Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/474

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459
PROSTITUTION

presently relaxed. After the Persian wars more stringent regulations were again introduced. The dicteriades were placed under police control, and were liable to prosecution for various offences, such as ruining youths, committing sacrilege and treason against the state. It is clear, however, that as time went on the Athenian authorities experienced the difficulties encountered by modern administrations in carrying out state regulation. There were grades of prostitution, socially though not legally recognized, and women of a superior order were too powerful for the law, which failed to maintain the ban against them. The Greek hetaerae, who were prostitutes, not “mistresses,” and the most gifted and brilliant members of their class known to history, wielded great and open influence. The test case of Phryne, in which the stern attitude previously maintained by the Areopagus broke down, established their triumph over the law, deprived virtuous women of their sole advantage, and opened the door to general laxity. In later times any one could set up a dicterion on payment of the tax. In other Greek cities extreme licence prevailed. At Corinth, which was famous for sensual practices, a temple, with a huge staff of common prostitutes for attendants, was established in honour of Aphrodite and for the accommodation of the sailors frequenting the port. The worship of this goddess became generally debased into an excuse for sexual excesses.

The Romans united the Jewish pride of race with the Greek regard for public decency, and in addition upheld a standard of austerity all their own. In early days female virtue was highly honoured and strenuously maintained among them, of which the institution of the vestal virgins was a visible sign. Their attitude towards prostitution differed, accordingly, from that of other ancient nations. Among them, alone, it was considered disgraceful to a man to frequent the company of prostitutes; and this traditional standard of social conduct, which markedly distinguished them from the Greeks, retained sufficient force down to the later days of the Republic to furnish Cicero with a weapon of rhetorical attack against his political opponents, whom he denounced as scortatores. Prostitution was more severely regulated by them than by any other ancient race. They introduced the system of police registration, which is the leading feature of administration in most European countries to-day. From the earliest days of the Republic prostitutes were required to register at the aediles' office, where licences were issued to them on payment of a tax. They were placed under stringent control, had to wear a distinctive dress, dye their hair or wear yellow wigs, and were subject to various civil disabilities; but the severest feature of the system was that, once registered, their names were never erased, and consequently remained for ever under an indelible stain. As in our times, registration became ineffective, and neither law nor tradition could check the demoralizing influence of ease and luxury when once external conquest left the Romans free to devote their energies to the pursuit of pleasure. An attempt was made, by the enactment of severer laws against prostitution, to stem the rising tide of immorality, which threatened to taint the best blood in Rome with the basest elements in the later days of the Republic. Citizens were prohibited from marrying the descendants or relatives of prostitutes, daughters of equestrians were forbidden to become prostitutes, and married women who did so were liable to penalties. More stringent regulations were also imposed on prostitutes themselves, in addition to the old disabilities and police system, which remained in force. If these laws had any effect at all, it was to promote the general prevalence of immorality, they certainly did not diminish prostitution. The profligacy of imperial Rome has never been surpassed for gross and obscene sensuality.

The greatest change introduced by Christianity with regard to prostitution was the adoption of a more charitable attitude towards these social and legal outcasts. The Roman state tax, which had descended to the emperors and had been further regulated under Caligula, was partly given up in the 4th century by Theodosius, on the representations of Florentius, a wealthy patrician, who offered to make good the loss of revenue out of his own pocket. It was fully and finally abolished by Anastasius I. in the next century, and the old registers were destroyed. Then some of the civil disabilities of prostitutes were removed by Justinian in the 6th century. Gibbon, who never gave credit for a good motive when a base one could be found, attributes Justinian's action solely to his desire to marry Theodora, whose life had been notorious; and no doubt she influenced him in the matter, but it is permissible to assume a good motive. Even Gibbon is constrained to admit her virtue after marriage, and to give her credit for “the most benevolent institution” of ]ustinian's reign, the rescue home for fallen women in Constantinople, which was at any rate disinterested. Though it did not succeed, it marks a turning-point in the treatment of a class which had never met with public sympathy before. At the same time procuration and connivance were severely punished, which is in keeping with the Christian attitude. The early Christian Church laid great stress on chastity, which probably suggested to its Roman persecutors the horrible punishment of forcibly prostituting Christian maidens. Such malignity enhanced the glory of martyrdom without shaking the constancy of its victims; and the triumph of purity in an age of unbounded licence was conspicuously recognized by Alaric, the Gothic conqueror, who gave strict orders in the sack of Rome that the virtue of Christian women was to be respected. The church, however, was not severe upon prostitutes, to whom the altar was open upon repentance, and some of the fathers explicit recognized their trade as a necessary evil. Among them was St Augustine, a man of the world, who saw that its suppression would stimulate more destructive forms of immorality. Gradually charity degenerated into patronage. Rome, conquered spiritually by Christianity and materially by the northern barbarians, sapped the virtue of both. Before the middle ages the institutions and ministers of the Church became a by-word for vice. Charlemagne made an effort to suppress the prevailing disorder, but his private life was licentious, and his capitularies, which ordained the scourging of prostitutes and panders, were not inspired by any regard for morality. A period of reform followed. The rise of chivalry, with its lofty idealization of women, and the wave of Christian fervour connected with the Crusades, inspired a vigorous and high-minded campaign against an all-prevalent evil. The Church became exceedingly active in prevention and rescue work, and was assisted by a devout and zealous laity. Rescue missions were organized, convents were founded everywhere for the reception of penitents, and dowries were subscribed to procure them husbands. Fulke de Neuilly was a conspicuous figure in this work. He held missions, preached, and collected large sums for marriage dowries. Pope Innocent III. (1198-1216) pronounced it a praiseworthy act to marry a prostitute; and Gregory IX., a few years later, wrote to Germany that brothel-keepers were not to prevent prostitutes from attending missions, and that clergy and laity who drew profit from prostitution were banned. “Urge bachelors,” he wrote, “to marry repentant girls, or induce the latter to enter the cloister.” In spite of such efforts, and of occasional spasms of severity by individual rulers, prostitution flourished everywhere throughout the middle ages. It was not merely tolerated, but licensed and regulated by law. In London there was a row of “bordells” (brothels) or “stews” in the Borough near London Bridge. They were originally licensed by the bishops of Winchester, according to John Noorthouck, and subsequently sanctioned by parliament. Stow quotes the regulations enacted in the year 1161, during the reign of Henry II. These were rather protective than repressive, as they settled the rent which women had to pay for the rooms, and forbade their compulsory detention. The act was afterwards confirmed in the reigns of Edward III. and Richard II. In 1383 the bordells belonged to William Walworth, lord mayor of London, who farmed them out, probably on behalf of the Corporation, according to analogy in other parts of Europe. They were closed in 1506, but reopened until 1546, when they were abolished by Henry VIII. In London we get the earliest known regulations directed against the spread of venereal