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Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 14:01 GMT
Erotic frescoes on display at Pompeii
An archaeologist restores a fresco in an ancient Roman guest house in Pompeii
Frescoes adorn many parts of the ancient city
A series of erotic frescoes buried under volcanic ash 2,000 years ago have been unveiled at the ancient Roman city of Pompeii.

The display of paintings and a restored public bath were inaugurated on Wednesday, and will open to the public in December.

The seven frescoes depict lively sexual activity involving numerous partners and perhaps the only female homosexual scene on display in Pompeii.

These scenes of explicit sex are expected to resurrect last year's debate over "scandalous" Roman art when curators unveiled a collection in Naples of ancient artefacts that outraged the Catholic Church.

The frescoes and the bath were buried along with the entire city of Pompeii by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

There is no element that would make one think the upper floor of the Subterranean Spa was a brothel

Antonio Varon
Pompeii archaeological heritage

The famous city near Naples has been painstakingly uncovered over the last 200 years, giving a unique glimpse into Roman life.

The bath has been undergoing restoration since the 1950s when it was discovered.

Tourist brochures will refer to the bath as the Red Light Spa, although they say it was most likely not formally a house of prostitution.

"There is no element that would make one think the upper floor of the Subterranean Spa was a brothel.

Furthermore, the archaeologists who led the dig have excluded that idea," said Antonio Varon of the Pompeii archaelogical heritage department.

'Corrupt morals'

Less than 100 steps from the entrance of the ancient town, the bath is expected to be a popular tourist destination.

In last year's controversial Naples exhibition, more than 300 artefacts that had been kept under lock and key for 200 years, unearthed from Pompeii, Herculaneum and other ancient Roman towns, outraged the Roman Catholic Church.

The highlight of the exhibition at the National Archeological Museum in Naples was a marble statue of the mythological figure of Pan - the god of shepherds and nature - cavorting sexually with a goat.

A local priest condemned it as a temptation that could "corrupt the morals of the chastest".

See also:

11 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Vesuvius victims 'died instantly'
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