Length: 13.500 cm
Sir William Temple Bequest
Room 69: Greek and Roman life
Bronze phallic wind chime (tintinabulum)
Roman, 1st century AD
To ward off evil spirits
Bronze wind chimes like these were hung up in gardens and porticoes where they would make a tinkling sound as the wind passed through them. Bells were believed to keep off evil spirits and so they were often combined with the phallus, an erect penis, which was also a symbol of good fortune and a charm against evil. The main phallus is portrayed with wings, and the feet and tail of an animal, perhaps a lion. These add to its protective powers.
The Greeks and Romans had none of the reservations about nudity and sexuality which in the West we have inherited from the Judaeo-Christian tradition, so the naked body and sexual images were a common part of everyday life. The phallus, used as a lucky charm, was worn as jewellery, incorporated into furniture and fittings, and was carved and painted on the walls of houses, public buildings and street corners.
C. Johns, Sex or symbol : erotic images (London, The British Museum Press, 1982)