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In the other was the cortigiana di lume, a lower class of courtesan.
Although the latter was still considered better than an average courtesan, the former was the sort most often romanticized and treated more-or-less equal to women of the nobility.
Courtesans from non-wealthy backgrounds provided charming companionship for extended periods, no matter what their own feelings or commitments might have been at the time, and sometimes had to be prepared to do so on short notice.
They were also subject to lower social status, and often religious disapproval, because of the perceived immoral aspects of their profession and their reliance upon courtisanerie as a primary source of income.
They were typically chosen on the basis of their "breeding"—social and conversational skills, intelligence, common-sense, and companionship—as well as their physical attributes.
It was usually their wit and personality that set them apart from regular women.
The courtesans of East Asia, particularly those of the Japanese empire, held a different social role than that of their European counterparts.
Examples of Japanese courtesans included the oiran class, who were more focused on the aspect of entertainment in comparison with European courtesans.
However, this was a delicate process, and if a courtesan of "lower status" attempted to replace a courtesan who wielded a substantial amount of power within the court, it would often result in the lower courtesan being exiled from the royal court, or married off to a lesser noble in an arranged marriage, or even murdered.Today, the term courtesan has become a euphemism to designate a comforter, escort, mistress or a prostitute, especially one of dignified etiquette who attracts wealthy, powerful, or influential clients.In one category was a type of courtesan known (in Italy) as the cortigiana onesta, or the honest courtesan, who was cast as an intellectual.Sex constituted only a facet of the courtesan's array of services.For example, they were well-dressed and ready to engage and participate in a variety of topics ranging from art to music to politics.