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Lupanar (the brothel)

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LupanarProstitutes were called ‘lupae’, and the word ‘lupanare’ indicated a brothel. In Pompeii, 25 different brothels have been found. There were entire houses used for this purpose such as the one found in Regio VII having 10 small rooms with stone beds that were then covered with matrasses. Five rooms were on the ground floor and five upstairs and could be reached through a small wooden stair. Along the ground floor corridor, paintings of erotic scenes have been found, probably used as a sort of catalogue for the possible requests or more realistically just as a collection of images from the ‘Schemato Veneris’, one of the illustrated manuals of ‘ars amatoria’ written by the female poets Philainis and Elephantis from Samo in the III  and IV centuries B.C.

In this brothel, a number of inscriptions, comments and names were found, which helped to identify at least 80 prostitutes and clients. It is also possible to identify the sexual preferences and sometimes the contagious sexual diseases transmitted. Contraceptive methods were used such as oils and the insertion of wool soaked in lemon juice.

The “lupanares” could be located at the top of the shops such as the ‘cauponae’ or above the baths and sometimes they were just single rooms placed along the roads or inside private houses.

In ancient Rome prostitution was commonly accepted. Catone the censor, although famously strict according to Horace (Satires), once saw a young person coming out of a ‘lupanar’ and praised him because he had let out his sexual appetite with a prostitute rather than doing it with someone else’s wife. Clients usually belonged to low social classes: they were mainly merchants and foreign sailors. Prostitutes were slaves and their earnings went entirely to their owner called Lenone. The average price was 2 aces, the price of a glass of wine.

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