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N Chapter One M URBAN RENEWAL design of the book This book is a study of the evidence for the business of female prostitution in the Roman world during the central part of Rome’s history, a period extending from approximately 200 b.c. to a.d. 250. The vast bulk of the legal, literary, archaeological, and documentary evidence available for inspection falls between those dates. The main focus is on the economics of venal sex, meaning precisely the manner in which it was sold, a subject that extends to the ownership, operation, staf‹ng, and location of brothels, as well as to various aspects of nonbrothel prostitution. Though the state of the evidence discourages any and all attempts at quanti‹cation, an attempt will be made to recover a sense of the role, the presence, and, as much as is possible, the lived experience of prostitution in the Roman city. One major obstacle especially to achieving the ‹nal goal is that the available evidence is overwhelmingly the product of male members of the elite, and so re›ects their concerns, assumptions , and prejudices. Unlike in most modern societies, the Roman political and legal authorities allowed the business of venal sex to proceed virtually unregulated, with a degree of tolerance that seems strange to a modern sensibility , but with consequences that emerge as sometimes equally foreign to us. Though I consider all types of sources in this study, I tend to privilege material evidence, particularly evidence from Pompeii for the reasons given below. The focus on archaeological evidence from Pompeii enables the development of the central argument of the book, which concerns the number and location of brothels and other venues for the sale of sex in that city. I argue in brief that there were more of these brothels, and they were more widely distributed , than most scholars have believed in recent years. Given the state of our knowledge, however, we should retain a degree of agnosticism over their precise numbers and locations. The book focuses principally on female prostitution for two main reasons. First, the greater share of the evidence by far for the economics of venal sex concerns the prostitution of women. Second, male prostitution is an important subject nonetheless and thus is deserving of separate treatment. To be sure, I do not hesitate to adduce evidence about the latter in the course of this book when it is useful to do so, such as in the discussion of the archaeological evidence for brothels in chapter 8 or the list of possible Pompeian prostitutes in appendix 3. By the same token, I pass beyond the chronological limits of the study when necessary to shed light on the period in question. An example is my treatment of the Augustinian evidence for moral zoning in chapter 3. I dwell longer on Augustine than I do on other Christian evidence, in part, because I share the common view that during the transition from paganism to Christianity there was a great deal of continuity in social conditions and relations as well as the ideology that surrounded them. One important change was a greater concern with the poor and the lower orders in general by members of the elite, as re›ected in their writings. These writings open a window on some social practices and attitudes that we know little about from the earlier period. Still, they do not appear to represent by and large a break with the pagan past. When a change in those practices or attitudes did take place, and that which occurred with Augustine on the matter of zoning prostitution is fairly monumental, greater attention should be paid. This book is a social history of an aspect of Roman prostitution, not an archaeological or art historical study of the same. Readers avid for lavish display of photographs of Roman erotic art must turn elsewhere. I make use of a small sample of illustrations designed to drive home the nature of art found in the brothel, other public places, and the private house. In recent years, a series of excellent studies have opened up the meaning and role of such art.1 My contribution, such as it is, is to try to place their results in the context of other evidence, above all literary sources, in order to try to make sense of Roman indifference to brothels and prostitutes in their midst. But some of the detailed treatments already available of the art of the Surburban Baths, the Purpose2...


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