In ancient Rome, registered prostitutes were called meretrices while the unregistered ones fell under the broad category prostibulae.

A meretrix, in Medieval Europe, was understood as any woman held in common, who "turned no one away." It was generally understood that money would be involved in this transaction, but it didn't have to be. A prostitute was reckoned differently in Medieval Europe than it is today, and accepting money for sex acts was not the single most common indicator for the legal status of being a meretrix, being a woman who engaged in sex with more than one man was. It has been argued that Meretrix in the medieval mindset is closer to our modern understanding of a sexual orientation.

Whorehouses were often hotels, the best restaurants in town, and places for good music and conversation, in which the women were taught how to entertain. In the banquets of nobility, these women would come in as entertainers in many instances. In Paris the prostitutes had a guild.

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