In these hyper-technological times one might think that the term “influencer” could only refer to a social media star. But even if our ancestors did not face any pandemic in front of a laptop, they also had their fair share of “influencers”.
Since ancient times women who have made a living from their relationships with rich men have been known as courtesans. In other words, the past days courtesans were the webcam girls of their days.
Among the most prominent we can mention:

Volumnia Cytheris

– Actress and mimae dancer from ancient Rome.

Also known as mistress to famous Romans such as Brutus and Marc Antonius.
Her presence at social events in the company of her aristocratic admirers scandalized Ancient Rome. Because for those times this was not something ordinary, but even downright shocking.
Her stage name was Cytehris, derived from the nickname of Aphrodite – “Cythera”.


– Empress, wife of Emperor Justinian, but nevertheless one of the most influential women in Byzantine history.

Theodora and her sisters learned the art of theater from their mother, after their father’s death. Even if in those days to be an actress was synonymous with being a prostitute.
Also at the age of 21 she met Justinian with whom she ruled for 21 years.
One of the first leaders to campaign for women’s rights, enacting strict laws to ban trafficking of women, anti-rape laws, marriage rights and amending divorce laws to provide greater benefits to women.

Li Ye (Li Jilan)

– Courtesan, poet, musician and Tao nun from the golden age of China.

She was one of the four great poets of the Tang Dynasty.
Appreciated for her “beauty and grace,” as well as her talents for poetry, music, and calligraphy, but also considered an “unchaste woman.”
A poem about her states:

“A heavenly fairy came to test me, / With the intention of spreading her blossoms onto my clothes.”

Arib al-Ma’muniyya

– A qayna (slave trained in the arts of entertainment) from the early Abbasid period.

Described as “the most famous slave singer to have ever resided at the Baghdad court”.
At a times when few could read and write, she could ride, compose poetry and prose, sing and play several instruments, along with backgammon and chess.
All these talents made her to be perceived as extremely attractive in the most rarefied circles and increased the value of her services to her owner – and, with her eventual manumission, to herself.