Pompeii’s Erotica: If It’s in a Museum, It Must Be Art

So, apparently, Pompeii is old Italian for “penis.”

Pompeii penis
This one is carved into the cobblestone.

Yeah, I know, right? Nobody saw that coming.

But they are everywhere at the ancient Roman town-city near Naples.

Pompeii has long been on my travel bucket list. Why yes, I am aware that my travel bucket list is incredibly lame. It also includes visiting 221B Baker Street and that Japanese island inhabited by cats. (If you click on that link, be prepared to squee. That second picture slays me.)

Vesuvius looming over Pompeii.
Vesuvius looming over Pompeii.

Pompeii has always fascinated me. The fact that there was the very affluent and sophisticated city completely frozen in time has always had a hold on me. I also found it hauntingly ironic that the city motto was something along the lines of: “enjoy life while you can for tomorrow is uncertain.” Especially when you live in the shadow of an active volcano.

So I was quite geeked out when my tour companion for life, XFE agreed to take me to Pompeii, even though he’d been there on a previous trip. I was so excited to go to a place I had read about in awe as a nerdy, history-loving pre-teen.

But after visiting, I’m now worried that the adults in my life probably thought I was a pervert looking at dick pics in her bedroom all that time, and not a nerdy, history-loving pre-teen.

Squint. There's a penis there.
Squint. There’s a penis there.

Somehow, in all my reading about Pompeii, I had missed out on the fact that the place was basically some sort of “50 Shades of Pompeii” sexual playground. AncientDigger.com explains:

Sex was a completely normal and fulfilling experiencing in Pompeii, and most of what we know about the eroticism that took place there was left on the walls….Some of the most recognizable and erotic art and archaeological finds in Pompeii were statues, large pools, and several murals of Priapus.

It is important to remember that all of the artwork in Pompeii discovered thus far has a much deeper meaning for the people that lived there. The Pompeians were enamored with eros and this obsession drove them to experiment with love, take risks with questionably clean prostitutes, and often drove men to partake in lewd acts with anything with a pulse. Is this the reason for the amount of sex that took place at Pompeii? Possibly.

….

Pre-Socratic philosophers believed Eros was a natural force responsible for creation. It was not just good or bad, but destructive. Eros was vital because it operated as a social concept, yet it had moral implications. It was hard to control because in many cases, individuals would become slaves to it. This may have been the case in Pompeii.

Oh dear.

Well, just know: Penises are everywhere at Pompeii.

Pompeii bordello art.
Pompeii bordello art.

They’re engraved on the streets.

They’re on the walls.

Pompeii bordello art

And, they’re in Naples’ exceedingly excellent National Archaeological Museum.

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In fact, they have a whole “Secret Room” devoted to erotica from Pompeii.

Not-so-secret room at the National Archaeological Museum
Not-so-secret room at the National Archaeological Museum

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I guess it’s like San Diego, which allegedly is German for a lady whale’s lady parts (thanks, Katie, for the reminder and insistence that I find this gif).

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