Bring back some good or bad memories


May 17, 2021

These Roman Phallic Carvings in Pompeii Euphemistically Pointed the Way to Brothels

Phallic symbols can be found not only as graffiti roughly drawn and carved onto public walls, but built into the roads as well in Pompeii, Italy. It is guessed that the phallic symbols on the streets point towards the nearest brothel, to direct foreign sailors who may be heavily intoxicated and/or unable to speak the local language.

In the ancient Roman empire, prostitution was legal and did not have the stigma that it has today. Because Pompeii was a port city, sailors commonly visited the brothels to blow of some steam after a long voyage.

As many of the sailors did not speak the local language or were too intoxicated to do so, the brothels had a sort of “menu” to select from. Graphic pornography paintings decorated the buildings, and sailors were thought to point and choose an act they would like to pay for, before being shown to their room.

The brothel rooms were small and uncomfortable, and built that way on purpose. Stone beds were meant to be uncomfortable, so that visitors would not fall asleep after their time was up, wasting the prostitutes’ time and costing the brothel money.

1 comment:

  1. Most Romans slept on the floor and any beds, except those in expensive villas, were stone or brick. They were covered with mattresses of straw or hay and, if available, layers of fabric that could be rinsed. Since those materials were carbonized by the eruption of Vesuvius (and early these 1862 excavations disregarded it as random ash) any evidence was lost.
    But there is no evidence that they served to make the the customers leave more quickly. I suggest you read "The Brothel of Pompeii: Sex, Class, and Gender at the Margins of Roman Society"
    Sarah Levin-Richardson, PhD




Browse by Decades

Popular Posts


09 10