Cash, credit, or… sex coin? A small bronze disc depicting a man and a woman having sex was found on the banks of the river Thames last month. This small, pornographic currency had been sitting in the mud near Putney Bridge in West London since the days of Roman Londonium, nearly 2000 years ago.
Back in those days, a visit to the whorehouse cost about a day’s pay, or 14 small Roman coins, called asses. Surprisingly, it was not the “ass” coins that got Roman laborers laid. Instead they would trade in their hard-earned asses for a brothel token, which could be redeemed for the act shown on the token at their favorite brothel.
But these tokens led to more than some fun for a Roman laborer. According to the Guardian’s Art Blogger, Jonathan Jones, the explicit engravings had a serious influence on the birth of pornography as we know it today. Jones asserts that the ancient sexual depictions gave the inspiration and freedom to artists of the Renaissance to depict their own steamy scenes, such as Giulio Romano’s series of pornographic illustrations – I Modi. These printed images, complete with pornographic poems, became a bestseller all over Europe during the 16th century, setting the style for erotic art.
What do you think? Do you see the resemblance?