The CBd
Bonner, SMA, viii.

belong to a late and limited period, roughly A.D. 100-500, though several Byzantine pieces of still later times have been included. Much of my purpose will have been accomplished if the book helps the curators of museums to understand the character and significance of such amulets as fall to their charge, and to present them more effectively to the public. Students of ancient religion may find in these objects some help towards the understand-ing of the religious atmosphere in which simpler folk lived during the early centuries of our era. In this book, unfortunately, considerations of space limit the discussion, and sometimes preclude even the mention, of some religious questions upon which certain magical types may have a bearing. I trust that I shall not be thought blind to lines of connection which I cannot follow to the end.

Archaeologists as well as laymen have sometimes asked me whether there are many forgeries of magical gems. The question is not easy to answer, especially since I am not an expert judge of ancient glyptic art. I think, however - and this opinion is shared by better judges than I - that the extent of forgery in magical amulets has been much exaggerated. The de-mand for amulets in ancient times produced great numbers of crudely executed stones, which few competent modern authorities have considered worthy of study. On the other hand, casual critics have viewed these pieces with sus-picion because of their great number and their inferior execution. Yet both the quantity and the crudeness are explained by the simple fact that the poor, even more than the rich, were eager to possess pieces supposedly en-dowed with supernatural virtues, and many were content with familiar designs coarsely reproduced. In the seventeenth century, when magical amulets were comparatively new to amateurs, there was probably some fabrication of so-called Gnostic gems; I cannot otherwise account for certain designs in Chiflet, Gorlaeus, and Capello, which show no relation to any of the known genuine types. After a more refined taste had fixed the attention of collectors upon older and finer gems of Greek and early Roman workmanship, it was scarcely worth while to imitate late magical stones, which commanded no high price, and yet could not be forged without considerable labor. For this reason I doubt that many spurious magical amulets have been fabricated since Winckelmann's influence came to dominate the interest of archaeologists and amateurs.

When I began my studies of these objects, I hoped that a corpus of magical amulets might be prepared and published through the cooperation of several scholars, and there were suggestions from other quarters that such a work was to be desired. Further experience shows that even under more favorable conditions than now prevail, a complete publication of all magical amulets would be a labor of many years and that it would encounter almost insuperable obstacles. Even if the material for a corpus could be assembled, the expense of publishing it in full would not be justified, because the commoner types are repeated in many scores of specimens, often with the slightest of variations. As individual pieces, many contribute nothing new.

Apart from the introductory chapter, the plan of this book is to present

Last modified: 2012-11-13 23:14:05