A once undeniable beauty, Thais the Harlot was an Athenian hetaera (temple prostitute) who accompanied Alexander the Great on his conquest of Persia. In 330 BC, Alexander burned down the palace of Persepolis, moved to do so with a speech given by Thais, who helped him to set the palace ablaze.
After Alexander's death, Thais married her lover, Ptolemy I Soter, who was one of Alexander's generals and the recently crowned Pharaoh of Egypt. However, despite having three children by Ptolemy, she was never made queen nor were her children acknowledged as heirs. Little is known about her later life and death.
- In The Inferno, Dante and Virgil behold the shade of Thais in the second pit of the Malebolge, condemned for her acts of flattery.