Prostitution, Sexuality, and the Law in Ancient Rome

Prostitution, Sexuality, and the Law in Ancient Rome

Prostitution, Sexuality, and the Law in Ancient Rome

Prostitution, Sexuality, and the Law in Ancient Rome

Synopsis

This is a study of the legal rules affecting the practice of female prostitution at Rome approximately from 200 B. C. to A. D. 250. It examines the formation and precise content of the legal norms developed for prostitution and those engaged in this profession, with close attention to theirsocial context. McGinn's unique study explores the "fit" between the law-system and the socio-economic reality while shedding light on important questions concerning marginal groups, marriage, sexual behavior, the family, slavery, and citizen status, particularly that of women.

Excerpt

Despite the development in recent years of intense scholarly interest in the institutions of marriage and the family and the status of women in Greco-Roman antiquity and despite the survival of a great number of sources relevant to the topic (the sources are literary, legal, epigraphical, and archeological in nature), no serious and detailed study of prostitution in classical Rome has ever been attempted. This situation contrasts sharply with patterns of research in other historical periods, such as the Middle Ages and nineteenth-and twentieth-century Europe and the United States, where historians have made a substantial contribution to our knowledge about prostitution. An important example is the work of American feminist historians, who have examined in detail such questions as the formation of policy and why and how women become prostitutes.

This work fills part of the gap in our knowledge about prostitution in antiquity. It originated with my doctoral dissertation, entitled Prostitution and Julio-Claudian Legislation: The Formation of Social Policy in Early Imperial Rome, written under the supervision of Bruce W. Frier at the University of Michigan and completed in

The need for such a study is acknowledged by Stroh, “Liebeskunst” (1979) 335; Finley, Slavery
(1980) 96, with n. 14. Apart from some popular surveys made by nonspecialists, one can cite two
articles by Herter, listed as Herter 1 (1957) and 2 (1960) in the Bibliography, that are essentially
collections of sources. An article by Adams, “Words” (1983), is an isolated example of an analytical
approach and invaluable for its presentation of Latin terminology relating to prostitutes and prostitution.
For late antiquity, see the study by Leontsini, Prostitution (1989). I am gratified by the engagement
with elements of my dissertation and other published work shown by Sicari, Prostituzione (1991), and
by Riggsby, “Lenocinium” (1995).

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