Welcome to the original sin city, Pompeii. Relax and let us take you on a tour of the world’s foremost ancient Roman erotic art collection. See how Pompeii’s powerful lure of free love turned the entire town into an art gallery filled with ubiquitous pornographic imagery. Imagine how this popular resort town played host to the wealthy elite, artists, prostitutes and hunky celebrity gladiators. Explore the Vegas-style antics of the ancient world.
According to scholars, the Romans of Pompeii believed sex and sexuality were an essential part of daily life. Sexual imagery was a way to celebrate the gods and allow people to engage in creativity. The privacy as we know it now—where we shut the doors and lock the windows—simply did not exist in Pompeii. Everyone was welcome to join in one the fun.
Girls, Girls, Girls
One of the things Pompeii was famous for was its thriving sex trade. Prostitution was not only legal, it was encouraged. Most of the residential villas had storefronts which were rented to sex workers. The resident’s of Pompeii considered prostitution like any other kind of work—not some shameful act that should be hidden away.
But as the saying goes, all good things do come to an end. Sadly, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. blanketed the entire region with hot ash and cinders, killing thousands. The O.G. of Sin Cities, along with its villas, brothels, public bathhouses, private sex clubs, and erotic theaters were buried under tons of volcanic ash. The entombed city would not be discovered until centuries later.
So imagine the surprise as straight-laced Victorian scholars discover the truth about Pompeii’s hidden kinky culture. Expecting to discover the ancient remains of a virtuous Christian society, they instead uncover salacious depictions of kinkiest sex acts imaginable—everywhere. Completely untouched by the destruction were preserved frescoes, mosaics statues, symbols, and inscriptions showing gay sex, hetero sex, orgies, and lots of hard cocks. Penises so big that most of the excavators stopped digging.
My Oh My!
Following the discovery, the adventurers faced a conundrum. How to process the thought that this Roman culture did not fit into their modern Christain world? For them, it was difficult to fathom that ancient Romans were way more sexually liberal compared to their present-day prudery. To that reasoning, most of the early discoveries were destroyed.
The solution to ridding the world of anything too phallocentric was having excavators paint over them. Their primary concern were the images of Priapus (the ancient god of sex and fertility) mostly because of his very large and well-proportioned cock. But phallic symbols weren’t the only images causing outrage and embarrassment. What were they going to do with the multitude of frescoes featuring straight and gay couples, cavorting in all types of sexual adventures, positions, levels of enjoyment? Even worse—what was to be done with the images of the people enjoying the charms of animals? How were they to process the large vases, sculptures, pottery, and bronzes with the half-goat/half-man god Pan copulating with any willing creature?
Ironically, what saved the art from any further destruction was its sexually explicit nature. Thankfully, scientists won the argument that the Pompeii relics should be preserved, cataloged and stored safely in a museum, away from prying eyes. No one was ever allowed access to the indelicate collection, except for the archaeologists.
Take a Roman Holiday
After centuries of debate, the Secret Cabinet Museum, or “il Gabinetto segreto,” housing most of Pompeii’s kinky art collection, finally opened to the public. Briefly in the 1960’s and officially in 2000. Anyone who visits and buys a ticket at the Naples National Archaeological Museum must ask about the secret chamber. Once you gain entry, you only have 45 minutes for a look-see. Although relatively small, the room is packed with erotic greatness. But what you’ll realize while gazing is the ancient Romans were right—there is power in sexuality.1