Phryne at the Areopagus

Phryne was a famous courtesan in Athens.  She was so beautiful and so wealthy, that she was able to offer to rebuild the city walls of Thebes, which had been destroyed by Alexander the Great, at her own expense, but her offer was rebuffed.

She was once placed on trial for profaning the Eleusinian Mysteries, a capital charge.  Hypereides, her lawyer, sensing that they were losing the case, removed her robe, baring her breasts before the judges.  They acquitted her, but the reason given varies.  Some say it was out of pity,  Others say it was out of lust.  And yet others say that it was done out of piety, for the judges felt that such beauty could only be borne by one favored by Aphrodite herself, and so acquitted her in order to avoid doing offense to the goddess.

If only the practice had never gone out of style…

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