Tech. Science. Culture.
We may earn a commission from links on this page

Ancient Romans carved winged penises to ward off the evil eye

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Amateur archaeologists have been using metal detectors to uncover a trove of ancient Roman artifacts in Britain. Among the centuries-old goodies discovered in 2011 were a pornographic knife handle and a couple of winged penises. Their purpose? To protect the possessor from evil, especially evil wielding a penis of its own. Images below might be NSFW, depending on whether your work considers Roman genitalia classy or not.

Sally Worrell, a National Finds Adviser for the controversial Portable Antiquities Scheme, which allows amateur treasure hunters in England and Wales to seek out and sometimes claim ownership of ancient artifacts, published a report on the nearly 25,000 items discovered through the program in 2011 in the journal Britannia. LiveScience has photos of several of the more interesting discoveries (including a measuring weight shaped like a grotesque human head). Here a few of the more literally sexy finds:


Photo Credit: F. Minter © Suffolk County Council. CC Attribution Sharealike license, via LiveScience.

The winged penises came as little surprise to the ancient artifacts researchers. The fascinus is the divine embodiment of the phallus, and is a common motif in Roman art. According to the British Museum (if you're concerned about NSFW images, that link has a particularly masturbatory fascinus), these images are associated with the god Priapus, who was often depicted with an absurdly erect penis, and were often found on the walls of buildings and at street corners. Wikipedia cites Martin Henig's Religion in Roman Britain, which adds that the fascinus was used particularly to ward off evil from children (especially male children) and conquering generals. Oh, and ready your puns: the winged penis was carved, quite appropriately, from bone.


Photo Credit: Darch © West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service. CC Attribution Sharealike license, via LiveScience.


This gold pendant interested researchers less for its phallus than its precious metal. It was likely commissioned by a high-status individual.


A. Downes, © West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service. CC Attribution Sharealike license, via LiveScience.

These sexy people are also doing sexy things atop this copper alloy knife handle in the name of warding off evil. The idea was that seeing the porno knife would make its bearer smile, keeping the evil eye at arm's length (or perhaps at erection's length?). I imagine it might occasionally have the opposite effect, distracting the bearer so that they're caught off guard in a knife fight.


Photo Credit: L. McLean, © Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service. CC Attribution Sharealike license, via LiveScience.


Sexier for researchers were the less erotic items, like this silver and gold-gilded dolphin brooch. Worrell notes that three-dimensional representations of dolphins are uncommon in that period in Britain and believes that the brooch was made on the European mainland. Penises may have been a dupondius a dozen, but a dolphin brooch would have been something really special.

Penis-Shaped Bone & Lover's Bust Among Trove of Roman Art [LiveScience via Nerdcore]