Marx's Capital: “Freedom” Inverted: It’s Really Powerlessness

Mitchell Carroll: Greek Women 'Phryne, with a modesty one would not expect in a woman of her class, was very careful to keep her beautiful figure concealed, avoiding the public baths and having her body always enveloped in a long and graceful tunic. But on two occasions the beauty-loving Greeks had displayed to them the charms of her person. The first was at the solemn assembly at Eleusis, on the feast of the Poseidonia. Having loosened her beautiful hair and let fall her drapery, Phryne plunged into the sea in the sight of all the assembled Greeks. Apelles, the painter, transported with admiration at the sight, retired at once to his studio and transferred to canvas the mental image which was indelibly impressed upon his fancy; and the resulting picture was the Aphrodite Anadyomene, the most celebrated of his paintings...

...The second exhibition was before the austere court of the Heliasts. Phryne had been cited to appear before the tribunal on the charge of profaning the Eleusinian mysteries, and Hyperides, the brilliant young orator, was her advocate. Failing to move the judges by his arguments, he tore the tunic from her bosom and revealed to them the perfection of her figure. The judges, beholding as it were the goddess of love incarnate, and moved by a superstitious fear, could not dare to condemn to death "a prophetess and priestess of Aphrodite." They saw and they pardoned, and, amid the applause of the people, Phryne was carried in triumph to the temple of Aphrodite. To us in this day such a scene appears highly theatrical, but Aphrodite is no longer esteemed among men, and the Greek worship of beauty is something not understood in this material age.

Phryne's life was by no means free from blame, and as the result of her popularity she acquired great riches. She is said to have offered to rebuild the walls of Thebes, which had been torn down by Alexander, on condition that she might place on them the inscription: Alexander destroyed Thebes; but Phryne, the hetæra, rebuilt it; but the offer was rejected, showing that though the times were corrupt, yet shame had not altogether departed from men.

One cannot emphasize in too trenchant terms the demoralizing influences of hetairism on the social life of the Greeks, or fail to see in the gross immorality of the sexes one of the paramount causes of the downfall of the Greek peoples.

Yet it is a truism that feminine shamelessness was most advantageous for the arts of sculpture and painting. Sensuousness is close akin to sensuality, and from their passion for these "priestesses of Aphrodite" the Greek artists, without doubt, derived much of their inspiration, while the opportunities which hetairism offered for the study of the female form enabled Praxiteles and his contemporaries and successors to produce masterpieces which equalled in idealism the works of æsthetic art produced in the preceding century.

To become the ideal for the painter and the sculptor was the greatest ambition of the beautiful and cultivated hetæra. In permitting the artist to portray her charms she not only performed a lasting service for art, but she also rendered herself celebrated and immortal. The fame of her beauty was spread throughout all Hellenic lands, and the national devotion to the goddess Aphrodite was at once extended to her earthly counterpart. If she united intellectual brilliancy with beauty, fortune at once cast its most precious gifts at her feet. The most celebrated men of every city contested for her favors, poets made her the theme of their verses, artists portrayed her charms with chisel and with brush, and the wealthy filled her coffers with gold and precious stones...

#noted #2019-12-09