Erotic art of ancient Rome (photo gallery)

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Modern art, architecture, politics, science, philosophy, literature — virtually ever aspect of western civilization has its roots in the Roman empire. An argument can even be made that our current understanding of beauty can be traced to nude forms chipped into marble by Roman artists. However, for as much as our society has been influenced by this lost civilization, what we consider taboo in terms of sexuality has shifted dramatically.

While touring the National Archeological Museum in Naples, Italy, I stumbled into a "secret room" featuring a gallery of ancient erotica. In addition to an abundance of penis amulets (which will be featured in a later blog), these works of art "celebrate" everything from prostitution to bestiality.

When scrolling through the images below, note how the sex scenes compare to modern pornography. Some works appear to be hastily made, as if they serve little more purpose than to spur sexual arousal — such as the illustrations of sex positions painted on the walls of a Pompeii brothel. Others, such as the marble sculpture of a satyr mounting a goat, demonstrate an artistic skill unmatched by modern sculptors. Also, with all the erotic images of the half-goat satyrs, it is easy to see why the Catholic Church used these demigods as the template for its devil when the Vatican moved to Rome, converting many of the "heathen" temples into churches.

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