The CBd
Bonner, SMA, 32.

upright a spear around which a serpent coils; an inscription in the field reads Γαβριηρ σαβαω (Γαβριηλ σαβαωθ).45

Here and there in the long strings of magical words that appear in the papyri some Hebrew words have been recognized, though disguised by transliteration into Greek form, and even on the amulets a few have been detected; but most of the attempts to read the unknown magical words as Hebrew fail to convince. It is likely that magicians tried to give some words a Semitic appearance by adding endings in -ath, -oth.46 A curious example occurs in the first line of a Florentine papyrus (PGM XXXV), ἐπικαλοῦμαι σε, ὁ καθήμενος ἐπὶ τῆς ἀβύσσου, Βυθαθ, where Preisendanz remarks that Βυθαθ is a Semitizing of Βύθος (ἄβυσσος). It should be noted in passing that Βύθος is one of the primitive entities in the Valentinian gnosis.47

Considerable numbers of magical amulets have been found in Palestine and Syria. Some of them correspond to well-known Egyptian types, as was to be expected in view of the constant intercourse between Palestine and Egypt, to say nothing of the probability that some Egyptian amulets may have been made for sale abroad. Others show designs that cannot be so explained, and these need further investigation. It is to be hoped that further researches in Syrian antiquities will extend our understanding of those types.


In its pure form the religion of Persia was little touched by magic, which, in fact, it condemned. Naturally its ceremonies might come to be accepted by some worshipers as virtually magical in their effects, but that is true in some measure of all religions. Yet actual magic undoubtedly existed among the Persians, as among all other ancient nations. The Greeks came to believe that the μαγοι were largely concerned with magic, and that belief has given the word magic its present meaning. During the period of the Roman Empire it was commonly supposed that various Persian prophets and sages were great magicians. Even Zoroaster was thought to have written magical books.48 The Greek magical papyri, which are in the main anthologies of magical recipes, attribute a few spells to Ostanes, but it is not easy to find in these apocrypha anything that is clearly of Persian origin.49

The question is more complex in those parts of the magical books which are cosmogonic and liturgical or quasi-liturgical in content. Albrecht Dieterich put forward as a “Mithrasliturgie” a certain section of the great magical papyrus of Paris, which purports to consist of mysteries revealed

45 Fig. 79 in J. Leipoldt, Die Religionen in der Umwelt des Urchristentums (Fasc. 9–11 of H. Haas, Bilderatlas zur Religionsgeschickte).

46 See Von Baudissin, op. cit. (note 36 above), I, 194. Even Iao sometimes appears as Iaoth, perhaps under the influence of Sabaoth; so in the manuscripts of Irenaeus 1, 1, 7; cf. 2, 58, 1.

47 Iren. 1, 1, 1.

48 48 For the most authoritative treatment of Persia in astrology, alchemy, and magic see Bidez and Cumont, Les Mages hellénisés (1938); for the matter of the paragraph above see I, 143–150.

49 Bidez and Cumont, op. cit., II, 307 f.

Last modified: 2012-10-14 17:13:24