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Identification and Creation

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

Physical Descriptions

Copper alloy
Cast, lost-wax process
1.7 x 3.3 x 0.9 cm (11/16 x 1 5/16 x 3/8 in.)
Technical Details

Technical Observations: The greenish-black patina is brown in the more worn areas. The surface is very finely pitted overall.

The object was cast in one piece. There is not much evidence indicating whether the model was modeled directly or indirectly. The loop and the end of the phallus are slightly faceted as a result of cold working.

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 simple, stylized phallus and testicles with a large, irregular suspension loop (1). The irregular spherical testicles extend perpendicularly from the phallus; in this case, the head of the phallus is not indicated. It is flat on the underside and tapers from testicles to tip. 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. 1814,704.1230-31 and 1814,0704.1235; Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, inv. no. Fr. 1342; 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; and A. Kaufmann-Heinimann, Die römischen Bronzen der Schweiz 5: Neufunde und Nachträge (Mainz, 1994) no. 336.

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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