Historically, prostitution has been seen as a taboo subject and a subject of scorn and derision. Although not completely supported by society in general, prostitution is a practice which has existed since antiquity. This article provides a brief overview of the history of prostitution, from its ancient origins to the present day.

Prostitution in Ancient Times

In ancient times, prostitution was a commonplace activity and often viewed as an important part of the cultural and economic fabric of society. The earliest known records of prostitution date back to Mesopotamia around 2400 BC. The Code of Hammurabi states, “if a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed, he shall pay her for money”. Prostitution was also present in Ancient Greece, and there are many references in Greek literature to prostitution. Prostitution was an accepted practice in Rome, and there were various regulations which both regulated and encouraged it.
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Middle Ages and Beyond

Throughout the Middle Ages, prostitution was seen as both a necessary and sinful activity. In many cities, brothels were operated with the de facto consent and sometimes the explicit support of governments. In the 15th century, Pope Alexander VI famously issued a Papal Bull which legitimized and encouraged prostitution as a means of preventing venereal diseases. In 17th century England, Parliament passed the “Act for the Suppression of the Society of the Beggars and Harlots” which prohibited prostitution and made it punishable by imprisonment and a substantial fine.

Modern-Day Prostitution

In the modern day, prostitution is a practice that is largely viewed as unacceptable and illegal in most countries. However, there are some exceptions, such as in Germany and the Netherlands, where prostitution is legal and regulated. In other countries such as India, Thailand, and Nepal, prostitution is legal but not officially recognized or regulated. In the United States, prostitution is illegal except in some rural counties in Nevada.

Prostitution continues to be a controversial and divisive issue. Some people believe that it should be decriminalized as a form of sex work that can provide much-needed income and security for individuals who lack other job opportunities. Others believe that it should be strongly regulated or even prohibited due to the negative effects it can have on society, such as increased violence and the exploitation of vulnerable populations.


The history of prostitution dates back to antiquity and has continued through the ages in many forms. Despite its widespread existence, prostitution is still an often-opposed and taboo form of sex work. In the modern day, it is largely illegal, although there are some countries where it is legal and regulated. The debate over whether it should be decriminalized, regulated, or prohibited continues to be a source of contention in many countries.