What is this penis carved in stone from ancient Rome doing?

Nowadays, engraving penises on the walls is a very inappropriate act. In ancient Roman times, it was something completely different. Indeed, it was quite common to see phalluses engraved on stones. Whether in the form of a necklace or an amulet, images of the phallus were seen as talismans to increase fertility and ward off evil spirits, but not only…

Penis engraved as an insult

This engraved stone was discovered in northern Britain at the Vindolanda site by Dylan Herbert, a now retired biochemist. This phallic image, found near Hadrian’s Wall, dates from the 3rd century AD. This stone has a penis engraved on it, accompanied by a small sentence. The last one says “SECVNDINVS CACOR”, which means “Secondin, shit”.

Finally, the image of the penis is used not only for sacred reasons. Here we are well aware that the stone actually carries an insult to Sekundin. Note also that this ancient Roman stone measures almost 40 cm wide and 15 cm high. Thus, the author of this insult had a serious desire to insult this person, given the time it must have taken him to realize this engraving.

Dylan Herbert at Vindolanda. Credits:

Wall filled with phalluses

At that time, phallic images were often used to ridicule their comrades. Thus we find thirteen on the Vindolanda site. However, this seems small compared to Hadrian’s Wall and the 59 penises featured there. This wall, corresponding to the border between England and Scotland, was built by the emperor Hadrian himself. With so many engravings, the researchers concluded that this ancient attack rampart was an important site. However, we do not really know what is behind all of his ancient phalluses (mockery or superstition?).

There were also phallic images in the form of pendants on a copper base. Always in order to protect themselves, avert misfortune or improve their fertility, they were worn by both men and women. Moreover, like the stone engraved at the site of Vindolanda, researchers have found a penis amulet worn around 1800 years ago in the southeast of the United Kingdom.

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