That said, it’s important to note that they were considered a distinct group, separate from prostitutes. The expectations were different. These were women who were expected to be well educated enough to actively participate in the discussions at symposia and sometimes to advise their lovers. Indeed, Aspasia was claimed to have heavily influenced Socrates.** At the very least, she is known to have guided Pericles well. Many of them were also well versed in the arts of music and dance. They tended to have a fair amount of money in their own right and generally had independent control of it. Many sources claim that they were shrewd, grasping, and greedy. I suspect such authors would have used similar, much more complimentary words had they been talking about men.
[Teracotta group of hetaera and young man at a symposium, 4th century BCE]
[photographed by MatthiasKabel, source: Wikimedia Commons]
*Read: women considered fit to be wives by Greek (mostly Athenian, since the overwhelming majority of our sources come from there) standards.
**Whether or not this was merely satire is uncertain. However, even if it was satire, it’s important to note that after a certain point, people took the claim seriously.
Lefkowitz, Mary R. and Maureen B. Fant. Women's Life in Greece and Rome. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.
Roberts, Nickie. Whores in History: Prostitution in Western Society. London: Harper Collins, 1992.
Hetaira - Wikipedia