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Simpson Center for the Humanities

Sarah Levin-Richardson Interviewed in Notches About Her New Book The Brothel of Pompeii

Sarah Levin-Richardson, Assistant Professor of Classics, was recently interviewed about her new book, The Brothel of Pompeii (Cambridge UP, 2019), in Notches, a peer-reviewed, collaborative and international history of sexuality blog that aims to get people inside and outside the academy thinking about sexuality in the past and in the present.

According to the publisher, The Brothel of Pompeii: Sex, Class, and Gender at the Margins of Roman Society offers the first authoritative examination of Pompeii's purpose-built brothel, the only verifiable brothel from Greco-Roman antiquity. Taking readers on a tour of all of the structure's evidence, including the rarely seen upper floor, Levin-Richardson illuminates the subculture housed within its walls. Here, prostitutes could flout the norms of society and proclaim themselves sexual subjects and agents, while servile clients were allowed to act as 'real men'. Prostitutes and clients also exchanged gifts, greetings, jokes, taunts, and praise. 

In her interview with Notches, Levin-Richardson discusses everything from methodology to her own personal investments in her research. Levin-Richardson told Notches that her book—written for the general public—was meant to fill a gap within academic histories of sex work in ancient Rome:

As I read more about Pompeii’s brothel, I realized that scholars were much more interested in what the Romans thought about prostitution writ large than in the real people who had to provide sex or who purchased sex. I wanted to focus on those individuals, and had a sense that doing so would actually change what we think we know about prostitution (and I think the book does show that, but no spoilers!).