Ancient Romans drew penises on everything, and here’s why

Ancient Romans drew penises on everything, and here’s why

Penis depictions are alive and well in America, whether in all-boys-Catholic-school graffiti or a bachelorette party’s baked goods. Usually, though, the social accepted-ness stops there, right at those specific kinds of situations. You wouldn’t walk into a neighbor’s house and be greeted by a phallus statue, or paint a mural of one in your bedroom. (Well…usually. We can’t speak for everyone.)

Ancient Rome, though, held back no penis punches. There were graffiti scratchings, carvings, mosaics, frescoes, statues, wind chimes, necklaces, and more featuring everyone’s favorite third leg. And they were found everywhere, from the brothels to around a child’s neck.

For example, in Pompeii, penises have been found carved into the streets, pointing to the nearest brothel:

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Obviously, penis depictions were far more acceptable in the public sphere than they are now—and they were everywhere. But why? What’s the difference?

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