Even though it’s known as the world’s oldest profession, prostitution is commonly thought of as a modern-day occurrence, as though desires of the flesh only happened during the era of industrialization. Escorts were mentioned in the Bible and, as we will see below, in other ancient texts. Escort trade has been around for as long as humanity itself. Several documents referred to escorting throughout history. Here are the most notable acknowledgements in ancient history:
Sumerian Records, 2400 B.C.
The records indicate that escorts were one of two lower class divisions of females who served at temples. To give glory to Ishtar, citizens often visited with prostitutes as a form of remaining pure and worshiping. The definition of prostitutes, referred to as kar.kid, is clearly identified in the Sumerian Records.
Hammurabi’s Code, 1780 B.C.
The code presented rules to live by for citizens in Mesopotamia. Written by Babylonian king Hammurabi, it set aside class and presented general rules of law for all citizens. Specific laws were set forth regarding escorts and their property. Essentially, prostitutes who are awarded property may be able to do with it as they please. If property was given as a dowry, an escort was required to share it with her brothers in the case of her father’s death.
The Code of Assura, 1075 B.C.
Much like Hammurabi’s Code, the Code of Assura was law to live by for its time. The code was increasingly violent with much harsher punishments for violations of law. Prostitution was mentioned specifically by how women were to be concealed when out in public. “Respectable” women (men’s wives and daughters) were required to wear veils while out in public. However, escorts were required to wear no veil out in public, so as to be easy to recognize. Any prostitute proven to be seen wearing a veil could be punished with seizure of her veil, 50 blows and tar poured on her head.
Law of ancient China, 600 B.C.
Brothels were legal in ancient China. Commercial brothels were sanctioned by Kuang Chung (a statesman-philosopher) as a way to increase the state’s revenue. However, some historians are skeptical that he was the person responsible for establishing the policy of licensing brothels, because other brothels were already on record as operating in other locations of town.
Law of ancient Greece, 594 B.C.
Legal brothels operated in ancient Greece. Society accepted the training of escorts (hetaerae) in order to be more interesting and entertaining than regular women. Unsuccessful courtesans became common prostitutes working in brothels, which were licensed and registered with the state.
Law of ancient Rome, 180 B.C.
Rome had a complex, multi-tiered escort industry. Laws were established to tax escorts’ earnings. The legislators designated income from brothels as legitimate income and established a way for prostitutes to register with the state for taxation. Failure to register resulted in stiff punishments including fines, exile or scourging—a form of being whipped or lashed.
Codex Theodosianus, 438 A.D.
Because the previous Roman Empire rules placed demanding taxes on nearly everything, many citizens were forced to sell their daughters into prostitution. The Codex Theodosianus was put into place by the Christian leaders of the Roman Empire and specifically forbade the selling of young daughters into prostitution as a way for parents to settle their debts. Additionally, the code abolished taxation of prostitution.