I was not paying full attention when I heard a news report on CNN saying that archaeologists had uncovered an “ancient erotic fresco” in Pompeii. Hmm, I thought to myself, this story deserves further investigation.
I had heard whispers about frescoes that only men were allowed to see when I visited Pompeii as a student years ago. I now know that these were idealized pornographic wall paintings in brothels of handsome young men engaging with beautiful prostitutes in variety of sexual positions. In real life prostitutes in Pompeii were slaves who worked in appalling conditions in dark, dank, windowless cells. No doubt many of their customers were unwashed toothless dirty old men.
The fresco in the news turned out to be an image of the rape of the Spartan queen Leda by Zeus disguised as a swan; it was found in a bedroom of a house or villa in…
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