Prostitution in Medieval Europe

Topics: Christianity, Sexual intercourse, Human sexuality Pages: 6 (2405 words) Published: March 29, 2006
The Christian church in medieval Rome held a lot of social and religious authority but along with authority came issues of society that they were forced to deal with. Sexuality was a matter of the churches concern that was more often related to the word "Evil". I am going to attempt to prove that the "evils" involved in sexuality such as prostitution, and homosexuality were necessary for the church to maintain a growing authority over society. The chronological limits I am focusing on will fall between 300AD – 1200AD, with some references to dates both prior and thereafter these dates. I will explore the views on women held by Christians, related to traditional beliefs, gender roles, and sexual norms of behaviour. Prostitution as a necessary evil was a well recognized view, with much history and controversy behind it. I will discuss a range of beliefs on prostitution as well as its purpose as a necessary evil to prevent homosexuality. The purpose of many of my footnotes will be to illustrate the strong convictions held by members of the Christian church at this time.

Woman's accessibility to take an active role in society is even today still developing; it wasn't until 1920 that women were allowed to vote in America, 1935 when married women in England had the full right to own property, and 1963 that they were granted equal pay for equal jobs compared to men. This view of women as the lesser of the two sexes can be traced back to ancient Rome and earlier. In 131BC the censor Metellus, one of the two officials in ancient Rome responsible for taking the public census and supervising public behaviour and morals, stated, "if we could live without wives we should not have all this trouble. Since nature has brought it about that we can neither live with them in peace nor without them at all, we must ensure eternal benefit rather than temporary pleasure."1 The acceptance of women in medieval Rome is similar to this quote in the sense that the Christian church accepts women because God has made them necessary for continued existence, not because they value them as a chosen asset. The assertion that men were created in God's view, women were not is a traditional belief that stems back to the story of Adam and Eve. Many Christian fathers in medieval Rome believe very strongly that the story of Adam and Eve is an indication that women were created to be the helpmate of men, but on the contrary have shown to be an evil temptation for sexual behaviour. The comment of the bishop of Worchester in 1871 about an alternate view to Adam and Eve The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection by Charles Darwin, was "let us hope it is not true, but if it is, let us pray that it does not become generally known."2 This indicates to me that if the bishop in 1871 is neglectful of alternative views to traditional beliefs, the authority of the Christian church in 400AD must have held pretty strong to the belief of women as a lesser sex and a source of sexual temptations.

The timing of the Christian religion being implicated with the state as a form of power and control was soon after the city of Rome was sacked by Alaric of Goth, a famous barbarian in 410 AD. The empire was in need of a stable and secure form of governing its people. "The impact of Constantine, whose conversion and backing for Christianity gave the church the opportunity and the funds to consolidate an empire-wide institution, which increasingly had the right to intervene in the lives of individuals."3 The Christian view and moral law was not only spread but enforced with threats of punishment for defiance. The mission work of Christian followers increased dramatically over the next century, "by the second half of the fourth century, a great majority of the population and all the emperors were members of the church, and the leaders even demanded proscription of paganism."4 The Christian church had not only a large amount of authority but responsibility to society of the...
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