Well, I learnt something new today.  Have you ever heard of spintriae?  I hadn’t, until coming across an article about them.  They’re small Roman tokens, depicting sex acts on one side, and a number on the other, and no one really knows their purpose.

A common theory, and one that might come to mind right away, is that they’re currency for sex, a token that you would use at a brothel.  All roads led to Rome, after all, and if you can’t speak the language, but know what you want, it’s probably easier to use a coin than to try to play charades with a Pompeiian prostitute.  And the numbers, then, would be the price for that sex act.  Again, all nice and easy, and it allows for a wide variety of services to be performed between speakers of diverse languages and the illiterate, as well.  It’s a shame there are no words, though.  Maybe we’d finally learn how to crouch like a lioness on a cheese grater…

But they’ve never been found in actual brothels, just in bathhouses.  Additionally, they were only made during a brief period, and the same sex acts might have different numbers, so it’d be odd to go through all the effort of standardizing prices by minting coinage, only to then vary prices.

Some people think they were game tokens.  While others think they might have simply been erotic souvenirs.  Whatever they are, I have to say, as a fan of both coins and sex, that they’re actually pretty attractive.  Just take a look at some of them below.  I wouldn’t mind getting change nearly as much if it looked like this.

Spintriae III Spintriae IIII Spintriae V Spintriae VI Spintriae X Spintriae XII Spintriae XIII

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4 Responses to Spintriae

  1. kategarda says:

    Fascinating, beautiful, and erotic. So interesting to see the prices associated with the different acts. Thank you for this post.


    • johnkutensky says:

      If you’re interested in that, you might be interested in “the lioness on the cheese grater.” Lysistrata mentions it as a position, but doesn’t explain it. It’s found mentioned in a brothel, again, without explanation, but it has the highest price of everything there. We have no idea what it is, and barring some miraculous discovery of old texts, never will.


  2. I’ve never heard of these! I would love to have posters of these in my house. I love it when I see ages old depictions of sex. Sexual acts seemed way more natural and less contrived than the images you usually see today.


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