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As a coastal city and hub of the Ancient Greek world, Athens was frequently visited by sailors and merchants who docked their ships for business and respite. The presence of these visitors to the city sparked a need for entertainment, and that need was fulfilled by the emergence of prostitution in the Archaic Period - BCE. The presence of the prostitutes in Athens, many of whom were slaves employed by state-funded brothels, gained the city notoriety, and gave merchants and others more reason to stop in Athens, and stay a while.
This meant more money for Athens, and helped to establish it as a large and cosmopolitan city center.
Prostitution was not a vocation that was limited to slaves. Often, a slave would be freed by her owner, or buy her own freedom using her earnings. The freedwoman would then continue in the profession as a sort of free agent. Prostitutes did, however, have to register with the state as such and pay a hefty tax for their chosen line of work. Though not usually thought of as highly ranking citizens, some prostitutes had the opportunity to assert themselves not only physically, but also intellectually.
Aspasia, the long-time companion to Pericles , is among the most famous hetaerai. In Classical Athens, it was commonplace for men to marry after the age of Therefore, prostitutes were often employed by younger men in order to gain sexual experience with a woman before marriage. Often, an Athenian man would take a prostitute into his home as his own concubine he would also share favorite prostitutes among friends. The concubine, sometimes living with a man for several years, was then considered a sort of common law wife, enjoying the benefits of a legal wife, except that any children she bore would not be considered citizens.
Married men could, of course, enjoy the company of prostitutes. Besides enjoying the occasional hetaera , married Athenian men could also use their female slaves as sexual property. Wives were expected to turn the other cheek.