I'm doing research about the history and background of Child Sexual Abuse and due to the few sources related to the topic, I've been stuck, but recently a I found this book "The Encyclopedia of Child Abuse" with a few lines about the topic with no references:

Prepubescent boys were commonly prostituted in brothels in ancient Greece and Rome

The problem that it seems to contradict certain aspects of the Greco-Roman cultures

  • male prostitution in Greece was in essence restricted to adolescents (Affairs of the Heart (25–26)).

  • in Roman society children has "inviolable" status.

  • it doesn't mention anything about girls.

Please don't start with the "pederasty" aspect. I refer specifically to children non minors (from 12 and higher) which was the age of consent at the time.

How reliable is this information?

  • 9
    Roman children may have been inviolable by tradition. Slave children are not Roman children.
    – Oldcat
    Apr 17, 2014 at 20:42
  • This is a good question that unfortunately attracted some terrible answers.
    – cmw
    Jan 11 at 23:36
  • There is something related in the bible, in the Luke 7:1 and Matthew 8:5. A centurion asks Jesus to heal his 'beloved servant'. It's possible that this was a boy owned for 'that' purpose. Both gospels do not go into detail.
    – Jos
    Jan 12 at 3:18

3 Answers 3


The modern view of ancient civilization, including that of Greece and Rome, has been heavily censored. Ancient writings on these topics have been systematically expunged or destroyed over the centuries. In general, the ancients were far more promiscuous than society is today. Pederasty was considered somewhat amoral, but was widely practiced. In Rome, forcing somebody else's kid was illegal by the Scatinian law, technically speaking. The reality was a lot of people broke the law. Using slave boys as catamites was more a convenience than a legal necessity, as you could keep the slave boy around 24-7, something that could not be done for a free-born boy. In cases where boys were foster children or had been put into the care of another family, the likelihood of abuse was high, especially if it was a military base or encampment.

  • 4
    If those writings have been destroyed, how can we know this is what happened? Did enough of them survive?
    – o0'.
    Apr 19, 2014 at 12:55
  • 3
    It can be inferred from various small pieces of evidence in combination with archaeological findings. For example, when Pompeii was excavated it was a huge shock to a lot of academics. The city was literally plastered in sex. Erect phalluses everywhere, in every house. Pornographic statues and paintings everywhere. Graffiti advertisements for prostitutes literally covering every wall. The King of Italy visited Pompeii with his family shortly after it was discovered. Nobody dared warn the king ahead of time. Man that was EMBARASSING, big time. Then, came the coverup.... Apr 24, 2014 at 19:46
  • 2
    This would really benefit from some sources. Jan 11 at 16:56
  • 2
    @Tyler I think you may be reading a bit too much of our modern notions into ancient Pompeii -- erect phalli, for example, had a much larger meaning to both Greece and Rome than the symbol does to us today. Your answer is not really wrong, but it's probably too colored by our own times.
    – Mark Olson
    Jan 11 at 20:05

Even when the Roman children were protected by law, these laws didn't apply to slave children. There was that loophole in roman law concerning slave children. So there was a little if not nothing romans (citizen) could do.

Because slaves weren't considered persons,but objects instead.

Something similar could happen with greeks, but as you correctly say, it's rare since prostitution by males, was restricted to teenagers.

But that aspect doesn't mean that these societies approved or condone such acts.

For example in ancient Greece a men who had a sexual intercourse with a child (12 or younger); were generally looked down upon for such actions.

  • pretty much, plus the publication is itself highly questionable... So even if it in theory could happen, in practice it may very well not have happened or only rarely.
    – jwenting
    Apr 18, 2014 at 6:31
  • That's right. And even if it happened it would've been kept hidden from the outside society. Since it was moraly questionable.
    – Thalia19
    Apr 18, 2014 at 15:45
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    This would really benefit from some sources. Jan 11 at 16:57

There is another fundamental problem in projecting back current sexual classification onto Rome. They didn't think of it as homosexuality versus heterosexuality. Rather, they thought of it as being the penetrator or the submissive partner.

For a grown man to be penetrated was the shameful act. To be the dominant one, not so much. And since women were always on the penetratee side, well, that's another reason why they were the inferior sex.

This is why the Roman army had ferocious penalties for homosexual acts. Forcing that kind of shame on a Roman soldier was seen as a terrible thing, and was punishable by death.

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