The CBd
Bonner, SMA, vii.


Few subjects are more remote from the interests of most classical students, to say nothing of educated readers in general, than magical amulets; and yet the present work responds to a practical need, though a minor one. Many museums possess large or small collections of such objects as are here examined, but few curators have done justice to them. The amulets are often poorly displayed, if shown at all, and not infrequently they are misinterpreted and wrongly labeled. This neglect, though regrettable, is easily explained. Magi-cal gems have little artistic value, and many of them are so crudely executed as to offend an eye accustomed to the fine work of the classical period; though one hears now and then of people who find a special charm in these bizarre designs. Another reason for the slighting of these objects is that they do not fall clearly within the province of any single specialist. The classical archae-ologist is likely to disregard them as late and degenerate; he is also well aware that the designs and inscriptions carved upon many magical stones contain foreign elements that call for knowledge outside of his field. On the other hand, the Egyptologist is reluctant to lay aside his studies in the history and art of dynastic Egypt in order to examine the last hybrid products of a largely Hellenized culture.

There is also the embarrassing circumstance that these amulets are hard to interpret because many of the designs are obscure and the inscriptions contain words that belong to no known language; furthermore, there is no convenient and trustworthy guide to the subject. Such works as have dealt ex professo with what are called "Gnostic" amulets are based upon a false supposition which the word "Gnostic" reflects; and some of them indulge in wild speculations now universally rejected.

Within the last fifty years several capable scholars have given some atten-tion to the so-called Gnostic amulets, and have recognized that by far the greater number of them are not monuments of religious Gnosticism, but relics of Graeco-Egyptian magic; these writers have done a great service by explain-ing the meaning and purpose of several important types. But much of this excellent work was published in articles scattered through many journals, oriental as well as classical, not all of which are to be found in every archae-ologist's working library.

No wonder, therefore, that the custodian of one of the largest collections expressed an earnest desire to see an introduction to the study of Graeco-Egyptian magical amulets. His opinion that such a work is needed has encouraged me to proceed with the series of studies here offered. They do not aspire to exhaust the subject; and, conscious of their incompleteness, I have avoided using any title that might seem to label this work as a handbook or as a general treatment of ancient magical amulets. Those discussed here

Last modified: 2012-11-13 23:12:21