Magic Gem, Cornelian, 3rd century
Place of storage: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California
Inventory number: 80.AN.132.2
Dimensions: The only information provided is 1.6 cm (5/8 in.). It remains uncertain if this refers to the hight or the width of the gem.
Getty Museum 80.AN.132.2
Getty Museum 80.AN.132.2 RS
Getty Museum 80.AN.132.2 cast
Getty Museum 80.AN.132.2 RS cast
The gem is inscribed on both sides as well as on its edge. The larger side depicts nine main lines with magic signs, with more signs scattered in between the lines.
The smaller side is inscribed with Greek characters in ten lines:
1. αρχ[…]οι arch[…]oi
2. χουμε[…]χσου xhoume[…]chsou
3. μαρταθραβωρθ martathrabôrth
4. δαμενδρανομ damendranom
5. ορφειμαλαμα orpheimalama
6. ξαορυωνευαραχ xaoruôneuarach
7. μαμθραιωιω mamthraiôiô
8. ροχαμαραω rochamaraô
9. θεουαηιω theouaêiô
10. ωθωα ôthôa
The first line could have read „archangeloi“ while lines 2 to 10 display unidentified voces magicae = magic words. The beginning of line 5 reads orphei, reminding of Orpheus, the founder and prophet of the Orphic mysteries. If the author of the inscription had intended to reference Orpheus cannot be said with certainty since the rest of the text does not provide any further information that could be related to an orphic context.
Inscription on the edge: ιιιοοουυυνιβο iiiooouuunibo -> another unidentified vox magica (magic word).
This is one of the rare examples of a gem inscribed on the larger side with magic signs only.
Image source: Getty Museum 80.AN.132.2
Sotheby’s, London. Catalogue of Antiquities. July 11, 1977, p. 21, no. 107, pl. IV.
Michel, Simone. Die Magischen Gemmen. Zu Bildern und Zauberformeln auf geschnittenen Steinen der Antike und Neuzeit. (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2004), p. 295, 28.13.b, pl. 100, 3.