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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Phallic Amulet
Work Type
1st-3rd century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World
Roman Imperial period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Copper alloy
Cast, lost-wax process
4.3 x 1.5 x 1.4 cm (1 11/16 x 9/16 x 9/16 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: The object has a green patina with blacker areas and some gray burial accretions. The object was cast in one piece by the lost-wax process. The finely finished details were most likely modeled directly in the wax. The flange on the inside of the loop was probably formed in the wax while defining the hole for the loop.

Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 2012)

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of David and Genevieve Hendin
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
This amulet consists of a curved phallus and testicles under a small, thick loop (1). The testicles are irregular spheres at the base of the phallus, while the head is modeled naturalistically. Due to the placement of the loop, when worn the phallus would point outward, away from the wearer and toward any viewer, perhaps increasing its apotropaic power.

Phallic amulets could have decorated a variety of objects, from horse trappings to lamps (2). Their symbolism provided them with an apotropaic, protective function (3).


1. Compare British Museum, London, inv. nos. 1814,0704.1236, 1814,0704.1243, and 1814,0704.1252; Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, inv. no. Misc. 7185; M. Kohlert-Németh, Römische Bronzen 1: Aus Nida-Heddernheim, Götter und Dämonen, Archäologische Reihe 11 (Frankfurt am Main, 1988) 67, nos. 3-4; B. Borell, Statuetten, Gefässe und andere Gegenstände aus Metall, Katalog der Sammlung antiker Kleinkunst des Archäologischen Instituts der Universität Heidelberg 3.1 (Mainz, 1989) 143-44, no. 169, pl. 55; A. Kaufmann-Heinimann, Die römischen Bronzen der Schweiz 5: Neufunde und Nachträge (Mainz, 1994) no. 336; and N. Franken, “Die antiken Bronzen im Römisch-Germanischen Museum Köln: Die Fragmente von Grossbronzen und die figürlichen Bronzegeräte,” Kölner Jahrbuch 29 (1996): 7-203, esp. 111-12, no. 126, fig. 213.

2. P. M. Allison, The Insula of the Menander at Pompeii 3: The Finds (Oxford, 2006) 33. For lamps, see L. Pirzio Biroli Stefanelli, ed., Il bronzo dei Romani: Arredo e suppellettile (Rome, 1990) 190 and 270, no. 55, figs. 161-62, where a triple amulet is part of an elaborate hanging lamp, which also includes several bells and an ithyphallic figurine.

3. See Kohlert-Németh 1988 (supra 1) 66-67.

Lisa M. Anderson

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

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