Societas Classica
“ST. CYRIL AND ST. METHODIUS” UNIVERSITY OF VELIKO TARNOVO - UNIVERSITY PRESS

The Nature of Erotic Frescoes in Suburban Baths in Pompeii


Authors:
Ivanka Doncheva

Pages: -

Abstract:

The Suburban Baths in Pompeii were built around the end of the 1st century BC against the city walls north of the Porta Marina. They served as a public bath house to the residents of Pompeii They were originally discovered in 1958 and have since been excavated and restored. Excavation of the Suburban Baths have given historians a glimpse into an aspect of the social and cultural workings of Roman life in Pompeii. The entrance to the Baths is through a long corridor that leads into the dressing room. Excavation of the Baths revealed only one set of dressing rooms and has led to wonder by archaeologists that both men and women shared this facility. This dressing room (known as the apodyterium) is where archaeologists discovered erotic wall paintings in the 1980s. The dressing room then led to the tepidarium (lukewarm room), followed by the calidarium (hot room). The erotic wall paintings in the Suburban Baths are the only set of such art found in a public Roman bath house. Explicit sex scenes (such as group sex and oral sex) are depicted in these paintings that cannot be easily found in collections of erotic Roman art. The paintings are located in the apodyterium and each scene is located above a letterd. These boxes are thought to have functioned as lockers in which bathers put their clothes. It is speculated that the paintings possibly served as way for the bathers to remember the location of their box (in lieu with the numbering). The presence of these paintings in a public bath house shared by men and women gives some insight into Roman culture and suggests that people would not have found this offensive.

Keywords:


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