A demanding supply

Prostitutes in the Roman world

Authored by: Linnea Åshede

Women in Antiquity

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138808362
eBook ISBN: 9781315621425
Adobe ISBN: 9781317219910

10.4324/9781315621425.ch67

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Abstract

We know that prostitution was an integral facet of Roman society, yet we know very little about the actual prostitutes. The majority of the primary sources provide scant evidence for life as it looked from within the sex-trade. Literary sources in particular portray Roman society from the minority perspective of a male elite whose interest lay primarily in constructing prostitutes and pimps as the symbolic antithesis of honourable citizens. 1 This evidence is better suited for reflecting the various terminologies connected to sex-workers than their experiences. The legal texts are written from the same perspective, by jurors whose function is to interpret rather than make the law. Importantly, there is no specific Roman law on prostitution, but the sex-trade is discussed in the Digest and related texts when it interferes with matters such as inheritance, marriage and the economy. 2

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