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Brothels & Prostitution

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Coming to the end of my Open University master's in Classical History I am doing my dissertation on The Roman Sex Trade, from the perspective of those who were forced into it and those who chose to 'dabble'. I would be grateful if anyone can link to any sources, primary or secondary regarding Brothel within the vicus as I want to include a section on the brothels and prostitutes visited by the army.

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I would, unfortunately, discourage from studies regarding Roman sex trade. It is simply too difficult to identify anything archaeologically as an brothel and the primary sources are, as far as I know, not very extensive.


But you might find these two topics of interest if you still decide to pursue the topic:



Remember that prostitution did not work the same way in ancient Italy as it does in most modern, western, countries. One example can be found in waitresses who would commonly be expected to be involved in the business. Another is where you could preform the service, it was far more widespread and diverse than in nowadays - cemeteries were popular hold outs. This makes it very difficult to decide what can be called a brothel and what is something else (a problem which we have for most activities in the ancient world). Are paintings of sex scenes to be expected? Beds? Many small rooms? Or perhaps just one small room? Do we count large funeral monument? Not to mention hostel rooms and dark alleys? Would a room with paintings of a very strong character in a wealthy villa be considered brothels? Or were they simply "entertaining rooms" where the rich owner let his friend abuse the house hold slaves? The problems are many.


To summarize my point: Some researchers have "found" more than 60 brothels in Pompeii, others no more than one. Defining something as a brothel is very difficult, borderline impossible.


From this thread


Roman dead baby 'brothel' mystery deepens from archaeological news.

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Having once done an essay on the wider aspects of Roman military familia (families as well as slaves) I would second Klingan on the extreme difficulty you may find in obtaining enough relevant material to build up a decent Masters thesis.


From memory there are a few reference books around where you may find some relevant information including:


Campbell B. (1978) The Marriage of Soldiers under the Empire, JRS Vol 68


Campbell B (1996) The Roman Army 31BC - AD337 A Sourcebook, London Routledge


Evans J.K. (1991) War, Women and Children in Ancient Rome, London Routledge


Goldsworthy A. and Haynes I. eds. (1999) The Roman Army as a Community, Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series Number 34, Portsmouth, Rhode Island


Saller R.P. and Shaw B (1984) Tombstones and Roman Family Relations in the Principate: Civilians, Soldiers & Slaves, JRS, Vol. 74


NB I would not recommend Frier B.W. & McGinn T A J A Casebook on Roman Family Law since there is no real index and only a few apparent mentions of slave women without any obvious link to the army.


There are also a small number of laws such as those listed in the 'Digest' (part of Corpus Juris Civilis) which relate to soldiers and slaves particularly regarding inheritance and soldiers wills.

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Guest ParatrooperLirelou

Wasn't there huge differences between Roman and modern ethics on prostitution's immorality?

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