Terracotta oil lamp featuring a decorated discus and volute nozzle. Lightly incised
concentric circle decorate the gently sloping shoulders, framing the discus. There is
no handle to this lamp. The discus portrays a ithyphallic man, his large member
protruding from his open legs, as he plays a lyre. The reverse of the lamp is plain.
Circa 1st century A D
Length: 10 cm
Condition: No faults
Macrophallic imagery was very common in Roman society, as essentially they were
considered apotropaic. An enlarged phallus was considered comical and inspired laughter.
Laughter, to the Romans, was the safest and surest way of warding off evil spirits and the
Evil Eye. The Romans expressed humour at grotesque individuals in their attempt to not
catch the attention of the Evil Eye. It was believed that such evil spirits were more common
in certain places; in bathhouses, within doorways, the corners of rooms. A lamp, lighting a
person’s way through a doorway and into a room, would be a perfect platform for ithyphallic
imagery – the humorous scene banishing away any evil lurking.
Reference: The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, item 13.101