the mention of Osiris, Isis, and Typhon shows that the use of mythological parallels is not merely a literary ornament, as we might suspect from reading Theocritus, but was derived from actual magical practice.
A single example of such a charm on a stone amulet has been preserved, an oval haematite in the British Museum.16
There no design; an inscription covers both faces and part of the bevel, but not all of it is legible, and some groups of letters may be purposely unintelligible. It is as follows:
ν ἔτεκε Σερ
ηνίλλα ἀπὸ Σ
σι γὰρ ὁ μ
[έγα]ς θεὸς κ
On the bevel, beginning opposite the last line of the inscription on the reverse, ασβερβστας. Τασβερβερετας is a magical name sometimes found with representations of Bes, especially when he is associated with Isis and the infant Horus.
The obverse text is mainly clear enough — “divide Hierakion . . . son of Serenilla, from Serenilla daughter of Didyme”; and the first part of the reverse gives a good sense, “for the great god commands” (επιτασι for ἐπιτάσσει), meaning, of course, that the operator identifies himself with “the great god” or at least controls him, a way of strengthening a spell which has been noted already.18
But other points remain obscure. The word following Ἱερακίωνα looks like another carelessly written name formed on the same stem; but the initial iota that would be expected is not present. The name Ἱέραξ is as well known in Egypt as Ἱερακίων, and it is just possible that ‹Ι›ερακαξ is an alternative appellation for Hierakion with a wrongly inserted syllable, κα. It is no easier to assume that Ἱέραξ was the father's name and take ερακαξ as a corruption of Ἱέρακος.19
The reverse has suffered from abrasion, but θεός could hardly be read otherwise, and μέγας is an easy restoration, though no traces of the middle letters remain. The letters in lines 4 and 5 are fairly certain, though they
17 For τῆς as relative see Mayser, II, 1, p. 58.
18 Examples in which the operator represents himself as a great god, using the phrase ὅτι ἐπιτάσσει σοι (ὁ δεῖνα), may be found in PGM IV, 239, 253, 2093, and elsewhere.
19 The word εραχαξ occurs in PGM VII, 447 as a nomen magicum for Osiris; the text is described as having, among other uses, the power to separate two lovers. We can scarcely take ερακαξ in the inscription as a vocative addressed to Osiris, because of the plural verb above. It could be an Egyptian name treated as indeclinable; cf. the use of Sarapis and Oserapis as names of men. But no solution of the problem is satisfactory.