Now, lest you think that, as per the last post, TDI voyages are overly eggheady, we wish — with this post — to assure you this is decidedly not the case. We have blood pumping through our veins too. And since we’re all mature adults here, we can let you in on a secret. We normally don’t publish this in the brochure, but as a special, optional extra available only on our Historic Cities of the Sea, Mediterranean Music Festival, Journey of Aeneas, and Journey of Odysseus voyages — as well as a devious little departure from your kids on board Voyage to the Lands of Gods and Heroes —
we can take you to a brothel.
Don’t worry. This brothel’s been out of service for 1,928 years. After painstaking restorations, ancient Pompeii’s brothel was opened to tourists in 2006. Known as the Lupanare (after the Latin for she-wolf, which was ancient slang for a prostitute) it contains naughty frescoes much, much more salacious than
this one — which we will not show you, but we won’t mind terribly if you peruse them here. “It’s like a menu,” is what the tour guides like to say. But, according to Spiegel Online, these were highly idealized sexual images; the reality of prostitution in Pompeii was less erotic:
The windowless chambers where the prostitutes worked were separated from the anteroom only by curtains. Archaeologists discovered marks on the stone blocks that indicate customers didn’t even remove their sandals during sex… “In fact, this place where people went in search of pleasure was probably profoundly joyless.” That’s how an article in the German archaeology journal Abenteuer Archäologie sums up what scientists know about the brothel. “The cramped and uncomfortable chambers, stuffy and blackened by soot from candles, couldn’t have offered any very cultivated form of pleasure,” according to the article.
Pompeii’s prostitutes were mainly slaves of Greek or Oriental origin. But that’s only one reason why they were available so cheaply. Former slaves often continued to work in the sex trade. They hadn’t been trained in any other profession, and so they often had no real alternative. And not all women who worked as prostitutes were slaves. Customers had all sorts of women to choose from, and this may have helped to keep prices low.
However the London Times article notes that
There was even some evidence that Roman women frequented brothels for sex with male prostitutes.
It is lucky that we can see the more “adult” side of ancient Pompeii. The Times also notes that
Erotic objects found during the 18th and 19th-century excavations were considered so salacious they were kept in a “secret cabinet” at the National Archeological Museum in Naples, to which only those deemed to be of “mature age and respected morals” were admitted. The objects include a statuette of the god Pan copulating with a goat, and numerous phallic symbols, considered by the Romans to be good luck or fertility charms.
In other words, what TDI offers isn’t your grandfather’s Baedeker cruise.