Roman Coins Reveals Obscure Services Offered On Vacation Sites Menu
There is a mystery in the history of ancient Rome that scholars have yet to unravel; a collection of brass Roman coins or tokens depicting sexual actions on one side and a number on the other. They were not part of the regular monetary system and were only used briefly in the first century. These so-called Roman sex coins may have been used to gain access to brothels, pay for prostitutes, or even serve as a menu, allowing non-Latin-speaking customers to hand over the token showing the requested writing. But the reality is that no one really knows.
Ancient bullet with the inscription "Victory" discovered in Israel
There is now considerable negative stigma associated with the profession of prostitution. It is often seen as "sinful", "disgusting", and "shameful", to both the prostitute and the client.
Even if everyone had their own opinions on the practice in ancient Rome, it was much more socially acceptable. In fact, brothels were prevalent in tourist cities like Pompeii and Herculaneum. (Which is advantageous for archaeologists, since both sites are "fixed" in time.) Eventually, throughout the Middle Ages, spintriae, a currency based on these essential elements, became popular (although this name is misleading in ancient records). The wide circulation of these coins and the abundance of images in the aforementioned southern Italian tourist destinations illustrate the ubiquity of prostitution in Roman society.
Ancient sex tokens: different types of coins
Roman brothel tokens were very recognizable to the average money handler. The front and back of the tokens depicted different sexual actions, often depicting individuals in the sexual act. Some portrayed full-fledged phalluses, sometimes with attached wings, perhaps emphasizing the virility of the guy wearing the coin. Male prostitutes and female participants were not uncommon, but the literature indicates that wealthy men desired the company of a meretrix, or legal prostitute, much more frequently.
It is also noteworthy that most of the tiles depict male-female relationships rather than same-sex relationships, likely indicating that homosexuality (at least outward homosexuality) had become significantly less acceptable by Roman times. compared to the time of its predecessors.
19th century engraving of "Spintriae" (Roman brothel tokens) supposedly found in Pompeii. ( Public domain )
roman sex menu
One of the most common hypotheses about the origin and function of the coins is that they were created to publicize the costs of sexual actions. In addition, by passing a coin between two people - the "buyer" and the "seller", some kind of secret can be preserved. This would have been especially significant for high-status people who want to hide their late-night relationships. Some researchers think that "the sexual act depicted on each coin matches the price written on the other side", which has been hailed as brilliant as "the method would also have helped to remove linguistic obstacles".
IF THIS THEORY IS TRUE, THEN IT SHOULD BE CONSIDERED THAT THE COINS WERE NOT METHODS OF PAYMENT, BUT MORE LIKE PHONE CARDS OR ORDERS. Just as one might say "I'd like a number 4" at McDonald's and pay at the teller, an ancient Roman would pass the token and then pay for the service before or after it occurred.
A more recent find of a Roman brothel token in London, called the "Putney token" after the bridge near which it was found, was examined in 2012. As is known, the Romans had forts, camps, etc. In ancient Britain, the theory is promoted that these coins were used to get around language barriers. The Romanization of Britain was slow, and so was the spread of the Roman language; however, an image of intercourse is universally understood.
Α Roman brothel tab. (Mathias Kabel/CC BY SA 3.0)