winter. Thought to bring the winter, he is described as extremely strong with a violent temper.

Frequently, Boreas is depicted as a winged old man with long hair and a beard. The first of the Anemoi is often depicted holding a conch shell and wearing a long cloak.

The second of the Anemoi, Zephyrus, is the god of the west wind, which is the gentlest of all winds.

Believed to be the bringer of spring, according to Greek mythology, Zephyrus lived in a cave in Thrace in northern Greece.

The Anemoi, Greek gods of wind, linked to nymphs

Zephyrus has many wives in various myths. Most well-known is his relationship with Chloris, a nymph associated with spring, flowers, and new growth. Her name refers to a light green-yellow color.

According to myth, Zephyrus and his brother, Boreas, both adored Chloris and competed for her affection, but the gentle Zephyrus beat his hot-headed brother.

Zephyrus gave the nymph domain over all flowers, and together, they had the child Karpos, or fruit.

Notus, or Notos, was the Greek god of the south wind, which was linked to the hot, dry wind of midsummer. Also associated with the storms of late summer and early autumn, he was feared by farmers as a destroyer of crops.

There is some debate about the nature of Eurus, or Euros, as some believe he was the god of the southeast wind while others claim the east wind.

Eurus is linked to turbulent windstorms, including those that sent ships down as they traveled across the rough seas. He is also linked to hot winds, but was not associated with any of the specific ancient Greek seasons of which they had only three.

There were a host of other, more minor, Greek deities whose names were attributed to the particular winds which would blow at various times of the year.

The Romans also adopted some of these gods, giving them new names but still ascribing to them the power to bring different types of weather.

Hence, the next time a Greek summer day is washed out by thunder, rain, and lightning, perhaps it is one of the Anemoi, come back to take their place in the pantheon.

The Anemoi were the sons of Eos, the ancient Greek goddess of the dawn.

Born, according to some Greek myths, from the gods Hyperion and Theia, her siblings were Helios, the god of the sun, and Selene, the goddess of the moon. Her name was spelled in Ionic and Homeric Greek Ἠώς, or Ēṓs, and in Attic Greek Ἕως, or Héōs.

Her children were Anemoi and Astraea, the gods and goddess of the four winds and of five Astra Planeta, or “Wandering Stars”, i.e. planets: Phainon (Saturn), Phaethon (Jupiter), Pyroeis (Mars), Eosphoros/Hesperos (Venus), and Stilbon (Mercury).

Snakes, Apes and Ferrets: The Ancient Greek Love of Pets

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Ancient Greeks loved their pets. An Archaic Greek statue of a dog, thought to be an Alopekis, and her puppy. Credit: /Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 3.0

Animals were an important part of life in antiquity, and Ancient Greeks loved their pets. Ancient sources tell us that they kept a wide variety of animals at home, ranging from dogs to snakes.

Paintings, writings, and sculptures from ancient Greece reveal that dogs were, by far, the most common domesticated pet and prized for their hunting abilities.

Breeds, such as the Laconian, were well-regarded for speed and hunting skill while the Molossia was a huge breed used for big game.

The Cretan was a cross-breed to the two above and likely used to find food.
Greeks were also fond of a breed called the Celtic Vertragus, which seemed to be a forerunner to the greyhound.

Their speed and agility were highly valued by the ancient Greeks, and legend has it that one saved the life of Alexander the Great from a charging elephant.

Ancient Greeks loved their dogs

According to Xenophon, the dog names preferred by the ancient Greeks were short, consisting of one, or at most two, syllables. They also paid special attention to the meaning of the name of the dog and no name was ever bestowed at random or on a whim.

After their loyal friend and companion departed from this world, ancient Greeks were not afraid to express their grief for their loss, openly crying and mourning.

Greeks would bury their pets along the roadside in marked graves, and the entire ceremony for this was undertaken in a very solemn manner.

Archaeologists have uncovered countless epitaphs on tombstones that the Greeks dedicated to their furry friends.

“This is the tomb of the dog, Stephanos, who perished, Whom Rhodope shed tears for and buried like a human. I am the dog Stephanos, and Rhodope set up a tomb for me” read one gravestone.

Snakes, ferrets, cats, apes, and birds were kept as pets

More unusual was that snakes were also kept as pets in the belief that they kept mice and rat numbers down. Ferrets were also kept for pest control.

Although cats were worshiped and prized in ancient Egypt, There are few records of cats in ancient Greek writing.

Yet, the existence of the Aegean cat, a native Greek feline breed, may be evidence that the ancient Greeks kept cats as pets, as well.

Believed to be descendants of the ancient cats that inhabited the Greek islands throughout antiquity, Aegean cats have bred naturally without human intervention for thousands of years.

It is thought to be one of the oldest domesticated breeds in the world.

There is archaeological evidence of cats living alongside humans in Cyprus in antiquity, however.

Excavations at a Neolithic site called Shillourokampos in Cyprus showed that ancient people there truly cared for their feline companions and even dug out a grave with care for their pet cat.

Amazingly though, there is written evidence that Greeks kept primates, such as apes and monkeys as pets, with some writers spinning tales of such animals learning how to play musical instruments for entertainment.

Large birds were also a common ancient Greek pet, with herons and peacocks often taking up residence at home. Engravings show ducks and geese being kept as pets—perhaps a noisy alternative to a guard dog!

The Magic of Creating Replicas of Ancient Greek Masterpieces

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Faithful replicas of ancient Greek masterpieces are created by specialists. Credit: Archaeological Resources Fund

A workshop in Athens produces the only officially-certified replicas of ancient Greek masterpieces which are later sold at the country’s archaeological sites, monuments, and museums.

The exact copies of the most iconic pieces of ancient Greek art are made by hand, with great expertise, by talented sculptors, painters, conservationists, and craftsmen at Athens’ Archaeological Resources Fund workshops.

The workshops are under the control of the Greek Ministry of Culture, which supports the efforts to replicate masterpieces of Greek art for private sale, educational purposes, or even for exhibitions.

Both workshops, one located in Athens and the other in Pella in northern Greece, are fitted with cutting edge tools in order to help the artist and craftsmen recreate the masterpieces with the greatest level of accuracy and beauty possible.

Gods and heroes and mortals and immortals are reproduced there, either sculpted in marble or cast in bronze, breathing life into ancient objects and allowing visitors to take a piece of ancient Greece home with them.

From Cycladic figurines to the impressive sculptures of the Classical period, the works of art copied in the workshop cover all periods of ancient Greek history and include some of the most iconic works of ancient Greek art.

Replicas of ancient Greek art made with perfect accuracy

The process of recreating these ancient Greek masterpieces is very complicated and requires work from artists and craftsmen with the best skills.

Talented painters also render the original colors the statues or artifacts were given, and gold leaf is skillfully applied to some of the objects, providing them with a veneer of shining gold.

The replicas, which are also sent to universities and related institutions around the world for educational purposes, are cast from the originals, making them perfect replicas.

These replicas bring the magic of ancient Greek art to people all over the world who may not have the ability to see the originals in person, and they make perfect gifts for art lovers.

All works of art produced at the workshop of the Archaeological Resources Fund bear an official seal attesting to their authenticity, accuracy, and high quality.

The molds and models from which the copies are produced belong exclusively to ARF and are unavailable in the market.

In addition, the law defines as faithful copies only those having the ARF seal plaque affixed to them during their production.

These replicas are available for purchase at all gift shops in monuments, museums, and archaeological sites in Greece, and can even be found in online gift shops of Greek museums.

Watch the video below to see just how our priceless treasures are painstakingly reproduced for the entire world to enjoy, learn from, and marvel over.


Artist Jeff Koons Displays Artwork on Greek Island of Hydra

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“Apollo,” by Jeff Koons is on display in the Slaughterhouse on the island of Hydra. Credit: Chapps/Twitter

Jeff Koons, one of the world’s most famous contemporary artist, adorned the Greek island of Hydra with his own version of an ancient Greek temple of Apollo.

The iconic American artist transformed the Slaughterhouse, an art space located just outside the main town of Hydra, into a bright, colorful ancient Greek temple.

Although the jarring colors may seem out of place, as many people think of white marble when imagining ancient Greek architecture, temples and sculptures actually were painted with bright colors in antiquity.

In addition to the stunning mosaic floors and frescoes adorning the walls, Koons also created a colorful sculpture of the Greek god Apollo as the centerpiece of his temple. Next to the statue, which has shiny, tanned skin, a robotic snake slithered on the podium, and an actual woman posed without moving a muscle.

In addition to the sculpture, Koons placed a wooden table with a urinal, bicycle wheel, and koulouri in the space, which is likely an ode to famous French conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp.

The artist also placed a golden sun on the roof of the art space. As the wind blows, the sun’s rays turn.

Jeff Koons builds Greek temple on Hydra

Koons had been working on his temple for over two years, and on the space’s opening night, a young man dressed in Ancient Greek clothing, a number of goats, and burning incense imbued the temple with an air of authenticity.

The event took place just one day before the summer solstice, or the longest day of the year.

The scene attracted a variety of visitors from the island’s community of art lovers to famous artists and even tourists who stumbled upon the event during their trip to the island.

Nestled in the Argo Saronic Gulf just under two hours away from Athens by ferry, Hydra has long been a destination for artists, musicians, and free spirits inspired by its stunning natural beauty and vibrant port town.

Internationally known as the muse and longtime home of poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen, Hydra is filled with a spirit of creativity and beauty that can be felt just by exploring the breathtaking island.

Hydra is also completely free of cars, motorcycles, and even bicycles, so visitors simply get around on foot, by donkey, or by water taxis to reach more distant beaches.

Koons, who is known for his sculptures that explore themes from popular culture, particularly his works inspired by balloon animals and the singer Michael Jackson, was first introduced to the Greek island of Hydra by his friend Dakis Joannou.

Joannou, who is a prolific collector of contemporary art, famously acquired the pop-art inspired yacht Koons designed called Guilty. The two became friends in the 1980s, and it was likely through Koons’ influence that Joannou began collecting art.

The Greek-Cypriot businessman began the Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art, which is based in Athens. The Slaughterhouse in Hydra is part of the Deste Foundation.

Koons’ exhibition, which is entitled Apollo will be on display in the space until October 31st.

How Many Greeks are There Around the World

The Greek Paradox
Greek-Australians marching in the Australia Day parade in Melbourne. Credit: Chris Phutully, CC BY 2.0

The Greek diaspora, or the number of people with Greek ancestry living outside of the country, is one of the most widespread and largest in the world.

Since ancient times, Greeks have traveled the world, making the their homes in countries far away from their ancestral land.

In terms of calculating the number of Greeks living both in Greece and around the world, there are a number of factors that obscure the true figure, including assimilation into another country’s culture, conversion to other religions, name changes, and marriages to people who are not of Greek ancestry.

According to data from the United Nations, Greece itself currently has a population of 10,322,026.

Greek diaspora numbers in the millions

Recent estimates of the General Secretariat of Hellenes Abroad show that there are more than 5,000,000 people of Greek origin that live outside of the Greek borders scattered around 140 countries across the globe.

This means that there are at least around fifteen million Greeks living around the world today.

The countries with the most people of Greek descent outside of Greece are the US, Germany, Australia, Canada, the UK, and Albania.

The United States is home to the largest population of those of Greek descent outside of Greece with over three million Greek-Americans, mainly third or fourth generation immigrants, residing in the country.

Despite the high number of people of Greek descent living in America, only around 300,000 people in the US speak the Greek language.

Numbering nearly 400,000, Greek-Australians are the seventh-largest ethnic group in Australia, and they have made their mark on the country’s culture and history.

Canada is also home to a thriving Greek community, particularly in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. According to a 2016 census, there are 271,405 Canadians of Greek descent in the country and an estimated 62,715 Greek-born residents living in Canada.

Germany is home to around 400,000 people of Greek descent, and the figure has been consistently rising in the years since Greece began facing an economic crisis, as many young Greeks have moved to the country in hopes of finding work.

The UK has also welcomed many young Greeks in recent years, and there are an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 Greeks and people of Greek descent living in the country.

Although widely considered unreliable, Albania’s recent census data claims that there are only 25,000 Greeks living in the country.

Other estimates number Albania’s Greek community, including those of Greek descent and those with Greek passports, to be around 250,000 to 300,000.

Despite its distance from Greece, Latin America is home to many Greeks of the diaspora, who find the warm, family-centered Latin0-American culture very familiar.

The Greek community is particularly large in Chile, where an estimated 120,000 people of Greek descent reside.

The flow of people to and from Greece and its Mediterranean neighbors, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, has been widespread since antiquity.

There have been Greeks living in Egypt for thousands of years, contributing to the country’s culture, history, and society; yet, many were forced to leave the country after the Egyptian Revolution of 1952.

Currently, the once thriving Greek diaspora community has been reduced to just 5,000, but some historians argue that the figure does not represent the true amount of Greeks living in the country, as many officially changed their nationality to Egyptian after the Revolution.

Greece Triumphs Over USA in Water Polo World Championships

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Greece beat USA 16-11 in the quarterfinals of the World Championships. Credit: FINA

Greece’s Water Polo National Team defeated Team USA 16-11 on Wednesday and qualified for the semifinals of the FINA World Championships that are held in Budapest, Hungary.

The Greek team booked a much deserved spot in the semifinals for the fifth time in its history where it would meet the winner of the Hungary – Italy game. It would, therefore, face either the host nation or the current holders of the title of World Champions – a tough assignment.

The team of coach Theodore Vlachos played a great defensive game against the US despite having goalie Emmanuel Zerdevas substituted with a bruised arm early on.

Final score: Greece-USA 16-11 (3-1, 4-6, 3-0, 6-4)

Greece won the silver medal in water polo at Tokyo Olympics

Greece has a long tradition of a strong presence at the international level. The team made history in 2021, and despite losing 13-10 to Serbia, won its first silver Olympic medal in history during the final at the Tokyo Olympics.

Greece managed to reach the final without a single defeat. The only time the Greek squad didn’t win was when they had a draw against Italy during the group stage.

Greece won two bronze medals at the World Championship in 2005 and 2015. It has also won a silver medal at the World Cup in 1997, three bronze medals at the World League in 2004, 2006, and 2016, as well as one silver (2018) and four bronze medals (1951, 1991, 1993, 2013) at the Mediterranean Games.



Russia Poses a “Direct Threat” to Europe, NATO Leaders Say

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NATO leaders said that Russia constitutes a direct threat to European security. Credit: PM press office

NATO leaders meeting in Madrid on June 29th are set to label Russia a menace to their security, as they overhaul the alliance’s defenses in response to the war on Ukraine, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said.

“We’ll state clearly that Russia poses a direct threat to our security,” Stoltenberg said ahead of the unveiling of NATO’s new strategic blueprint.

Stoltenberg said the meeting in Madrid was set to be “historic and transformative” for the seven-decade-old alliance as it grapples with the fallout from Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We meet in the midst of the most serious security crisis we have faced since the Second World War,” Stoltenberg said.

NATO is due to launch the largest revamp of its defense and deterrence capabilities since the end of the Cold War by strengthening the forces on its eastern flank and massively ramping up the number of troops it has at high readiness.

It is also set for the first time to turn its attention to the challenge posed by the rising might of China in an update to its guiding “strategic concept.”

“China’s not an adversary,” Stoltenberg said.

“But of course, we need to take into account the consequences to our security when we see China investing heavily in new modern military capabilities, long-range missiles or nuclear weapons and also trying to control critical infrastructure for instance, 5G,” he added.

As a sign of this shift, the leaders of partners South Korea and Japan also attended the NATO summit for the first time.

Biden announces US military reinforcements in Europe

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced US reinforcements of NATO forces in Europe, saying the alliance is needed more today “than it ever has been.”

NATO will be “strengthened in all directions across every domain—land, air and sea,” he said at a summit of the transatlantic alliance being held in Madrid.

Biden, who was meeting with Stoltenberg, said the extra forces included boosting the fleet of US naval destroyers from four to six in Rota, Spain; enhancing rotational deployments in the Baltic countries; and reinforcing air defense and other capabilities in Germany and in Italy.

An “additional rotational brigade” in Romania, consisting of “3,000 fighters and another 2,000 personnel combat team” is also being planned as are two additional squadrons of the F-35 stealth plane to Britain.

Finally, a permanent headquarters in Poland of the 5th Army Corps is also being considered, as was discussed in the Stoltenberg meeting.

“Together with our allies we’re going to make sure that NATO is ready to meet the threats from all directions across every domain,” Biden said.

NATO’s expansion “is the opposite” of what Putin had hoped for

“In a moment where [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has shattered peace in Europe and attacked the very, very tenets of rule-based order, the United States and our allies, we’re going to step up,” he said.

“We’re stepping up,” Biden announced, and “proving that NATO is more needed now than it ever has been and it’s important as it ever has been.”

Referring to NATO unity on accepting the applications of previously neutral Finland and Sweden to join the alliance, Biden said Putin’s strategy in invading Ukraine had backfired.

“That’s exactly what he didn’t want but exactly what needs to be done to guarantee security for Europe,” Biden said.

Stoltenberg commented that the expansion of NATO was “the opposite” of what Putin hoped for.

The U.S. Caves in to Erdogan’s Blackmail with F-16 Pledge

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The US now fully supports the modernization of the Turkish F-16 fleet. Public Domain

A senior Pentagon official confirmed on Wednesday that the US fully supports the modernization of Turkey’s F-16 fleet, hours after Turkish President Erdogan agreed to lift the threat of a veto on Finland and Sweden joining NATO.

As US President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet his Turkish counterpart on the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Madrid, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander said that “the US fully supports Turkey’s modernization plans for Turkey’s F-16 fleet.”

“Those plans are in the works, and they have to be worked through the contracting process, but the US supports the modernization of Turkey’s fighter fleet because that contributes to NATO security…Strong Turkish defense capabilities contribute to a strong NATO defense,” Wallander added according to Nick Schifrin, a journalist with PBS.

On Tuesday, Erdogan criticized the US for delaying the sale of F-16 fighter jets.

Speaking at a press conference on the eve of the NATO Summit, he referred to his meeting with Biden and noted that one of the most important issues discussed between Ankara and Washington was the former’s request to purchase forty new F-16 warplanes and eighty modernization kits for its exiting fleets.

“Our most talk with the U.S. is about F-16s. But the process is being delayed,” Erdogan said according to the Turkish daily, Hurriyet.

US Congress must approve sale of F-16s

The final word on the possible sale of F-16s to Turkey rests with the US Congress where there is strong skepticism.

Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Bob Menendez expressed his opposition to the sale of US F-16 fighter jets to Turkey in a recent interview with the Air Force magazine.

“I just really have a problem,” he said. “This is not the Turkey that we aspire for, is not the type of NATO ally that is behaving in a way that we should be able to go ahead and give it some of the most sophisticated fighting equipment.”

“It’s not Turkey, it’s Erdogan,” Menendez told the magazine. “At the end of the day, he needs to change course. We’ve given him off-ramps.”

The New Jersey Democrat has the power to hold up foreign military sales and stymie the formal notification to Congress.

Turkey’s Erdogan lifts threat to bloc expansion of NATO

Earlier on Wednesday, Turkey lifted its veto over Finland and Sweden’s bid to join NATO after the three nations agreed to protect each other’s security.

The breakthrough, ending a weeks-long drama that tested allied unity against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, came just before a NATO summit began in Madrid, averting an embarrassing impasse at the gathering of thirty leaders that aimed to show resolve against Russia.

In a joint memorandum with Turkey, the two Nordic countries pledged their “unwavering solidarity and co-operation in the fight against terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations”.

They also promised to abjure the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a radical Kurdish group that has fought decades of insurgency against Turkey and the closely related Kurdish militia in Syria, the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

They agreed to lift their arms embargo against Turkey, clamp down on the financing of the PKK, “address” Turkey’s requests for the extradition and deportation of Kurdish activists, and amend laws to facilitate the extradition of terrorism suspects.

Iranian Refugee in Greece Dreams of a New Start after Excelling in Exams

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The young Iranian refugee excelled in the exams. Credit: Video screenshot/AeolosTv

An Iranian refugee in Lesvos, Greece excelled in his high school exams and hopes to secure a place at the Department of Electrical Engineering of Thessaloniki, his top choice.

Kouros Durmohamadi Bagi, or Kyros after the king of Persia, as Greek friends call him, arrived in Greece in 2019, as a refugee and first settled in the Moria refugee camp.

Coming second in his school, Kouros had an average of 18.25 in the exams, writing a score of 20 (the highest score given in Greek high school) in mathematics, 20 in physics, 19.5 in chemistry, and 13.5 in creative writing.

“I did not expect to write so well. I was anxious, especially with creative writing. There were words that I did not know, but I understood their meaning from the rest of the exam paper,” he told Kathimerini.

He described the day when he learned his exam grades as the most beautiful day of his life in Greece. “Or rather, the second most beautiful. The first one was last January when we were given the asylum papers.”

Iranian refugee arrived with family at the camp of Moria, Lesvos

Eighteen-year old Kouros has been giving interviews to local media—always with a smile. His Greek is excellent despite the fact that he has only been in the country for three years.

Kouros came to Greece with his family in August 2019. “We got on a boat from Turkey,” he said. “Fortunately, the weather was good and we were not in danger.”

His parents decided to leave Iran for political reasons, but it is something they do not want to talk about at home, as they are things they want to leave behind, he says.

Speaking to Aeolos TV, wearing a T-shirt with the diagram of the Pythagorean theorem, he said that, initially, they were led to the infamous reception center of Moria where the living conditions were difficult.

“Whatever Moria was, at least I knew I was in Lesvos…I was in Europe,” Kouros said.

“I’ve been through unimaginable things. You have no idea, but my life in Lesvos is good […,and] I have friends, I have school, I have good classmates and teachers. It’s good,” Kouros added.

The Iranian student thanked his school teachers who he said supported him, as well as his teachers at the afterschool he attended, the Protypo Frondistirio of Mytilene.

Phryne: The Ancient Greek Courtesan Who Disrobed For Her Freedom

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“Phryne before the Areopagus,” Jean Leon Gerome, 1861. Credit: Public Domain

Phryne the Thespian was a notable ancient Greek hetaira, or courtesan, of Athens, who is remembered throughout the millennia for her dramatic trial which she won by baring her naked body.

Her real name name was Mnesarete, but people referred to her as Phryne (“toad”) because of the yellow undertone of her skin.

Her story has survived for thousands of years with the famous model and courtesan becoming a symbol of freedom against sexism, as well as repression disguised as piety.

Phryne was born around 371 BC in Thespiae (Boeotia) but spent most of her life in Athens. Because of her stunning looks, she became a model, posing for various painters and sculptors, including Praxiteles, who was also one of her most frequent clients.

Life as an ancient Greek courtesan

Unlike most Athenian women, who rarely left their homes and had very little voice in society, courtesans like Phryne were granted much more freedom.

They could leave the home and were seen as educated and intelligent so that they could have engaging discussions with their clients.

One of the statues Praxiteles modeled after Phryne, the Aphrodite of Cnidus, was purchased by the city of Cnidus in Kos after the city that had originally commissioned it objected to its being a nude. The statue became such a notable tourist magnet that the city managed to pay off its entire debt.

Phryne’s beauty also became the subject of many ancient Greek writers, who praised her looks, with Athenaeus openly worshiping her in his work titled The Deipnosophists.  From this work we also know that Phryne was the wealthiest self-made woman in all Athens at the time.

She became so rich and powerful during her lifetime that she even proposed paying for the reconstruction of the walls of Thebes, which had been destroyed by Alexander the Great in 336 BC.

Intimidated by the idea that a female model and courtesan could restore what a great king like Alexander the Great had destroyed, Phryne’s offer was rejected by the local authorities of Thebes, and the walls remained in their ruined condition.

The trial of Phryne

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Phryne by Gustave Boulanger, Credit: Public Domain

Regardless of her incredible wealth and beauty—and prominent clients—what keeps the memory of Phryne alive to this day is her famous trial.

According to Athenaeus, Phryne was prosecuted on a capital offense and was defended by the orator Hypereides, one of her lovers. Athenaeus does not specify the nature of the charge, though some other historical sources state that she was accused of profaning the Eleusinian Mysteries.

Although there is great debate among scholars about what really happened that day in court, Athenaeus wrote that Hypereides tore off Phryne’s dress in the middle of the courtroom to show the judges her beautiful body.

His reasoning was that only the gods could sculpt such a perfect body; thus, killing or imprisoning her would be seen as blasphemy and disrespect to the gods.

What appeared to be an unfavorable verdict for Phryne turned into a glorious victory for her after the inspired action of Hypereides.

Phryne walked out the court triumphant, and her story went on to inspire many works of art, including the iconic painting Phryne before the Areopagus by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1861) and the sculpture Phryne Before the Judges, by Albert Weine, from 1948.

Additionally, Baudelaire wrote two poems about her, the composer Saint-Saëns wrote an opera about her (Phryne, 1893), and several modern writers have penned novels about her controversial trial.