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HOME : Egyptian Antiquities : Masterpieces of Egyptian Art : Lead Inscribed Plate
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Lead Inscribed Plate - F.555a
Origin: Egypt
Circa: 100 BC to 200 AD

Collection: Incantation Lead Scroll
Medium: Lead
Condition: Very Fine


Location: Great Britain
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Description
‘Remain like stones, unmoving, un-running’: another Greek spell against competitors in a foot-race* The magical tablet published here is a rectangle with rounded corners, 78 by 118 mm, cut from sheet lead c. 0.5 mm thick, one face of which has been inscribed with a very fine point. Slight corrugation and differential corrosion on the back suggest that it was originally rolled or folded, but the surface has not been stressed or cracked. It is complete except for the upper right-hand corner, about one-third of the right- hand edge with associated holes, a nick in the bottom, and two nicks in the left-hand edge. The resulting loss of text is quite small, and most of it can be restored. The upper two-thirds of the inscribed surface has been obscured by slight oxidation and corrosion products, but not so as to make the writing illegible. Overall this is well-preserved, and there are few difficulties. It consists of 33 lines of minute but well-formed Greek letters c. 2 mm high, which can be dated to the 4th century AD. This inscribed text is an elaborate binding spell repeated with variations four times, with intervening sequences of magical words (voces magicae). It is directed against three named athletes, Antiokhos, Hierax and Kastor, evidently runners, whose feet, sinews and other attributes are ‘bound’ so as to ensure their failure ‘in the stadium’. The tablet is said to have been found in Egypt, a provenance supported by its affinity with a lead tablet from Oxyrhynchus, ‘the only known applied spell of Egyptian provenance directed against athletes’. It is confirmed by the Egyptian names of the mothers of all three athletes. Transcription ?????? ???????? ??????? ???????? ???? [?????] ??? ?? ????? ??? ??? ????? ???????? ??? ?????? ?????, [???] ??????? ??? ?????? ?????, ??? ???????? ??? ??? ??????[???] ??? ???????? ???????. ???????? ????? ???? ??????? ??? ?? ????? 5 ??? ??? ????? ??? ??? ?????, ???? ?? ??????? ??????? ?? ?? ??????, ???? ???? ??? ????? ??? ??????????? ????????? ?????. ?????? ???????????? ???????????? ?????, ????- ?????, ???????? ??? ??????????? ?? ??? ?????, ?? ?????, ???? ?????, [?? ??]???, ?? ??????????? ???????? ????? ???? ??? ??????? ??- 10 ???, ???? ?? ????????? ????????? ?? ?? ?????? ?? ??? ??? ??????? ??? ????????. ?????? ?????? ??????? ?????????? ?????? ?????? ???????? ??????? ??????????????? ?????? ???????? ?????????? ?????? ??? ?????, ??? ?????????, ?? ?????, ???? ????? ???????? ??? ??????? ??? ???????? ??? ???- 15 ???????????, ???? ?? ???????? ?? ?? ?????? ????????, ???? ?????- ??? ?????? ??? ???? ?? ????????? ??????? ?? ?? ?????? ?? ??? ??? ??????? ??? ????????, ??? ????????? ? ????? ????. ???????????? ???????????? ?????????? ????????[??] ?????????? ?????????? ???????????? ??????????[c.5] 20 ????????? ????????? ??????? ?????, ?????????, ?[?????-] ???, ?????? ??? ??????, ??? ?????, ?? ?????, ?? ??[???, ????] ????? ???????? ??? ?????? ?????, ??? ??????? ?? ??[????] ?????, ??? ???????? ??? ?? ????????? ?? ?????? ??[?????.] ??????? ?????? ???? ?????? ??????? ??????? ????.[c.4] 25 ????????? ?????? ??????????? ????????.[c.6] ?????, ?????????, ??????[?]? ????[???? ???] ??????? ??? ??????? ??? ??? ?????????. ????? ?[????] ???? ?????, ?? ?????, ?? ?????, ??? ???? [?], ??? ???[???], ?? ????????? ?????????? ??????? ???? ??? ??????? [??-] 30 ??? ??? ??? ?????, ??? ?? ??????? ???????? ?? ?? ??????, ???? ??????? ?? ????? ???????? ???????. ?????, ?????, ?????, ?????, ????? ???? ???????????? ?? [?]?????, ?????. A note on the spelling The scribe was influenced by the spoken language in writing ? for ?? in ??????? (5, 10, 16), ????? (7), ??????? (5, 30), ???????? (30), ??????????? (8); and ? for ?? in ??????????? (6), ???????? (30), ????? (32 and 33), ???????????? (32). But he wrote ?????????? ???? (14-15) correctly, and this uncertainty makes him write ??? (16) as ???? (6, 10, 15) and ??? (30). He also wavered between long vowel and short: ? for ? in ??????????? (8, 13), but ? for ? in ?? (8, but correctly ??? in 22, 23, 27, 30); ? for ? in ??????? (5), ????????? (10, 16), but ? for ? in ???? (16). These variants are all trivial, but he was idiosyncratic in his treatment of ? and ?: he consistently wrote ????? for ????? (4, 8, 14, 22, 28), but wavered between ????? (2) and ????? (4, 8, 14, 28), between ??????? (9) and ??????? (29). This is perhaps why he wrote ????????? (20) instead of ????????? (PGM X 47, ????????? in III 55). Translation – magical words Abrasax – Hold back the feet and the sinews and the impetus of Antiokhos whom Tabêkh bore, and of Hierax whom Tamin bore, and of Kastor also called Dioskoros whom Tekosis bore. Hold back their feet and sinews and impetus and strength, that they be not able to proceed in the stadium, that not even one of the aforesaid be crowned, I ask. – magical words – Bind, bind back, hold back their purpose and their strength, their sinews, their feet, their legs, and the three hundred and sixty-five limbs of their bodies, that they not be able to proceed in the stadium in the hour of necessity of the crown. – magical words – Hold back the spirit, the purpose, the sinews of the aforesaid Antiokhos and Hierax and Kastor, that they do not take a crown in the stadium, but bind them entirely, that they be not able to proceed in the stadium in the hour of necessity of the crown, as the great god may direct. – magical words Abrasax – Bind, bind around, bind back, hold back the running, the spirit, the legs, the sinews, the feet of Antiokhos whom Tabêkh bore, and of Hierax whom Tamin bore, and of Kastor also called Dioskoros whom Tekosis bore. – magical words – Bind, bind back, bind together, hold back Antiokhos and Hierax and Kastor also called Dioskoros. Bind their feet, sinews, legs, spirit, excellence, the three hundred and fifty- five limbs of their bodies and souls, that they be not able to proceed in the stadium, but remain like stones, unmoving, un-running. By force, by force, by force. Bind, bind the aforesaid, as I asked, by force. Notes on the text 1. Abrasax is invoked again in 20 and 24, and is presumably ‘the great god’ of 17, and the subject of the second-person singular imperatives throughout. This frequent deity is also invoked by the Oxyrhynchus spell (Suppl. Mag. II 53, 32 and fragment A). ?????? is not found elsewhere, but may be an anagram variant of the first syllables of the divine name(?) ??????[?]? (PGM VII 300) or ??????????? (VII 365). ????????, however, is well-attested as an invocation of Seth/Typhon (PGM IV 2025; XII 370-72; Suppl. Mag. 95 (horizontal), 9, etc.). 1-2, the first three attributes. Ten altogether are ‘bound’ in six enumerations, here and in 4-5, 8-10, 13-14, 21-22 and 28-30, but only ‘feet’ and ‘sinews’ occur in all six. Both attributes are found in other binding spells, for example Audollent DT 15 (Syria), 252 and 253 (Carthage). There is a similar list in the Oxyrhynchus spell (Suppl. Mag. II 53, 13-15), but it has in common only ‘sinews’ and ‘the three hundred and sixty-five limbs’ (see below, note to 9). 2-4. For the personal names (repeated in 14, 22-23, 25-26) see Preisigke, Namenbuch, and Foraboschi, Onomasticon. The athletes bear commonplace Greek names often found in Egyptian papyri; Kastor, like ‘Kastor also called Poludeukes’ and ‘Dioskoros Kastor’, owes his alternative name to his divine namesake being one of the twin Dioskouroi. But the mothers’ names are Egyptian, also often found: ????? is a variant of ????? (etc.), ??????? of ??????? (etc.), and ????? of ??????? (etc.). Identification by maternal descent, as ‘A whom B bore’, is standard in magical texts (Jordan, Philologus 120 (1976), 127-32). In 2-4, the definite article is used for the relative pronoun as in Suppl. Mag. I 41, 10-11, and has been attracted into the preceding genitive case; in 23-24, this usage and that of the relative pronoun both occur. 5. ????? (repeated in 8) is evidently an anagram of ?????, but without magical intent, since the other attributes are not disguised in this way. 5, ??????? (l. ????????). Aorist infinitive, as in 10 and 16; but present infinitive ???????? (l. ??????????) in 30. 5-6. The formulas of ‘proceeding in the stadium’ and being ‘crowned’ (i.e. winning the race) are repeated with variation in 10-11, 15- 17 and 30-31, but they do not occur in the Oxyrhynchus spell (Suppl. Mag. II, 53) and seem to be unparalleled. The reference to a ‘stadium’ is too general to locate the tablet. None is mentioned in the Oxyrhynchus watch-list (P. Oxy. 43v, AD 295), but there is earlier reference to the ‘hippodrome’ quarter (P. Oxy. 1028, 18- 19, AD 89). 7. ????? (l. ??????) corresponds to [?]????? in 33. It is followed by ???, which might be the personal pronoun ‘you’ (i.e. Abrasax) in the genitive case the verb would require, but [?] ????? (33) is not followed by the corresponding ??. Therefore, since the next syllable (???) is certainly ‘magical’, but does not belong to the following logos, it should probably be taken with ??? as a magical word, ??????. This is not attested, but compare ?????? (1) and the magical word ?????? in PGM XIII 809 (with similar forms in XII 487 and Suppl. Mag. I 42, 30). 7, ???????????? ????????????. This well- known logos is repeated in 18, and with minor variation is part of the Oxyrhynchus spell (Suppl. Mag. II 53, 7-9). 7-8, ?????, ?????????, ????????. Thus also in the Oxyrhynchus spell (Suppl. Mag. II, 53, 12-13, ?????, ?????????, with ???????? at 23). Maltomini notes with parallels ‘the intensifying combination of simplex and compound’, and here two further compounds are used, ???????? in 15-16, and ????????? in 20, while the simplex ????? is iterated in 32. 9. The restoration of [?? ??]???, not [?? ?] ???, despite Suppl. Mag. II 53, 13-15, is required by ?? ????? in 21 and 28. The unusual formula of ‘the three hundred and sixty-five limbs’ (repeated with a numerical error in 29) is shared by the Oxyrhynchus spell, where it is fully discussed by Maltomini (Suppl. Mag. II 53, 14); in Coptic it occurs in PGM IV 149f., and has now been recognized by Jordan (ZPE 100 (1994), 321) in the Syrian binding spell already cited (Audollent DT 15, 18), but only in abbreviated form. 10. ?? ??? ??? ??????? ??? ???????? is repeated with minor variation in 15-16, but is otherwise unparalleled. The constituent phrase ?? ??? ??????? occurs in PGM I 212-13, but in quite a different context, and was evidently a cliché: the California TLG data-base finds four instances in patristic authors of somewhat later date, the Apophthegmata patrum, the letters of Barsanuphis and John, and the Greek translation of Ephraem the Syrian. 11-13. The sequence begins with two permutations of the eulamo logos, which is frequent in ‘square’ permutations of six, as in the Oxyrhynchus spell (Suppl. Mag. 53, 1-6), or in ‘wing form’ diminishing series, as in the Isthmian spell published by Jordan (Hesperia 63 (1994), 116-7). Word-division thereafter is conjectural, since the sequence is unparalleled. 12. ?????? is an ordinary Greek word (‘ember’), but this is probably a coincidence. ???????? may be compounded from ????? (‘dying untimely’), like ?????????, an epithet of Hecate (PGM IV 2867). For ??????? compare ???????? ???????? (PGM VII 532), part of a long Victory logos which otherwise offers no parallel. ??????????????? may end with a variant of ????? (the Egyptian god Thoth), but is otherwise unparalleled. 13. ?????? ????????, although not a palindrome, somewhat resembles the well- known ?????????????. ?????????? may be derived from the divine name ????????? (PGM Index, p. 216). 17, ??? ????????? ? ????? ????. Another cliché: compare Suppl. Mag. II 42, 19, ??? ????? ???? ??? ???????? ? ????? ????. 18-20. The sequence begins with the same ???????? logos as 7, but thereafter it is difficult. 18. ?????????? is a variant of the palindrome ???????????? (PGM IV 3178, etc.) with the well-attested prefix ????-. Next ????????[??] repeats the end of the ???????? logos after the syllable ??? (Baal?) found in ???????? (1) and the divine name ???????? (PGM Index, p. 218). 19. ?????????? is unparalleled, but ?????????? repeated in this line as ???????????[?????] occurs as ????????? in Suppl. Mag. I 42, 41 and 43, 1, where Daniel notes it was ‘(with variants) a commonly occurring magical name, most likely for the great god’. In Suppl. Mag. I 43, 1 and the Athenian tablet also published by Daniel (ZPE 19 (1975), 249-55, where the name is fully discussed), there is a horizontal stroke over ?. This would correspond to the horizontal stroke over ? here, the only such stroke in the whole text. 19. The intervening ???????????? is unparalleled. 20. ????????? in variant spellings is often associated with the ???????? logos, as here and in the Oxyrhynchus spell (Suppl. Mag. II 53, 10: see also PGM III 53-55, X 47, Audollent DT 155A, 42-44, 255, etc.). ????????? is also well- attested (PGM Index, p. 217, with discussion in Suppl. Mag. I 15, 3-4). 22, ??????? (l. ???????, as in 3 and 14). The scribe may have written final –? for –? in anticipation of the relative pronoun, but judging by 27 (see below), he actually thought ??????? (l. ??????) was the accusative form. 24 is a variant of another well-attested logos, for example as ??????? ?????? ?????? ??????? in Suppl. Mag. II 57, 14 (compare I 42, 49-50 with note). In writing ???????, the scribe began with ?, which he corrected by writing ? over it, and then continued with another ? before ?. The word after ‘Abrasax’ was probably ???? [???] again. 25. ????????? is unparalleled, but the initial ????? is an acceptable Greek compound (‘warding-off’), so this may be another magical epithet like ???????? (12). ?????? is also unparalleled, but may be a hybrid between ablanathanalba and the eulamo logos. ??????????? is a stray from the well-known maskelli maskello logos: Jordan collects instances of this (with variants) in ZPE 100 (1994), 328-9. ????????.[c.6] is also unparalleled, but in view of the scribe’s confusion between ? and ?, he may have intended the divine name ?????? (PGM Index, p. 216). The constituent syllable ??? is frequent enough, as in ?????????? (19), and perhaps ????????[?????] should be restored here. 27, ??????? (l. ??????). This anomalous accusative form (compare 22) is apparently a back-formation from the genitive ??????? which the scribe already knew as part of his formula. 31. Simile magic: compare Suppl. Mag. II 58, 8-10 (with note), a spell to make the victims ‘as speechless as this stone’ [actually an ostracon]. The simile in 31 is another cliché. For a contemporary instance, see Athanasius, oratio I contra Arianos, 22, ?? ??? ?? ????? ????? ??’ ?????? ????? ???????? (a populist image of Christ from Arian polemic). 31, ???????. The adjective is appropriate here, but very rare: LSJ records its use only of horses in a veterinary writer (Hippiatrica, 105). The Oxyrhynchus spell (Suppl. Mag. II 53, 29) more prosaically requires that the victims ‘be not able to run’, ??? ?? ????????? ??????, and the Isthmian spell (Hesperia 63 (1994), 117) is almost identical, ?[?] ?????????? ???????. 32-3. ?????, ?????, ????? ... ????? is a variant of the usual closing formulas ???? ???? and ??? ???, but seems to be unparalleled. So it is uncertain whether it is an instrumental dative (l. ?????? < ??????), as translated here, or an imperative (?????? < ??????, ‘rule, rule, rule’) supplementing ?????. Since elsewhere in the text ????? is supplemented by its synonym ????????, or by its compounded forms ????????? (etc.), the instrumental dative seems more likely here than a verb of different meaning. Wolfson College, Oxford R.S.O. Tomlin - (F.555a)

 

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