Theodote

(5th century BCE)
The Favorite  by J. W. Godward

 "My friends, ought we to be more grateful to Theodote for showing
us her beauty,  or she to us for looking at it?"
--Socrates in Xenophon

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     It probably ought to be noted here that there will be a large difference in preference between prostitution and rhetoric across our clientele.  Some were prostitutes who were good at communicating; these are interesting as rhetors.  Others actually pursued communication as a profession; these earn the title "rhetorician."
     Theodote is in the former class.  She probably wouldn't have been interested in philosophy at all if she hadn't run into Socrates.  Even then, it is an interest cultivated for the sake of winning new clients.   Since the current Theodote is most definitely a rhetorician, however, there is enough metaphorical content to allow the ancient one a room.
     Theodote was not a common prostitute, she was what the Greeks called a hetaira, or companion.  These were professionals, trained to be sexy, smart, and entertaining. They were welcome at gatherings where Greek men wanted the company of charming females who were not (Gods forbid) their wives.   A good hetaira could command an excellent living, thus gaining economic independence. Still, her survival always depended upon the good will of her male clients.
     We know about Theodote through the writings of Xenophon. In his Memorabilia,  he details just about every interesting woman Socrates ever had dealings with (a habit not shared by Plato).  Theodote is at the top of her class.  Her reputation for beauty has spread throughout Athens. When Socrates and company come to visit her, she is having her picture painted. Both she and her mother are sumptuously dressed. The house is finely decorated.  Still, Theodote is obviously insecure enough to rise to the bait when Socrates hints that he can teach her how to catch more "friends."  She flirts with him admirably, but, since this is a Socratic dialogue, she does end up yielding to his superior intellect.  Theodote promises to pursue her education.


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