Since most of the magical amulets are inscribed, it is natural to look to the inscriptions not only for help interpreting the designs, but also for light upon the religious and social conditions that produced these curious objects. In such an investigation we must set apart those that are meaningless to us because they are in a secret artificial language or in a non-Greek tongue so corrupted that it cannot be interpreted, or else because the words never had a meaning and were used merely for the effect of their mysterious sound. Such cryptic texts will be treated in the next chapter.
Several of the most interesting among the intelligible inscriptions have been discussed in connection with amulets of the practical kind, especially the medical amulets and love charms. They will not, as a rule, be repeated here. The others will be examined with reference to names or epithetS of gods and demons, the form and content of the prayers or petitions inscribed, in so far as they have not received adequate comment before, and the religious ideas or feelings expressed — the last a scanty and disappointing harvest.
NAMES AND EPITHETS
Names and epithets found on magical amulets are usually in the vocative case (less commonly the nominative) and may be regarded as invocations of a deity. Here we may begin with Σεραπομνέυι, vocative of Σεραπομνέυις, a name that occurs only on the reverse of a jasper in the Borgia collection.1
On the obverse a male figure with the head of a crowned hawk is enthroned in an attitude like that of Zeus, the right hand resting on a tall staff, the left holding a small image bandaged like a mummy and wearing the conical cap crown of Upper Egypt, which often called the white crown. An ouroboros surrounds the design.
Mnevis is the sacred bull worshiped at Heliopolis as Apis was worshiped at Memphis. At death the bull became an Osiris and was thus deified. In Wilcken's opinion, based upon an archive of documents from the Serapeum at Memphis (99-98 B.C.), Osormnevis represented the abstraction of the dead Mnevis bulls conceived as a deity of the lower world, just as Osorapis represented the dead and deified Apis bulls.2
Since the name Sarapis seems to be derived from Osorapis, Serapomnevis, strictly speaking, combines Osiris, Apis, and Mnevis; but in the period when most of the Graeco-Egyptian amulets were made, Sarapis had so far superseded Osiris that Serapomnevis
1 Museo Borgiano, p. 453, 14.
2 Wilcken, Urkunden der Ptolemäerzeit, I, 42, 454.