Honors Bachelor of Arts

Document Type


Faculty Advisor

Thesis Director: Dr. Shannon N. Byrne; Thesis Reader: Dr. Thomas Strunk; HAB Course Director: Dr. Shannon Hogue




Prostitution is often said to be the oldest profession in the world, having occurred since the ancient times of Greece and Rome. Today’s American society views prostitution as immoral and repulsive, but this has not always been the case. In ancient Rome, Roman men were able to visit a brothel, pay for the company of a prostitute, and leave without being looked down upon or reproached, so long as they did so in moderation. If they frequently visited brothels, though, Roman men were admonished and scolded, as Cato does to a well-known gentleman after seeing him leave a brothel numerous times. Various genres of literature, such as comedy, satire, and even prose, have even used the image of the prostitute, but for different reasons. Plautus and Terence, Roman playwrights of Roman New Comedy, used the image of the prostitute to display the troubling aspects of the lives of prostitutes and also to mock the social settings of Roman men and youths through the inversion of social norms. Cicero, on the other hand, used the prostitute’s image in the Pro Caelio to diminish the reputation of Clodia and, in turn, that of her gens, the Claudii. This paper argues that Cicero drew upon the stock character of the meretrix (“prostitute”) of Plautus and Terence, among other literary devices and literary characters, to attack the image of Clodia, weakening her testimony in the trial of Marcus Caelius Rufus and thus helping him obtain an acquittal.

[1] Flemming 1999:44.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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