Early History

In ancient times and in some primitive societies, prostitution often had religious connotations—sexual intercourse with temple maidens was an act of worship to the temple deity. In Greece the hetaerae [Gr., = companions or associates] were often women of high social status, but in Rome the meretrices were on a low social level and were forced to wear wigs and special garments signifying their trade. In the Middle Ages prostitution flourished, and licensed brothels were a source of revenue to municipalities.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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