Does Pompeii really deserve its reputation as a city of vice 'punished' by the eruption for its sinful ways? Were there really brothels and prostitutes on every corner of its streets? Or was it rather, like so many other towns, simply protected by Venus, with the temple of the goddess of love near the harbour, lots of inscriptions on the walls, and only one whorehouse openly operating as such? Were the numerous and renowned erotic frescoes and graffiti really licentious or do they only appear so to our prudish eyes and Christian morality? What is certain is that the Romans had a less inhibited attitude towards sex than we do. They talked and joked about it with a naturalness that we have lost. In this respect the Pompeians were no more dissolute than any other citizens of the empire. At the same time, however, there was something very particular and odd about the city. The sheer number and variety of sexual references in Pompeii in 79 AD has no parallel in the known Roman world.
The possibility that the city was, at least in that period, something more than a simple sea port like so many others, is an intriguing hypothesis and one that the pages of this book explore and illustrate while seeking to preserve the slender thread that still links us to that ancient and vital slice of hummanity.
Cinzia Dal Maso is a Venetian expert on archaeology and a journalist who loves to study the past in order to understand the present. She writes for 'La Repubblica' and 'Il Sole 24 Ore' as well as for a number of national and international magazines. She runs the blog called 'Filelleni': rather irreverent incursions, critiques and reflections on the use of the past in the contemporary world.
Contents: Pompeii, The 'Sinful City'; The Early Discoveries and the Secret Cabinet; More Brothels Than Inhabitants?; Phallocracy; Eros, Between Fun and Irony; Sex Shop; Sacred Love; The Writing on the Wall; Profane Love; Baths, Taverns and Beds by the Hour; Haec Veneris Sedes; Chronology.