Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
“The oldest profession” — This is how the modern world often views prostitution. But it turns out that the majority of our evidence for ancient prostitution is more illusory than real. This lecture looks at the textual and iconographic evidence for both sacred and secular prostitution in the ancient Near East and Greece and shows that almost none of it pertains to the sale of sex. As a matter of fact, it would appear that there was no prostitution at all in ancient Mesopotamia or Egypt, and that the profession came into being only in the Iron Age. Hidden behind the imposed “mask” of prostitution are numerous occupations held by women in the ancient world, several of which are examined here.
(NB: Images and texts not appropriate for children.)
Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:
Assante, Julia (2003) “From Whores to Hierodules: The Historiographic Invention of Mesopotamian Female Sex Professionals.” In A.A. Donohue and M.D. Fullerton (eds.) Ancient Art and Its Historiography. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 13–47.
Budin, S.L. (2021) Freewomen, Patriarchal Authority, and the Accusation of Prostitution. Routledge Press, London, UK.