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Western University
Classical Studies
Classical Studies 3400E
Chris Piper

1 1. What do the sources tell us of the lives of prostitutes? Where does prostitution take place? What makes a prostitute? What do they wear? [[Why might a woman become a prostitute? How do they advertise? Entice customers?]] Prostitution Status Most prostitutes, especially those in brothels, were likely slaves; but some were freedwomen, and some were certainly freeborn. Prostitution was not a crime in antiquity; thus it was not a punishable offense. Rents from brothels in fact formed part of the revenues of the estates of many respectable citizens (Dig. Who were prostitutes? Justinian tells us young girls were lured into prostitution by the promise of clothes and jewels and other presents; some may have turned to it because of poverty. For most women it must have been a squalid existence (note again we have little in the way of evidence for casual prostitution). Prostitutes were often assumed to be performers and the like. We know women were actresses, performers, musicians, even performed in the arena from literary, artistic, and epigraphic inscriptions. Because the women and men who acted, sang, danced or performed for the delectation and delight of the crowd put themselves on display so publicly, they were often likened to prostitutes (who also displayed themselves and their bodies openly; thus they have given up control over them) and were often associated with sexual promiscuity. Even tavern- girls and bar-maids were considered quasi-prostitutes (they could not be charged with 2 adultery, states the Theodosian Code 9.7.1); and the Digest states: "many women have prostitutes under the pretext of employing them as staff in a tavern." Clothing and Status As in ancient Greece, there was a hierarchy of prostitution, from the richly-dressed courtesans to the lowest class of harlot who plied for hire practically naked. It appears that whores, depending on their station, appeared in everything from rich clothing all the way down to nothing (there is very little in the sources to indicate that prostitutes wore the toga, as is often asserted by modern authors). The authors speak of bright makeup and clothing, or even beautiful clothing and gold jewelry. Some prostitutes would wear foreign head-gear, like turbans, presumably to make themselves stand out and thus to increase a buyer’s interest. Messallina gilded her nipples and wore a blonde wig on her nightly shifts in the brothel. Some whores would perfume their hair as well, to add to their allure. Nudity (or very little clothing) was the marker of the lowest whore. Seneca complained that one couldn't examine amatrona the way one could a naked harlot, who were said to be "ready for every kind of lust." The whores in a squalid brothel would also be naked, and sometimes even those on the street: Juvenal describes this sort of harlot as “the whore that stands naked in a reeking archway.” Enticing the customer The prostitute was often described as blanda, wheedling, or taught to wheedle (docetur blanditias), she showed herself off in public, a notice was put above the door of the cella of the brothel whore advertising her body, and she welcomed all comers. A whore was also taught to "make all kinds of movement with her body" to entice men
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