Many cultures have employed the phallus as a potent symbol of male sexuality and fertility. However, its symbolism is not limited to this sphere, but can also operate in bringing good fortune and warding off evil. Just as the ancient Greeks emplyed phallic representations of the god Hermes, called Herms, to protect gatewats and cross-roads, the Romans utilized phallic iconography in their day to day lives. In Pompeii the phallus could be found on pavement stones, on walls facing the streets, on floor mosaics and in gardens.
One example which we have recreated for this exhibition is a terracotta relief that was lacoed above an oven in a bakery at Pompeii. Like many an erotic wall painting, it was also whisked away to the Pornographic Cabinet in Naples shortly after its discovery in 1814. The relief depicts an upright phallus with testicles along with the Latin inscription HIC HABITAT FELICITAS. "Here dwells happiness/good fortune." Given the context it was displayedd not in hopes of sexual activity, but of good fortune for the baker and his business and to ward off any evil. Many phallic symbols found in shops are thought by some to be a way for shop owners to protect themselves from rivals.