The Deipnosophistae clearly exemplifies pornographic representation as defined by current feminist theory. This is so even though the work is not only incomplete but also is by no means wholly pornographic. We must now ask what light Athenaeus's work sheds on the history of women in classical antiquity, and how we might evaluate his contributions to our knowledge of Greek comedy.
Athenaeus can be of positive assistance to the historian of female prostitution. What he does and does not say about the lives of historical prostitutes should invite further feminist study. It is now time to coordinate his work, which constitutes an important literary source for prostitution in classical antiquity, with other written accounts and with the emerging archaeological record. 19 That, then, is the first use to which Athenaeus's testimony can be put by feminist scholarship.
The fact that Athenaeus's work preserves so many quotations from Greek comedy and derivative literature within a largely pornographic context has significant implications for our perception of Greek comedy. Aristophanes' comedy often represents prostitutes and other women as sexual food (see Zweig, Chapter 4 above); Aristophanes' contemporaries seem to depict prostitutes in like fashion. But while prostitutes are so depicted by Aristophanes, they are not major characters in any of his known plays. Nor does the evidence suggest that other fifth-century comedies that feature female prostitutes--for example, the Putinê and the Koriannô--represented these characters as "edible women." To what extent was Athenian comedy pornographic? Did the pornographic sensibility recede, advance, or change between Old Comedy and Middle/New Comedy, a period in which the genre of comedy underwent a decline in openly "obscene" language and situations at about the same time that it witnessed the rise of the stock character of hetaira?
Finally, studies such as this one might help us begin to investigate on a larger scale than previously the history of pornography and pornographers in the West. Is the West as indebted to Greco-Roman civilization for its concepts of pornography and the pornographer as it is for other equally important concepts? 20
Thanks to the Graduate College of Iowa State University for the salary and research grants that made it possible to begin this essay, and to Mary Lee Nitschke, R. Dixon Smith, and Tina Sparrow for inspiration. Special thanks to Amy Richlin and Marilyn Skinner for many helpful suggestions.