Not too long ago I was making research for my new novel whose time and location for the first few chapters is between ancient Egypt and Rome. This was to be first published on Wattpad to test my reader’s reaction to the storyline.
According to the story, the protagonist, Ahti, is the daughter of an Egyptian woman who was forced to flee from her homeland after her parents were accused of being involved in a conspiracy to help Cleopatra who was at the time in self-exile as the only solution to escaping death by her sibling-husband and co-ruler Ptolemy XIII return to Egypt.
Running off to Rome at the age of 19 after her parents were practically slaughtered, she ended up working as a prostitute in Pompeii as that was the only means of survival available to a woman of the lower class and without a spouse. Pompeii at that time was gradually becoming the epicenter of luxury, trade, tourism, and entertainment.
Because of the nature of the fiction, which is inspired by real events, culture, and people, I had a truckload of research to do. Exploring ancient Egyptian cults, witchcraft, as well as the then roman society. I even did a fair digging into the music and entertainment for the time, and I have to add that I was blown away by the richness of it all!
Of course, a host of other details has been left out in respect to the entire storyline, this is more of a sub storyline focusing on a supporting character. Nevertheless, I plan to shed a bit of light on the realities of women and prostitution during that time through the eyes of a woman who had lived it (fictitiously 😉).
Pompeii before 79 AD
When I hear the name Pompeii, the first thing that comes to mind is the Hollywood movie ‘Pompeii’ which I saw not too long ago. I think last year or so, I can’t really remember when.
it’s been a while.
Although everyone according to the movie like, died, I mean how else were they supposed to make a dramatic romantic-tragedy?
I cried a little at the end, I must confess 😏.
In reality, only an estimate of 1500 to 2000 people died on the day of the volcanic eruption from Mount Vesuvius, many scholars believe the city to have been inhabited by some 6,000 to 20,000 people at that time.
Nevertheless, even though the city had been deserted and had been supposedly thought to be destroyed after the eruption, much of Pompeii still remained ‘intact’. Evidently, thanks to the volcanic mummification.
Through its remains, one could literally be transported back in time to the ancient city and experience what it was like to have lived during that era.
Sex culture and the prostitutes of ancient Pompeii
One of the things which stood out the most about life in Pompeii is the sex culture. One would think that a lot of the things we regard as sexual liberation or perversion today all started in our modern times.
Well, think again
Sexual exploration was encouraged, sexual vigor idealized. Two points if you could nail a male child from the encounter!
However, this was exclusively for those who own a penis and do not belong to the class of slaves and dirt broke people.
A man could practically ‘get down’ with another man, it wasn’t considered “sinful”, all that matters was who’s active and who’s dormant.
In other words, who’s the fucker and who’s the fucked. 🤣😂
No pun intended 🤭
The sex workers of Pompeii
Although men were allowed to have it with whoever, with the exception of another man’s wife, women were only allowed to have sex with their husbands.
…Well, unless you happen to be a prostitute.
Both men and women worked as prostitutes in Pompeii, however, when it comes to female prostitutes, there were only two kinds, the ones who were actual slaves and the women who were too poor and didn’t have a spouse who could provide for them. Nevertheless, most prostitutes were slaves.
Prostitutes were required to register with the local authorities, and were required to pay taxes from their earnings; prostitution was a legal thing.
Finding a brothel in Pompeii was super easy, I mean who could possibly not notice a signpost filled with dicks at the entrance of a building with naked women calling for their attention through the windows??
In a brothel, you’d often have naked, or androgynously dressed women serving you food and some alcohol, the walls often filled with erotic paintings to either get you “turned on”, or to show you the latest sex position to try while inexplicably providing reviews on the sexual abilities of all the prostitutes in the house, as well as their price.
You would see a review like, “Lisa sucks for $20”
reviews are also placed on customers too to warn the other prostitutes of each customer, you’d have stuff like “don’t do Jon, he smells like a dead rat and he pays in pennies”
But of course, the words used are exaggerated.
when the customer finally decides to ‘get down’, he’d be led to a dark and dingy tiny room with a stone bed, sometimes with curtains for a door, but most times exposed! its hardly a romantic setting, and it’s certainly far fetched from the illustrious image that was depicted in the paintings.
It is no secret that the people in Pompeii did enjoy a rather infamous sex culture, living life to the fullest.
So if there’s something to be learned at all from any of this, take it from the “masturbating man”,
even when the world’s coming to an end, always find a way to make it a pleasurable experience!
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