Houses of Ill Repute: The Archaeology of Brothels, Houses, and Taverns in the Greek World

Houses of Ill Repute: The Archaeology of Brothels, Houses, and Taverns in the Greek World

Houses of Ill Repute: The Archaeology of Brothels, Houses, and Taverns in the Greek World

Houses of Ill Repute: The Archaeology of Brothels, Houses, and Taverns in the Greek World

Synopsis

The study of ancient Greek urbanism has moved from examining the evidence for town planning and the organization of the city-state, or polis, to considerations of "everyday life." That is, it has moved from studying the public (fortifications, marketplaces, council houses, gymnasiums, temples, theaters, fountain houses) to studying the private (the physical remains of Greek houses). But what of those buildings that housed activities neither public nor private--brothels, taverns, and other homes of illicit activity? Can they be distinguished from houses? Were businesses like these run from homes? Classical Athenian writers attest to a diverse urban landscape that included tenement houses ( sunoikiai), inns ( diaitai, pandokeia), factories ( ergasteria), taverns ( kapelia), gambling dens ( skirapheia), training schools ( didaskaleia), and brothels ( porneia), yet, despite our knowledge of specific terms, associating them with actual physical remains has not been easy. One such writer, Isaeus, mentions tenement houses that hosted prostitutes and wine sellers, while his contemporary Aeschines refers to doctors, smiths, fullers, carpenters, and pimps renting space. Were tenement houses not simply multi-inhabitant spaces but also multipurpose ones?

Houses of Ill Repute is the first book to focus on the difficulties of distinguishing private and semiprivate spaces. While others have studied houses or brothels, this volume looks at both together. The chapters, by leading scholars in the field, address such questions as "What is a house?" and "Did the business of prostitution leave behind a unique archaeological record?" Presenting several approaches to identifying and studying distinctions between domestic residences and houses of ill repute, and drawing on the fields of literature, history, and art history and theory, the volume's contributors provide a way forward for the study of domestic and entertainment spaces in the Hellenic world.

Contributors: Bradley A. Ault, Allison Glazebrook, Mark L. Lawall, Kathleen M. Lynch, David Scahill, Amy C. Smith, Monika Trümper, Barbara Tsakirgis.

Excerpt

Allison Glazebrook and Barbara Tsakirgis

The study of Hellenic urbanism has developed from an investigation of the evidence for town planning, the identification of particular architectural features constituting a polis (fortifications, agora, bouleuterion, prytaneion, gymnasium, temple, theater, and fountain houses), to considerations of “everyday life” based on the physical remains of private structures, Greek oikiai. But what about activity that exists somewhere between the public and private realms? Classical Athenian writers attest to a diverse urban landscape that includes not only private houses but also tenement houses (sunoikiai), inns (diaitai, pandokeia), factories (ergastēria), taverns (kapēleia), gambling dens (skirapheia), training schools (didaskaleia), and brothels (porneia) (Isae. 6.19–21; Ar. Vesp. 109–14, 550; Dem. 27.19 and 28.12; Isoc. 287; Aeschin. 1.24). Yet, despite our knowledge of specific terminology, associating these terms with actual physical remains is not an easy task. Isaeus mentions a sunoikia in the Peiraeus housing prostitutes and one in the Kerameikos district selling wine (Isae. 6.19–20). Aeschines refers to doctors, smiths, fullers, carpenters, and pimps renting space in another (1.24). the term sunoikia, regularly translated as tenement house, might have implied not simply multioccupancy, but also multipurpose function.

Current research on Greek domestic architecture, furthermore, has revealed the lack of zoning in ancient Greek cities (Tsakirgis 2005) and raises questions concerning whether or not the physical polis should be thought of in terms of a modern city where houses and commercial areas are largely separate. Apollodoros, for example, suggests that his opponent Stephanos was running a brothel out of his oikia ([Dem.] 59.67), that is, mixing private residential with commercial function in one building. Depending on the interpretation of this . . .

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