Gold ring, possibly for a child, the hoop widening into the bezel which is engraved with a phallus
This small gold ring belonged probably to a child. On its bezel, it is engraved with a phallic ornament.
Phallic amulets were common in the Roman world and were primarily a symbol of fertility. At a deeper level however, phallus was regarded as giving powerful protection against the evil eye and had therefore an apotropaic function. Children, who were fragile and particularly at risk of diseases and death, wore amuletic jewellery bearing this symbol. Phallic pendants and rings are commonly found in children's tombs. They almost certainly represent an attempt to aid the child not only in life during illness but also on the journey through death.
As such, phallic amulets were also popular amongst soldiers and bronze or bone amulets have been found on Roman military sites.
The Roman god Priapus was a phallic deity who was commonly found depicted on houses in Pompei, as well as at crossroads. His role was to protect the occupants of the house from evil and ensure fertility. His role was firmly established by the first century BC.