What was prostitution in ancient Rome? In fact, this activity has constantly evolved both in the era of the Republic and in the time of the Empire. In addition, it is quite clear that the “oldest profession in the world” appeared at the very moment of the city’s inception.
The famous comedian Plautus (254-184 BC) clearly outlined this approach to prostitution in one of his many texts: “No one objects, no one forbids you to buy what is sold if you have money. Nobody forbids anyone to go to the street where prostitutes are. Make love with whoever you want, the main thing is that you do not interfere in other people’s private affairs. I mean, you should stay away from married women, widows, virgins, as well as men and boys from the families of Roman citizens. ”
Even Cato the Elder himself (also called the “Censor” for defending Roman honor and morality) looked positively at the existence of brothels. Once he congratulated a young man leaving Lupanaria, because these actions of the young man helped him to avoid harassing any matron. The same Herreros in her work “Follow me: in the footsteps of prostitutes in ancient Rome” says that “even married men are justified” when they maintain sexual relations with prostitutes, because they even “heal their marriage”.
However, although prostitution was considered a necessary evil, women of easy virtue who “thus earned their living” were despised by ordinary citizens.
So how did a Roman woman turn into a prostitute? Usually, both in the era of the Republic and in the time of the Empire, libertines came from the poorest families, leaving them without proper attention immediately after birth. It could also be poor beggars, slaves who were simply forced to sell their bodies, or criminals. Nevertheless, according to Herreros, there were free urban women who simply liked a similar lifestyle, as well as raped girls who choose this job after being abused.
In addition, representatives of the ancient profession were also divided into various categories. The courtesans were considered above all others. They were luxury prostitutes, beautiful, sophisticated, with good manners who could spend months with their regular customers. They were respected by the men who hired them, and they were even allowed to participate in male conversations, expressing their opinions (something completely impossible for all other prostitutes).
At the same time, they should have shown their client the same respect that they would have shown to their husbands, behavior that is not characteristic of other prostitutes.
This was followed by the housewives of the taverns or inns, women who were not prostitutes as such, but who, managing the tavern or inn, were not averse to earning money, maintaining sexual relations with their clients. And it is no accident that the Romans usually associated the profession of innkeeper with the occupation of a prostitute. These women were most often married, but their husbands were completely indifferent to what they were doing. The latter category included young girls who did not have money to live on. Or slave sex workers in brothels.
Depending on the category of the prostitute, clients usually paid them from two to sixteen aces (which corresponded to one silver denarius) for the sexual services rendered. The main condition has always been the delivery of money in advance. To understand how much this “service” cost, let’s say that Roman legionnaires received at the beginning of the second century a salary of 300 denarii per year.
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