Words by Calasade

Welcome to the most famous brothel in Pompeii. This, wouldn’t you know, is one of the more popular tourist destinations, but I think for the wrong reasons. Every few minutes groups of adults come through and giggle like obnoxious school children.

To them I do not just say but bellow, “Have some respect. And get over the fact this was a site of sex with wall-paintings and concrete beds on which the fornicators put padding and laid.”

I mean, seriously. What’s more common than sex?

Breathing and eating, but those are about all. Thanks, organized religion, for this damnation of something so vital to a healthy and happy life.

Err, yeah, so let’s go beyond the bump-and-grind. Let us consider the prostitutes forced into this, the lupanaris owner, those who frequented this establishment. What kind of mindset allowed enslaved prostitution to happen and enjoyed its offerings? Yes, I know. Ancient Romans also had gladiatorial combats, but somehow those seem less barbaric to me than what went on within these walls.

But sitting here, pondering a culture that had gladiatorial events and whoremongers of the enslaved, the conclusion I draw is the Romans had no concept of barbarism in regards to what that word means to us today. Perhaps it would behoove us to view the past with unbiased lenses rather than judgmental glasses. What we must do if we are to ever understand anyone different is avoid putting our beliefs on their shoulders. In the Ancient Roman case, it’s pretty safe to say Romans simply didn’t think our way, as the two-thousand-year-old graffiti on these walls attest.

Speaking of which, if you’ve a good eye and understand Latin, you gain a bit of insight into the people, making this building from long ago a far more personal visit.

HIC IIGO PVIILLAS MVLTAS FVTVJ (Here I fucked many girls)

Okay, so that reveals little except this was a happy customer. Almost typical of what you find in modern day. And a big shocker, too, a guy bragged of his prowess, right? But, you know, who’s to say this wasn’t a prostitute? And a woman. All right. Chances are the scrawler was a client. Chances are the scrawler was male. I’ll give you that.

Though maybe I should not given the free-willing ways of the Romans.

Take for instance this:

FELIX BIINII FVTVIS (You fuck well, Felix)

Could have been a client talking about a prostitute or the other way around. We’ll never know, but it sure gives you pause to think.

Maybe the following is a client letting everyone know what he enjoys, but more likely it is a prostitute advertising their services. Phoebus writes:

PHOEBVS PIIDICO (I, Phoebus, practice paedicare)

Which means he goes for anal sex. A striking, matter-of-fact proclamation that would appall some, but it’s funny, the hypocritical times in which we live. Too bad we in modern day are so choosy over what we allow the past to teach us, especially in the States where puritanical condemnation thrives in a nation that should (based on its very fabric) practice tolerance of everything and all people.

Consider that here some two thousand years ago there was no arguing the morality of homosexuality or lesbianism. The concept that sex was dirty did not exist. Acts and ways of living simply were and not given a second thought. Well, besides for a few laws, that is. Yeah, the Romans had some laws that were most…curious. Laws that forbade adultery, for instance, though I doubt those laws were upheld much past the day of their creation.

Note to modern day. Learn HISTORY. Prohibiting something accomplishes nothing. Didn’t work for eradicating the seven deadly sins or alcohol or drugs or guns or whatever else. All laws do is provide a false sense of security because they are punitive and reactionary, not preventative.

You know what does work?

EDUCATING.

OBTAINING AND IMPARTING WISDOM.

Admitting that bad shit happens and when it does, having the guts to deal with it and move on while maintaining the heart to honor those lost. Think Pearl Harbor versus 911. Mostly, possess the sense to prevent the latter’s aftermath from crumbling the foundation on which a once great nation was built.

But I digress. No rants about that. At least not now.

Of the hundreds or thousands (I am unsure how many inscriptions scratch the walls within this brothel), my favorite is:

ARPHOCRAS HIC CVM DRAVCA BENE FVTVJT DIINARJO (Arphocras here with Drauca fucked well for a denarius)

Something about the above hints at tenderness to me. Picture, if you will, a man and woman lying on this padded concrete bed after having sex. The man is resting on his back, the woman with her head on his shoulder. He’s smiling. She’s sighing. A welcome respite, I think. Maybe he kisses her on the forehead before turning onto his side and writing that. He’s just given her a recommendation, and maybe with enough customers, she can buy her freedom. A denarius was not chump change. For a soldier that was pay for one or two days, depending on when this was written, so such a bold statement could help Drauca gain more customers and perhaps one day experience upward economic mobility. Maybe Arphocras wishes he could take her from there.

I don’t know. What I do know is that these writings astound me and not all pertain to sex.

VICTORIA INVICTA HIC

What is the meaning behind “Victoria is unconquered here”? Did she write this to say her spirit was untouched? That while she might be physically enslaved, her soul could never be?

And the political.

PVTIIOLANIS FILICITIIR OMNBVS NVCHIIRINIS FILLICIA ET VNCV POMPIIJANIS PETECVSANIS

A mouthful that reads, “Up with the people of Pozzuoli, up with all the people of Nocera, and down with the people of Pompeii and those of Ischia.”

And…

AFRICANVS  MORITVR SCRIBET PVER RVSTICVS QVI DOLET PRO AFRICANO

which means Africanus is dying a rustic boy writes. You learn who grieves for Africanus.

I wonder of the inspiration for the hand writing that.

Fascinating, but there in one word, you have the grandest descriptor for all Ancient Rome.

FASCINATING.

 

 

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