It’s no secret that the ancient Roman empire loved sex. There were all sorts of taboos that were captured clearly in poetry and city-wall graffiti.
What we weren’t aware of is that there was an entire coinage system with pornographic acts brazenly depicted. The question remains, did they used these coins in their everyday lives for the exchange of goods?
The answer appears to be a resounding no. According to io9, the “coins” were called “spintriae” and are non-monetary tokens that measure slightly smaller than a quarter.
Historians aren’t fully certain as to what they are used for, but there are two main theories:
1. Some have assumed the tokens were used in brothels and bath houses in exchange for various pleasures.
2. Others are certain they were used as game pieces, much in the same way playing cards are used today. CoinsWeekly explains, “The spintriae may well have had a similar function – as tokens in a game whose rules are unknown to us.” There were 16 tokens in the set, and there was evidence that private companies recreated the coins for mass production.
Historians seem to agree the second theory is correct for one simple reason: One of the coins (not featured in the above slideshow) features a portrait of Augustus. This coin would have never been associated with brothels — but in good humor, it could have been a part of a game played in parlors across the Roman Empire.
Beyond these tokens being quite interesting to look at, the originals are worth a pretty penny!