Was SW15 A 'Red Light Area' In Roman Times?

A roman coin found by Putney Bridge and was probably used by soldiers in brothels!


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The coin made in bronze is smaller than a ten pence piece, and depicts a man and a woman engaged in an intimate act. It is thought that the holder would have taken the token to one of the many Londinium brothels and handed it to a sex slave in exchange for the act depicted on the coin.

Experts believe it is the first example of its kind to be found in Britain. It lay preserved in mud for almost 2,000 years until it was unearthed by mudlarker 37 year old pastry chef Regis Cursan using a metal detector.

On 3rd January he told the Daily Mail:
“The day I made the find it was a very low, early tide and raining heavily. At first I thought it was a Roman coin, because of the thickness and diameter.
When I rubbed the sand off the artefact the first thing I saw was the number on one side and what I thought was a goddess on the other. Little did I know at the time it was actually a rare Roman brothel token. To find something like that is a truly exciting find.”

The token has been donated to the Museum of London, where it will be on display for the next three months. Curator Caroline McDonald said:
“This is the perfect archaeological object. It’s sexy and provocative in the best sense of the word. The lot of a Roman sex slave was not a happy one and objects like this can help the Museum of London provoke debates about issues that are relevant to the modern city and its visitors. Museums should engage with these more grown-up and sometimes less comfortable topics”

The object has been dated, by experts at the Museum of London, to the Roman period and approximately the 1 st century AD. There is much debate about the precise use of these Roman spintria although they are widely thought to be brothel tokens, which were exchanged for sex. Other suggested uses have been made, such as gaming tokens. If this item is indeed a brothel token, the reverse numeral may indicate the price of the service shown on the front of the token, if true this would have been the equivalent of one day’s pay for a labourer at that time!

Some historians believe the Romans invented prostitution in the modern sense. It played a significant part in the empire’s economy – with sex workers required to register with the local authorities and even pay tax.

January 6, 2012