People are quite used to finding ancient Roman coins buried in various places across Europe. We all know they conquered everything and were notorious litterers.
A recent find right in New Londinium though is a bit more interesting.
Near Putney Bridge in West London, pastry chef Regis Cursan, 37, found the unusual token at low tide. At first he thought the image on one side was of a goddess but he was put right when he donated the piece to the Museum of London.
In fact, the coin was a token called a spintria (plural: spintriae) used in transactions between Romans and sex worker slaves. The coin was not money itself, more closely related to a receipt. On one side is an image of what the Roman would like to enjoy, while on the other is a Roman numeral displaying the price of the act.
The Roman would have to fork over the actual monetary amount beforehand to the brothel keeper who would provide the spintria. The token was given to the slave and once the service was complete it would be returned to the brothel keeper who could then pass it on to another customer.
This coin depicts a woman face down on a couch with the man on top of her. This could either be depicting a lazy doggy style or some anal action. The price on the other side is 14 asses. (A crude pun is not necessary here, that is actually the name of the currency.)
Presumably the token was a way to spare shy Romans from having to describe their desires out loud. We can only wonder what they would do if they wanted something that hadn’t been minted.
Dated to around the first century AD, this is the first of its kind to be unearthed in the UK, though a few others have been found across Europe. Other coins show that the price range went from between 1 as to 16 asses. So whatever this one was it was for the big spenders.
By Lewis Roe