Apotropaic images of Satyrs, Phalli or Fascinum, in short fetish objects thought to embody a mystical power were placed in gardens, on hearths, chariots and around one's person, as a protection against the fascinations of the envious "lower classes of the community", to divert the attention and intention, the "spells and sorcery" of this "evil eye" turned against them.
This small excerpt from Pliny's Natural History highlights the origin of the inequalities, which make the production and dispersal of fetish objects essential for the ruling classes to 'ward off the evil eye'.
Pliny The Natural History
Book 19 Chapter 19 "THE PLEASURES OF THE GARDEN"
...In our laws of
the Twelve Tables, we find the word "villa," or "farm,"
nowhere mentioned; it is the word "hortus" that is always
used with that signification, while the term "heredium" we
find employed for "garden."
There are certain religious impressions, too, that have been
attached to this species of property, and we find that it is in
the garden and the Forum only that statues of satyrs are consecrated, as a protection against the evil effects of spells and
sorcery*; although in Plautus, we find the gardens spoken
of as being under the tutelage of Venus.....
.....It would be surprising indeed, for the beasts of the field to be
forbidden the thistle for food, and yet it is a thing forbidden to the lower classes of the community! These refined distinctions, too, are extended to the very water even, and, thanks
to the mighty influence of money, there are lines of demarcation drawn in the very elements themselves....
....is it the fact, then, that any herb of the garden is
reared only for the rich man's table? It is so—but still let
no one of the angered populace think of a fresh secession to
Mount Sacer or Mount Aventine; for to a certainty, in the long
run, all-powerful money will bring them back to just the
same position as they were in when it wrought the severance.
For, by Hercules! there was not an impost levied at Rome
more grievous than the market-dues**, an impost that aroused
the indignation of the populace, who repeatedly appealed with
loud clamours to all the chief men of the state to be relieved from
it. At last they were relieved from this heavy tax upon their
wares; and then it was found that there was no tax more
lucrative, more readily collected, or less obnoxious to the caprices of chance, than the impost that was levied in exchange
for it, in the shape of a property-tax, extended to the poorest
classes: for now the very soil itself is their surety that paid
the tax will be, their means are patent to the light of day, and
the superficial extent of their possessions, whatever the weather
may chance to be, always remains the same.
*"contra invidentium effascinationes" = to counter effects of the evil eye.
reference to the abolition of the market-dues, or "portorium," by
Augustus Cæsar, and the substitution of a property tax of one twentieth
land, a method of taxation which inflicted greater hardships than the
former one, as it was assessed according to the superficies, not the produce
of the land.