Villa of the Mysteries


Roman Sadomasochism




This wall painting from the Villa of the Mysteries at Pompeii is a classic example of Roman sadomasochism.

The woman on the left has a whip held in her upraised right arm with which she is going to whip the kneeling girl in the centre. The kneeling girl is waiting for the whipping she is about to receive,  but willingly accepts it as part of her initiation into the mysteries.

She is kneeling over a seating woman — perhaps a priestess of the mysteries,who is looking up at the woman who is about to perform the whipping, and pointing to the girl’s back ,saying ‘whip her here’.

To the right, a naked girl is twirling in a dance. Is she the next to be beaten, and she is getting up her courage by performing a mystic dance?

There is much discussion as to the nature of the mysteries – some have even seen as being part of a marriage ceremony – you have to be whipped before you can be married – but clearly music and dancing was involved as well as the whipping

Photo courtesy of Women in Antiquity


On to the Secret Cabinet