Around 330 BCE, Alexander the Great conquered the Levant, inaugurating a period of Greek rule that lasted until the Maccabees gained independence two centuries later. Israeli archaeologist recently found a tomb from this period not far from Jerusalem, containing a well-preserved bronze mirror. Gavriel Fiske writes:
The tomb, discovered in a cave on a rocky slope near Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, dates from the 4th or 3rd century BCE. The small hand “box mirror,” one of 63 of its type known to have survived, is what led researchers to the conclusion that the remains were probably that of a hetaira, as courtesans were known in Greek.
“Bronze mirrors like the one that was found were considered an expensive luxury item, and they could come into the possession of Greek women in two ways: as part of their dowry ahead of a wedding, or as a gift given by men to their hetairai,” the researchers noted.
The courtesan’s remains—charred human bones—were identified as those of a woman and, according to Guy Stiebel of the Department of Archaeology and the Ancient Near East at Tel Aviv University, are the “earliest evidence in Israel of cremation in the Hellenistic period.”
The most probable conclusion is that the tomb was that of a hetaira who accompanied a high official during Alexander the Great’s campaigns or the subsequent wars of succession, died during travel, and was buried along the roadside. Married women in the ancient Hellenistic world rarely left their homes in Greece or accompanied their husbands on military adventures.