I have done quite a bit of research on the sexuality of ancient Greeks, combining my love of sex and history is always a good thing. I will be splitting the topics up into different posts to make it easier to read and to pick and choose what is interesting to you. I start off with one of the earliest professions: prostitution.

          Prostitution was common in ancient Greece, especially in harbor cities like Athens. The busiest places in such cities were the places that prostitutes congregated, such as markets, the harbor, and the streets leading to the harbor. Street prostitution is similar to what it is now, meaning that women wait on the side of roads, leaning against buildings or sitting on steps, waiting for their next job. These street walkers would use whatever space is available to them to perform their job, similar to today’s prostitutes. The women and their client would use rooms made available to them by the local inns, dark corners in alley ways or even public baths. The difference between then and now is that prostitution was legal and relatively shameless in ancient Greece, also; prostitution was supervised by the city officials.
          Brothels were also a common sight in ancient Greece. The biggest difference between modern times and ancient times in regards to brothels is that brothels were under supervision of the city officials. The owners or operators of the brothels had to pay taxes to the state, just like other businesses. The brothels routinely held the lowest ranks of prostitutes, and due to this fact, it was relatively cheap to visit a brothel in ancient Greece. It was common to have the women of the brothel on display, wearing very little in order to entice prospective clients, similar to modern Amsterdam. The men would choose which prostitute suited their individual tastes and the fee was paid in advance to the brothel-keeper. Brothels were traditionally kept closed until late in the afternoon, this was to assure that the men of the cities, especially the young ones, would not skip out on their duties at the enticement of a beautiful available lady.
          The city of Pompeii’s brothels featured obscene paintings above each woman’s quarters, illustrating her specialty. These paintings can be seen up until this day in buildings that have been well preserved. Another artifact that gives evidence to the daily life of ancient prostitutes is one well-preserved shoe. The sole of this shoe has the words ‘follow me’ carved into the bottom. When the woman was walking on the hard-packed streets of the cities, she would leave a path for patrons to follow and as a way for people to know her profession.
          One thing that people do not see too often in today’s society is male prostitutes. Male prostitution was not that uncommon in ancient Greece, with beautiful boys selling their skills alongside the female prostitutes in temples. Male prostitutes could not only be bought by the hour or by the sexual act, but they could also be contracted out to an individual willing to pay them for a period of time. There is no evidence that this is also possible for the female prostitutes. Patrons had a choice of being able to have a boy alone or with a female prostitute.
          A final note on prostitution, when a prostitute passed away, her profession was mentioned on her gravestone. This honor is similar to the respects given to the town potter or a soldier. This fact indicates that it was not shameful to the deceased or shameful in general to sell oneself for money in the times of ancient Greece.
          I hope you enjoyed learning about prostitution in ancient Greece, stay tuned for the next in the series.

*Originally posted on November 10, 2011*