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Prostitutes and Their Exit Visas

In The Deadliest Lie, Miriam’s father was horrified when his son, Binyamin, told him he wanted to be a gladiator. What’s more he wanted to train in Capua, the oldest and most famous gladiator school in the empire, the one Spartacus made famous.

“A gladiator? Are you crazy? How do you expect to get to Capua? First you’d have to book passage on a grain ship to Rome, apply to the governor for an exit visa, and pay the port official for that visa.”

Rest assured, Miriam’s father went on and on to discourage his son but to no avail.

You may be familiar with visas that grant permission to enter a country, but Roman Alexandria required an exit visa, a government-issued document granting permission to leave. And so, the cost of an exit visa was used to limit the departure of those deemed most valuable to the economy. Accordingly, a sea captain would have had to pay 8 drachmas—eight times a simple laborer's daily earning—a soldier’s wife would have to pay 20, but a prostitute would have to pay at least 100.

Fortunately, your worth is not based on these values. Using this measure, Miriam would probably pay less than 3 drachmas, but if you read The Deadliest Lie, you’d see that she’s worth so much more. To check out why, just click here.


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