Tuesday, December 17, 2013

History mystery: Speculation on Prostitution – Is it the World’s Oldest Profession?

This depends on how one would define the world’s oldest profession – Prostitution. Thousands of years ago, humans have been exchanging goods and money for sex and it seemed that a society which began to develop in material wealth, developed in some form of prostitution. In ancient Rome, it is believed that one could hand over a token at a brothel for prostitution. Prostitution may not have arisen until the Victorian era, when health officials targeted them for the spread of venereal diseases. Towards the 21st century, prostitution spread across various systems even to the extent of operating in socialist societies. Rudyard Kipling, the originator of the phrase `the world’s oldest profession’, relates that prostitution begins, `Lalun is a member of the most ancient profession in the world’, and with many debates on how to deal with prostitution, medical professionals began to misquote the phrase of Kipling that it took a life of its own. Some were of the opinion to do away with this vice since it was the cause of many sexually transmitted diseases which could spread while others claimed that fighting prostitution was not useless since it was the world’s most ancient profession which cannot change human nature and those who had made this claim had no historical evidence to offer to support this claim.

According to some, contrary to this phrase, prostitution is certainly not the world’s oldest profession though it has been found in every civilization on earth throughout human history and goods, services and money had been bartered for pleasure outside marriage. In 18th Century BCE, the code of Hammurabi refers prostitution as the provision to protect the inheritance rights of prostitutes, a category of women with the exception of widows, with no male providers to support them. In Solon’s state funded brothels, Greek literature of 6th century BCE refers to three types of prostitutes – slave prostitutes or pornai, freeborn prostitutes and hetaera educated prostitute entertainers which were a type who enjoyed a certain level of social influence, denied to almost all non prostitute women.

 Street prostitutes or pornai were appealing to male clientele and were either male or female while hetaera was only female. Solon according to tradition established government supported brothels around the urban high traffic areas of Greece and were staffed with cheap pornai consisting of men regardless of their income level who could afford to hire them. It remained legal in Roman and Greek periods though Christian Roman emperors strongly opposed it. In 590 AD, Reccared I, Visigoth King of Spain, newly converted, in an effort to bring his country with Christian ideology, banned prostitution and while there was no punishment for men who hired prostitutes, women who were found guilty for engaging in prostitution was whipped three hundred times and exiled and in many cases was even sentenced to death. Italy embraced prostitution and the Great Council of Venice in 1358, declared prostitution as `absolutely indispensable to the world’. During 14th and the 15th centuries, government funded brothels were established in big cities of Italy.

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