Roman phallus pendant found in Horncastle

A metal detectorist has discovered a Roman phallus charm in a field near Horncastle, Lincolnshire. Made of copper-alloy, the phallus weighs 11.6 grams and is 45.41 mm (1.8 inches) long. It’s curved in profile, with two spheres at one end representing testicles and two thin grooves run down the length of the underside with notched ribs between them. It was worn as a pendant from a loop in the center. Comparison with similar examples suggest a date of 120-300 A.D.

Phalluses were widespread in the Roman empire. They were talismans of protection against the evil eye, a curse that could be inflicted by individuals or by entire tribes that were believed to be collectively well-endowed with evil eye powers. The phallic deity Fascinus was thought to be protect against such spells, so his small, portable representatives performed the same function. They were extremely popular with the Roman soldiers. They were worn as pendants on necklaces and as decoration on cavalry horse harnesses.

Because they were so common in the army, phallus amulets can be found all over the empire. Britain is no exception. In fact, it’s particularly rich in phalluses. The largest collection of phallus amulets with the fist or the “fig sign” warding gesture at one end was discovered in Camulodunum, modern-day Colchester in Essex, the first capital of Roman Britain. Very few have been found in Lincolnshire, however.

The Horncastle phallus is similar to several horse harness pendants, but it could have been worn around the neck by a civilian. It wasn’t found on the site of a fort or other known army encampment. Phallus pendants were worn by adults and children — they were considered very effective against harm to a child — with no connection to the military.

It doesn’t have quite the rarity and cachet of the gold phallus pendant found in Hillington, Norfolk, in 2011, and since it’s not made of precious metals, it won’t be declared treasure trove which means the finder gets to keep the piece. That’s way better than gold, as far as I’m concerned. If I found something like that, I’d wear it every day.


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Comment by Virginia Burton
2016-08-14 05:45:05

They appear to be circumcised. I didn’t realize that was a practice of the Romans.

Comment by Heike Kubasch
2016-08-14 06:23:55

I wonder if these are the ancestors of the medieval phallus badges?

Comment by Edward Goldberg
2016-08-14 07:06:18

And not a single “Horncastle” joke! I am proud of everyone except me. Ed G.

Comment by Ethel
2016-08-14 07:55:53

Ed, please note that I was tried hard on coming up with a good one.

Moreover, from what I’ve heard, wherever there is an “ancestor”, a “phallus” was probably not really far.

But who am I to know ?

Comment by Karlsdottir
2016-08-14 09:21:35

“That’s way better than gold, as far as I’m concerned. If I found something like that, I’d wear it every day.” Perfect way to make a point.

Comment by BruceT
2016-08-15 03:20:42

The impotence of these penile puns shrink in comparison to the upright and vigorous ejaculations of the Prince of Puerile, Fred Scuttle.

Forgive their phallic follies, Fred, they know not the nature of the narrow passage nor the knob of the rod that houses the evil eye.

Comment by drive-by music guy
2016-08-15 10:16:20

Could pendants like this perhaps have been used in antiquity as BOFA?

Comment by anja
2016-08-21 10:37:40

They bought them at ancient roman version of Spencers. They can ward off the evil eye with a firm jab in the eye. :chicken:

Comment by Greg
2017-01-17 21:16:41

I was thinking the same thing.

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June 2022


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