The nasty side of Roman life

A horrific story is reported by the BBC News here.  A mass burial of 97 new-born children, next to a Roman villa at Hambleden in Buckinghamshire, has been excavated, and identified as waste products of a Roman brothel.

Imagine the story of human misery that lies behind these mute remains.  The women were slaves, little more than children themselves.  Raped incessantly until they got pregnant, then forced to provide whatever services they could in that condition until they gave birth.  Then the child was killed, and the woman, still sore, sent back to lie on her back again.  And so on, again and again, until death released them.

We take for granted so much that Christianity brought into the world.  An end to the casual infanticide of the Roman era was one of those things.  Another was the casual toleration of such evil.  The emperor Constantine closed few temples, but one exception was that at Heliopolis in Lebanon, or Baalbek as it is now known.  Travelling to Jerusalem he reached the town, and found that the whole place was dedicated to temple prostitution, and that there was not a married couple in the town.  He closed the “temples” that had supported such, forced the inhabitants to marry, and did what he could to put an end to the trade. 

Doubtless it continued in some form.  It was very profitable, as the magnificence of the architectural remains today is witness.  The trade was never to be extirpated.  But a line had been drawn in the sand — morality had come into the world.  The casual evil of the Hambleden brothel could no longer exist in broad daylight.

2 Responses to “The nasty side of Roman life”


  1. Philip Stewart

    Not 40 weeks old – the news story says 40 weeks gestation, which makes sense. Nowadays, we’ve put a limit of 24 weeks gestatation on this sort of activity. Not sure what we do with the remains, though.

  2. Roger Pearse

    Sorry, you’re right — I meant the same, of course.