Review: Houses of Ill Repute

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Houses of Ill Repute: the archaeology of brothels, houses, and taverns in the Greek world
Allison Glazebrook and Barbara Tsakirgis (eds)
University of Pennsylvania Press, £58.00
ISBN 978-0812247565
Review by: Andrew Selkirk

How can you recognise an ancient brothel? It is best to begin by identifying the andron, the room where the inhabitants of a house would hold receptions. If you find a row of andrones along a corridor, you may have found a brothel.

You then look at the artefacts. If there is an excess of drinking vessels, you could be dealing with a tavern or a brothel. Other relevant finds to look for are foreign jewellery and spindle whorls.

A new collected volume looks into this interesting question. A crucial site described in the book is a building excavated in Athens’ Kerameikos, known as Building Z. This had a row of andrones set along the walls. The original excavators suggested that in later phases this might have been a brothel, but this book argues that it was a brothel in earlier stages too.

The book is part of a wider quest; it is no longer enough just to excavate a house, you need to ask how the house worked. Eight essays by different authors make a step forward in the understanding of the Greek house and its commercial use as a tavern, an inn, or even a brothel.

This review appeared in CWA 85Read on in the magazine or click here to subscribe.

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