|Did Prostitutes in Rome Wear Red and Yellow?||
Prostitutes were obliged to be registered with the Aedile (local magistrate) where their name, age, place of birth and a pseudo name, if wished, would be recorded. After being asked her price, each prostitute would be issued with a licence (Licentia Stupri) and her name added to the official roll. Once on the list there was no way back - the record was forever.
Prostitutes were known by many different names depending on their own status within their own community, for example:
Doris- noted for their enchanted forms, often in the nude.
Lupae - or she wolf because she patrolled the parks and gardens and howled for customers.
Copae- serving girls in inns.
Some were well-kept women from high class families, some (as today) used their influence for political power and most were Freedwomen. Prostitution as a profession could be a lucrative business (for some). The tariff inscription from Coptos in Roman Egypt, dated to AD 90, states that the passport fee for prostitutes was 108 drachmas, but for other women only 20 drachmas - clearly it was thought that the prostitutes could afford the fee.
The rooms used by Romes prostitutes were often very simply and sparsely decorated, albeit with a tablet above the door way to indicate what a client could expect and a sign to indicate when occupied.
While sexual disease was known, not much is mentioned in the surviving sources. Juvenal hints at it auchunnuentae (secret diseases), for which he says you had best pray to Juno and take herbal remedies. In a similar vein, Soranus wrote straightforward and sensible advice about contraception, with techniques including:
Prostitutes were forbidden to wear the stola, the dress of a Roman matron, but were instead made to wear the toga as their outer garment. Dr Lindsay Allason-Jones says that prostitutes in Italy were often of Syrian or Egyptian origin, and were identifiable by their heavy make-up, the lack of bands in their hair, and their short tunics and brightly coloured togas. They also wore long gold chains that went down to their waist, even going so far as to gilt their breasts, which if worn with transparent material would possible appear yellow?
Red and Yellow? No concealment here! You can see her almost naked in her Coan dress, and make sure that her thigh is not misshapen or her foot ugly; you can measure her flank with your eye. This quote from the poet Horatius speaks of the Freedwomen who, as we have said, made up most of the population of the prostitutes in Rome. Similarly, Seneca wrote: There I see silken clothes, if they can be called clothes which protect neither a womens body nor her modesty, and in which she cannot truthfully declare that she is not naked. These are bought for huge sums from nations unknown to us in the ordinary course of trade - and why? Such garments of airy delicacy were called Coan because they were imported from Cos into Greece and Rome. (Plin. N.H. xi 22(26). According to Sarah B Pomeroy, prostitutes wore saffron-dyed material of gauzelike transparency. But was Seneca talking about prostitutes or respectable women?
In other writings Seneca says (N.Q vii, 31,2) we men wear the colours used by prostitutes, in which respectable married women would not be seen. But was he talking about the bright togas or the colour purple as in earlier times, after the dispute over the annulment of the lex Oppia, respectable matrons claimed the right to wear purple.
Ovid, mentions the common fashion of dyeing the hair and the use of wigs: Ever since the auburn hair of German women had become known in Rome, Roman ladies were wildly eager to have such hair instead of their own black locks. It was perhaps fashionable to wear wigs made of red or fair hair cut from the heads of German girls (Ov. Am. i.14,45). He also wrote that freedwomen chose bright colours to harmonise or contrast with their hair (Ov. AA,iii,162). According to Juvenal (vi, 120), the Empress Messalina wore one of these blond wigs.
A poem dated to 15 BC or 14 BC written by one Sulpicia, a Roman lady, who talks about love as slavery and her worry that her lover will visit prostitutes:
The day which gave you to me, Cerinthus,
to me will be sacred, a holiday forever.
But rather let us both be bound by a
strong chain which no day to come will be able to loose.