PROSTITUTES IN MIRIAM’S ALEXANDRIA
Prostitutes were a recognized and substantial contributor to Alexandrian life. In THE DEADLIEST LIE, Miriam mentions them frequently and nonchalantly. For example, she mentions them among the various people she encounters in the agora:
Haranging hawkers and hucksters, orators and priests, soothsayers and astrologers, tricksters and swindlers, magicians and conjurers, snake charmers and peddlers, wizards and sorcerers…[along with] hordes of slaves, pickpockets, cutthroats, musicians, Oriental dancers, prostitutes, loiterers, and speculators.
Phoebe and Miriam celebrate the Isis Festival at the Flamingo’s Tongue, the smoke-filled restaurant just east of the Heptastadion that seasons the neighborhood with the aroma of fried onions. Entertainment follows dinner on such festive occasions:
We’d enjoy the jugglers, the performing dogs, and the acrobats in spangled costumes until the afternoon mellowed into dusk. By then the vulgarity of the entertainment would spike for an audience now held aloft by food and wine. The mimes would perform their sketches about prostitutes and pimps or adulterous wives and truant schoolboys for the lustful patrons leaping to their feet like hired dancers.
But perhaps their importance is best reflected in the cost to leave the city. The fee for an exit visa varied according to the traveler’s occupation. The captain of a merchant ship paid 8 drachmas, about 4-8 times what an ordinary laborer made in a day, but a prostitute paid 100 or more drachmas.
The good news is, despite your importance, you won’t have to pay anything to leave Alexandria. You’ll need an entrance visa, however. Just click here to apply.