At one point in my book The Five-Day Dig, the archaeological team stumbles onto a 2,000-year-old room decorated with erotic frescoes. Erotic art in homes was more common in ancient Rome than it is today, but in Pompeii the greatest quantity of it has been found in public buildings, like the Suburban Baths or the town’s big brothel, called the Lupanare. (Prostitutes in ancient Rome were called lupae or she-wolves.)
Hubby and I visited Pompeii in mid-March of 2009, a perfect time to go, thanks to the mild weather and lighter crowds. The one building where we did run into a lot of other tourists was the Lupanare. The place seemed to fascinate both genders, as well as the old and young alike (youngish, that is — no one actually had kiddies with them). We missed the Suburban Baths, so I can’t say whether that also was crowded, but I have a feeling it would have been.
One thing I find interesting about the erotic frescoes in Pompeii (other than the obvious titillation factor), is that the women are often depicted in dominant positions. Not sure if this is because they’re prostitutes or if it can be interpreted as a more broad cultural thing. Women in Rome definitely didn’t have much in the way of civil power — they couldn’t even be citizens, let alone hold political office — but maybe they were dominant in the bedroom. I like to think so.
For more on erotic art in this ancient town, check out Eroticism in Pompeii by Antonio Varone, or just Google “erotic frescoes” — if you dare.Tweet this