restricted access 10. Leaving Las Vegas
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front of them. We would simply then fall into the trap of imagining ancient Rome as nicer than it was, in fact. Roman practice regarding the landscape of venal sex may not seem utterly outlandish when compared with some modern of‹cial approaches to prostitution . They suggest the truth of a point made elsewhere in this study, namely that “modern” does not automatically signify rational or successful. The nineteenth -century Parisian regime advocated by Alexandre Parent-Duchâtelet sought to guarantee both the accessibility and the invisibility of prostitutes, but it devoutly feared clandestine ones.76 It was not only successful in helping to generate that which it feared most, but allowed or encouraged clandestine prostitutes to be be bold about their activity. This led to an even more undesirable situation, the oxymoron of open clandestinity. “The clandestine prostitute of the late nineteenth century made no attempt to hide her status or to conduct her trade in secret.”77 A similar experience of policy leading to unintended and most unwanted consequences can be seen with other systems modeled on the Parisian, such as in late-imperial Russia.78 The Roman approach is itself easy to criticize, even easier to dislike. A full understanding of its implications, however, demands comparison with other cultures whose hostility to prostitutes is no less patent. What emerges is that the Roman policy, for all of its paradox and repulsiveness, may have done a fairly satisfactory job of managing the challenge of prostitution as perceived by the Romans themselves. The implications of this fact for the economy of Roman prostitution remain to be drawn out in the next chapter. The City of Venus 255 76. Bernheimer, Figures of Ill Repute (1989) 16–17, 25. 77. Harsin, Policing Prostitution (1985) 246. 78. Bernstein, Sonia’s Daughters (1995) 28, 46–56, 79, 83. N Chapter Ten M LEAVING LAS VEGAS In speaking of the locality of the houses of illrepute in the great city, it would be more dif‹cult to state where they are not, than where they are. —George Ellington, apud Gilfoyle City of Eros (1992) 53. The result of this study, which has venues for commercial sex scattered throughout the Roman city and located in a variety of social and commercial contexts, suggests some directions that future enquiry into the problem of Roman brothels might take. The ‹rst step should almost certainly be to make a detailed examination of the physical remains in what remains our one best source for archaeological information, Pompeii. That procedure might help eliminate some of the more doubtful candidates or at least isolate the possible operation of a brothel both in spatial and chronological terms, the latter standing as a further re‹nement of the post-62 problem treated in chapter 6. What might be expected to result from such a project is a more nuanced treatment of the central subject of this book. One possible direction to take is to look more closely at the three subtypes for brothels identi‹ed in this study, purpose-built, tavern (caupona/popina) with rooms in back and/or upstairs, and the catch-all type associated with lower-class lodgings, as well as the two subtypes for cribs, namely, a single room off the street and single room in back of a bar.1 It is worth noting here that while these types do ‹nd equivalents in 256 1. For the crib subtypes, see chap. 7; for the brothel subtypes, see appendix 1. other cultures they are far from universal, let alone inevitable. In medieval Germany, for example, the fundamental distinction scholars draw between brothel types is that between the municipal institution of the Frauenhaus and illegal (but often informally tolerated) venues.2 I am not very optimistic that we will be able to elaborate a typology of brothels beyond the tripartite scheme I have described above. We can imagine in theory a list of known or suspected brothels that could be analyzed to generate a set of necessary and suf‹cient conditions to identify brothels. There would have to be some core characteristics that function as the sine qua non of a Roman brothel, ideally based on a combination of written and material evidence. That this exercise in empirical method cannot without dif‹culty lead to a typology that is superior to the one we have is suggested ‹rst by the disjuncture between literary and archaeological evidence. It is more accurate perhaps to say that these two types of evidence are not...


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