Nothing New Under the Italian Sun… The Erotic Etchings of Pompeii

August 10  |  News  |   Kay Jaybee

With all the recent hype, you’d be forgiven for thinking that erotica was a new idea. Of course, this is far from the case. (One of these days I shall get around to putting together a blog series all about erotica’s long and fascinating history- but don’t hold your breath as I have a few novels to sort first!!).

To underline the ancient roots of erotic attraction, beyond the obviously physical, to the visual and voyeuristically suggestive, a wander around the breathtakingly stunning city of Pompeii in Southern Italy, is all you need to take.

Pomp buildings


Last week my family and I took a holiday in the Sorrento area of Italy. I was so excited!! Not simply because I had never been to Italy before, but because ever since I was a small child, fascinated with history of all sorts, I have wanted to see for myself the remains of Pompeii.

Pompeii was first rediscovered by archaeologists in 1592, hundreds of years after it was buried under the ash, mud and gravel swept along in the wake of the explosion of the volcanic Vesuvius in 79AD. The site was merely documented in 1592, but was then re-examined in 1748, 1860 and 1924, before full scale excavation work began in  1961. The sheer scale of the city’s remains is staggering. Villas, temples, mosaics, bath houses, pavements, theatres, drainage systems, and even the rut marks left by the constant traffic of carts, are there in the streets. All you have to do is block out the tourists, and you could actually be there- or indeed, then.

Pomp- building 1

Shop walls

With the spectre of Vesuvius forever in the background scenery, Pompeii really is a place locked in a time capsule, complete with the sobering, and rather moving, human remains that dot the area. Preserved by plaster, the sheer speed of the volcano’s consumption of the city is at its most marked by the capture of the humans it mowed to the ground, suffocating them with terrifying speed.


Preserved body



It isn’t just the presence of the people that shows just how fast and all engulfing the volcano overtook the region, but the almost pristine contention of the wall paintings and fresco’s which adorn so many of the richer establishments. I could wax lyrical for some time about the shades of red, the pale blues, and luxury of the houses, and so forth- but this is an erotica site- so let’s skip that, and I’ll take you straight to the brothel- or the Lupanar, as the ancient Romans called it.

Far from being places that were frowned upon and reviled, the brothel was simply another establishment within the Roman city. (One wonders if we could learn something from their enlightened attitude- but that’s an issue for another day…)

It won’t surprise you to know that, the brothel was the most popular location to be visited by the tourists who stream through the city every day.

Stone Brothel Bed

Stone Brothel Bed

A very small building, comprising of a series of small stone rooms, with stone beds, in which the returning soldier, the local men, and indeed women (as I say, they were enlightened- and as long as they were more quietly enlightened when it came to FF or MM action, then it was all for sale), could receive the services of those women employed as prostitutes, it was decorated with paintings which can only be described as adverts for the services available…

Pomp- Brothel 1brothel

I’d like to be able to say that these women were plying such a trade by choice, and perhaps some were, but generally speaking, the whores for sale were slave girls bought for the purpose by rich merchants and nobles who had particular tastes- the main of which being to make money- so maybe not so enlightened after all then… but not unfamiliar either!! (There really is nothing new under the sun)

Pomp- Brothel 2Pomp- Brothel

The extent of erotic decoration does not stop there- the beautiful Villa of Mysteries on the furthest edge of the city, one of the best preserved building due to its closer proximity to the volcano, is adorned with gorgeous and undeniably suggestive images…

Sadly, one of the places I wished to see, the Suburban Bath House, was closed for archaeological inspection, but thanks to the wonder of Google Images, I can show you a few of the images available for the bathers to gaze upon- some have suggested that each of these actions may have been an advert as to what you could ‘do’ in the bath house- others believe the pictures are merely a joke, others say they are merely erotic works of art for the male bathers to look upon, just as we would flick through a top shelf mag, or scan the Internet for porn…either way, they are incredible works of art…

Suburban baths 1

Suburban Bath Wall Painting

Pompeii was so amazing, we actually went back twice. No one could ever see everything worth seeing within a day- by advice to you if you are ever lucky enough to go-

Don’t do a guided tour- you’ll be bored stiff and see very little

Take water- but don’t worry about taking loads, water is free from taps all over the site

Make a hit list of the places you want to see, and work from one to the other – slowly- it is very very hot and open there

And last- go soon- Vesuvius is a live volcano- Pompeii will not be there forever…

I hope you’ve enjoyed my quick Pompeii blog- I’m off now to sketch out the ideas I’ve had for an erotic novel based on this amazing city…watch this space..

Kay x

Pomp- bakery


Pomp- theatre

Public Theatre

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