Cover image for The courtesan's daughter : a novel
The courtesan's daughter : a novel
Galloway, Priscilla, 1930-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
259 pages ; 22 cm
From humble beginnings, Phano rises to become one of ancient Athens' most powerful citizens through her marriage to Theo, but they both have powerful enemies who don't share their political views.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 4.7 9.0 68042.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

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Phano is almost 15, the traditional age for a woman to marry in ancient Athens. She is in love with Theo, who is 30-the traditional age for a man to marry. But marriage may not be an option for her. Her stepmother's enemy, Phrynion, claims that Phano is not really a free woman but a slave who belongs to him, and he is ready to sell her if he can get his hands on her. Phano, her father, and her stepmother must use every resource they have to try to restore her reputation and keep her safe. Even if they can keep Phrynion away, Phano may never be able to marry Theo, whose prominent family would expect a wealthy bride who would bring a good-sized dowry with her. Meanwhile, Athens faces the threat of war from Philip of Macedon. Once she turns 15, Phano must find her place as an adult in the turbulent society of ancient Greece. From the Hardcover edition.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 10^-12. In Athens, 350 B.C.E., 14-year-old Phano's life changes when she meets Theo, a member of Athens' ruling council. Theo loves that Phano, unlike most of her peers, knows about history and politics and has been raised to speak her mind. But Phano's unusual family threatens the burgeoning romance: her stepmother, Nera, is a former courtesan. Theo and Phano's marriage and their rise to power are the framework for this ambitious historical novel told in Phano's unwavering, intimate voice. The story is steeped in the era's politics, religion, and social customs, and Galloway gives readers the necessary background in extraordinarily detailed passages. With so much information and so many plot threads (class, political treachery, and familial duty are among the major themes), this is a challenging, often slow-moving read. Though historically appropriate, moments of violence (many women are beaten) and some implied sexual scenes, including numerous threats of rape, may unsettle some younger readers. But Galloway masterfully depicts the ancient world, and creates in Phano a fascinating, independent character who will attract teens. Suggest this to readers of Adele Geras' Troy (2001). --Gillian Engberg

Publisher's Weekly Review

A 14-year-old's birthright and the fate of Athens become the central questions of this novel set in 360 B.C.E. "The author plants some tempting red herrings and includes fascinating historical tidbits," wrote PW. Ages 12-up. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7-10-This well-researched novel presents a personalized view of ancient Athenian society; its social structure; and the rights of citizens, women, and noncitizens. Phano, 14, has reached marital age and has attracted the not unwelcome attention of 30-year-old Theo, a member of an influential and political family. However, Phrynion, one of her stepmother's former patrons, is spreading false rumors about the woman that would make it impossible for Phano to marry a citizen of Athens. Phrynion is actually politically motivated, hoping to embarrass Theo's family and to aid the eventual domination of Philip of Macedon over Athens. The author has based her intriguing novel on an actual recorded court case, and the factual information presented about the law and society is smoothly integrated into the fabric of the story. Main characters are well drawn, with Phrynion a thoroughly despicable, evil villain. A solid choice for fans of historical novels with a touch of romance and for students interested in ancient cultures.-Cynthia M. Sturgis, Ledding Library, Milwaukie, OR (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



one Ancient Athens, 350 B.C.E. "Gate, ho!" "Minta, see who's making that racket," Mama commanded. "Don't unbar the door unless you're sure of him." "I'll go too, Mama." I put out a hand to stop my spindle. We were safe in my father's house in Athens, the little house by the Whispering Herm; nobody could touch us here. My heart thudded nonetheless. I lifted my grandmother's thigh shield with both hands and set it very carefully on the floor. Then I ran. Minta is a faithful slave, but she has no judgment about men. Anyone with a laugh and an easy word can get by her. By the time I reached the gate room, the fool had already lifted the heavy bar. Two men pushed past her. I didn't recognize the first one, but I knew Phrynion at once, squatty frog-face, with his bulging eyes and fat, red pouty lips. He looked up at me and laughed. My hatred surged back as I heard the nasty sound. His right hand still tugged at his scraggly beard. His teeth were still yellow and his breath still stank of garlic and decay. After three years of freedom, Phrynion had me in his power again. My nightmare had come true. I closed my eyes and felt as if I were nine again, and not almost fourteen years old. I remembered the child I had been, and the desperate year whose memories were distilled into my ghastly dreams. It all began with another of Father's get-rich-quick schemes. These schemes always demanded money, which Father always failed to have. None of his friends and relatives would lend him so much as a copper obol, so he was delighted to make an arrangement with one of the city officials, even at a very high interest rate. Unfortunately, the official had "borrowed" from the public treasury. When arrested, he pleaded for mercy. He said Father had blackmailed him. This scheme not only failed to make us rich; Father had to leave Athens in a hurry, without Mama and me. The rent for our little rooms behind the cobbler's shop was paid ahead for one month. If Mama didn't find another place, we'd be out on the street. No use asking Father's people; they might despise him, but they hated her. I didn't see that clearly at the time, of course. If I had been older, I'd have been terrified. Maybe not, though. Mama inspired perfect confidence. I never doubted that she would turn this seeming calamity to our advantage. She could not solve Father's problems, but she would look after us. Mama had lived with Phrynion long ago. He promised to give her slaves, fine clothes and parties if she came back to him again. "Just until your father sends for us," she told me. "You'll like it, Phano--a big house, and meat on the table every day. I can manage Phrynion well enough. I have done it before." Mama was wrong, and we all paid for it. This time Phrynion did the managing. Minta slept with the slaves. I slept with the pigs. Mama slept with Phrynion. He barred her door whenever he went out. He beat me every time he saw the hatred in my eyes. Like most rich men's homes, Phrynion's house was built around an inner courtyard. It was two stories high, with a set of stairs on each side of the courtyard leading to the balcony and across it to the upper rooms. The pigsty was on the ground floor at the far end, as far as possible from the gatehouse, where Nesso was always on guard. As winter wore on, I came to believe that my only escape would be through death. Often enough, I hoped it would be soon. The only good thing in that desperate year was that I learned to spin. Delia, the housekeeper, taught me, but I have a natural skill for the work. The great goddess Athene gave me the gift. When I sat, or stood, with spindle twirling, my back no longer ached from Phrynion's beatings. Indeed, the hated house itself vanished. I passed into some dream where nothing existed but the spinner, the wool basket and the fine yarn twirling from my hands. Mama seldom saw me, but she did manage an hour or so on my tenth birthday, which otherwise went without celebration. She gave me a wooden box, as black as my hair, so highly polished that I could see my dark reflection in its lid. Inside, wrapped in a fine shawl, was a clay shield made to protect a spinner's thigh when she sat at her work. "This was passed down in your mother's family," Mama told me. "Take good care of it." I would have slept with it, if it had not been safer with my wool. Phrynion seized my first work, the blanket I had spun and woven to keep myself from another winter of trying to cuddle up to a stinky old sow so I would not freeze to death. If a child's curses could kill, Phrynion would have died in that hour. At last Mama succeeded in a scheme of her own. She planted the idea in the greedy man's head that his brothers were plotting to inherit all their mother's property when she died. As the idea took hold, Phrynion's anxiety grew. He knew his brothers only too well. As soon as the spring rains ended, he gave careful instructions to Nesso, the gatekeeper, then set out to pay a filial visit to his family's country home. Delia went with him to visit her relatives there. Minta unbarred Mama's door. If Phrynion had come back and caught us, he would have beaten Minta to death. When a slave disobeyed her master, he could do that. Minta belonged to Mama, but that would not have made any difference. We packed with sweaty fingers. "We have three days," Mama told us. "We have to get away, far enough so that Phrynion won't follow. We have to confuse him, so he can't figure out where we've gone." "Where are we going?" I asked. "How will Father find us, if it's far away?" "Better worry how Phrynion won't find us," Mama snapped. "Stephanos could be dead, who knows?" I howled at that, and Minta hugged me, sobbing as well. Mama's arms went round the two of us. "Very well," she said. "Minta, go to the shop where we used to live. Tell the cobbler--the master, nobody else, mind you--the message for Stephanos is Megara. Megara, that's all." She tugged at the ring on her little finger, her gold and ivory ring with a picture of two geese leading a chariot and a woman driving. Mama loved that ring, and so did I. I knew what she was going to do before she opened her mouth. "Do you have to give it away?" Mama glared at me. "Minta," she said, "give this ring--this ring--to the cobbler. Ask him not to sell it for three years. If Stephanos comes, he'll buy it back and pay extra, but only after he finds us--in Megara--and we're safe." She gave me her exasperated look; then she shoved the ring back on her hand. "No, Minta," she said. "Don't go. Phrynion knows we lived behind the cobbler's shop. He'll look for us there; he'll do all he can to sniff our track. What if he caught us because we left a message for Stephanos? Well, Phano? If nobody knows where we are, Phrynion can't find out. Don't look like you've lost your last friend, girl. In a year, Phrynion will have other things on his mind. Time enough then to send word to Athens. If your father has to wait a few months, that's no matter. We have waited for news from him, haven't we?" Mama was right. She usually is. Minta had something to say, though. "Mistress, may I speak?" she asked. Mama gestured impatiently, and Minta continued. "Whatever we tell the cobbler, Phrynion will find out. Is that right?" Excerpted from The Courtesan's Daughter by Priscilla Galloway All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.