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In recent years, a of classical scholars have turned their attention to prostitution in the ancient world.
Marguerite Johnson does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. In our series on sexual histories, authors explore changing sexual mores from antiquity to today. Like the anxious men who began excavations at Pompeii in the 18th century and discovered more about the ancient Italians than they had bargained for — such as phallic-shaped lamps — historians of sex are regularly confronted with case studies from the past that challenge their own ethics. Those who worked the streets of Pompeii and served clients in the brothels lived hard lives, yet many of the murals that survive depict the women as erotic and exotic. Murals from brothels and buildings that served as brothels such as inns, lunch counters, and taverns show fair-skinned women, naked except for the occasional breast bandwith stylised hair, in a variety of sexual positions with young, tanned, athletic men.