Servants of lust:
The secret lovers of strong men
They were beautiful, they were clever, they were the charming escort ladies of history. Courtesans, mistresses, hetaeras, concubines and geishas have always been influential playmates of strong, successful rulers who knew how to twist men around their fingers.
Traceable back to antiquity, the service of lust is one of the oldest trades in the world. Women (and men too) sold their bodies and their company for money, power or social advancement. They were temporary lovers or long-term lovers who had a lot of influence up their sleeve.
After all, it's not for nothing that they say "behind every strong man is a strong woman", because mistresses, courtesans and co. were extremely educated and knew how to use their charms in such a way that they were often the real string pullers behind the most powerful men of their time. No wonder, because like escort ladies today, they could articulate themselves well and interact in upscale societies.
They shaped their epochs and yet remained mostly hidden. Nevertheless, without them we would probably write history differently today, because how many decisions, wars and laws secretly come from their pens?
The love servants of antiquity
Even in antiquity, hetaeras drove men out of their minds. Female prostitutes, unlike 'whores', were socially recognised. They were considered educated and had mastered various arts such as music, dance and song. As antique escort ladies, they seduced men with their irresistible charm and awakened in them the desire for a secret affair and long-term love affair.
Famous hetaerae such as Lais of Corinth or Thaïs influenced rulers such as Alexander the Great. The hetaera Phryne even allegedly embodied the famous female statue of Aphrodite of Knidos. Hetaerae drove Romans and Greeks alike out of their minds. They were admired and desired in antiquity. The hetaera's way of life resembles that of women in other countries and epochs. In the course of time, mistresses (France), courtesans (France/Italy), gisaeng (Korea) and geishas (Japan) made wealthy men happy.
Japanese entertainment art
Contrary to her reputation as a high-class prostitute, the geisha has very little to do with sexual services. Rather, she is a cultivated entertainer who offers her company for sale and has undergone a hard and lengthy training for this. In a broad sense, she also sells pleasure, but not sexual pleasure. She entertains her counterpart with traditional Japanese music, dance, instruments, tea ceremonies and the high form of conversation. The geisha is a social figure that does not exist in any other culture in the world.
With her fascinating countenance, she can knock a man off his feet with just one look. She is mysterious and unapproachable, which is her special charm. She must be able to keep her composure in any situation, be graceful, educated and witty. Her long training includes singing and dancing lessons, as well as lessons on the guitar-like instrument "shamisen" and the hayasi flute, so that the geisha can captivate and entertain her guests.
The perfect implementation of the tea ceremony, which is part of the feel-good factor in Japan, is also one of her many talents. She must have mastered the art of calligraphy, the elaborate recitation of poems and haikus, and elevated conversation about art, literature, politics and philosophy. To amuse her guests, a geisha also knows various games with which she can lighten the mood.
Even today, their main task is the artful entertainment of guests, including pouring sake and holding charming conversations. Geishas are supposed to flatter their customers and their guests and make them feel completely at ease. They ensure harmony between visitors and create a pleasant atmosphere with their humour, astuteness and perky manner. Geishas are therefore rather "feelgood managers" or sophisticated escort ladies without physical advances, although men are attracted to them and they know how to play with their charms very well. Geishas are still booked today for private parties or banquets.
From servant to slave
Besides geishas, there were also concubines, so-called „secondary women“ in Japan. They were "kept" alongside the actual wife, mostly in Japanese and Chinese empires. In the Middle Ages, in antique Egypt, Greece and the Roman Empire, too, polygynous forms of relationships were commonplace, in which the man had one or more official concubines in addition to his wife - the main wife.
Emperor Claudius, for example, is said to have gone to bed with two concubines at the same time. In China and Japan, successful men kept numerous concubines, and emperors owned several thousand. In the heyday of the Chinese Qing dynasty, there were probably up to 20.000 concubines living in the imperial palace in Beijing.
Concubines were supposed to give the men what they were missing in the mostly arranged marriages: pleasure and fun in sex as well as artful entertainment. They were also supposed to help fulfill the man's most important task, namely to produce as many male offspring as possible.
Concubines, however, were considered personal property and could be sold or given away. If they fell out of favour, they were expelled or even murdered. They thus had far less free will of their own than mistresses or courtesans and were slaves to lust rather than delightful long-term lovers. Some concubines even never got to see "their" husband.
The secret lovers of kings and princes
Voluntary sexual services, on the other hand, were provided by the notorious mistresses - the escort ladies from 17th century royal France. They were mistresses of princes, noblemen or other important men. Women like Madame de Pompadour, a mistress of Louis XV, were considered the most powerful female favourites at the absolutist court and were in some ways also pioneers in feminism.
For mistresses were often the real, secret rulers who had kings, princes, popes or sultans in their hands through their seductive skills. They knew how to pursue their goals and because of them powerful men became entangled in conflicts and wars.
Mistresses, like exclusive escort ladies, conquered their husbands not only through beauty, but also through intelligence. This is how they gained power and knew how to use it. They took their fate into their own hands, because their success came neither through marriage nor descent. Rather, they acted themselves and thus shaped glorious epochs.
Just like mistresses, courtesans were exclusive, secret mistresses of aristocratic or upper middle-class, wealthy men. Courtesans were mainly active in France and Italy, with Rome and Venice in the Renaissance and Paris in the 18th and 19th centuries being central locations for their seductive arts. The courtesan Marguerite Gautier became famous as the "Lady of the Camellias" in the 1848 novel of the same name by Alexandre Dumas the Younger, which served as the model for the opera "La traviata" by Giuseppe Verdi.
Temporary lover - More than a mere object of lust
One thing is certain: The ancient Rome of the Renaissance popes would probably look very different without the secret lovers of the time, as would the Istanbul of the Ottoman rulers or the Versailles of the Sun King. Often, the relationship between man and mistress or courtesan was indeed one of devotion, passion and yes - even love.
For in the past, when marriages were primarily entered into for political reasons, the powerful of the world looked for a mistress for genuine affection, which they often did not find in their wives. No wonder, then, that the relationships with long-term lovers were not only close, but that they were also able to exert a lot of influence on their husbands through the trust they gained.
The temporary lovers were more than objects of lust. They were muse, inspiration, gave motivation, comfort, strength and confirmation at the same time. They gave the powerful of this world exactly what they craved. And they did it as discreetly as possible.
That was and still is exactly what makes up the fascination and secret desire of a concubine. And that is what I love as an escort today..