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Sex History: The Tender Flesh of Ancient Roman Prostitution Tender

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By HVculture on June 22, 2011

Back in Ancient Rome they didn’t have Rosetta Stone software or any online classes to teach people other languages. That meant there were a lot of languages running around, fouling up the process of having an efficient and easy trip to a brothel. And boy did Romans and foreigners love them some brothels.

Many times the prostitutes would be slaves who did not speak widely known languages.  This became quite an issue when trying to agree on a price for a certain sexual act; couldn’t have Roman senators getting a handsy for only one as (a copper piece). Maximus the Pimpius would be very displeased. Getting too much ass for just one as? Not happening.

So apparently the Romans may have tried out an experiment to streamline the process of purchased sexual activity. They could have been using spintria, a Roman token that depicted a sexual act on one side of the coin and a number on the other.

According to the Straight Dope,

Somewhat smaller than a quarter and struck from brass or bronze, a spintria typically depicts an X-rated scene on one face and a Roman numeral from I to XVI on the other. They’re thought to have been minted somewhere between the years 22 and 37, during the reign of the emperor Tiberius.

It seems that prostitutes would normally offer their services for between 2-10 asses, which happens to correspond very well with the roman numerals on the back side of the coin. Such ease of access would mean there would be nothing lost in translation and both parties would walk away satisfied.

But Geoffrey Fishburn from University of South Wales disagrees with the idea that the tokens were unequivocally used for such lewd purposes. In his 2007 paper, “Is That A Spintria In Your Pocket, Or Are You Just Pleased To See Me?”, he argues that there are other possible uses for the minted coins. One use could have been as gaming tokens, analogous to playing cards with risqué pictures. These could have also been used as brothel coins, but they would have a dual function.

The coins could have been used as admission tokens to games or theater performances, which would correspond to the numbers on one face. Or of course they could just have been gift tokens with naughty pictures on them to get the Roman loins stirring. Fishburn says:

“The case for spintriae as ‘brothel tokens’, and so, for the existence of a ‘sub-economy’, is not strong. Spintriae, whatever their purpose, were produced for only a short period.”

Well regardless of how long they were produced for, it still seems like a great idea for promoting efficiency. Just look at the way that politicians and celebrities conduct their private affairs with hookers and secret mistresses. Very inefficient, especially when you consider that some of their trysts could be with people who speak a different language.

So to bring back the feel of Ancient Rome, I present the Anthony Wiener Token; depicting on one side the act of sexting, and on the other the years of shame you have to suffer through after sending your dick over the Internet.

Just imagine if all politicians had access to these coins- it would be so much easier to have a sex scandal. Imagine if Clinton had coins like these for his interns, or if Larry Craig had these when trolling airport bathroom.

And that’s what we want, more efficiency in Washington.

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