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Prostitutes were known by many different names depending on their own status within their own community, for example:. 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 drachmas, but for other women only 20 drachmas - clearly it was thought that the prostitutes could afford the fee.
While sexual disease was known, not much is mentioned in the surviving sources. 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? 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. These are bought for huge sums from nations unknown to us in the ordinary course of trade - and why? 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. 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.