Tarraco Viva – Prostitution in Roman Tarragona

Part of  Tarraco Viva, the ten days festival exploring all things Roman in Tarragona, is SEQVERE ME! a realistic reconstruction of the world of prostitution among the walls of the old city.

It takes places in the underworld of Tarragona, the dark, claustrophobic passages beneath the remains of the Circus. The lurid yellow light sets the scene as we walk by a large phallus guided by a “man of the world” who knows his way round this place and introduces its many aspect.

First is a visit to a tavern, where man eye up the girls over vessels filled with cheap vine . A drunk with battle scars steps in, ramming into visitors with incoherent sounds until he passes out flat on the ground. Soldiers of duty, workmen, people in search of thrills come and go. SEQUERE ME! , meaning “follow me”,  was the motto which was stitched in the sandal of prostitutes as a form of recognition and to drum up trade.

We move on up the dark passage and there is a street recreating  where pips offer their ware for sale. Both boys and girls, very often ex slaves found this profession quick way to make money, they could work for themselves or for a pimp or madam and offer all kind of sexual services aimed ad both sexes.

From there it’s a stop at the cemetery where sex is offered by desperate wretches among the tombstones.

We walk in to the vestibule of a doctor would offer all kind of remedies for all kind of ailments, offer terminations, treat venereal diseases and impotence. Next is a bedroom where sex is loudly performed behind the thin veil of a curtain. Through the tunnels there are echoes of music, the sound of flute and tambourine guiding us into the salon of a wealthy patrician. Like many professions prostitution offered a way up the social ladder, and some girls were lucky enough to end up at courtesans, or performers for a wealthy clientele.  This became also an opportunity to become sophisticated, educated and financially independent.

Religion was also deeply observed with, among other things, ritual cleansing and offers to Forutuna Virilis on the day of Venus.

As the gate closes behind, and as we surface back on street level on a rainy night, one is left spellbound by this walk through the back yard of history, one of the many historical re-creating on offer during the ten days of Tarraco Viva.

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