Primary Source

Excerpt from Against Neaira


In this speech Against Neaira revolves around the activities of a non-Athenian courtesan and reveals information about “proper” Athenian women. Note that several of the accusations involve the woman in question, Neaira, simply eating and drinking with men in public. The implication is that "proper" Athenian women did not engage in this kind of behavior revealing the relative lack of independence according to women in Athens. Although included with the writings of Demosthenes, most scholars believe the speech was given by Apollodorus, a political rival of the accused Stephanus. When read alongside sources about life for women in Sparta, students are often surprised by the relative lack of freedom and independence accorded to women in democratic Athens compared to militaristic Sparta. This source is a part of the Women in Classical Athens and Sparta teaching module.


Dem. 59

[13] And as Stephanus here sought to deprive me of my relatives contrary to your laws and your decrees, so I too have come before you to prove that Stephanus is living with an alien woman contrary to the law; that he has introduced children not his own to his fellow-clansmen and demesmen; that he has given in marriage the daughters of courtesans as though they were his own; that he is guilty of impiety toward the gods; and that he nullifies the right of your people to bestow its own favors, if it chooses to admit anyone to citizenship; for who will any longer seek to win this reward from you and to undergo heavy expense and much trouble in order to become a citizen, when he can get what he wants from Stephanus at less expense, assuming that the result for him is to be the same?

[25] Please call Euphiletus, son of Simon, of Aexonê,1 and Aristomachus, son of Critodemus, of Alopecê.2“WitnessesEuphiletus son of Simon, of Aexonê, and Aristomachus son of Critodemus, of Alopecê, depose that they know that Simus the Thessalian came to Athens for the great Panathenaea, and that Nicaretê came with him, and Neaera, the present defendant; and that they lodged with Ctesippus son of Glauconides, and that Neaera drank with them as being a courtesan, while many others were present and joined in the drinking in the house of Ctesippus.”

After this, you must know, she plied her trade openly in Corinth and was quite a celebrity, having among other lovers Xenocleides the poet, and Hipparchus the actor, who kept her on hire. To prove the truth of my statement I cannot bring before you the testimony of Xenocleides, since the laws do not permit him to testify.

When the reconciliation had been brought about, those who had assisted either party in the arbitration and the whole affair did just what I fancy is always done, especially when the quarrel is about a courtesan. They went to dine at the house of whichever of the two had Neaera in his keeping, and the woman dined and drank with them, as being a courtesan.

To prove that these statements of mine are true, call, please as witnesses those who were present with them, Eubulus of Probalinthus,1 Diopeithes of Melitê, and Cteson of Cerameis.2“Deposition

Eubulus of Probalinthus, Diopeithes of Melitê, and Cteson of Cerameis, depose that after the reconciliation in the matter of Neaera was brought about between Phrynion and Stephanus they frequently dined with them and drank in the company of Neaera, the present defendant, both when Neaera was at the house of Stephanus and when she was at the house of Phrynion.”


Demosthenes. Demosthenes with an English translation by Norman W. DeWitt, Ph.D., and Norman J. DeWitt, Ph.D. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1949. Perseus Project at Tufts University.

How to Cite This Source

"Excerpt from Against Neaira," in World History Commons, [accessed December 6, 2023]