In ancient Rome, the fascinus was the embodiment of the divine phallus, with the effigy or amulet in the shape of a penis known as a fascinum. From the Latin word ‘fascinum’ and the related verb ‘fascinare’ comes the English word ‘fascinate’, meaning to enchant or bewitch using the power of the fascinus. It was believed in ancient Rome that a hostile look or evil eye would bring a curse or misfortune; envy was thought to bring ill fortune to the person envied.
The humorous fascinus was believed to work as a ‘medicus invidiae’ or ‘doctor of envy’ by making people laugh and thus preventing any jealous or malicious glances towards the person who held or wore the amulet. The phallus amulet is often winged or enlarged in appearance. Representations of ithe amulet’s effect on the evil eye’s potency can be seen in ancient Roman artworks. A first=century terracotta sculpture shows two phalluses with arms and legs working together to saw an eyeball in half.