Brothels of Pompeii

Header image: Mount Vesuvius, as seen from the streets of Naples – photo my own.

Yes, the world’s oldest profession… I was going to make this a Wordless Wednesday post, but I really think it deserves a little description. So in the name of history, let me explain what you are looking at. The images painted on the walls of a typical brothel of the time –Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79– weren’t merely to arouse the patrons visiting the establishment. You see, at the height of Pompeii’s splendor, an average citizen would have been illiterate. Only the upper classes would have been able to read or write. Thus, the images provided a sort of menu from which the customer could make some choices. Also, notice that the one being ‘serviced’ in the images all had the darker skin of someone who worked out of doors, perhaps depicting a shepherd or field laborer, whereas the prostitutes all had the fairest of skin. Here are some photos from my trip to Italy in 2009:


22 thoughts on “Brothels of Pompeii

    1. Eerily so. They still have several of the victims on display – captured in their death throes. The city is so largely in tact its really chilling! Thank you, Eric!


  1. I’ve just watched a documentary on the last days of Pompeii. It was amazing. There were tools and paints left in place, as if the artisans just got up and left in a hurry. Thanks for the photos, Meg!

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  2. Worked (research) in the National Library in Naples for a couple of weeks. I found the city very spooky. It was if they were making the most of every moment of every day just in case the volcano went “up” again. It was a strange atmosphere. This was a long time ago.

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      1. I was in the dock area down by the library. There were armed guards on the steps of many of the hotels. I never went out with any money in my pockets … just a poor research student … and nobody bothered with me.

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  3. See Naples and die… after visiting the brothel. I visited Naples last year, a real Mafia town, one of the few places I have visited in Europe (Marseilles would be another city) where I felt physically unsafe in the daytime, and where every man, woman and child seems to be eyeing you up to rob. Very spooky place. Didn’t get to Pompeii

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  4. Right up my history alley. So fascinating. I wish humanity had retained some of the openness about sexuality as the ancient Romans had, in terms of it being natural…nothing to hide and be ashamed of. And man…would I love to visit Pompeii, Naples, Rome. Preferably when nothing is erupting.

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    1. Thanks, Em. It was an amazing experience – so much of it eerily in tact. The paintings still so fresh in some places! Yes, we’ve attached shame to something that should be beautiful and natural and to our bodies in general, I think. Rome was part of the same trip – mind blowing!

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