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curtislclay
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« on: March 12, 2004, 12:21:09 pm »

In the Dream Coin topic, I wrote:
 "You mean the spintria.  Their purpose is unknown, but despite the scenes of fornication they bear, it is clear that they had nothing to do with brothels or prostitutes or Tiberius on Capri!"
Ghengis_Jon  responded:
 "Why do you say that Curtis?  Speakers at the British Museum have stated and the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna has published extensively on tessera and spintria; they were used not only as corn issue allotments but also as brothel entry pieces.  I attended a rather detailed lecture at the BM several years back concerning brothel pieces (amongst others).  Produced in denomination and 'style' to bridge the language barriers in such a cosmopolitan city such as Rome.  Evidently, the Vienna collection is the finest in the world, but unfortunately I have yet to visit.  But I agree, no connection to Tiberius or Capri."

    Any explanation of the spintiria must take account of three facts: the numbers I-XVI (usually) that appear on their reverses; the JULIO-CLAUDIAN IMPERIAL PORTRAITS and GENRE SCENES that occur in the same issue with the copulation types, sometimes sharing the same rev. dies; finally the rarity of the coins, which were apparently only issued on one or two occasions and in comparatively low volume.
     Factors 2 and 3 seem to make them totally unsuited as either brothel tokens or wheat dole entitlements.
     I am speaking of the coins catalogued by T.V. Buttrey in Num. Chron. 1973.  Perhaps the BM lecture included lead tokens and other related objects?
     I doubt we will ever be able to move past conjecture in our explanation of these pieces.  Most likely, to me, seems a connection to some board game, the numbers being the essential feature and the obverse scenes mere decoration.  
     I think there is and probably never will be any direct evidence for their purpose, which makes me wonder how the BM lecturer whom you heard had apparently been able to convince himself that he knew!
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« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2004, 06:38:23 pm »

It was a 1997 lecture on trade and exchange tokens from ancient times up to the Industrial Revolution.  As I recall, all manner of material was used in these pseudo-coinage including lead, clay, iron, brass, etc.  Corn/wheat dole tokens are documented by recovered ledgers and city tallies, as well as small quantity hoards that have been found containing nothing but these tessera/spintria.  Brothel entry passes are documented in fragmentary evidence from letters and diaries.  Some were given out as ‘comps’ (to use  casino terms), as bribes that didn’t involve the exchange of cash, and sold to overcome the language barriers of a city that had more than a hundred languages/dialects spoken at any given time.  I couldn’t find anything this specific at the Brit Museum website, here’s a link to Vienna:  [BROKEN LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN] It would be an interesting game indeed that used these types of tokens….a far cry from Chutes and Ladders I’d think…  Smiley

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« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2004, 07:13:51 pm »

This is my spintria.
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« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2004, 08:05:17 pm »

       I think the evidence Ghengis_Jon remembers - ledgers, city tallies, hoards of tokens, letters, and diaries - all relates to later periods, not the ancient world.
        Roman spintria are so rare, and were also of course not coins, that they are never attested to have been found in groups or hoards.
        The absence of spintria from hoards or excavation finds was one of the arguments advanced by a Scandinavian member of Moneta-L for his ridiculous assertion that spintria are not ancient but are all 18th-cent. forgeries!
         In the meantime I have heard from CNG's Peter Lampinen that a spintria has turned up in an excavation in Israel.
        Anyway, there is practically no ancient evidence at all for possible uses of these tokens.
        The Vienna Museum summary gives a totally false picture of the state of our knowledge.  
        We do know something about the distribution of free grain in Rome and the passes that the recipients had to present.  Such a pass is depicted on a Republican quinarius, Crawford 473/4, and Annona is shown holding one on a rare sest. of Ant. Pius, BMC pl. 40.1.  I believe actual specimens of such passes have survived and are described in Van Berchem's groundbreaking study, Les distributions de ble et d'argent, a copy of which I have at home.  Our tokens on the other hand had no connection whatever to the grain supply of Rome.  
          Similarly there is no evidence at all (beyond the depictions) for the connection of spintria to prostitutes asserted in the Vienna summary.
          It would certainly be a valid approach, which your BM lecturer seems to have followed, to study the documented uses of tokens etc. in medieval and modern times, and to speculate on this basis what ancient tokens might have been used for.  This would never amount to proof, but might well point you in the right direction.
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« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2004, 01:27:49 am »

So at least now we know that some spintriae have been found for sure in the ground ... lol ... in Rugser garden (look the picture above) So you can report it as proof to that scandinavian member  Wink
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« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2004, 10:27:28 pm »

     Excellent point, Lorenzo!
     Rugser, can you confirm that this coin was found in your garden?  Do you specifically remember finding it?
      I can imagine that the rarity and novelty of the type might have served to fix the discovery in your memory!
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« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2005, 12:34:37 am »

This is my spintria.

This is the 1st time I've ever heard anyone finding a spintria .. Rugser, could you tell us (if it's not a sensitive issue  Lips Sealed) about the type of location of the discovery (river, countryside, very urban area, ...)?


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« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2005, 04:20:39 am »

Hi Jèrome.
   
This spintria I have found her in the open country, in small Roman cemetery where the burial was used in the naked earth..... now field of wheat.   
He has probably been used as offering to "Caron".

ser
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« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2005, 07:06:43 am »

I've always fancied that these numbered spintria/tessera were used for entrance to the games, and assigned a seating area. I doubt the games were a family affair, so maybe the "erotic" designs weren't a problem. You could imagine them first being distributed under some scheme, then perhaps collected on entrance.

To theorize the use of these, you need to take into account that there were also ones with the same numbered reverse that instead of the erotic scenes (also popular on oil lamps) had emperors on the obverse, or occasionally other designs:

Perhaps the imperial type were for imperial sponsored games, and the generic erotic variety were for privately sponsored games?

Ben
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« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2005, 01:06:09 pm »

Let's try to stick to the topic indicated by the title

Thanks Rugser for your additional info! Is the cemetery close to a big ancient Roman town? I'm trying to see if these pieces were used in big urban centers

I'll try to summarize the situation (referencing Curtis' 1st post):

1) the rarity of the coins, which were apparently only issued on one or two occasions and in comparatively low volume. We would need more input on the location of the findings throughout ages.

2) the numbers I-XVI (usually) appear on their reverses

3) the JULIO-CLAUDIAN IMPERIAL PORTRAITS and GENRE SCENES occur in the same issue with the copulation types, sometimes sharing the same rev. dies. The fabric seems consistent throughout all series (metal, weight, dimensions).

4) the dies engravings typical of the 1st cent., and contemporaneous from the Julio-Claudian dynasty

5) The genre scenes sometimes feature topics related to games and gambling games. Some very interesting tokens are shown in Cohen (vol. VIII, p.266), in a section dedicated to the "gambling tessera":
http://www.inumis.com/rome/books/cohen/vol_viii/p266-fr.html
- one represents a motto QVID LVDIT ARRAM DET QVOD SATIS SIT "who wants to play has to provide enough deposit to reply" with jacks (small bones for playing) around
- another one with the traditional rev. with a number within crown features on obv.  a gambling scene between 2 gambling players with the legend MORA

6) It's hard to make conjectures based on one single example, but the Rugser find can let imagine that there was a financial value attached to them

7) There is few trace of circulation visible
 
I don't imagine these tokens being used for different purposes according to the obverse. I then could propose that all these tokens were used for gambling games purposes, the players choosing the series they liked (like the erotic ones, that could have a relation to the good fortune??). The manufacturer could be unique, and they saw limited use in time (time of Tiberius?).

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« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2005, 01:51:11 pm »

I think we need to differentiate between tessera in general (which may have had all sorts of uses just as "tokens" do today), and those that have the numbered reverses which would seem to have a specialized purpose. For example, the "QVID LVDIT ARRAM" one doesn't have a numbered reverse, and was most likely used for gambling.

The Cohen reference does note numbered ones as late as Julian II and even Theodosius I.

To my mind the scarcity of these isn't necessarily at odds with them being used for games entrance pieces (number = seating section), since as such they'd have to be collected (else they could be reused indiscriminately by the holder) and reused. The number needed for such purposes would be very limited - on the order of the number of people who could fit into the amphitheatres at one time. You'd also expect them to not be lost too often since as such they'd be worth keeping a firm grip on!

It would seem that the games would have needed some sort of entrance ticket since the seating available was far less than the population - e.g. 50,000 for the Colosseum vs a population for Rome of ~1,000,000 at it's peak. It also seems that it would have been desirable to have tickets and seating/section assignments made ahead of time as that would have allowed the sponsor of the games to give them out as favors/etc.

Ben

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« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2005, 02:21:16 pm »

I took the QVID LVDIT ARRAM token as a typical case, but my 2nd example does feature the number and crown, and shows a gambling scene. Furthermore, there are several types related to the games. Your 2nd photo shows a quadriga but, interesting detail, with the driving holding the palm of the winner! That can be related to gambling too.

About amphiteaters, the Colyseum in Rome had 70 or 80  entrance gates, their numbers still appearing today on every arch (at least a part of them, that's very impressive). People were driven to a particular gate, for a particular range of seats (the highest being the cheapest). The most common (by far) numbers I to XVI on these tokens can't fit to that.

Cohen actually references many types of tesserae, including late imperial ones, but we must select only the ones consistent in time, diameter and type (e.g. number within crown).

Finally, if a part of these tesserae was used for gambling, then I think the rest was, too, creating series in the domain (the emperors, the erotic ones, some typical gambling ones ...). I foresee only one use for all the ones within a consistent domain (numbers in crown, period, shape).

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« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2005, 02:35:05 pm »

About amphiteaters, the Colyseum in Rome had 70 or 80  entrance gates, their numbers still appearing today (at least a part of them, that's very impressive). People were driven to a particular gate, for a particular range of seats (the highest being the cheapest). The most common (by far) numbers I to XVI on these tokens can't fit to that.

So are different levels within the same "slice" (if we were to look at the Colosseum from above, and slice it like a pie) served exclusively by different gates?

Do we know for sure that people paid to see the games? I thought that the cost was footed by a sponsor - I wasn't aware that it was offset by entrance fees (or maybe even run at a profit).

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« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2005, 02:48:28 pm »

I don't know if there was entrance fees, but people had to enter by the gate they were assigned to, you can still see their numbers above each entrance arch of the Colyseum. Imagine 50,000 persons rushing around the amphitheater trying to enter by the gate they would fancy! And yes, there were layers, as in our theaters today: to see better, you must pay more (or have the token gift that corresponds). There are some latin authors talking about that but I'm unable to provide you any reference Roll Eyes

Actually people used to enter the amphitheater by a vomitorium, which "was a passageway in an amphitheater or theater that opened into a tier of seats from below or behind. The vomitoria of the Colosseum in Rome were so well designed that it's said the immense venue, which seated at least 50,000, could fill in 15 minutes. (There were 80 entrances at ground level, 76 for ordinary spectators and 4 for the imperial family.) The vomitoria deposited mobs of people into their seats and afterward disgorged them with equal abruptness into the streets--whence, presumably, the name." (taken from the Web)

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« Reply #14 on: August 12, 2005, 06:31:58 am »

It's certainly fun to imagine what life was really like back then, and what hands (or mouths) any coin has passed thru, and where it has travelled.

I'm not yet convinced that the 80 entrances has dealt a totally knockout blow to the idea of these being used for the games, although I'll hapilly admit that this idea is based more on fancy than fact - the games must have been one of the most fabulous (and horrific) spectacles ever to have been seen.

I did dig up this information concering the internal organization of the Colosseum, and it's various numeric divisions:

The amphitheater was a microcosm of Roman society. The seating arrangements reflected the stratification of Roman society.   On a large podium the emperor had a special box and senators sat on marble seating divided into fourteen sections.  Next came the members of the equestrian order, who sat in the lowest tier (ima cavea) of the amphitheater, consisting of  twelve rows of marble seating divided into sixteen sectionsRoman citizens affluent enough to afford to wear a toga occupied nineteen rows of marble seats in sixteen sections in middle of the seating area (media cavea).  Above them in the summa cavea sat poorer citizens clad in dark garments (the pullati), slaves, freedmen, and foreigners residing in Rome.  Women from these groups probably also sat among the men.  This tier consisted of seven rows of limestone seating divided into sixteen sections.  Finally, at the very top of the amphitheater was an gallery with wooden seats (summum maenianum in ligneis) on  which sat wives of senators and equestrians protected from  sun2 and rain by a colonnade.3  The podium, ima cavea and media cavea thus consisted of reserved seating,4 in which subdivisions of each group sat together.  The status of a senator determined in what section he sat on the podium, as did that of an equestrian in the ima cavea.  For example, in ima cavea there was a section reserved for those equestrians who had been assigned the honor of "with public horse," and who served on special jury panels.  There even seems to have been a section reserved for bankrupt equestrians.  In the media cavea soldiers were separated from civilians, married men from bachelors; boys and their tutors sat together, etc.  In these three tiers the status of an individual in Roman society and within his own class would have been clear at a glance.

From here:

http://depthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/classics/gladiatr/amphthtr.htm

So perhaps status determined your level, but the entrance token I.. XVI determined your section?!

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« Reply #15 on: August 12, 2005, 12:42:58 pm »

If these tokens had been used for admission to the Colosseum or some other big theatre (remember the Colosseum was opened in AD80 by Titus) they would have to be very common today. Period.
Even if they were brothel tokens they couldn't be as very rare as they are today. Going to whores can't have been such a rare thing in ancient Rome.
I can't imagine a different solution than their use as gaming tokens for a game in which you needed stones, bones, tokens, pieces of wood or whatever inscribed with numerals 1 to 16. Like playing cards. Most peoples used stones, astragals, pieces of wood, etc., and the metal tokens were the "luxury edition" of this game. Now you all know playing cards today. You can use the plain ones with King, Queen, Jack, etc., in the usual pictures you all know, or you can make a joke and bring naughty playing cards with naked ladies. I can't post them here 'cause I don't want Joe to throw me from the boards Wink. Anyway, the plain cards are much more convenient for playing, plus you won't get trouble with your wife.
So the Romans had the choice as well between "normal" tokens decorated with Imperial portraits, and naughty tokens with sex scenes. You can imagine which edition was sold more, or you can conclude it from their rarity today. The Imperial ones are rare already (remember it was the luxury version of the game, if you had to pay an as for one token the whole game cost a denarius!), still much fewer people had the money and were willing to buy the rather useless naughty tokens (naughty playing cards are also more expensive than the plain ones), which is why we don't get them for less than several thousand Euros today.

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« Reply #16 on: August 12, 2005, 01:49:11 pm »

Rupert,
To take a modern analogy, consider how many people in New York city have a pack of cards, or maybe a set of dominos, vs how many have a Knicks ticket on game night. Now consider if the Knicks issued reusable (collect and reissue) entrace tokens, thus limiting the total number in circulation to the number of seats in Madison Square Garden, plus however many got lost...  Now, as a future achaeologist, would you better fancy your chances to discover a discarded or misplaced domino/card, or one of those lost Knicks entrance tokens!

Ben
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« Reply #17 on: August 12, 2005, 03:15:23 pm »

- you take the example of the colosseum : it was built by Titus, as says Rupert, so 40 years after these tokens were issued
- still about the colosseum, the theory of the 16 sections doesn't explain the presence of numbers higher than 16
- my previous point #7 : these tokens are generally found without much trace of circulation, that contradicts multiple re-use
- seen how these games were popular, multiple-reuse could not be an argument to explain the rairty of these (argument of rupert)
- my previous point #5 : some tokens with the numbers feature playing scenes, that would have nothing to do with amphitheater games. And I don't imagine different uses of these tokens, which were struck and used for a limited period of time, for a unique topic.

The only explanation that perfectly fits is the one exposed by Curtis (1st post), the board game tokens, and I and Rupert concur with it. Don't you try to make these small items fit (with a shoe-horn) to your dreams? Grin

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« Reply #18 on: August 12, 2005, 04:00:23 pm »

Don't you try to make these small items fit (with a shoe-horn) to your dreams? Grin

Agreed!

However, we need to apply the same standard to all theories!

So...

1) Why do you think that board game tokens (which are in use all the time, being handled and plonked down) would see little wear, less wear even than an entrance token which is merely passively kept then handed over?!

What about "one sided" sestertii where the extreme wear on one side is also attributed to board game use?!

2) If lack of wear contradicts reuse, then are you claiming that gaming tokens were NOT reused?!

3) Why does a token showing a playing scene imply it was used for a game, yet one with a charioteer NOT imply it was related to chariots, or an erotic one NOT related to erotic activities?!

4) The Colloseum wasn't the only amphitheatre, nor were amphitheatres even the original venue for gladitorial games, so while the Colloseum's 16 sections could relate to a preponderance of numbers <= XVI around that location, it doesn't have bearing on earliest date or other locations

5) Are you claiming that less people played board games than went to the games, or why exactly does board game use (by milions of people over centuries of use!) imply that these would be so rare?

Incidently amphitheatres were mostly in the western empire and to a lesser extent in the hellenistic east, which may explain why we're not seeing these coming out of the Balkans!

If you think these were used for board game tokens, then you need to make a case! Wink

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« Reply #19 on: August 12, 2005, 04:32:43 pm »

Agreed!
Isn't it what is called in English wishful thinking? Grin

1) Why do you think that board game tokens (which are in use all the time, being handled and plonked down) would see little wear, less wear even than an entrance token which is merely passively kept then handed over?!
Because, seen the number of people using these, the manipulation and storage of these would have been exactly as for coins, putting them together, generating some wear on top surfaces.

What about "one sided" sestertii where the extreme wear on one side is also attributed to board game use?!
I haven't seen any of them.

2) If lack of wear contradicts reuse, then are you claiming that gaming tokens were NOT reused?!
No, but the game tokens would have been manipulated in quite a separate way than "entrance tokens" (if they have ever existed).

3) Why does a token showing a playing scene imply it was used for a game, yet one with a charioteer NOT imply it was related to chariots, or an erotic one NOT related to erotic activities?!
All tokens were used for ONE purpose, whatever it be. All subjects shown on the tokens can be linked to gaming or gambling, but not for circus or amphitheater game. Chariot with charioteer holding palm is a symbol of winning, as erotic scene can be a lucky charm: see some famous frescoe in Pompei, representations on engraved gems, ...

4) The Colloseum wasn't the only amphitheatre, nor were amphitheatres even the original venue for gladitorial games, so while the Colloseum's 16 sections could relate to a preponderance of numbers <= XVI around that location, it doesn't have bearing on earliest date or other locations
Tell us more about about places for gladiatorial games in 20-40AD (were they in a circular shape?), and the relationship with numbers 1-16 (and above, for some). People entering there didn't need any token. A token for what use? It's a waste of bronze. For "beautiful people"? They had their reserved areas already.

5) Are you claiming that less people played board games than went to the games, or why exactly does board game use (by milions of people over centuries of use!) imply that these would be so rare?
See Rupert answer, most of the tokens used to be in other materials. In the 1st half of the 1st cent. AD, some bronze tokens were issued on a limited scale, in a probably limited geographical area, the reason why it didn't spread is unexplained.

Incidently amphitheatres were mostly in the western empire and to a lesser extent in the hellenistic east, which may explain why we're not seeing these coming out of the Balkans!
They are not seen in Gaul either while it was romanized early (at least southern Gaul).

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« Reply #20 on: August 15, 2005, 04:53:12 am »

I think Curtis' and Ghengis_Jon's previous observation that these tokens were never found in hoards, but were mostly single finds is a strong argument against the view that they were used for a (board) game.

If a game was played with them, you would expect finds of a whole playing set (or at least part of a set).

Or put in different words: you can't play poker with just the ace of spades.

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« Reply #21 on: August 19, 2005, 02:57:38 pm »

If a game was played with them, you would expect finds of a whole playing set (or at least part of a set).

This is an interesting point. However, I would answer that these small items were not hoarded like coins, as they were everyday items; the date of probable use of these items (say, Tiberian era) is a time where no insecurity plagued the Roman empire, and there was no need to hoard such items, nor was discovered a relatively preserved site due to the Barbarian invasions, with a chance to find a full set. Then these items have probably finished being melted as scrap metal, except for those that were lost or used for burial at that special time.

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« Reply #22 on: August 19, 2005, 03:18:57 pm »

     I would say that too little evidence is available to give us any clear idea of what spintria were used for.
     We can be certain, however, that they were not whorehouse tokens, entitling you to one copulation as depicted, one of the traditional explanations that is still often repeated today, since the same reverse dies were also used with imperial portraits and genre scenes on the obverse.
     Any explanation must take account of (a) this mixture of depictions on the obverse, copulations, imperial heads, genre scenes, (b) the numbers I-XVI on the reverse, (c) the rarity of these tokens, (d) the fact that the main series seems to belong to approximately the time of Tiberius-Claudius.
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« Reply #23 on: August 19, 2005, 03:42:39 pm »

The number sixteen is interesting. There are sixteen pieces in each side in a game of chess, there are sixteen pieces in a game of draughts. I am very much inclined to think that these are indeed some form of gaming piece. But they are very rare you say and gaming pieces should be fairly common. Consider this, apart from the much more expensive sets, most chess pieces (until the advent of plastics and resins) were made of wood. Small pieces of wood do not often survive 2000 years. Perhaps the spintriae are surviving "upmarket" board game pieces. Just a thought.

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« Reply #24 on: August 19, 2005, 05:24:45 pm »

The number sixteen is interesting. There are sixteen pieces in each side in a game of chess, there are sixteen pieces in a game of draughts.

Looking at the several types listed by Cohen,
- it appears that some figures above 16 can be found:
http://www.inumis.com/rome/books/cohen/vol_viii/p255-fr.html

- some figures are scarcer than others; in particular, 16 seems to be quite rare:

. none referenced by cohen for Tiberius
http://www.inumis.com/rome/books/cohen/vol_viii/p260-fr.html
or Caligula
http://www.inumis.com/rome/books/cohen/vol_viii/p261-fr.html

. Augustus
11 different "XV" types for a single "XVI" type
http://www.inumis.com/rome/books/cohen/vol_viii/p254-fr.html
http://www.inumis.com/rome/books/cohen/vol_viii/p255-fr.html

Very intriguing artifacts indeed  Huh

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« Reply #25 on: August 26, 2005, 02:56:15 pm »

I'd like to add, not my two cents in this case, but my one tessera, the only one I own, and of course not one of the naughties. Very uneven surface and thus hard to photograph.

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« Reply #26 on: August 26, 2005, 03:16:43 pm »

Rupert,

  Do you happen to know the place of discovery (at least the country?)

Jérôme Cool
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« Reply #27 on: August 26, 2005, 03:31:33 pm »

No, I'm sorry; I bought it in 1999 from Hirsch in Munich, that's all I know about its origin Sad.

Rupert
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« Reply #28 on: December 02, 2005, 06:46:17 am »

I'm not sure if this may add anything to the discussion - a countermarked spintria that just sold.

Does anybody recognise the countermark and know anything about it?

Ben
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« Reply #29 on: December 02, 2005, 09:10:11 am »

It's the famous eaglet long thought to be of the Este family, now ascribed to the Gonzaga family.  Collection dispersed 1700 or earlier, Paris and Milan have many coins with this mark.
Our Norwegian friend who asserts that all spintria were fabricated in the 18th cent. may wonder how one of them got this 16th or 17th cent. collector's mark!
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« Reply #30 on: December 02, 2005, 09:22:17 am »

Ah - thanks Curtis. I figured it would likely say something about the coin.

I initially though it looked a bit too sharp/detailed to be a countermark, but then I thought what collector would stamp a coin with their own mark! I wonder why the Gonzaga's did that?

Ben
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« Reply #31 on: December 17, 2005, 05:35:39 pm »

but then I thought what collector would stamp a coin with their own mark! I wonder why the Gonzaga's did that?

Remember that the tastes and sensibilities of collectors several centuries ago may have been rather different than our own.

For example, throughout 18-19th century re-silvering of antoniniani was not frowned upon, either. Some collectors further "improved" coins by filing them to make them rounder. The mere thought of which practice makes me shudder.

As for the Gonzagas... If their chamber pots had the family crest on it, why not the coins? What better way to say "Mine, mine, mine, all mine!"?

Then again, such individuals exist today as well, alas... I know of one fellow who is actually rather proud that the coins in his collection have his fingerprints etched into them.

G/<
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« Reply #32 on: October 19, 2007, 09:42:04 pm »

Thruout  this thread I have seen no mention of Tiberius's edict  ...nummo uel anulo effigiem impressam latrinae aut lupanari intulisse... (Suet. Tib. 58) from Suetonius  translated? "(no-one) to carry into latrines or brothels a coin with the head (of the Emperor) stamped on it or cut in the stone of a ring". My interpretation of this would mean that a denarius or sesterces could not be used as a form of payment at a brothel during this time period and thus a token "spintria" was neccessary to comply with the law. Quite possibly these tokens were purchased in advance, and the numerals might have a wide variety of significance, appointment time, location, room number, and server? This speculation would also fit the parameters that spintria have not been found in multiples and they become scarcer the further you get from Rome.

Hoping to get some insight from the learned scholars that frequent this board.

Thanks'  Cameron
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« Reply #33 on: October 20, 2007, 12:57:40 am »

I'm still not convinced that the erotic tokens didn't have some use in a brothel somewhere. I find it curious that below the erotic paintings in the Pompeii brothel there are Roman numbers indicating locker numbers.

Barry Murphy
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« Reply #34 on: October 20, 2007, 03:57:53 am »

Thruout  this thread I have seen no mention of Tiberius's edict  ...nummo uel anulo effigiem impressam latrinae aut lupanari intulisse... (Suet. Tib. 58) from Suetonius  translated? "(no-one) to carry into latrines or brothels a coin with the head (of the Emperor) stamped on it or cut in the stone of a ring". My interpretation of this would mean that a denarius or sesterces could not be used as a form of payment at a brothel during this time period and thus a token "spintria" was neccessary to comply with the law.

I'm still not convinced that the erotic tokens didn't have some use in a brothel somewhere. I find it curious that below the erotic paintings in the Pompeii brothel there are Roman numbers indicating locker numbers.

I think that these two posts, taken together, have very likely solved the problem.

  We can be certain, however, that they were not whorehouse tokens, entitling you to one copulation as depicted, one of the traditional explanations that is still often repeated today, since the same reverse dies were also used with imperial portraits and genre scenes on the obverse.
 Any explanation must take account of (a) this mixture of depictions on the obverse, copulations, imperial heads, genre scenes, (b) the numbers I-XVI on the reverse, (c) the rarity of these tokens, (d) the fact that the main series seems to belong to approximately the time of Tiberius-Claudius.

Tokens could have been struck by a common mint (official?) for a variety of purposes ranging from those for use at the games to those for use in brothels or latrines. So long as Imperial heads are not used in conjunction with copulation scenes on the same token I can see no reason why the erotic ones could not have been issued as brothel tokens.

Alex.
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« Reply #35 on: October 21, 2007, 01:02:43 pm »

In my opinion the terrerae with imperial heads and genre scenes cannot be separated from those with erotic scenes by the facile assumption: same manufacturer, different clients!

Why the same numbers I-XVI on the reverses of all such tokens?  Why exactly the same size, fabric, metal, style?  If I-XVI applied to locker numbers at the whorehouse as Barry suggests, why did the other clients, who chose imperial portraits or genre scenes for their tokens, want those same numbers on the reverse?
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« Reply #36 on: October 22, 2007, 10:33:52 am »

Thruout  this thread I have seen no mention of Tiberius's edict  ...nummo uel anulo effigiem impressam latrinae aut lupanari intulisse... (Suet. Tib. 58) from Suetonius  translated? "(no-one) to carry into latrines or brothels a coin with the head (of the Emperor) stamped on it or cut in the stone of a ring". My interpretation of this would mean that a denarius or sesterces could not be used as a form of payment at a brothel during this time period and thus a token "spintria" was neccessary to comply with the law. Quite possibly these tokens were purchased in advance, and the numerals might have a wide variety of significance, appointment time, location, room number, and server? This speculation would also fit the parameters that spintria have not been found in multiples and they become scarcer the further you get from Rome.

Could this same edict not imply that tokens bearing the Imperial portrait were being used enough to warrant the emperor's attention?
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« Reply #37 on: October 23, 2007, 01:08:00 am »

In principle, I'm sure you're right, though I know nothing of spintria and the literature.  Epigraphers that I have known have relied on it, that when, for example, an inscription was set up at the entrance to a sanctuary saying something about profane practices, such as burials within the temenos, it is the best conceivable evidence for such practices having occurred, and frequently enough to justify setting up the inscription.  I remember a little Middle Byzantine church in Athens which, 50 years ago, was crowded round by later houses and garden walls.  On the back of its little apse was painted, "Outhouse use of this place forbidden!"  Well, it actually said Apagorevetai to kropeîn, in case you know Greek.  Today, of course, like the rest of the Plaka, it's clean and tidy enough for Disneyland.
Pat L.
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« Reply #38 on: October 26, 2007, 09:26:22 am »

Here the Suetonius passage, so we can see it has nothing to do with spintriae:

After a man had been tried and condemned for removing the head of Divus Augustus from a statue and replacing it with a head of someone else, "this kind of accusation gradually went so far that even such acts as these were regarded as capital crimes: to beat a slave near a statue of Augustus, or to change one's clothes there; to carry a ring or a coin stamped with his image into a privy or a brothel, or to criticize any word or act of his. Finally, a man was put to death merely for allowing an honour to be voted him in his native town on the same day that honours had previously been voted to Augustus." (Loeb, pp. 373-5)

These infringements all relate to AUGUSTUS; Suetonius does not say whether Tiberius had any objection to people carrying his own portrait coins into brothels or latrines.
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« Reply #39 on: February 26, 2008, 11:46:00 am »

I think that this image from Pompeii supports the argument that they were some sort of brothel token.
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