chapter  5
20 Pages


We need to understand at the outset that the sale of sex and the other activities of the infames were based on a market principle, in which pro t could be gained from enterprises undertaken in the city (Flemming 1999 and McGinn 2004 on prostitution as an economic activity). The location of these activities in buildings that were designed for the sale of commercial sex forms a distribution pattern, quite distinct from that of bakeries or wool production discussed in the previous chapter (Wallace-Hadrill 1995 for discussion of evidence; as a result of delay in publication, this appeared after Laurence 1994a). These activities competed for space in the city with other interests. For example, the largest purpose-built brothel is not located on a major through-route but on a side street (for detailed description see Clarke 1998: 196-206). The forces that caused this location to be desirable for the building of a brothel need to be explained and understood. What I do not wish to argue for is any type of zoning based solely on morality or moral geography (this was not clear in the original 1994 version of this book, see De Felice 2001; McGinn 2002, 2004: 78-111; Ellis 2004). It needs to be stated that today the semantic and cultural meaning of ‘zoning’ varies from one Anglophone nation to another, and may imply quite different levels of segregation according to a person’s normative experience in the modern world (the de nition of ‘moral geography’ or ‘moral zoning’ attributed to the rst edition might coincide with McGinn’s [2002: 30] ‘commercial-erotic synergy’ in Regio 7). The explanation for the location of Pompeii’s largest brothel and other archaeologically attested places of ‘deviance’ lies instead in the subtle interplay of regulation, ideology and socio-cultural coercion that the elite held over the free population and their enslaved dependents (see Wallace-Hadrill 1995). Prostitution was a necessity in Roman society for the maintenance of monogamy within marriage and the provision of sex for slaves (Clarke 1998: 199; Flemming 1999: 45). Although the entrepreneurs or slave owners of prostitutes were denounced, the customers or consumers of commercial sex were not. The shape of the distribution pattern of deviance, as de ned in textual sources, was a product of those who controlled the city and dominated urban space – the elite (Ellis 2004 underplays this possibility, in favour of economic forces). From surviving evidence we can see, today, only a partial record of the ways in which the elite regulated these activities (McGinn 2002 highlights the limits of evidence, also Flemming 1999: 54), but the location of the main purposebuilt brothel attests to the success of their activities in this eld. What we do know needs further discussion.