Eternal Truths from Pompeii

After Grandmother read me the story of Pompeii, I sniffled over those tortured deaths by volcanic ash. Then I realized that Grandmother would die someday, and sobbed. I never dreamed that Pompeii held yet more shocking truths for me.

Photo by Stanley A. Jashemski, 1973.

I first toured Pompeii in 1973, and being a teen, my only clear memory is of a painting kept locked behind a grate to shield the innocence of children. In the painting, a man weighs his mega-member against a heap of gold on a balance scale.
Interpretation: a man’s organ is more valuable than wealth.
Fifty years later, Pompeii’s 66 acres reveal infinitely more. Much of the city has been unearthed and restored imparting a multitude of archeological feats, history, customs, and culture. The knowledge obtained over those two decades of excavation provides fodder for lifetimes of study.
Still, when I troll for interesting details to share, the seamier stuff is what presents itself. Ancient sailors who visited the port of Pompeii had big plans for their gold. They just needed help to find a bordello. Since most ancients were illiterate, the bordellos embedded carved phalluses into the streets and walls to point the way. Howling was another way to grab the attention of men with a yen because “professional women” were called “lupina,” or female wolves. Inside the bordello, illustrations over the doors helped customers find their desired specialties.
This Mediterranean culture of openness concerning valued body parts apparently continues today—at least in the tourist trade. Nearly every souvenir shop we passed offered an array of decorated phalluses.
The eternal truth? Sex sells!

About breathtakebyways

Ann Williams’ travel articles have appeared in publications all over the country including The Washington Post, Roads to Adventure, and Jack and Jill. Between researching and writing books, she specializes in creative lectures.