In Roman law, the status of meretrices was specifically and closely regulated. They were obliged to register with the aediles, and (from Caligula's day onwards) to pay imperial tax. Because of the social stigma associated with the profession, they could not give evidence in court, and Roman freeborn were legally forbidden from marrying them.
Since the times of Emperor Augustus they were required to wear distinctive togas, typically dyed in yellow, to distinguish themselves from respected matrons. Bright colors – "Colores meretricii" – and jewelled anklets also marked them out from respectable women.
Because intercourse with a meretrix was almost normative for the adolescent male of the period, and permitted for the married man as long as the prostitute was properly registered, brothels were commonly dispersed around Roman cities, often found between houses of respected families. These included both large brothels and one-room cellae meretriciae, or "prostitute's cots". However, ancient authors often made distinctions between "good faith" meretrices who truly loved their clients, and "bad faith" prostitutes, who only lured them in for their money.
In Medieval Europe, a meretrix 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 did not have to be: it was rather promiscuousness that defined the meretrix.
Medieval Christian authors often discouraged prostitution, but did not consider it a serious offence and under some circumstances even considered marrying a harlot to be an act of piety. Every woman was considered to contain a latent meretrix, so that it was possible to both rise out of and fall into the category, as with tales of prostitutes repenting to become saints.
- Sokala, pp. 5-35
- J. P. V. D. Balsdon, Roman Women (1966) p. 227
- H. Nettleship/J. E. Sandys eds., A Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1894) p. 293
- J. P. V. D. Balsdon, Roman Women (1966) p. 192
- Gibson, pp. 32-34
- J. P. V. D. Balsdon, Roman Women (1966) p. 224, 252-4 and p. 327n
- J. P. V. D. Balsdon, Roman Women (1966) p. 218 and 225-6
- Duncan, p. 13
- McGinn, pp. 11-13
- Duncan, pp. 257-260
- Duckworth, p. 253
- Biffi, pp. 15-24
- K. M.Phillips/B. Reay eds., Sexualities in History (2002) p. 93
- Brundage, pp. 308-311
- Carla Freccero, Queer/Early/Modern (2005) p. 37
- Martha C. Nussbaum/Juha Sivola, The Sleep of Reason (2002) p. 247-8
- Anne Duncan; Thomas McGinn (2006). "Infamous performers". In Christopher A. Faraone; Laura McClure. Prostitutes and Courtesans in the Ancient World. Wisconsin studies in classics. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-21314-5.
- Kim M. Phillips, Barry Reay, "Sexualities in history: a reader", Routledge, 2002, ISBN 0-415-92935-0
- P Austin Nuttall, "A classical and archæological dictionary of the manners, customs, laws, institutions, arts, &c. of the celebrated nations of antiquity, and of the middle ages. To which is prefixed, A synoptical and chronological view of ancient history", 1840, pp. 267–268 
- Giacomo Biffi. "Casta Meretrix: „The Chaste Whore” : an Essay on the Ecclesiology of St. Ambrose". Saint Austin Press, 2000.
- (Polish) Andrzej Sokala. Meretrix i jej pozycja w prawie rzymskim. Wydawnictwo UMK, 1998.
- Roy K. Gibson; Ovid (2003). Ars Amatoria. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-81370-9.
- Giacomo Biffi (2000). Casta meretrix: "the chaste whore" : an essay on the ecclesiology of St. Ambrose. Saint Austin Press. ISBN 978-1-901157-34-5.
- James A. Brundage (1990). "Prostitution". Law, sex, and Christian society in medieval Europe. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-07784-0.
- Andrzej Sokala (1998). Meretrix i jej pozycja w prawie rzymskim (in Polish). Nicolaus Copernicus University Press. ISBN 978-83-231-0995-2.
- George Eckel Duckworth (1994). The nature of Roman comedy: a study in popular entertainment. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-2620-3.
- Thomas A. McGinn (2004). The economy of prostitution in the Roman world: a study of social history & the brothel. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-472-11362-0.