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.


Spintria was used by Suetonius for young male prostitutes,[1] from Greek σφιγκτήρ (sphinktḗr, [anal] sphincter). In the 16th century, the name passed from the ancient sense to the tokens.[1][2]


Some scholars have argued that spintriae were used to pay prostitutes. 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.[3] 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.[4]

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


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


  1. 1 2 Fishburn, page 10, note 2.
  2. Talvacchia, Bette, 1999, Taking positions: on the erotic in Renaissance culture, page 56. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press. Quoted in Fishburn.
  3. Cassius Dio 78.16.5.
  4. Thomas A. McGinn, The Economy of Prostitution in the Roman World (University of Michigan Press, 2004), p. 115.


External links

Prime sources


This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/31/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.