The Bottom Line
Apollodorus wrote a famous speech denouncing a well-known retired courtesan named Neaira, but who she was, how she lived, and why Apollodorus was out to get her were not well known. Debra Hamel has recreated a more complete story of Neaira turning her family's relationship with Apollodorus into a mystery story, the solution to which each reader must decide on his own.
- As absorbing as a mystery story.
- Easy to read.
- Comprehensive look at women's life in Ancient Greece.
- Some odd minor logical errors -- why omit wives from a list of potential sex partners?
- Explains the legal system in Athens.
- Explains the various punisments for being caught in adultery.
- Describes the different types of Roman prostitutes, courtesans, flute girls, street walkers, etc.
- Shows the complete lack of power women had without men to stand up for them.
- Pictures of artifacts like the ballots, timeline of Neaira's life, and a money conversion chart.
- Discusses slavery, including the problems with torturing slaves for evidence.
Guide Review - Trying Neaira Review
In ancient Greece, the respectable women were shut away in the women's quarters. If a woman showed up at dinner, she was presumed to be a courtesan. Thus, in one sense, a courtesan was freer than a Greek matron, but this freedom came at a price, which Debra Hamel capably shows. The courtesan did not have much choice about who used her body. She couldn't marry a citizen. She didn't have much of a career after she hit twenty. Neaira managed to make men fight over her (legally) well beyond the normal age at which her attractiveness was presumed to fade and finally found a man who would fight for her reputation in court. Or would he? Ultimately, we don't really know if her life's partner, Stephanos, was able to do more against Apollodorus than incite his wrath, which he took out on Neaira. Debra Hamel looks at all the evidence and presents cogent arguments -- where possible -- to support the idea that Neaira, her partner Stephanos, and his daughter Phanos were not guilty of the charges against them.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.