The CBd
Bonner, SMA, 230.

relations. On the reverse is the inscription σισισρω σισιφερμο‹υ?› χνουωρ αβρασιξ, (sic) ιβηχ, some parts of which are found on various other magical gems and magical papyri.2 σρω is the Coptic word for ram, σισρω is perhaps “son of the ram,” that is, of the ram-headed Amon or Chnum; but the inscription contributes nothing to the explanation of the design.

Very like this is a somewhat smaller glossy black ring stone, probably obsidian, in the collection of President A. G. Ruthven.3 The obverse has the same design of a large pig treading on the tail of a lion-headed snake, which bends back to meet the attack. On the reverse Sarapis enthroned faces to the left. There is a disk over his head, his left hand rests upon a tall scepter, the extended right holds an uncertain object, probably meant for a patera. The throne rests on a crocodile, of which only the upper part remains. The legend βαινχωωωχ is cut round the margin. An inscription on the edge begins at the bottom, where some letters have been chipped away, and reads counterclockwise σισισρω σισιφερμου χνουωρ αβρασαξ.

Zoega described two other examples of this strange design, each on the reverse side of a stone showing on the obverse face a bearded figure which, on the evidence of the Ruthven amulet, can probably be interpreted as Sarapis.4 But one of the two, despite the bearded Jovian head, is making the gesture of Harpocrates (hand to lips), is nude, and has a disk on the head — a curious fusion of characteristics belonging to two deities, one youthful, the other mature. The god of the other stone has a garment over the left shoulder and holds on the left arm a sickle; the legs and feet are broken away.5 Both Borgia gems bear inscriptions which contain some parts, perhaps originally all, of the previously noted words, σισισρω κτλ.

There is reason to suspect that the pig and Chnoubis serpent were represented on a stone which is quite differently interpreted Montfaucon's illustration of it.6 There the pig has become an elephant, and the snake is represented by a small bent tree; but parts of the characteristic inscription are certainly present. Montfaucon himself is probably not to be charged with the error, if such it is; his cut is derived from Fauvel, who may have supplied a faulty sketch.7

A design so unusual as this, yet occurring on four, perhaps even five, specimens, must have been fairly well known, but it is not easy to divine its

2 The words σισισρω and χνουωρη occur also on D. 366, a fusiform bead (but unperforated) to be discussed later. There also it is not possible to find a connection between the words and the designs, a lion and an unidentified female personage, perhaps Nemesis.

4 Museo Borgiano, p. 436, 16; p. 479, 47.

5 A flail whip or even a crook scepter might have been expected rather than a sickle. It is just possible that Zoega mistook the object.

6 Montfaucon, Suppl. II, Pl. 55, 5.

7 Although there is no question that coin types exercised an influence upon the designs of certain gems, I doubt whether any conclusions bearing upon the pig-and-snake type can be drawn from the denarii of Julius Caesar which show an elephant trampling on a serpent or dragon (Grueber, Coins of the Roman Republic in the British Museum, II, 390 f.; III, Pl. 103, 5). Such a coin, however, may have contributed to the error of Montfaucon's, or Fauvel's, draftsman.

Last modified: 2012-11-02 13:22:29