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One of the Guardian Unlimited Books' top 10 literary blogs: "A home-grown treasure ... smart, serious analysis"

The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs: "Mark Thwaite ... has a maverick, independent mind"

Wednesday 20 July 2005

Debra Hamel's Trying Neaira

Debra Hamel's Trying Neaira (Yale University Press) is the first book to tell Neaira's story to a non-specialist audience:

Neaira (pronounced "neh-EYE-ruh") grew up in a brothel in Corinth in the early fourth century B.C. She became one of the city-state's higher-priced courtesans while still a teenager. In the next decade she served as the sex slave of two former clients and endured an abusive relationship with a party-hopping Athenian. Finally, barely supporting herself in a sex industry depressed by the war then raging in Greece, she met Stephanos, an Athenian citizen, with whom she would live for the next thirty years or more.

Very kindly, Debra, who blogs at the-deblog and has reviewed at book-blog and thebibliofiles, has written a long piece all about Trying Neaira just for RSB:

The principal documentary evidence used in the book is of course the speech against Neaira, but many sources besides were used to provide the social, legal, and historical context of Neaira's story. I include in the book, for example, a lengthy description of how the trial against her would have been conducted. We happen to know about Athenian trials in considerable detail because of another extant text, a study of the Athenian constitution that was written by a student of Aristotle's--a very fortunate happenstance as the specifics are fascinating: 501 jurors, randomly selected for the purpose, will have heard Neaira's case, listening to the litigants' speeches for roughly two-thirds of a day, then giving their judgment on the case at the day's end. No professional judge overseeing the case. No debate among the jurors prior to giving their verdict.

[For all of Debra on Trying Neaira]

Posted by Mark Thwaite

Reader Comments

Saturday 14 October 2006

Stacey Chabot says...

What do you think is the most important aspect of Athenian culture is highlighted in the various legal cases presented in Hamel's Trying Neaira?

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An entire night
thrown down
beside a
companion with his
mouth turned
to the full moon
with his congested hands
into my silence
I wrote
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