Undergraduate Humanities Forum 2005-6: Word & Image

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2005-2006 Penn Humanities Forum on Word & Image, Undergraduate Mellon Research Fellows.

URL: http://humanities.sas.upenn.edu/05-06/mellon_uhf.shtml


Representations of the phallus abound in both the art and the literature of the first-century A.D. Roman world. On frescoes in both private homes and public buildings, on amulets, statues, etchings, tripods, drinking cups and vases, exaggerated phallic images, these purportedly apotropaic symbols protect the inhabitant, the passerby, the wearer, the user from outside evil. The contemporary Latin literature, Roman satire and elegy in particular (Catullus, Martial, Juvenal, Horace, Tibullus), and the Priapea, a collection of poems about the phallic god Priapus, offer descriptions of the phallus and its functions that both coincide with and differ from the material examples. This paper will investigate these correspondences and discrepancies between verbal and artistic representation, and, in particular, what these similarities and inconsistencies reveal about the public function of this private imagery in the contemporary culture of ancient Roman Italy.

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Date Posted: 31 July 2007