An ancient brothel in the Roman town of Pompeii, known as “the den of the she-wolf”, is to reopen to the public on Monday after restoration work.
The cramped corridors of the brothel are decorated with erotic frescoes depicting prostitutes entertaining their clients in various positions.
The walls are etched with ribald graffiti, scratched by the sex workers as well as their customers, including “Murtis, you suck well” and “Thrust slowly.”
The building has been closed off and on since October 2018, first because of damage caused by heavy rain and bad weather, then from March last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Brothels in ancient Rome were known as “lupanar” or wolf dens, which derived from the nickname for a prostitute – “lupa” or she-wolf.
The inside of the Pompeii brothel – prostitutes worked in small cells with stone or wooden beds
The two-storey brothel in Pompeii, which offered Roman men the sexual services of both male and female prostitutes, was first excavated in 1862.
It survived the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79, which buried Pompeii under a thick layer of ash and pumice.
Prostitutes, most of whom were slaves, worked in small cells, barely big enough for a bed made of stone or wood. The cells had no doors but may have been closed off with curtains.
The lupanar of Pompeii was “a two-storey building dedicated to prostitution, a trade the was also practised in houses and inns. It is known for its collection of paintings with erotic scenes which decorate the corridors of the ground floor, illustrating as if in a catalogue the services that were offered,” the archeological site said in a statement.
“Pompeii is a huge open-air museum. Between public buildings, houses, shops and streets it is possible to relive the atmosphere of the daily life of the Roman era.”
The brothel has always been “one of the most popular buildings” among visitors.
It inspired a recently-published book, The Wolf Den, by the author Elodie Harper, which imagines the lives of the women who were forced to work there.
The Villa of the Mysteries is famous for its lavish frescoes
Credit: Pompeii Archeological Park
Also reopening to the public is the Villa dei Misteri or Villa of the Mysteries, so named for exquisite frescoes that depict a young woman being initiated into a mystery cult dedicated to Dionysus or Bacchus, perhaps in preparation for marriage.
The frescoes were painted around 60BC and decorate one of the many rooms in the large suburban villa, located on the outskirts of Pompeii.