In my recent scavenger hunt I came across a book "Courtesans and Fishcakes" by James Davidson (1997), which explores the Greek and Roman obsession with fish. Here's a couple of exerpts (pp 9-10):
"It is not just their tastiness that connects fish to seduction, but also the way they look. The two sisters popularly known as the 'anchovies' mentioned in a speech of Hyperides were apparently named because of their 'pale complexions, slender figures and large eyes'. And so, by way of a startling metaphorical transition from appetizement to seduction, fish come to represent themselves as coquettish flirts and paramours. ... This representation, which sounds so extraordinary to our ears, of fish as seductive bodies comparable in some way to the beautiful boys and hetaeras they helped to seduce, is what lies behind the common trope in which the eel, typically 'appareled' in beet (perhaps, most feasibly, beet-leaves), is compared to a nubile woman or a gorgeous goddess.
" ... the practice of comparing women to mouth-watering fish and fish to women seems to have been rather more general in Athenian society. Apart from the anchovy sisters mentioned above, we find flute-girls and hetaeras given nicknames like 'Sand-smelt', 'Red Mullet' and 'Cuttlefish', a practice exploited to full comic effect by the poet Antiphanes in his play 'She Goes Fishing', where he playes on the double-meaning of the names of fish, so that it is hard to know at any one time whether he is satirizing his victims for their love of fish or for their excessive devotion to hetaeras and boys."
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