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.
A Roman Oil Lamp with Ithyphallic Man
A Roman 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.
Provenance: Private Israel collection, SM. Israeli export license for the collection.
Condition: Very good; stable hairline crack to the nozzle