The Peculiar Status of Prostitutes


Along with gladiators and actors who also exuded a sexual allure, prostitutes were regarded as shameful. Even if free by birth, they were deprived of any social standing and most protections under Roman law.

Still, they were a significant part of the Roman economy. In The Deadliest Lie, Binyamin explains to Miriam that when he travels along the Via Appia to his gladiator school, he’ll be able to engage prostitutes:

You get food, wine, and lodging in a room with a cot, chamber pot, and candle holder. Of course, you have to share the bed with as many fellow travelers as can cram in, but you have an opportunity to change your mule and carriage, relax in the public baths, and hire a prostitute.

No wonder. Prostitution was a valuable industry. The wealthy who invested in brothel management and profited from the taxes levied on prostitutes certainly didn’t miss the opportunity to promote prostitution in inns, lodges, and taverns.

How ironic then that although prostitutes were regarded as shameful, they participated in religious festivals! And if they were then not complete outcasts, was their participation to honor their economic significance?

Aside from following Miriam into the underbelly of Alexandria on a maddening search for high-stakes documents, read The Deadliest Lie to observe other contradictions in Roman life as well. The book has been praised for both its historical accuracy and riveting suspense. Just click here.


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