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Lupanare, Pompeii, Italy

It isn’t a big surprise that the first brothels were opened in Ancient Rome. The homeland of Caligula, Nero and Messalina… By the way, one can find one of the first mentions about these brothels in Roman poet Juvenal’s works:

…the minute she heard him snoring
his wife – that whore-empress – who dared to prefer the mattress
of a stews to her couch in the Palace, called for her hooded
night-cloak and hastened forth, with a single attendant.
Then, her black hair hidden under an ash-blonde wig,
she'd make straight for her brothel, with its stale, warm coverlets,
and her empty reserved cell. Here, naked, with gilded
nipples, she plied her trade, under the name of 'The Wolf-Girl'…

The name of the brothels comes from the Latin word lupa – “wolf”. This is the way prostitutes in Ancient Rome were called. Lupanar was a building made of stone, with no extraordinary signs on it. There was a small door taking you inside, but one had to know where the door is in advance. However, the building itself was not very difficult to find: phallic symbols were inscribed on the pavement. They showed the right way to the brothel both to locals and to visiting merchants and sailors.

In order to judge about how popular lupanars were in Rome, one should look at the example of Pompeii. During excavations more than 30 such buildings were discovered. And this is totally logical, taking into consideration the fact that all the exhibits for the Secret Room were found in Pompeii. Usually, for providing sexual services a small room was being rented on the second floor of a shop. The first building constructed for this purpose only was also in Pompeii. Two-storey lupanars were built here, that had space for 5-10 rooms. In one of the rooms a stamp of a coin was discovered, dated 72 A. D.

There was a special dress-code for visiting this kind of “establishments”. When night came, visitors put on a big hood or a special peaked headdress called “cuculus nocturnes” – night cuckoo. The interior of the lupanar was very plain: walls decorated with erotic frescos, and one stone bed, covered with a mattress. Interesting - that the bed was quite small, around 170 cm. According to the government’s demand all prostitutes had to wear red belts made of soft leather which covered their breast: a kind of modern bra. That belt was called mamillare.

In 2006 one of the lupanars in Pompeii was renovated and opened for excursions, but without prostitutes.

In order to provide normal microclimate in the lupanar, maximum of 10 people can be inside simultaneously.

By Sona Gasparian,


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