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LUCIAN: Dialogues of the Courtesans

[Loeb Translation]

We've been hearing strange things about you Leaena. They say that Megilla, the rich Lesbian woman, is in love with you just like a man, that you live with each other, and do goodness knows what together. Hullo ! Blushing ? Tell me if it's true

Quite true, Clonarium. But I'm ashamed, for it's unnatural.

In the name of Mother Aphrodite, what's it all about ? What does the woman want ? What do you do when you are together ? You see, you don't love me, or you wouldn't hide such things from me.

I love you as much as I love any woman, but she's terribly like a man.

I don't understand what you mean, unless she's a sort of woman for the ladies. They say there are women like that in Lesbos, with faces like men, and unwilling to consort with men, but only with women, as though they themselves were men.

It's something like that.

Well, tell me all about it; tell me how she made her first advances to you. how you were persuaded, and what followed.

She herself and another rich woman, with the same accomplishments, Demonassa from Corinth were organising a drinking party, and had taken me along to provide them with music. But, when I had finished playing, and it was late and time to turn inand they were drunk, Megilla said, " Come along Leaena, it's high time we were in bed; you sleep here between us."

And did you ? What happened after that ?

At first they kissed me like men, not simply bringing their lips to mine, but opening their mouths a little, embracing me, and squeezing my breasts. Demonassa even bit me as she kissed, and I didn't know what to make of it. Eventually Megilla, being now rather heated, pulled off her wig, which was very realistic and fitted very closely, and revealed the skin of her head which was shaved close, just as on the most energetic of athletes. This sight gave me a shock, but she said, " Leaena, have you ever seen such a good-looking young fellow ? " " I don't see one here, Megilla," said I. " Don't make a woman out of me," said she. " My name is Megillus, and I've been married [gegameka] to Demonassa here for ever so long; she's my wife." [kai este eme gune] I laughed at that, Clonarium, and said, " Then, unknown to us, Megillus, you were a man all the time, just as they say Achilles once hid among the girls, and you have everything that a man has, and can play the part of a man to Demonassa ? " " I haven't got what you mean," said she, " I don't need it at all. You'll find I've a much pleasanter method of my own." " You're surely not a hermaphrodite,'' said I, " equipped both as a man and a woman, as many people are said to be ? "; for I still didn't know Clonarium, what it was all about. But she said, " No, Leaena, I'm all man." " Well," I said, " I've heard the Boeotian fiute-girl, Ismenodora, repeating tales she'd heard at home, and telling us how someone at Thebes had turned from woman to man, someone who was also an excellent soothsayer, and was, I think, called Tiresias. That didn't happen to you, did it ? " " No, Leaena," she said, " I was born a woman like the rest of you, but I have the mind and the desires and everything else of a man." " And do you find these desires enough ? " said I. " If you don't believe me Leaena," said she, " just give me a chance, and you'll find I'm as good as any man; I have a substitute of my own. Only give me a chance, and you'll see."

Well I did, my dear, because she begged so hard and presented me with a costly necklace, and a very fine linen dress. Then I threw my arms around her as though she were a man, and she went to work, kissing me, and panting, and apparently enjoying herself immensely.

What did she do ? How ? That's what I'm most interested to hear.

Don't enquire too closely into the details; they're not very nice; so, by Aphrodite in heaven, I won't tell you!

HTML Paul Halsall