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Sarah Levin-Richardson Stanford University January 2005 Sex, Sight, and Societas in the Lupanar, Pompeii I.

Introduction Brothels and prostitution, once the subject of titillation and ill-repute, have recently reentered scholarly discussion as evidence of societal mores and of real and ideal gender and sexual relations. This scholarship has focused on large-scale or broad issues such as legality and morality or erotic art in the Roman Empire1. This paper, by contrast, conducts a close-reading of the Lupanar at Pompeii in order to investigate the identities of clients and workers and the various types of relationships that were established between them. Investigation of the various visual elements of the brothel will reveal graffiti as a dynamic, discursive form of visual media wherein patrons and workers can reveal their identities, sexual practices, and bonds of friendship.

II. Visual Aspects of the Lupanar: Graffiti as an Interactive Discourse The legacy of the Lupanar at Pompeii derives from the erotic frescoes found during Fiorellis excavations in 1862. The existence of the erotic panels has overshadowed all other visual aspects of the brothel, including the presence of 134 graffiti of varying content and the spatial aspects of the structure. Scholarship relating to the brothel has almost exclusively focused on the erotic images, which themselves have only recently come into a sophisticated discursive arena with Clarkes 1998 Looking at Lovemaking. The graffiti are usually only mentioned with respect to their sexual content, and then most often as a fulfillment of one of the three criteria for

For legal and societal issues, see McGinn, Pompeian Brothels and Social History and The Economy of Prostitution in the Roman World. For general surveys of erotic art, see Clarke, Looking at Lovemaking and Roman Sex in addition to Guzzo, Pietro Giovanni and Vincenzo Scarana Ussani, Veneris figurae.

2 identifying a brothel.2 Likewise, the spatial aspects of the brothel have only been investigated as part of a large-scale analysis of sector and city-wide planning at Pompeii (Laurence 70-87). Thus the three realms of visual mediafresco, graffiti, and spatial layouthave been analyzed in isolation from each other, have received varying degrees of attention, and have been employed by scholars for divergent purposes.

Frescoes Seven erotic panels are extant on the bottom floor of the brothel today, although traces of a red frame and a damaged area roughly the size of the other panels indicate the original presence of an eighth image. These images were found during the excavation of the brothel by Giuseppe Fiorelli which began in late May 1862, and continued through July of the same year (Van der Peol). The erotic panels can be dated to around 72 CE, based on the impression of a coin of that date found in the plaster in the brothel (Clarke 2003, 63). The panels are visible along the main hallway in the register above the lintels of doorways to the rooms, although well above eye level (plate 1). Upon entering from the main doorway on Vico Del Lupanare, two frescoes are visible on the right hand wall, two at the back, and three on the left. Six of them are rectangular, being wider in width than height, and similar in size, while the seventh is both smaller and narrower. All of them are painted on a light eggshell or white background. The panels are located in the hallway, an ostensibly more public area of the brothel than the rooms. While in a relatively accessible area of the brothel, they are also above eye level, which creates both an emotional and physical distance between the image and the viewer. The viewer is further encouraged to keep his distance insofar as all the images in the hallway may

The three defining characteristics of a brothelmasonry beds, erotic art, and erotic graffiti, were first laid out by Wallace-Hadrill and have consequently been much discussed (see also McGinn, Pompeian Brothels).

3 been seen at once: there is no need to move in order to engage with each image. The images are also dislocated physically from the spaces where sexual activity was practicedthere is only one mention of sexual activity possibly being located in the hallways of the brothel.3 Each fresco panel is enclosed in a painted red frame of similar size, and placed in a linear formation over the doorways. This repetition of frames and sizes combines with the lack of variety in placement to encourage a linear visual progression from one image to the next. The panels, with their strict frame and linear layout, produce a controlled viewing experience. Differences in temporal quality also have implications for strategies of control and discourse. The images are constant, showing an infinite moment: they cannot respond to the passage of time or persons unless the owner chooses to replace them. The same moment will still be there in seven days, seven months, or even seven years, which was the life of the frescoes before the eruption in 79 CE. This suspension of the passage of time negates any attempt by the viewer to interact with the frescoes. The viewing experience is controlled and closed. Our knowledge about the authorship of these images is also limited. They were probably commissioned by the owner of the brothel an executed by a few artists. Probing these images may answer questions about the intentions of the owner (see Clarke) or artistic conventions of the time, but such questions are outside the scope of this paper. Due to the static nature of the images in terms of spatial and temporal aspects and of authorship, the frescoes are not able to answer questions about the type of people frequenting the brothel nor the types of relationships that are being playing out.4


CIL 2241 describes a sex act with the locator HIC. There is also an inscription in the hallways referring to cunnilingus (2257), but the inscription does not locate the action with HIC. Please see section III for further discussion. 4 The use the terminology static and dynamic discourse owes much debt to the work of Darian Totten.

4 While both the panels and graffiti are located in the brothel and deal with sex acts, they employ different strategies of space and time management to communicate with the viewer. Rather than being placed according to a linear paradigm, the graffiti are spread over several rooms and the hallways. The viewers eye is free to wander in any direction; there are no governing rules. The need to move and to engage with the graffiti in order to experience them encourages a greater intimacy and interaction between the text and viewer. This interaction is aided by the fact that the graffiti seems to be mostly at eye level; they gain further immediacy from their location in the rooms where the sexual activities occurred.5 The graffiti, then, are less dislocated from the viewer in terms of both visual interaction and proximity to the loci of sexual activity. Whereas the frescoes are of roughly similar proportions, the graffiti can differ greatly in size and execution. Narrative is simultaneously encouraged by the interaction of the inscriptions with one another and confounded by the absence of a spatial organizing principle. While the frescoes are only accessible by one sense, vision (and that in a static dimension), the graffiti is accessible in four possible senses. One looks at graffiti, one speaks aloud the writing, one hears the recitation of graffiti, and one can touch the depressions of the letters as well as walk through the rooms with graffiti. The fact that the graffiti is not, for example, above the door lintels is significant to the accessibility of both vision and touch. Likewise, whereas one can engage with the panels only passively through viewing, graffiti can be engaged in active ways. On the most basic level, one can interact with the graffiti by giving voice to the graffiti already present or by adding new graffiti. There are two telling examples of the use of graffiti as an interactive medium that enables discourse. CIL 2208 records, Sabinus <sends/gives> greeting to Proclus, and similarly 2231, [IAS] welcomes/greets Magnus. Here the graffiti are used to convey a message through time from one client to another. A more

Over 90% of the graffiti are in the rooms.

5 poignant message is conveyed to the viewer in CIL 2258a: Africanus is dying/ A rustic boy writes/ You learn who grieves for Africanus. This unusual graffito conveys how the act of reading (and thus reciting aloud) creates knowledge; by reading this graffiti, the viewer will know the rustic boy grieves for Africanus. The use of the second person in over a quarter of the conjugated graffiti hints at the importance of audience participation and interaction.6 Graffiti, then, is an iterative and responsive discourse, continually reinscribing itself (literally and figuratively) and creating new patterns of meaning and interaction. On a different level, one can engage with the graffiti by walking through the different rooms and looking at the different walls. In this respect, meaning is constantly being created and altered as some graffiti are read and others are ignored. As graffiti are added over time, meanings and relationships will change as well. Whereas the frescoes allow little room for interaction or interpretation and represent single or limited authorship, the graffiti allow for a multiplicity of viewpoints and authors. The dynamic nature of the graffiti continues into temporal aspects. The graffiti, as an entity, can respond to and reflect the passage of time and clients. This dynamic flux encourages the viewer to keep interacting with the graffiti by promising something new at each encounter. The experience is free from control and open to change and multiple viewings and interpretations, creating a dynamic form of discourse.7

Spatial Layout The lupanar, or brothel (VII, 12, 18), is located at the north-west intersection of two streets, now called the Vico del Lupanare (running N-S), and the Vico del Balcone Pensile
6 7

11 out of 41 inflected verb forms are in the second person singular. The entire brothel may have been re-plastered with the installation of the erotic panels in 72 CE, although there is no way to know for sure. If the plaster visible today had been in use for a long time before the destruction, that would suggests a lesser but still active discourse through the graffiti. Although the length of time the plaster was in use may change our ideas of the intensity of the discourse, the existence of a graffiti-based discourse remains solid (see section IV).

6 (running E-W), about two blocks east of the forum. The bottom floor is accessible through a main entrance in the east facade, on the Vico del Lupanare. Inside there are five cells, each with a built-in stone bed, off a main hallway (plate 2). Three cells are located north of the hallway, while two are located to the south. The cells are referred to with lower case letters b through f, beginning with the room in the north-west corner and continuing east along the north wall, then lettering the southern rooms from west to east. An additional entrance, connected to the main hallway by a short passageway, opens off the Vico del Balcone Pensile. In contrast to the main hallway, no rooms open off this passageway. At the convergence of these halls is a latrine, hidden from view by a half-wall. Slight traces of fourth-style frescoes are visible on the walls between the doorways to the rooms (Clarke 1998, 199). These compositions are framed by a decorative border and seem to have a small, fantastical creature in the middle of the composition. Lightwells are found above the lintels of rooms b, c and d on the North side of the hallway. An upper story was accessible by a separate entrance on the Vico del Balcone Pensile. The upper story had five rooms of varying size, accessible by a covered balcony (Jacobelli 2930). Sober, Fourth Style Frescoes decorated the entirety of the walls (Ibid. 30). The upstairs had neither built-in beds nor erotic images, disqualifying it as a brothel (McGinn 2002, 14). McGinn postulates that these rooms may have functioned as the sleeping quarters of the prostitutes (Ibid.). Since very little information has been published about the upstairs and it is not accessible to the public, no conclusions can be made. The dearth of literature on the upstairs, however, typifies the manner in which erotic images are often privileged in scholarship over complex spatial relationships. The fact that both the images and inscriptions are in the brothel itself should not be overlooked. Already we have a restriction of accessibility to the owner(s), prostitutes and

7 clients. While open to the public, the interaction of visual elements occurs inside, in a semiprivate realm. In addition to being semi-private, the physical space restricts the number of people that could view this material at the same time. The locus of the brothel is in contrast to both the street, which is an entirely public, open area, and the private house, where viewership can be controlled by the paterfamilias. This has a significant impact on the communicative potential of the images and text. The audience is at once both public and intimate. This would afford the opportunity for more individualized communications, especially in respect to the graffiti. Spatial considerations also play an integral part in enabling and unraveling the meaning of the graffiti. As seen above, part of the dynamic nature of the graffiti stems from the multiplicity of its locations and its interactions. The interpretations that follow in the next section use the spatial division of the brothel into rooms and hallways separated by doorframes in order to describe how the graffiti create meaning. While the images are an important part of the visual experience of the brothel, their static nature makes them insufficient as data for questions involving the real, dynamic interactions of people in the brothel. On the other hand, the interactive discourse of the graffiti and its spatial considerations proves an ideal data set for an examination of issues of identity and relationships. III. Graffiti Table III.I: Graffiti by type and room Room b Room c Room d Sexual ---1 (20%) 11 (46%) content Names 1 (50%) 3 (60%) 5 (21%) Other ------4 (17%) (but known meaning) Room e Room f 4 (29%) 22 (30%) 9 (64%) ---33 (45%) 7 (10%) Hallways 2 (12%) 7 (44%) ---Total 40 (30%) 58 (43%) 11 (8%)

8 Unknown Meaning Total 1 (50%) 2 1 (20%) 5 4 (17%) 24 1 (7%) 14 11 (15%) 73 7 (44%) 16 25 (19%) 134

The spatial aspects of graffiti, as a dynamic form of discourse allowing relatively free accessibility to authorship, will enable us to form a more accurate picture of how Pompeians were using their brothel. Luckily for us, one-hundred and thirty-four graffiti have been recorded in the brothel and published in the fourth volume of the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum.8 The graffiti consist mainly of inscriptions incised into the white plastered walls, although there are a few examples of figures as well (CIL 2181, 2237, 2248, 2254). Most of the graffiti are concentrated in rooms d and f, which are closest to the main entrance. Thirteen graffiti were found in the hallways as well. The content ranges from explicit sexual statements, to the relaying of greetings to another patron to the simple leaving of a name (see above, table III.1). An important caveat is that scholars have no way of determining the time period over which the inscriptions were written.

Issues of space

and place Hallways 16 (12%) Total 134

Table III.2: Distribution of Graffiti Room b Room c Room d Room e Room f Number 2 (1.5%) 5 (4%) 24 (18%) 14 (10%) 73 (55%) of graffiti

The placement of the graffiti within the brothel can reveal patterns of use and movement. Most of the graffiti (73%) are in the easternmost rooms. One possible explanation for this distribution is that rooms d and f were used more than the other rooms. But if this explains the

This number has been reached by counting separately each inscription, even if it is listed under the same number in the CIL. This approach is necessary because a few inscriptions with very different content are currently listed under the same number. The CIL numbers are 2173 through 2296.

9 pattern of distribution, it begs the question of why these rooms were used more than the other three. It does not seem to be a coincidence that the rooms are the closest to the main entrance, so perhaps clients usually went into the first room they saw. Another possibility is that not all the cells were continuously occupied by a prostitute, leaving a skeleton crew in the front rooms and leaving the back rooms for surplus demand or an overflow crowd. In the absence of excavation techniques that could hint at patterns of use and without a first person account of an experience in the brothel, both possibilities remain equally plausible. An entirely different possibility emerges from considering the act of inscribing graffiti. When did the inscribing of graffiti take place in relation to when the sexual act took place, and who was present? Since the graffiti are mostly in the past tense, we can assume that the graffiti is written after the sex act. We must then ask where the client goes after he has partaken of the prostitutes servicesdoes he stay in the same room with the prostitute, or does he leave immediately but loiter elsewhere in the brothel? In other words, perhaps the rooms with the most graffiti represent waiting rooms of some sort. 9 Whether or not a client loiters may be affected by a number of factors, including whether or not the brothel aims for volume over repeat customers. If a brothel seeks to maximize the number of clients, it would seek to restrict the amount of time of each encounter. On the other hand, if the brothel deals mostly with repeat customers, it would be more attuned to meeting the needs of its clientele, including letting them loiter if they so wish. The graffiti themselves help resolve this dilemma. The graffiti often emphasize the locality of the completed sex act with the word hic, here. If hic were meant to refer to the brothel in general and not a specific room, we would expect to find a relatively equal distribution of sexual practices between the two eastern rooms. I will not ignore the fact that one of the

I appreciate the contribution of Ulrike Krotscheck in encouraging me to investigate this line of thought.

10 graffiti in the hallway makes a hic claim (CIL 2241), which presumably does not refer to the hallway itself as the locus of the sex act. I do not believe this possible disconnect between graffito and sex act, since it is an isolated case out of twenty uses of hic,10 raises a serious threat to the theory that hic ties the sex act to the room where the graffiti were inscribed. Further support for the tie between the graffiti and the location of sexual activities can be found by an analysis of the types of sexual practices mentioned. Rather than finding an equal distribution of claims, we find certain sexual practices mentioned in one room to the exclusion of the others. For example, the north-east room (d) has six references to fellatio and no references to pedicatio, while the south-east room (f) has no references to fellatio yet two references to pedicatio. In addition, the real possibility that prostitutes wrote some of the graffiti would

suggest that they wrote in their own rooms, rather than taking leave to go write graffiti in a waiting room. The conclusion then is that the graffiti probably did occur in the rooms in which the sexual activities occurred. 11 This finding suggests further implications for the functioning of the brothel. The coincidence of both time for writing the graffiti and the space in which the act occurred suggests that patrons were loitering in the rooms, with or without the prostitute, after being serviced. As mentioned above, this implicates a certain economic strategy of appealing to the loyalty of repeat customers rather than focusing on the turn-over rate.

Table III.3: Spatial Distribution of Graffiti within the Rooms of the Brothel at Pompeii Room b Room c Room d Room e Room f All rooms Back wall ---1 (20%)* 7 (29%) 3 (21%) ---11 (9%) Left wall ---1 (20%) 2 (8%)^ 3 (21%)* 23 (32%) 29 (25%)
There are 19 uses of hic and one use of the Greek equivalent, . I do not ignore the fact that this raises a number of further questions. It would be interesting to know what the spatial and authoritative relationships between the Pimp/Procuress, prostitute and client were during the writing of graffiti, but this question lies outside of the scope of this paper.
10 11

11 Right wall Front wall Other ------13 (54%) -----36 (49%)* 49 (41%) ------2 (8%) 5 (36%)* 14 (19%) 21 (18%) 2 (100%) on 3 (60%) on ---3 (21%) on ---8 (7%) left left left doorframe doorframe doorframe Total 2 5 24 14 73 118 (*) indicates that the inscriptions are explicitly stated as above the bed in the CIL (^) indicates that the wall mentioned should be above the bed, although the CIL does not make this clear Another clue to the movement through and use of the brothel comes from several graffiti found on the doorposts of the rooms (see table III.3). Three of the rooms have such graffiti, although only on the left doorpost as one looks into the room (CIL 2244, 2245, 2245a in room e, 2284, 2285, 2286 in room c, and 2290, 2291 in room b). These rooms (b, c, and e) also have very little other graffiti; in fact, the inscriptions on the doorframe of room b are the only inscriptions associated with that room. The significance of the placement may suggest evidence of the movement throughout the brothel. A preliminary hypothesis is that the inscriptions were made upon entering the room. Right-handed individuals are more inclined to write on the left doorpost when entering a room than on the right doorpost12. It is significant that all of the inscriptions are simply names rather than completed sex acts, suggesting that the act of writing was just as likely to occur before the sex act (upon entering), than after the sex act (on exiting).13 The data above also confounds our expectation that most of the graffiti would be above the bed, where the sex act probably occurred.14 While in some rooms the majority of the graffiti are over the bed (rooms e and f), this is not a consistent pattern. The location of the bed seems therefore not to be a spatial organizing principle for the inscription of graffiti throughout the

12 13

I base this observation on personal experience. I wish to thank Jen Trimble for her suggestion to investigate this point. 14 This table relies on the description in the CIL, which are not always clear or consistent. Despite this potential source of error, the CIL is reliable enough to provide a general idea of whether patterns exist in the placement of the graffiti.

12 brothel, although whether or not there was another spatial organizing paradigm in effect is unclear from the rest of the evidence. Content Table III.4: Sexual Practices in the Graffiti of the Brothel at Pompeii Room Room Room Room Room b c d e f 1 (20%) 4 (17%) 2/1 19/1 Fututio/ ---(21%) (27%) Fellatio ------6 (25%) ------Irrumatio ------1 (4%) -------Pedicatio ---------1 (7%) 2 (3%) Cunnilingus ---------------All explicit ---1 (20%) 11 (46%) 4 (29%) 22 (30%) sexual references Total Graffiti 2 5 24 14 73 Hallways 1 (6%) ---------1 (6%) 2 (12%) 16 Total 29 (22%) 6 (4%) 1 (.7%) 3 (2%) 1 (.7%) 40 (30%) 134

Contrary to expectation, less than one-third of the graffiti in the brothel has erotic content (see table III.1 above). By examining the types of sexual practices represented in the graffiti, we may be able to develop a better idea of both the clients and the prostitutes. We will also see how certain practices may have been restricted, whether by intent or default, to certain areas of the brothel. The erotic graffiti cover five sexual practices. Most often mentioned is fututio. This sex act refers to the dominant/active/male role in heterosexual intercourse (Adams 118). The tone of the term is fairly neutral, especially in the context of the brothel, where the subtext is to praise the virility of the man involved in the act (Ibid. 119-120). Occasionally fututio can be used to refer to male on male anal sex (Ibid. 121). In the graffiti at the brothel there are several candidates that may fall into this category. CIL 2188 records, Scordopordonicus here fucks well whomever he wishes, where the relative pronoun is masculine. This formula, with the name Placidus substituted, reappears in CIL 2265. Adams suggests, however, that these examples may display the encroachment of the masculine forms of the relative on the feminine (Ibid.).

13 Women can also make claims involving fututio. One of the most well-known inscriptions from the brothel claims, FVTVTA SVM HIC, or I (a woman) was fucked here (CIL 2217). A related term is the feminine noun fututrix, which is found in Greek transcription in CIL 2204 (Ibid. 122). Adams notes that this term, rather than having an active meaning, usually has the passive meaning of she who is fucked (Ibid.). Another term found in the graffiti in the brothel is fututor (CIL 2242) or futor (CIL 2248), which must be a noun meaning he who fucks. After fututio, fellatio was the next popular sexual activity in the brothel with six references, all located in room d. Fellatio is oral sex practiced on a male, usually by a female. When a female practitioner was implicated in fellatio, the phrase was neutral, although it was considered extremely insulting if a male citizen was implied to be a practitioner (Ibid. 131).15 Five out of the six examples in the brothel are concerned with female practitioners, while one might refer to a male fellator: VIIR/ FIIL(A)S, which may be translated as man, you suck (CIL 2266).16 If this indeed is the proper translation, it would probably be an example of an insult, and not a true reflection of male-male fellatio. The five sure references to female-practiced fellatio mention the names of four women: Fortunata (2259, 2275), Myrtale (2268), Murtis (2273), and Nice (2278). The names Fortunata and Myrtale are seen again in the same room, although not in a specifically sexual context (2266: FORTVNATA SIC, and 2271: MYRTALE CCASS/). Another reference to Murtis is found at the back of the hallway, where she is called a FIILATRIS, or she-who-sucks (CIL 2292). All the graffiti referring to the act of fellatio are found in room d, which is the first room on the right side of the brothel. While fututio dominates the sexual practices of all the other rooms, fututio is outnumbered by fellatio references in room

Thanks to Jack Mitchell for pointing out that the moral standards for men were different based on their status. The moral standard for male slaves was less demanding than for male citizens. 16 The translation of this graffito is not sure. I have read vir, man, for VIIR, although it could equally be transcribed ver based on the usual substitution of double I for E. What meaning ver fellas would have is unclear, which is why I lean towards the stated reading.

14 d, suggesting that oral sex may have been the specialty of this room. Possible support for this comes from the only occurrence of a related sexual activity, irrumatio, in the brothel. This activity, sparsely recorded in Pompeiis graffiti,17 refers to a male who forces someone to fellate him. Unlike fututio and fellatio, irrumatio was often used as a hostile act, or as a threatening joke to indicate the desire to shut someone up (e.g.: Ill make you shut up by irrumatio-ing you!) (Ibid. 136-7). Unfortunately it cannot be known if this reflects the actual occurrence of irrumatio, or if it was meant to be a joke to whoever read aloud the graffiti. The remaining two sexual practices are pedicatio, with three references (CIL 2194, 2210, 2254) and cunnilingus (2257). Pedicatio most often refers to male-male penetration, although it can occasionally encompass male-female penetration (Adams 123). This activity can often have threatening or humorous overtones. Adams posits a threatening tone for CIL 2254: RATIO MI CVM PONIS / BATACARII TE PEDICARO / ANA. The other two examples can be viewed either as claiming a certain sexual practice, or as a joke played on other clients. CIL 2194 states I, Pheobus, practice pedicatio. Either this was written by Phoebus who wishes to make known his activity, or someone else wrote this, perhaps as an insult to Phoebus. CIL 2210 can also be seen in two ways. I wish to practice pedicatio can either be a true statement from a client, or a verbal joke played on the viewer/reader, who would be iterating the statement out-loud. We have evidence of such sexual jokes playing on the vocalizing of graffiti (see Adams 124), so the latter seems entirely plausible. Regardless of the actual intention of the author, it is interesting to note that all references to pedicatio are found in the two rooms on the southern side of the brothel. We also have one example of cunnilingus in the hallway: FROTO PLAN LINGIT CVMNVM (2257). Again, we cannot be sure of the intention of the author. Cunnilingus was seen as not befitting a man since the man would be in the position of giving pleasure rather than

Adams notes only 6 examples in CIL IV (125).

15 receiving pleasure. Likewise, women are most often seen as the givers of pleasure, not the recipients. As such, accusations of cunnilingus can be humorous or insulting. Keeping this in mind, this graffito may have been intended as an insult to whoever was doing the cunnilingus.18

Authorship and Agency The wide variety of inscriptions in the brothel allows for a unique peek back at the actual workers and clients of the brothel. As we have seen above, there is at least one graffito positively identified as having been written by a woman/prostitute (CIL 2217). Another set of graffiti may also have been written by the prostitutes. These graffiti refer to acts of sexual prowess in the second person and take the typical form of X, you fuck really well with X being a male name. There are second person references to women, but they refer to fellatiothis will be addressed below (CIL 2268, 2273). Adams supports the idea that second-person graffiti addressed to men was written by the prostitutes themselves (Adams 120). Before we assign authorship to the workers, though, we have to consider two mitigating circumstances. The first question we must ask is if the workers were likely to be literate. Scholars seem to unanimously agree that the prostitutes at the brothel were most likely slave women. If this is so, were female slaves literate? Or perhaps this suggests the opposite, that the workers at the brothel were not slaves. The second person statements addressed to women may lend support for the idea that the workers were literate. Presumably a graffito written in the second person would function better if the audience/subject were able to read and understand the graffito.19 If we accept this as generally true, we would need to admit the possibility that Myrtale and Murtis were able to read (see CIL 2268, 2273). Another issue to consider is the roll of humor and banter. A graffito

The subject of the inscription is unclear. Perhaps FROTO PLAN is some sort of name, although it does not resemble a typical Latin name. 19 I admit that this may be a problematic statement and would need further research into graffiti as a discourse. Until such scholarship is done, I stand by my logical generalization.

16 claming, Felix, you fuck well (CIL 2176) may have been authored by Felix to proclaim his virility from the authoritative voice that comes from the use of the second person. Since the use and possible implications of deception and posturing in graffiti is complex, we will have to leave open both possibilities. In addition to direct address, there are also graffiti that simply state the name or title of a woman. At the shorter and simpler end of the range is a graffito with only a few letters that substitute for a whole name; CIL 2293: MYR, probably standing in for Myrtis. The other graffiti either mention the name of a woman or a title. There are twelve different womens names: the Daughter of Salvius (2173), Nike from Crete (2178a), Panta (2178b), Beronice (2198, 2256), Restituta with the pretty face (2202) Mola she-who-is-fucked (2204), a Conqueress (2212), Cressa, Victoria (2225, 2226, 2227), Marca (2235), Fortuna (2266), and probably the same Myrtis seen in the three letter graffito, here as Myrtis she-who-sucks (2292). The question of authorship is particularly difficult in the case of women who are given a sex-related title. Would Myrtis want to claim herself as a sucker, or would Mola proclaim herself as a fuck-tress? Since these titles are related to their job performance, there may not have been hesitation for women in claiming these titles. As for the graffiti with only names and not titles, it would seem that the workers themselves were the authors. The prostitutes would have a stake in making an identity claim, whereas the possibility that the clients inscribed the prostitutes names on the walls falls short because there is no understandable motivation. The focus in this section on the prostitutes authorship is not meant in any way to deny the authorship of men, which will also be addressed later on. Given the literacy gap between men and women and the power dynamics between client and prostitutes, one would be remiss not to problematize and investigate thoroughly claims to womens agency. Now that we have

17 raised possible arguments against the prostitutes authorship and shown them less compelling that arguments for agency, we can more confidently assert that at least some of the prostitutes working at the brothel were literate and wrote graffiti.

IV. Identity and Relationships Recovering the Individual Since one of the driving questions behind this paper is to gain a more precise understanding of the people involved in the brothel, both clients and prostitutes, we will now explore what stories the evidence can tell us. Uncovering the representation of class in the graffiti may also help us understand who partook of the brothels services. Analysis of the graffiti suggests that most patrons were lower class based on their use of only one name. Several occupations have been preserved in the graffiti. We have three references to soldiers (2180, 2230, 2290) and even a perfumer (2184), supporting the belief that the brothel catered to working class individuals. The range of prices listed in the graffiti complicates the claim to lower class clients. One inscription records the cost for service as a denarius (2193), which is eight times the normal cost of 2 asses for a prostitute at Pompeii. Another graffito might represent a price of 12 asses for pedicatio (2197), while the price for fellatio was 5 asses (2278). Given that the only recorded prices in the brothel range from above average to astronomical, this suggests perhaps more variation in clients than previously assumed. Another way in which we can learn about the patrons and workers is to explore the sexual practices shown in the images and described in the graffiti. In addition to penile-vaginal sex,

graffiti boasts of fellatio, pedicatio, irrumatio, and cunnilingus. As shown above, not all of these claims are unproblematic, but the significance of the inclusion of these other sexual activities

18 remains. Not only do we find a broader anatomical vocabulary in the use of non-genital body parts to give pleasure, but we also have a break from heterosexual sex acts. Pedicatio normally involves a sex act between two men (Adams 123). This raises the possibility that some of the prostitutes were male, which has not been raised previously by scholars. Additional textual support can be found in the graffiti. Two separate male clients were said to have fucked well whomever he wished (CIL 2185, 2265). As mentioned above, the relative pronoun is masculine, but may represent a corruption of the feminine. We also have graffiti that may suggest that not all sex acts in the brothel were between only two people. CIL 2192 states, 17 days before the Kalens of July / Hermeros with Phileteros and Caphisus fucked here. Whether or not they all were serviced at once is not clear, but the possibility or group sex remains. Other groups or male/male sex acts are elsewhere in the graffiti. CIL 2249, Hyginus with Messius here could either refer to sexual activity between the two males (with Messius as the object), or it may be that both names are the subjects of an action with a third party. The lack of grammatical consistency in graffiti makes it hard to judge either way, although Adams leans towards the latter explanation (121).

Extension of Relationships In order to understand the types of relationships that developed at and through the brothel, it is necessary to turn first to the types of sensory interaction the brothel affords. Beyond the obvious sexual interactions, the brothel displays evidence of interesting sensory dynamics. No evidence has been preserved of doors, pivot holes, of any markings in the doorframes that would indicate barriers or even a curtain rod. There is no evidence either for furniture in the rooms that would have filled a similar purpose. Clients would then have no expectation of

19 privacy and would be subject to the sight of anyone else who happened to be in the brothel. The act of spectating is even preserved in the graffiti. One of the inscriptions states simply, we saw this (2211), although it is unsure what this (HOC) is. In addition, the lack of doors and the presence of lightwells between the northern rooms and the hallway (plate 3 and 4) and between rooms d and c suggests that sound could have easily traveled among the various spaces of the brothel as well. While the possibility still exists that there were privacy devices made of ephemeral material that was not preserved, sound and perhaps even peeping would still have been possible. The lack of concern for privacy is supported by the clients themselves. As seen in table III.I, the largest category of graffiti is the inscription of a name (43%). The clients of the brothel seem most interested in simply leaving their mark on the brothel by laying claim to the location rather than a specific sex act that occurred there. This realization has broad implications for understanding of the types of interactions that occur within spaces formerly designated soley as erotic or sexual. Brothels, in addition to being places of exchanging sex for money, are also arenas where men can congregate and build bonds of friendship, or societas. Further support for extending the types of relationships into non-sexual areas comes from the graffiti. Several of the graffiti preserve grafitti referring to groups of men. As seen above, we have we saw this (2211) and 17 days before the Kalens of July / Hermeros with Phileteros and Caphisus fucked here (CIL 2192). Another graffito with an implied grouping is 2238: we came. Despite the vernacular usage today, to come in antiquity meant simply to arrive somewhere. These firstperson plural graffiti reinforce the presence of groups of clients. In addition, the use of secondperson singular verbs in the graffiti suggests a dialogue not only between the male clients, but also includes the prostitutes. And lastly, the strongest evidence that the brothel was a place

20 where friendships were explored and solidified comes from two graffiti introduced in the second part of this paper: Sabinus <sends/gives> greeting to Proclus (2208) and [IAS] welcomes/greets Magnus (2231). Sabinus and the author of CIL 2231 have an expectation that Proclus and Magnus, respectively, will be present at some time to read their greeting. Table IV.1: Parsing of the Graffiti in the Brothel at Pompeii 1st/sing. 2nd/sing. 3rd/sing 1st/plural Number of 10 (23%)21 12 (27%)22 18 (41%)23 2 (5%)24 graffiti20 Female 1 (10%) 2 (17%) 3 (17%) ? Male 9 (90%) 10 (83%) 16 (83%) ? 3rd/plural 1 (2%)25 ---1 (100%) Infinitive 1 (2%)26 ---1 (100%)

V. Conclusions The first step taken in this paper was to analyze the spatial strategies and authorship possibilities embodied in the visual aspects of the brothel to determine the most discursive and dynamic arena for making claims of identity, practice, and relationships. The frescoes employed strategies that discouraged interaction and created distance between the image and viewer, while the graffiti was accessible in multiple senses and encouraged interaction. Similarly, while the frescoes had a very limited authorship in terms of both people and time period, the graffiti offered an almost limitless accessibility to people throughout time. The breadth of graffiti throughout the different spaces within the brothel was an enabling factor both in making graffiti interactive and also in creating meaning. Once graffiti is revealed as a dynamic, discursive

20 21

Percentages reflect a division by the total number of conjugated graffiti. CIL 2175, 2191, 2194, 2199, 2200, 2203, 2210, 2217, 2246, 2277 22 CIL 2176, 2185, 2186, 2187, 2219, 2253, 2258a, 2260, 2266, 2268, 2273, 2274 23 CIL 2178, 2184, 2188, 2193, 2195, 2216, 2218, 2232, 2241, 2247, 2257, 2258, 2258a, 2259, 2265, 2275, 2278, 2288 24 CIL 2211, 2238. The gender of the verb is not known since the actions, seeing and coming, could be used of both males and females. 25 CIL 2192 26 CIL 2198. Since the active infinitive of futuo is used here, one should assume a male subject.

21 medium, it can be probed to answer questions as to real identities and relationships that played out in the brothel. Analysis of the graffiti has proven a rich mine for information about both the clients and workers in the brother. The discovery of female authorship necessitates that at least some of the prostitutes were literate. A variety of sexual acts were described in the graffiti, such as fellatio, irrumatio, pedicatio, and cunnilingus which branch out beyond heterosexual couplings. Also, less than a third of the graffiti is of a sexual nature, suggesting a variety of non-sexual relationships. The prominent practice of naming, in addition to statements involving groups and direct reference to other patrons, suggests a thriving community of clients and patrons practicing and creating bonds of societas. The finding of a thriving discourse involving both sexual and non sexual material calls into question the boundaries we create in scholarly discourse between erotic and non-erotic material. To look at the brothel as only a place of sex-for-sale is to miss important relationships that are developed between patrons and workers by means of the graffiti. Based on the finding in this paper, I would suggest that sites normally characterized as erotic be re-examined employing multiple sets of evidence in order to tease out the nuances, both sexual and nonsexual, of their functioning.


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