Spintria

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Spintriae from Pompeii

A spintria (plural, spintriae) is a small bronze or brass Roman token, possibly for use in brothels, usually depicting sexual acts or symbols.

Use[edit]

Some scholars have argued that spintriae were used to pay prostitutes. According to Suetonius, carrying a ring or a coin bearing the emperor's image into a latrine or brothel could be the basis for an accusation of treason (maiestas) under Tiberius. Under Caracalla, an equestrian was sentenced to death for bringing a coin with the emperor's likeness into a brothel; he was spared only by the emperor's own death.[1] There is no direct ancient evidence, however, to support the theory that spintriae were created as tokens for exchange in place of official coinage. Numismatist Theodore V. Buttrey suggests that they were used as game pieces.[2]

They may have been gaming tokens. They seem to have been produced for only a short period, mostly in the 1st century AD.

Appearance[edit]

Spintriae
Spintriae, 2nd century

There were usually struck from brass or bronze, and were little smaller than a U.S. quarter. The represented erotic plot was suitable for the provided services. Some of the coins depicted homosexual acts between men.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Cassius Dio 78.16.5.
  2. ^ Thomas A. McGinn, The Economy of Prostitution in the Roman World (University of Michigan Press, 2004), p. 115.

References[edit]

  • Lee, Bartholomew (Fall 1983). "“Brass Checks” Return: An Excursus in Erotic Numismatics, or The Spintriae Roll Again". The Journal of Popular Culture 17 (2): 142–145. doi:10.1111/j.0022-3840.1983.1702_142.x. 

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