Part one – Pompeii’s Glory Days
Fire, brimstone, and molten lava vomited from the center of Mount Vesuvius on August 24, 79 AD. The ash and fire covered Pompeii and buried its victims, freezing the scenes of everyday life like a morbid sculpture. It’s a sad story retold to us by historians in devastating detail. But as tragic as Pompeii’s history is, Vesuvius’ poisonous pyroclastic cloud has a silver-lining. The volcano’s swift and merciless destruction allowed us a glimpse into the lives of these Romans. So put away your tissues and dry your eyes, it appears many Pompelians were caught with their pants down, literally.
Over the last decade, much about the true nature of Pompeii has reluctantly emerged. Whether embarrassed, shocked, or dismayed, the Italians initially locked many of the unearthed relics of Pompeii away in a secret room at the Naples National Archeological Museum. The artifacts were deemed ‘too profane’ for the museum’s delicate patrons. But, in 2000, the collection finally opened to the public—and what a collection it was.
Those Pompelians were a naughty lot. Penises decorated everything from cups to door-pulls. It’s enough to make a girl quiver with excitement. As a sign of wealth and affluence, erotic frescoes graced the walls of homes and businesses. The Pompelians loved their phalluses, the bigger the better, it seemed.
Priapus, a minor rustic fertility god, was a favorite in Pompeii. Captured by many artisans, his likeness was recreated again and again in statues and paintings. Each artist obviously felt obligated to immortalize Priapus’ huge johnson, a symbol of his lustful nature. One look at his image and you must believe he was blessed by the gods.
The god, Pan, also seem to be a favorite character of those randy Romans. In 1740, King Charles III, excited by what treasure his excavation efforts might reveal, was horrified when a particularly playful statue of Pan copulating with a lovely little nanny goat was pulled from a tunnel. He quickly ordered the entire site shut down. Being a staunch Catholic, King Charles found Pan’s lusty endeavors neither comical nor enlightened. Perhaps he lamented, “What happened in Pompeii should stay in Pompeii.”
Still standing is the oldest brothel in the world, the Lupanare Grande. The name means Den of the She-Wolves—an expression used by Romans when referring to prostitutes. Here, it seems, any type of pleasure could be had. When one entered the Lupanare from the street, they would travel down a long corridor decorated with erotic paintings. Some historians believe the paintings were a list of options of what was available to the casual customer. Much like a drive-up restaurant, the client got to see the menu before he reached the cashier.
The brothel walls are carved with Latin graffiti. Over a hundred different references to fucking were cut into the granite by patrons. (Hic ego puellas multas futui), “Here I fuck many girls.” This customer’s bragging makes a person wonder if he inscribed the boast after many visits, or if it was some kind of initiation, much like frat boys hitting the local whorehouse. “Whoo Hoo, Dude, you nailed that old whore. High five.” Another inscription, Felix bene futuis, “Lucky guy, you fuck well” or “Lucky guy, you get a good fuck”), was supposedly carved by a prostitute about her client. It sounds a bit like a bad porn movie. “Oh yeah baby, you’re so good. Yah, yah, you lucky guy, you fuck so well.” But since she scribed the statement in stone, one must believe that the prostitute meant it. It’s one thing to shout it in a moment of feigned passion. It’s quite another to take the time and gouge it into granite.
Pompeii appears to have had an elaborate sex trade system. Down and dirty, lavish and expensive, it was all for sale in Pompeii. Rome was the Las Vegas of the ancient times, but Pompeii held its own as a luxury playground for the rich and elite. Famous actors, gladiators, and government members frequented the city. Can you imagine the tabloids of the times?
‘After several grueling rounds at the Colosseum, Sparticus Erectus has taken his leisure at Pompeii’s famous brothel, Lupanare Grande. It’s rumored that Erectus keeps several young women and men on his staff.’
Mistresses, orgies, and concubines were there for the taking. The stigma of same-sex relations was not prevalent during this time period. It was as common for a man to be with a man as it was for him to be with a woman. Men with women, women with men, men with young boys, there was no end to the combinations these Romans partook of.
With the good there is always the bad. Eighty percent of the population of Pompeii was poor. Those less prosperous members sold their services on the streets. Thirteen curbside cribs were identified in Pompeii. These small stone rooms contained only a stone bed. Location, location, location, the saying seemed to be true even back then. Positioned around the one hundred and fifty-three taverns of Pompeii, these cribs helped make the sale of sex quick and dirty.
Penis, penis, penis, you couldn’t say it enough if you lived in Pompeii. From street lamps to statues, those crazy Romans erected more phallic symbols than one race of people should be allowed. Even today, visitors can see the likeness of a penis carved into the paving stones upon which the Romans walked. Veni, Vidi, Vici—I came, I saw, I conquered. Pompeii gives the famous Latin phrase a whole new meaning.
If you liked this piece, please return on October 20 for more Sex in History and those Randy Romans.
For more information on Pompeii tune into the History Channel’s History of Sex or pick up Roman Sex: 100BC-250 AD by John Clarke at http://www.amazon.com/Roman-Sex-100-B-C-D/dp/0810942631/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284653479&sr=8-1
Copyright © 2010 Boone Brux. All rights reserved.