Prostitute and client on a Roman fresco from the lupanare, Pompeii, 50 CE. Though prostitution flourished, the art form of portraying sex activities was totally repressed in Byzantium. Byzantine prostitutes were relegated to “Red Light Districts” in the same way that the prostitutes of Rome lived and worked predominantly in Subura and near the Circus Maximus. Taverns along the official Roman roads had barmaids that catered to all the needs of travelers. They served wine, danced, and led men upstairs to rooms for sex. According to the Byzantine laws, a barmaid could not be prosecuted for adultery since she was a prostitute (CJ 9.9.28). Ecclesiastical canons forbade the clergy from entering such establishments. Brothels were also available in every large town of the Byzantine Empire. The prostitutes, serving in these establishments, were slaves and the property of a pimp (leno) or of a Madam (lena). Often such establishments were in the vicinity of the baths where these “ladies of the night” strolled on balconies to attract passersby. Some baths were reserved only for prostitutes and their clients, so respectable ladies never entered.
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