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Melissa Funke (PhD '13) publishes Phryne: A Life in Fragments

Submitted by Deborah E Kamen on February 8, 2024 - 1:27pm
cover of melissa funke's book

Congratulations to Melissa Funke (UW Classics PhD '13), whose first book, Phryne: A Life in Fragments (Bloomsbury 2024), was just published! Melissa is currently an Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of Winnipeg.

Here is a description of the book: "How did Mnesarete, a girl from Boeotia, turn into Phryne the famous beauty, and how did she end up as an enduring symbol of ancient Greek culture? This book pieces together the story of the notorious fourth-century Athenian sex worker, Phryne. It considers her early life and her development into a cultural figure, whose influence and legacy have lasted from her own lifetime to the present day. It also investigates her infamous nude courtroom appearance, her influence on one of the most well-known statues from antiquity and her connection to celebrated figures from Alexander the Great to the artist Apelles. Her appearances in modern culture, ranging from Belle Epoque cabaret shows to 1950s Italian film, are also analysed, offering an account of how the real life of a woman turned into the biography of a dream girl.

Nothing but fragments remain of Phryne's story, short anecdotes passed on and on again in literary compendia, that tell the story of a witty and beautiful woman who amassed great wealth, associated with some of the most well-known historical figures of ancient Greece. They create an image of a life that is glamorous and titillating, yet they also hint at the tenuous position of a foreign-born sex worker in a society structured to privilege male citizens above all others."

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