Alastair Sooke takes an in-depth look at the art of the Roman Empire in an attempt to refute the claims that Rome didn't produce any art of originality during its reign.
Runtime: 60 minutes
Treasures of Ancient Rome - Prostitution in ancient Rome - Netflix
Prostitution in ancient Rome was legal and licensed. In ancient Rome, even Roman men of the highest social status were free to engage prostitutes of either sex without incurring moral disapproval, as long as they demonstrated self-control and moderation in the frequency and enjoyment of sex. At the same time, the prostitutes themselves were considered shameful: most were either slaves or former slaves, or if free by birth relegated to the infames, people utterly lacking in social standing and deprived of most protections accorded to citizens under Roman law, a status they shared with actors and gladiators, all of whom, however, exerted sexual allure. Some large brothels in the 4th century, when Rome was becoming officially Christianized, seem to have been counted as tourist attractions and were possibly state-owned. Latin literature makes frequent reference to prostitutes. Historians such as Livy and Tacitus mention prostitutes who had acquired some degree of respectability through patriotic, law-biding, or euergetic behavior. The high-class “call girl” (meretrix) is a stock character in Plautus's comedies, which were influenced by Greek models. The poems of Catullus, Horace, Ovid, Martial, and Juvenal, as well the Satyricon of Petronius, offer fictional or satiric glimpses of prostitutes. Real-world practices are documented by provisions of Roman law that regulate prostitution, and by inscriptions, especially graffiti from Pompeii. Erotic art in Pompeii and Herculaneum from sites presumed to be brothels has also contributed to scholarly views on prostitution.
Treasures of Ancient Rome - Brothels - Netflix
Roman brothels are known from literary sources, regionary lists, and archaeological evidence. A brothel is commonly called a lupanar or lupanarium, from lupa, “she-wolf”, slang for “prostitute,” or fornix, a general term for a vaulted space or cellar. According to the regionaries for the city of Rome, lupanaria were concentrated in Regio II; the Caelian Hill, the Suburra that bordered the city walls, and the valley between the Caelian and Esquiline Hills. The Great Market (macellum magnum) was in this district, along with many cook-shops, stalls, barber shops, the office of the public executioner, and the barracks for foreign soldiers quartered at Rome. Regio II was one of the busiest and most densely populated quarters in the entire city — an ideal location for the brothel owner or pimp. Rent from a brothel was a legitimate source of income. The regular brothels are described as exceedingly dirty, smelling of characteristic odors lingering in poorly ventilated spaces and of the smoke from burning lamps, as noted accusingly by Seneca: “you reek still of the soot of the brothel”. Some brothels aspired to a loftier clientele. Hair dressers were on hand to repair the ravages wrought by frequent amorous conflicts, and water boys (aquarioli) waited by the door with bowls for washing up. The licensed houses seem to have been of two kinds: those owned and managed by a pimp (leno) or madam (lena), and those in which the latter was merely an agent, renting rooms and acting as a supplier for his renters. In the former, the owner kept a secretary, villicus puellarum, or an overseer for the girls. This manager assigned a girl her name, fixed her prices, received the money and provided clothing and other necessities. It was also the duty of the villicus, or cashier, to keep an account of what each girl earned: “give me the brothel-keeper's accounts, the fee will suit”. The mural decoration was also in keeping with the object for which the house was maintained; see erotic art in Pompeii and Herculaneum. Over the door of each cubicle was a tablet (titulus) upon which was the name of the occupant and her price; the reverse bore the word occupata (“occupied, in service, busy”) and when the inmate was engaged the tablet was turned so that this word was out. Plautus speaks of a less pretentious house when he says: “let her write on the door that she is occupata”. The cubicle usually contained a lamp of bronze or, in the lower dens, of clay, a pallet or cot of some sort, over which was spread a blanket or patch-work quilt, this latter being sometimes employed as a curtain. The fees recorded at Pompeii range from 2 to 20 asses per client. By comparison, a legionary earned around 10 asses per day (225 denarii per year), and an as could buy 324 g of bread. Some brothels may have had their own token coin system, called spintria. Because intercourse with a meretrix was almost normative for the adolescent male of the period, and permitted for the married man as long as the prostitute was properly registered, brothels were commonly dispersed around Roman cities, often found between houses of respected families. These included both large brothels and one-room cellae meretriciae, or “prostitute's cots”. Roman authors often made distinctions between “good faith” meretrices who truly loved their clients, and “bad faith” prostitutes, who only lured them in for their money.
Treasures of Ancient Rome - References - Netflix