Lamia of Athens

Lamia of Athens (fl. 300 BC) was a celebrated courtesan, and mistress of Demetrius Poliorcetes.

Franc Kavčič - Demetrij Poliorket s flavtistko Lamijo in njeno prijateljico Demo.jpg


Lamia was the daughter of one Cleanor. She began her career as a flute-player on the stage, for which she gained some fame, but afterwards abandoned it for life as a hetaira.

It is not known how she found herself on board of the fleet of Ptolemy I at the naval battle of Salamis in Cyprus (306 BC), but it was on that occasion that she fell into the hands of the young Demetrius Poliorcetes. Though then already past her prime, she captivated the young prince, and her sway continued unbroken for many years, notwithstanding her numerous rivals. She owed her influence, it was said, to her wit and talent, and these were celebrated by the comic writers as well as the historians of the period, and many anecdotes concerning her have been preserved by Plutarch and Athenaeus.

The excess and magnificence of the banquets which she gave to Demetrius are much discussed. However, she is recorded to have used the treasures which were lavished upon her by building a splendid portico for the citizens of Sicyon, probably at the time when Sicyon was largely rebuilt by Demetrius. The Athenians, in order to please Demetrius, consecrated a temple in honour of Lamia, under the title of Aphrodite, and their example was followed by the Thebans. According to Athenaeus, she had a daughter by Demetrius, who received the name of Phila.

Diogenes Laertius (v. 76) mentions that Demetrius of Phalerum also cohabited with a woman named Lamia, whom he calls an Athenian of noble birth. That Lamia is presumably a different person, if the story is not an error.


  • Fritz Geyer: Lamia 5). In: Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft (RE). Band XII,1, Stuttgart 1924, Sp. 546 f.
  • Konstantinos Kapparis: Prostitution in the Ancient Greek World, Berlin, Boston 2018.
  • Sabine Müller: In the favour of Aphrodite: Sulla, Demetrius Poliorcetes, and the symbolic value of the hetaera, in: AHB 23, 2009, S. 38–49.
  • Pat Wheatley: Lamia and the Besieger: An Athenian Hetaera and a Macedonian King. In: Olga Palagia; Stephen Tracey: The Macedonians in Athens, 322–229 B.C. Proceedings of an international conference held at the University of Athens, May 24–26, 2001, Oakville 2003, S. 30–36.
  • Pat Wheatley, Charlotte Dunn: Demetrius the Besieger, Oxford 2020.

  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSmith, William, ed. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. Missing or empty |title= (help)