Identification and Creation
Object Number
Triple Phallic Amulet
Work Type
1st-3rd century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World
Roman Imperial period
Physical Descriptions
Mixed copper alloy
Cast, lost-wax process
3.8 x 7.9 x 1.1 cm (1 1/2 x 3 1/8 x 7/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Mixed Copper Alloy:
Cu, 81.4; Sn, 7.26; Pb, 6.63; Zn, 4.13; Fe, 0.19; Ni, 0.05; Ag, 0.08; Sb, 0.26; As, less than 0.10; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.005; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Technical Observations: The patina is green with heavy brownish gray burial accretions. The surface is rough and is entirely obscured by corrosion products and accretions. The object was cast from a model made directly in the wax.

Henry Lie (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 stylized phallus and fist combination with a second phallus in the center, which is depicted with testicles under an irregular loop (1). The lateral phallus is simple, with no indication of the head; the fist is obscured by corrosion, but the fingers are making the fica gesture. The smaller central phallus and testicles are modeled. The amulet is flat on the back and was probably an element of a horse harness.

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 University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia, inv. nos. 2. 29-196-14, 29-196-18, and 29-196-19; British Museum, London, inv. nos. 1814,0704.1237 and 1976,0818.20; Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, inv. nos. Fr. 1356, Fr. 1360, and Fr. 1378; M. Kohlert-Németh, Römische Bronzen 1: Aus Nida-Heddernheim, Götter und Dämonen, Archäologische Reihe 11 (Frankfurt am Main, 1988) 68, no. 1; E. Deschler-Erb, Ad arma! Römisches Militär des 1. Jahrhunderts n. Chr. in Augusta Raurica, Forschungen in Augst 28 (Augst, 1999) 75 and 166, nos. 539-440, fig. 85, pl. 27; A. Kaufmann-Heinimann, Die römischen Bronzen der Schweiz 5: Neufunde und Nachträge (Mainz, 1994) nos. 327-29; 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. 108-109, nos. 118-20, figs. 206-208.

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

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