The phrase "fleshpots" has, over time, developed a sexual connotation, principally suggesting the lower forms of sexual commerce (i.e., prostitution and promiscuity), but the phrase does not appear in William Shakespeare's play Antony and Cleopatra. The association to sexuality could be a product of the word "flesh," and could be derived from the temptation of the fleshpots discussed in the Bible. The Biblical meaning, however, has nothing to do with sex or sexuality. "Fleshpots" in the Bible are just that: pots of flesh or, more precisely, meat. Moses, having succeeded in bringing the Jews out of Egypt, was consequently and repeatedly confronted by angry hordes of newly-liberated Jews incessantly complaining about the harshness of life in the expansive deserts where food and water were scarce. Exodus 16:3 refers to one such collective lament directed at Moses by angry throngs:
"Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger."
Shakespeare's play, of course, does not lack for sexual intrigue between Cleopatra and Antony, among others, and the Roman perception of distant Egypt almost certainly allowed for visions of promiscuity that may or may not have conformed to reality. In that sense, the use of the phrase "fleshpots" would be expected, as the Romans may have viewed ancient Egypt the way much of the world viewed Times Square before its rejuvenation during the 1990s. In any event, the phrase, as noted, does not appear in the play, but is commonly used in reference to the seedier venues of certain cities and towns.