To prove I actually did school work, this is an excerpt of my second paper, which was a bit scarier as I was worried the topic might make my Ancient Roman Civilization professor faint. Here it is: Phallic Iconography in Ancient Rome.
In my opinion one of the most provocative, intriguing, and perhaps lascivious remnants of ancient Rome are the ancient sculptures, art forms, and documents which symbolize the phallus. Excavations of ancient cities such as Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Ostia Antica gather curiosities and attention from all over the modern world for their ability to grant insight into the past. They are also known for their remaining erotic frescoes, pillars, and wall mountings which are all almost exact replicas of the male reproductive organ. With a rare glance into the lives of people who lived thousands of years ago, these cities offer a rare insight into the time of ancient Roman empire.
The symbology of the phallus in ancient times not only provides a modern burst of laughter to those who might see them for the first time, they are also fascinatingly symbolic of a form of rule which used the phallus to justify its domination. It is important to note that “Roman portraiture [and] Roman art in general, can be fairly described as a system of signs [… each made with the] intent to convey a message [and] a meaning.” In other words, art more significant than a mere decoration, it commemorates and represents certain political ideas and policies. Each piece can be analyzed and a skilled eye can discern the propagandized intent of specific monuments. Thus, I am analyzing the images of the phallus, keeping in mind the fact that ancient art attempted to promote or establish political and cultural thought.
Wandering through these ancient sites makes it abundantly obvious that the Romans excessively used the image of the penis to represent a vast array of subjects and ideas. From ancient Rome’s divine winged fascinus to its rigid steles and long pointed obelisks, this city has an extensive history of lacing its monuments with phallic iconography. By visually attaching the penis to pillars and statues of power and the divine, the ancient Roman world used a gendered form of rule and conquest which justified the domination over both women and foreigners. Through obvious and obscure imagery, the male reproductive organ was consistently used to manipulate public perception by means of a sort of propaganda which both glorified the penis and subsequently supported whatever was represented by said phallus. Therefore the specific repetitive symbology of the penis in connection to power, combined with the already establish patriarchal system of governance in ancient Roman times, indicates that ancient Rome was a city of male domination. This paper argues that ancient Rome was a “phallocracy,” a form of patriarchy which emphasizes male rule and is symbolized by the male reproductive organ.
-Fascinus: Ancient Roman Amulet word for protection. Divine phallus.