No one really knows when fans first came into being but we do see them early and can only suspect that they came about even earlier. Some have even survived, a thin gold fan (chased – hammered metal) was found in the grave of Tutankhamen from 1350 BCE, a woven bamboo fan from the 2nd century BCE was found in China, and then there is the fan of Queen Theodolinda made of purple vellum from the 6th century CE. In Ancient Rome fans or flabellum served a few purposes: ceremonial to waft/ignite incense, to beat grain, fan cooking flames, and of course to keep cool… cooler.
The fascinum (or phallus or Divine Penis) was a cult like object. It was used to ward off evil (the evil eye) and for protection, versus something sexual as one may think. It was celebrated, worshiped, and its likeness was used in celebrations. It has been found depicted on rings, pendants, wind chimes, and buildings (often thought to be brothels but more likely to protect the residents of the home). Carvings were also found in places of possible danger such as on street corners and bridges. They were also placed on the front of carriages and possibly worn by soldiers for presumably the same reason. Rings and pendants were worn by boys (sometimes even bestowed on them at birth) to protect their health and virility. Overall, the fascinum, when worn especially, was believed to be a powerful form of apotropaic magic. Given its prevalence it was obviously an important part of Roman society. It can be surmised that the reason it has been omitted from modern literature is due to its modern taboo nature. Luckily its importance and meaning can be found in cultural, religious, and archaeological finds. So, if you’re worried about the evil eye…
The images of Pompeii have given us an unprecedented glimpse into the past. When Mount Vesuvius erupted and devastated the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, time froze. And while there is always the possibility, and likelihood, of artistic license, these images provide us with a well preserved glimpse into how they inhabitants dressed, their habits, beliefs, social environment, and status.
A list I’m continually adding to for the Roman persona.
*Be aware that the exact meaning of some Latin words can be problematic at times. Transliteration can be difficult especially when the names of colors and garments were sometimes used to describe a position, job, social status/class, etc. Please derive and revise your conclusions with as much evidence as possible.