Everything You Need to Know about Roman Phallic Jewelry

Left: Roman cast gold pendant in the form of a phallus with suspension loop above, c. 2nd-3rd century BC (Liveauctioneers). Middle: Graeco-Roman gold and coral pendant, c. 3rd-1sr century BC (Christie’s). Right: Roman gold phallic ring, c. 1st-2nd Century BC (Liveauctioneers)

Wearing jewelry representing penises was a very common practice in Ancient Rome. These phallic charms were called fascinum. Penises could be worn as pendants, as mounts, fibulae/brooches, rings, pins, and earrings. Not only did they make their wearer look cool, but also, they served an important function.

Why would you wear a penis as a piece of jewelry?

The erect penis is a representation of Fascinus, the god of masculine generative power. The fascinum was regarded as a powerful medicus invidiae, a remedy against invidia, envy, a “looking upon” associated with the evil eye. Invidia comes from the verb envidere, “to look against, to look in a hostile manner.” The function of the obscene fascinum was to fascinare (“bewitch”) the envy.

Envy was considered the cause of all sorts of negative events, such as illness, loss, accident, infertility, losing a battle, or losing money. Envy could harm individuals or any type of group: a family, a household, a workshop, a neighborhood, a village, a city, an empire. That is why a public cult was rendered to Fascinus. The Vestals rendered the cult of the fascinus populi Romani, the sacred image of the phallus that was one of the tokens of the safety of the state. Fascinum were often engraved in the streets, in the shops, or in other public places. I have personally seen a massive phallus engraved in the thermae of the Roman city of Uthina (Oudhna, Tunisia).

Phallus inscribed on a paving stone at Pompeii (Vintag.es)

Shops and houses had tintinnabulum in the shape of an erect penis. These wind chimes were hung in specific places like the threshold.

Tintinnabulum found in Pompei, on display at the Archeological Museum of Naples (Wikipedia 1, 2, 3)

In Ancient Greece, the erect phallus was strongly associated with Dionysos. Ancient Greeks would place giant, proud, phalluses at the entrance of the temples dedicated to Dionysos.

Stoivadeion before the Temple of Dionysus on Delos (Wikipedia)

Who wore fascinum?

In ancient texts, phallic jewelry is most often associated with… children. According to Pliny the Elder, the god Fascinus protected children from bewitchments. Roman children wore all sorts of apotropaic amulets. At that time, child mortality was a widespread threat. The most common charm worn by male children was the bulla, a round-shaped pendant that boys stopped to wear when they reached their 17th year, which was considered the beginning of manhood. Roman girls wore a crescent-shaped pendant, the lunula.

A small ring with a phallic motif. It was made of gold and belonged to a child (Archeologicalmuseum)

Most fascinum found by archeologists in graves belonged to children, but there is also archeological evidence that adult women wore them too.

A Roman woman’s bronze hairpin with a winged phallus (Worthpoint.com)

According to archeological findings, the category of adult men who wore fascinum the most were soldiers. A lot of fascinum have been found in roman military camps. Pliny the Elder wrote in his Natural History: “Infants are under the especial guardianship of the god Fascinus, the protector, not of infants only, but of generals as well.” He added that when a general celebrated a triumph, the Vestals placed an image of Fascinus on the underside of his chariot to protect him from envy.

If you want to be protected from the devastating effects of envy, you know what you have to do now. Good news: replicas of fascinum are easy to find nowadays. Etsy is a good platform to find shops that sell fascinum. And if you disagree with the way Etsy treats its sellers, keep in mind that you can find a seller on Etsy and then buy the item on the separate website of the seller.

*Gling gling gling* (image: Antinousstar)

Have a good day! May the god Fascinus protect you from the Evil Eye!

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Heresiarch of polyist feminism. Liberal pagan.

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Solveig Mineo

Solveig Mineo

Heresiarch of polyist feminism. Liberal pagan.

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