In the late 1490s, prostitution became the target of social reform, mainly because of the spread of syphilis throughout Europe and not due to moral concerns. However, before this escort trade flourished and was a common part of the community. There were times throughout the middle ages that prostitution was abolished or heavily regulated, but it was always a normal, accepted part of life. Here are some highlights of how escorting was viewed and regulated during the middle ages:
534 AD: Prostitution abolished
Justinian the Great married Theodora, who was previously a prostitute. Together, they created the Corpus Juris Civilis, which contained 38 entries pertaining to prostitution. In line with all political decisions aimed to please hypocrites and secure income for the “right” people, the entries banished brothel keepers and procuresses from the capital and banned sex in public bath houses. The code also granted freedom to slaves being held as escorts.
Late 500s AD: Prostitution criminalized
The Catholic King of Visigoths of Spain Recared decreed that prostitution should be prohibited. He ruled that women who were prostitutes or guilty of debauchery inducement will be flogged with 300 strokes and expelled from town.
1158 AD: Holy Roman army disallows prostitution
The Holy Roman Emperor Barbarossa set forth law that punished escorts who traveled with the army (which has been a norm since the first war in the world). Caught prostitutes were punished by having their noses cut off in order to reduce their attractiveness. Additionally, the laws decreed that soldiers caught with escort would have fingers or eyes removed.
1161 AD: England regulates prostitution
King Henry II made it law that London’s Bankside “stew houses” were to be regulated. Forced prostitution was prohibited. Constables could conduct weekly searches and brothels were to be closed on holidays.
1200s AD: Castile outlaws prostitution
Laws were created to punish those involved in the business of escorting. Landlords who rented to escorts could be flogged and lose property. Brothel keepers had to release the women in their brothels and find them husbands or face execution, while husbands who forced their wives into escorting would be executed. The laws also mandated that pimps were to be flogged and women who supported pimps would be whipped. The escorts’ clothes (considered fine for the time) would also be destroyed.
1254 AD: France expels escorts
: King Louis IX of France ordered the expulsion of women who “lead the evil life” from the kingdom and the confiscation of their belongings. Later, laws were created to banish women from the kingdom who were “free with their bodies and other common harlots.” Escorts and brothels were also banned from being near religious establishments.
1350s AD: Municipal brothels established in Italy
In Italy in 1358, the Great Council of Venice decreed that prostitution was “absolutely indispensable to the world“. As a result, a brothel was established for any city that didn’t already have a one. The Castelleto in Venice opened in 1360. Florence’s brothel opened in 1403, and Siena’s started up for business in 1421.
1469 AD: Pimp punishment increased
Henry IV, the king of Castile, decreed that men who enabled prostitution should be punished. Any man who engaged in prostitution, acted as a procurer of escorts or associated himself with women who were escorts were to be lashed 100 times on the first offense, banished from the kingdom on the second offense and hung on the third offense.
1490s AD, Great Pox blamed on escorts
Syphilis (the Great Pox) ravaged the continent and decimated all classes. While it originated in a mercenary camp and could have been blamed on war, it’s escorts who were appointed scapegoats. Now Europe was determined to get rid of prostitution for good.