The primitive custom of worshiping the gods in the form of heaps of stones gave place to the practice of erecting phallic pillars, or cones, in their honor. These columns differed widely in size and appearance. Some were of gigantic proportions and were richly ornamented; others—like the votive offerings of the Babylonians—were but a few inches high, without ornament, and merely bore a brief statement of the purpose for which they had been prepared or a hymn to the god of the temple in which they were placed. These small baked clay cones were identical in their symbolic meaning with the larger hermae set up by the roadside and in other public places. Later the upper end of the column was surmounted by a human head. Often two projections, or tenons, corresponding to shoulders were placed, one on either side, to support the wreaths of flowers adorning the columns. Offerings, usually of food, were placed near the hermae. Occasionally these columns were used to uphold roofs and were numbered among the art objects ornamenting the villas of wealthy Romans.
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