The Brothels of Pompeii – Pompei, Italy - Atlas Obscura

Pompei, Italy

The Brothels of Pompeii

Erotic art covers the walls of the largest ancient pleasure palace. 

The ancient lupanar (brothel) Roman city of Pompeii still stands, its walls still adorned with images of the erotic arts, despite the destruction of the city in a volcanic eruption in 79.

Although most of the erotic art was ushered out of the ancient city and into private collections or the extraordinary collection known as the Gabinetto Segreto in Naples, the frescos in the Lupanar Grande still adorn the walls above stone beds where the prostitutes of Pompeii plied their trade. Other erotic art at Pompeii remains intact at the House of the Vetti and the Suburban Baths.

It is unclear whether the images were intended to act specifically as a sort of sexual menu, enumerating the pleasures available, or if they were merely thematically appropriate atmospheric decoration. The frescos depict graphically sexual scenes, some with more artistry than others. 

Ancient graffiti covers the walls, where 10 small rooms with stone beds once served customers. The Lupanar Grande was the largest of Pompeii’s known brothels, most of which were one-room affairs, much more modest than this relative pleasure palace. 

Elsewhere in town, the pricing structure of the brothels are recorded at the Basilica, revealing the very reasonable and varied rates and services available.

Know Before You Go

The Lupanar is a few blocks east of the forum at Vico del Lupanare and Vico del Balcone Pensile

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