- erotic tokens and coins
Erotic tokens and coins
The ancient Greeks generally did not have trouble viewing naked human bodies. Nudity in the ancient world was regarded as a natural aspect of life. This has been evidenced by the number of preserved art and craft artifacts - sculptures, ceramics, as well as coins. Rare, however, are representations of characters in sexual positions, such as Satyr and Nymph on archaic Greek coins from Macedonia and from the island of Thassos.
In Roman times direct representation of sexual themes on coins is not known, although nude figures on coins were common. Besides standard coins Romans also issued special metal tokens called tesserae which were distributed on different occasions and served as an entrance ticket.
A special type of tessera were the 1st century rare erotic tokens called spintriae originally minted from bronze. One side depicts an act of love, always between a man and a woman, the other side bears a Roman numeral in a wreath. There are preserved coins bearing the numbers I to XVI, with numbers higher than XIII being very rare.
Today we can only guess about their purpose. Some experts say that their main function was to enter a public house and to enjoy the services displayed on the token. By depicting particular sexual acts people allegedly overcame language barriers between nations throughout the Roman Empire, for example, a Syrian sailor who had just arrived in Rome and did not know a word of Latin, knew exactly what he could expect entering such an establisment. Other experts claim, however, that these were special gambling chips, similar to today's erotic cards, or chips used in some period board games.
Similar to the erotic tokens are tokens used as circus tickets or food vouchers. These usually carried a portrait of the emperor on one side and a numeric designation on the other, perhaps the value of the chip.