Sex life in Ephesus
How was sexuality, a part of our daily life, experienced in Ephesus, one of the most crowded cities of the ancient world? What were the relationships of women, men, or fellow humans? What was the status of women who got married in the city of Ephesus? What were the sexual lives of Ephesian men and Ephesian women like? What was the level of male-to-male or female-to-female relations? How was marriage and sexuality handled in Ephesus?
We learn about the sexual life of the people of the Ephesus period in the Hellenic period, from the writings of philosophers and historians who lived at that time, and from archaeological finds such as oil lamps, frescoes, vases and mosaic paintings with sexual motifs found in excavations today.
The best examples of this literature are the book on lust by the well-known philosopher Heracles Pontikos, a student of Plato. In addition, we can see the sexual contents and details of the famous novel of Xenophon of Ephesus, one of the most famous writers of the ancient period, from the 5-volume Ephesian tale Habrokomes and Antheia. This work tells of a love that existed in ancient Ephesus, founded on both drama and lust.
Also, the 12th volume of Athenaios’ book “The banquet table of the Sophists”, which explains the sensual feelings and feelings in the Hellenic period. Aristeides’ book “Miletus Tales”, which collects sexual stories told in Anatolia especially for Miletus and Ephesus, in six volumes. The book “Satyriasas and revolution”, which tells sexual stories by Rufus of Ephesus, who lived during the reign of Emperor Trajan. The book “Travel in Helen” by Pausanias of Magnesia.
The book “Miraculous stories” by Plegon of Tralles, liberated by Emperor Trainaus. We can give references to the book “The love stories of Chaireas and Malliorchoe” told by Charion of Aphrodisias in 8 volumes, and the “handbook of love” by the Roman Poet Ovidius, which tells about the love life of rich and independent women.
In Ephesus, man and woman relations
– Housewife of Ephesus (Ephesian wife)
The married wife of the Ephesian man was normally his legal life partner. First of all, she was the mother who gave birth to her husband from Ephesus, and the person who did the housework and looked after the children.
In Ephesus, men could marry only one woman. (Monogamy) In ancient times, the women of Ephesus did not have social and political rights. Before marriage, women had to weave, knit and know housework, otherwise they would not be preferred for marriage. The first duty of the women who got married in Ephesus was to take care of the children if they had children. Then she could weave, knit. Fertility was the single biggest feature of the women who were married in Ephesus.
– Mistress of Ephesus (Hetaera)
Hetaera (Mistress), on the other hand, was the mistress of the Ephesian man, whose conversation he enjoyed adding emotion and pleasure to his life. She would get gifts and money for the relationship. Hetaera meant girlfriend. These women were the women whom men who were bored of marriage chatted and met their sexual needs. Hetaeras were generally cultured, well-spoken women who could play an instrument.
If an Ephesian man wanted to keep a hetaera just for himself, he had to pay for it as a certain fee. The price the Ephesian man would pay depended on the beauty of the woman and what she could offer.
Average wages of Hetaers were 2 gold staters (8.06 grams of gold) per night. However, the daily wages of some famous hetaeras could reach up to 100 drachmas (436 grams of silver). Considering that the daily wage of a worker is 2 drachmas (8.72 grams of silver), we can see the cost of being with a hetaera in this way.
One of the best-known Hetaeras, the Athenian Thais were the lover of Alexander the great. After the death of Alexander the Great, she became queen of Egypt by marrying Ptolemy I.
Another, Phryne, was the lover of the well-known sculptor Praxiteles. He modeled himself for Praxiteles’ sculpture named “Knidos Aphrodite“.
Aspasia of Miletus was the lover of the well-known statesman Pericles. Pericles is a famous politician and founder of democracy.
– Sex slave from Ephesus (Pornai – Prostitute)
Pornai (Sex Slave) were women who only received money for intercourse.
In the Hellenic period, prostitutes (pornai), who formed the lowest level of the social class in Ephesus, tried to attract them to the house by sitting or showing themselves to men in the houses reserved for this job. These women were called Prostibula or Prosadea in Ephesus in Roman times. (This word is derived from prostare, which is the origin of the word prostitution used today.)
In the cities located by the sea, there were rooms decorated with obscene depictions of women on the walls (these rooms in Ephesus were called Cellae in the Roman period) and a bath in the love houses located around the harbor. At the entrance of some love houses, there was a relief or an inscription indicating that this was a love house.
Also, when you come to visit the ancient city of Ephesus, you will see a billboard that is considered to be the world’s first visual advertisement. In this billboard, Archaeologists think that these figures were carved on the marble road so that foreigners who came to Ephesus could find their way. The crowned woman, heart and left footprint are also interpreted by archaeologists as: ‘Come to the house on the left for the love of beautiful women.’ Another research group draws attention to the money figure and comments: ‘Those who have money and seek love can see the beauty on the left of the road.’
Based on this, do not pass without visiting the Love House in the city of Ephesus. Let’s see the crazy nights and parties in the love house in Ephesus as the point where the people of Ephesus have reached in sexuality. By the way, we know the location of 1 Love House in Ephesus so far. Considering that the population of the ancient city of Ephesus is very crowded, we can see that there are many more love houses.
For example, the inscription Hic Tabitat Felicitas – “Lust sits here” is read on the door of a love house that has survived to the present day in the ancient city of Pompeii during the Roman period. This also applies to Ephesus and other ancient cities.
The love houses in Ephesus were not opened before 16.00 in order not to hinder the daily physical education exercises of the youth. The money paid to prostitutes (pornai) was usually an obolos (0.73 g of silver). However, the wage could increase by 1 drachma (6 obolos value 4.36 grams of silver) depending on the services of the woman and the house.
The owners of the love house (Lupanaria in Ephesus in Roman times) had to pay taxes to the state every year. The person who collected these taxes was also called pornotelanes.
In addition, the Symposium (the drinking party attended by men during the Ancient Hellenistic period), which was the meeting where Ephesian men came together, was a place where Ephesians could behave quite comfortably. This was an opportunity for men and old lads to bond and engage in erotic excitement. While guests flirted with each other, slaves poured their drinks and female prostitutes were hired as nightgowns for “entertainment.”
In addition to the togetherness of men and women, there were man-to-man relations in Ephesus during the Hellenistic period and this was a very common culture. Having a boyfriend was pretty commonplace. The Zeus-Ganimedes relationship in Hellenic mythology is also an indication of this.
If the relationship with the young person was not satisfactory, the relationship would last very short. Apart from that, such a relationship would last for 6-7 years. It was considered as a sex object at the beginning of the young male period (adolescence – age / puertet) in Ephesus, and it was abandoned when the body was covered with hair and completed its bodily development. The ages of the men who would love and have intercourse ranged from 11 to 17. It was a shame for these young men to take money for intercourse.
Another word that was used a lot in Ephesus during the ancient Hellenic period is Pederasti, which means Pais: young and Eran: to love. It was expressing the physical and emotional inclination towards a young person (male). During the ancient Hellenic era, sexual intercourse with immature young men (children) was forbidden in Ephesus.
The pederasty was outlawed by the law enacted by the Hellenic statesman and legislator Solon. Unfortunately, this law has not been followed much. In Ephesus, children’s going to gymanasions (schools) under the auspices of pegagogus was to protect them from any sexual rape or sexual assault as well as helping children in education. The fact that young people did their exercises naked in gymnasions played a certain role in the spread of homosexuality.
Relationships with sexually mature young men were not prohibited in Ephesus. Male beauty has been praised by many philosophers. It was thought that the perfection of the soul and body was shaped by young men, so the word “Kalos”, meaning both beautiful and attractive, was mostly used for young men. This word is very common on vases that have survived from the ancient period to the present day.
In ancient Ephesus, the name given to the couples in the male-to-man relationship was Homoerot. The male, usually young, was passive. The one who aspires to the relationship was called Erastes, and the one who aspires was called Eromenos. The courtship of Erastes to Eromenos took place within certain rituals. Eromenos was expected to act chastely and not easily yield to his lover’s attention. Being submissive or accepting money for a relationship was considered dishonorable, which would at least result in the forfeiture of citizenship.
Some of the well-known Homoerots of antiquity are:
According to what Diogenes Laertios says and Porphyrius confirms, when Socrates was just 17 years old, he was the male lover of his teacher Archelaus. In his later years, Socrates had relationships with young people named Alcibiades, Charmides and Phaedrus.
Agesilaos, king of Sparta, had chosen the young Megabates as his lover.
Alexander the Great loved Hephaistion, Cleitos, and Bagoas.
The well-known Tyrant Critias loved Euthydemus.
Julius Caesar (Roman emperor) was the lover of Nicomedes, king of Bithynia. Sueton used the phrase “she is the man of all women and the woman of all men” for Ceaser.
Pausanias was the lover of Philippos, the father of Alexander the Great. Philippos BC. He was stabbed to death by Pausanias in front of everyone at the gate of the theater in 336.
The lover of Antigonos, one of the commanders of Alexander the Great, was a kitharad (guitarist) named Aristocles.
Aristotle, the versatile philosopher of the ancient period, had a young lover from Phasellis.
The well-known philosopher Plato had not one but several male girlfriends. These were Agathon, Dion, Alkis and Aster.
Men were aware that women could be with women too. Sappho, the great poet of Lesbos Island, is famous for this. In her home, she would tell women about the “art of being a woman”. According to men, Sappho’s stories were lesbian relationships.
In ancient times, it was accepted by men that women’s sexual desires were strong. According to Teiresias, the prophet woman from Thebia; The pleasure a man gets from sexual intercourse is one-tenth of the pleasure a woman gets.
According to the legend, the god Zeus and the goddess Hera cannot agree on which partner gets more pleasure from sexual intercourse. Zeus argues that women get more pleasure, while Hera argues that men get more pleasure. They decide to ask the question to the priestess Teiresias. Teiresias says that women get 10 times more pleasure than men. Thereupon, Teiserias’ eyes are blinded by Hera, who is angry with this decision.
Masturbation in Ancient Ephesus
Various terms have been used to describe this. The most striking of these
“Fighting with our hand against Aphrodite”
“Marrying Without a Woman”
“Singing a wedding song by hand”
The ancient Ephesians used their left hands for masturbation, like the ancient Hellenes. Ephesian women masturbated either by hand or with a tool, which they called Baubon or Olisbos at that time. This vehicle was fabricated in Miletos, a rich commercial city, and exported to all Ionian, Hellenic and ancient cities in Western Anatolia.
Here are some of the information we learned about sexual life.
– The sexual desire of the woman who drank hibiscus juice or attached 3 pieces of hibiscus root to her dress would increase.
– Eating pomegranates was beneficial for having children.
– The sexual power of a man who grew lamb grass under his bed or carried a pomegranate tree on it would increase.
– The person who drank lotus flower water would become sexually weak for 12 days.
We can still see the sexuality of the Ephesians in the world of our time. Whether it is different religions or different beliefs, as long as human beings exist, life, sexuality or our view of life will always remain at a certain standard.
Please read our blogs where the unknowns of Ephesus, the living standards of Ephesians, the real history of Ephesus are researched and written, and share this information with your friends who are interested in history. Information gains meaning when shared. But we are sure that our Ephesian ancestors would have liked to be known closely and to have more information about Ephesus and the people of Ephesus on the history page.
Daily life in Ephesus – About Ephesus