Identification and Creation
Object Number
Triple Phallic Amulet
Work Type
1st-3rd century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World
Roman Imperial period
Physical Descriptions
Leaded bronze
Cast, lost-wax process
3.2 x 6.8 x 1.2 cm (1 1/4 x 2 11/16 x 1/2 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Leaded Bronze:
Cu, 64.73; Sn, 5.88; Pb, 28.88; Zn, 0.002; Fe, 0.03; Ni, 0.05; Ag, 0.06; Sb, 0.16; As, 0.2; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, 0.021; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Technical Observations: The patina is green with spots of red; brown burial accretions are present. The surface is rough and obscured by corrosion products. The top of the loop appears to be fully mineralized and fragile. The object was cast from a model made directly in the wax. Several incised lines appear to have been made by cold working.

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 double phallus with a third phallus in the center, which is depicted with testicles under a small, irregular loop (1). The heads of the two lateral phalloi are both modeled, as is the third with spherical testicles. 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. no. 29-196-21; British Museum, London, inv. nos. 1814,0704.1274-75; and Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, inv. nos. 31915 and Fr. 1357; M. Kohlert-Németh, Römische Bronzen 1: Aus Nida-Heddernheim, Götter und Dämonen, Archäologische Reihe 11 (Frankfurt am Main, 1988) 68, nos. 1-2; 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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