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The brothel of Pompeii : sex, class, and gender at the margins of Roman society / Sarah Levin-Richardson, University of Washington, Seattle.

  • Levin-Richardson, Sarah, 1980-
  • Books

About this work


"In this book, Sarah Levin-Richardson offers the first authoritative examination of Pompeii's purpose-built brothel, the only verifiable brothel from Greco-Roman antiquity. Taking readers on a tour of all of the structure's evidence, including the rarely seen upper floor, she illuminates the subculture housed within its walls. Here, prostitutes could flout the norms of society and proclaim themselves sexual subjects and agents, while servile clients were allowed to act as 'real men'. Prostitutes and clients also exchanged gifts, greetings, jokes, taunts, and praise. Written in a clear, engaging style, and accompanied by an ample illustration program and translations of humorous and haunting graffiti, Levin-Richardson's book will become a new touchstone for those interested in the history of women, slavery, and prostitution in the classical world."--Publisher's description.


Cambridge, United Kingdom ; New York, NY : Cambridge University Press, 2019.

Physical description

xix, 243 pages : black and white illustrations ; 26 cm

Bibliographic information

Includes bibliographical references and indexes.


Introduction. Roman prostitution and brothels ; Approaching the purpose-built brothel ; Synopsis -- Part I -- 1. Architecture. Reconstructing the purpose-built brothel ; Architectural comparisons ; Platforms for activity ; Sight lines -- 2. Material finds. Finding the finds ; Activities ; Furnishings ; Residential brothel? -- 3 Graffiti. Pompeian wall-writing culture ; A multisensory experience ; Distribution and the use of space ; Crafting personas ; Community message board -- 4 Frescoes. Curating the brothel's sexual universe ; Material environment and ambiance ; Status and desire ; Priapus -- 5 The upper floor. Reconstructing the architecture of the upper floor and door 20 ; Frescoes ; Finds and graffiti ; Ascertaining function and use ; Relationships with neighboring properties -- Part II -- 6 Male clients. Experiences of power and leisure ; Claiming masculinity ; Relationships -- 7. Female prostitutes. Exploitation ; Physical and emotional labor ; Performing personas ; Claiming subjectivity ; Reframing clients as objects ; Among themselves -- 8 Male prostitutes. Aging out ; Sexual objects ; Subjects ; Resistance -- Conclusion. Integration into the urban, visual, and social landscape ; Blurring boundaries ; Exploitation and agency ; Economic model of the purpose-built brothel ; Greek and Roman prostitution -- Appendix A: Excavation history and material finds -- Appendix B: Graffiti.


  • English

Where to find it

  • LocationStatus
    History of Medicine
    Open shelves

Permanent link



  • 9781108496872
  • 1108496873