And it's unlikely Pope Benedict will be paying a visit to the bath paintings, which climax graphically in a spot of man-on-man-on-woman-on-woman action. Just this week the pontiff told crowds in Portugal that gay marriage was a bigger threat to the human race than disease, famine, terrorism or natural disasters – including, presumably, volcanoes.Sex and the city.
Dr Varone notes that the final painting of a foursome "is exceptional even for Pompeii". But he adds that, in ancient Rome, sex between men was considered "absolutely normal". "It's only since the advent of Christianity that this all changed and the element of shame and sin came in," he said.