As a child, she was called Mnesarete (Greek for “virtue”), but because she was born with sallow skin, she was called Phryne (Greek for “toad”).
Still, Phryne became the most successful and sought-after courtesan in ancient Greece, commanding 100 times the going rate.
Supposedly, she was even the model for the sculpture called Aphrodite of Cnidus, one of the most famous works of Greek art.
Lust Rewards: Phryne became incredibly rich thanks to her liaisons with powerful men in Athens.
According to legend, she even offered to pay to rebuild the city walls of Thebes, which had been destroyed by Alexander the Great in 336 BC, but there was a condition: the new wall had to contain the inscription
“Destroyed by Alexander, restored by Phryne the courtesan.” Her offer was declined.
Around 340 BC, Phryne was accused of affronting the gods by appearing nude during a religious ceremony.
At her trial, the orator Hyyperides -her defender and also one of her lovers- ripped open Phryne’s robe and exposed her to the court. Why?
He considered it a legitimate defense. She was, after all, the most beautiful woman in Athens, and someone that gorgeous must be on good terms with Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, no matter what codes of conduct she appeared to have broken.