restricted access 7. The Great Pompeian Brothel-Gap
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the city that matured over time into an opportunity.76 This raises one more question for archaeologists. Is it possible that Pompeii in a.d. 79 was a more populous and prosperous place than in 61? In sum, while the “earthquake hypothesis” may well explain, in part, the evident diffusion of brothels in Pompeii, proof for this argument is not adequate at this point. Closer examination of these establishments at Pompeii may shed light on the extent to which the earthquake encouraged, indirectly, the practice of prostitution.77 At present, we may cautiously conclude that it had some impact, however limited. In drawing this conclusion, we would also have to conclude there was a gender-imbalance, with more men, perhaps many more, than women. A higher percentage of the female population were perhaps prostitutes than in other Roman cities that did not experience Pompeii ’s dif‹culties in this period.78 Another result is that the Pompeian evidence suggests that brothels were a widespread feature of Roman urban life. To this extent, it does seem safe to generalize from the evidence of Pompeii. Most importantly, the precise number and location of Roman brothels were a function of economics and not of morality, or the result of a public policy directed at relegating prostitution to the back streets of Pompeii or other Roman cities. The Local Demographics of Venal Sex 181 76. See Horden and Purcell, Corrupting Sea (2000) 308 (cf. 311) on the baneful consequences of catastrophe-theory in the historiography of Mediterranean earthquakes. 77. See, for example, Meneghini, “Trasformazione” (1999) who traces the transformation of a residence into a caupona at 1.11.1–2. 78. In the early 1930s, the Chinese-governed sector of Shanghai showed a gender-ratio of 135 men to 100 women: Hershatter, Dangerous Pleasures (1997) 40. N Chapter Seven M THE GREAT POMPEIAN BROTHEL-GAP eminent victorians The story of brothel-identi‹cation is an interesting one, worth at least a modest amount of attention. Unfortunately, the critical waters have been muddied by charges of “Victorianism,” which allegedly amounts to an overeagerness to identify a location as a brothel on the basis of its erotic art.1 This strain of criticism, most prominent in a recent book by John DeFelice Jr., amounts to a crudely reductive version of Michel Foucault’s famous “repressive hypothesis,” which revealed the nineteenth century to be paradoxically a fertile source of discourse about sexuality.2 Indeed, given the trend in revisionist history on the Victorian period that has been dominant since 1970, DeFelice and the others are in danger of paying the Victorians a compliment that they do not deserve.3 182 1. Cf. the accusation of “nineteenth-century racial theory” raised recently in regard to the issue of Pompeii’s ethnic composition: Allison, “Placing Individuals” (2001) 70. 2. DeFelice, Roman Hospitality (2001) 7, in a published version of a doctoral dissertation that makes a similar point: Women of Pompeian Inns (1998). The other examples of this strain of criticism devote far less space to it: see Jacobelli, Terme Suburbane (1995) 65 n. 119; Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking (1998) 179, with the comments of Anderson, review of Looking at Lovemaking (1998). For the repressive hypothesis, see Foucault, History of Sexuality 1 (1978) esp. 15–49. Supporting evidence for Foucault’s thesis is found, for example, in the enthusiasm of the popular press for the subject of brothels in nineteenth-century St. Paul, Minn.: Best, Controlling Vice (1998) 3, 11. 3. For a sense of this historiographical trend, see, for example, Walkowitz, Prostitution (1980) vii–viii. Of great importance is Marcus, Other Victorians (1966). See also the choice comments of In evaluating this criticism, it is important to make two points. First, the modern history of scholarly and popular reaction to the discovery of erotic art at Pompeii is far more complex and interesting than such vague and valueladen terminology can suggest.4 Second, I would argue that great care should be taken in attributing motives to those writing on Roman brothels, for reasons not only of fairness, but also of method.5 It has long been customary, at any rate, to belabor, however gently, the naiveté of one’s predecessors regarding sexual matters at Pompeii.6 This is a tradition with which I hope to break, if possible. The sheer dif‹culty of doing so, however, might well form one of the themes of this book. As the reader will note, the fault is far easier to criticize in...