Catalog number: 01
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Material: Tin. Size circa 23 mm.
The rare Roman erotic tokens dating back to the 1st century, called Spintriae, were originally struck from an alloy of brass/bronze. One side of the token depicts the sexual act – always a man with a woman, while the other side bears a Roman numeral within a wreath. The numbers I to XVI are known, with numbers exceeding XIII being very rare. We do not know today why the tokens were made. Some experts claim that the main function was to gain admission to brothels and draw the service depicted on the token. It is thought that the depiction of the service was to overcome the language barrier between the peoples of the Roman Empire; for example, a Syrian sailor who just arrived in Rome without knowing a word in Latin would know exactly what to expect based on the illustration. Some theorise they were special gaming tokens similar to contemporary erotic cards or numerical tokens used in some board games. These erotic tokens had a parallel in the Roman tokens serving as admission tickets to the circus and the then meal vouchers. The latter mostly bore the portrait of the emperor on one side. Yet it was unthinkable to depict the emperor on a token with erotic motifs, and the reverse side of the Spintriae therefore bears a numerical designation, perhaps the value of the token. According to the currently prevailing opinion, they were indeed tokens for sexual services, which were distributed for free, although not as extensively as the tokens for bread and circuses.