: the bits of colored thread round wrists, arms, and necks; and moon-shaped plates of gold, silver, or cheaper material, wich foolish old women fasten upon infants. Epasmata
: the chants sung over young children by the same old women, muttering to avert evil, and at the same time licking the babes’ foreheads with their tongues and spitting, blowing to each side.”11
Similar behavior on the part of Greek nurses has been observed within living memory, and may still continue among the ignorant classes.
We do not know of what magical pendants were made in Hellenic times. Some animal and vegetable materials may have been used, and these would of course disappear, leaving no trace. On the other hand, we hear of magical rings, which were certainly less perishable, and magical pendants were probably made of durable metals or stones at a date much earlier than we can determine from extant remains.
A ring intended to protect the wearer from colic and other digestive ailments is mentioned by the comic poet Antiphanes, who was apparently a contemporary of Demosthenes (fr. 177 Kock) :
οὐ γὰρ κακὸν ἔχω, μηδ' ἔχοιμ'· ἐὰν δ' ἄρα
στρέφῃ με περὶ τὴν γαστέρ' ἢ τὸν ὀμφαλόν,
παρὰ Φερτάτου δακτύλιος ἔστι μοι δραχμῆς.
“There's nothing wrong with me and I hope there won't be; but if after all I get a twist about the stomach or the navel, I have a ring, bought of Phertatus for a drachma.”
More interesting is a passage in Aristophanes' Plutus, which was presented in 388. The Just Man, threatened by a blackmailer, says (883 f.) :
οὐδὲν προτιμῶ σου· φορῶ γὰρ πριάμενος
τὸν δακτύλιον τονδὶ παρ' EΕὐυδάμου δραχμῆς.
“I don't care a hang for you; I am wearing this ring, bought of Eudamus for a drachma.”
Obviously the ring was supposed to have apotropaic power; one may compare the formula often found on amulets of much later times, φύλαξον ἀπὸ παντὸς κακοῦ, “protect from every evil thing.” But it may have been of some well-known pattern designed specially to protect against the bites of snakes and other vermin, in which case the speech gains point as a slap at the odious character of the blackmailer. An interesting problem is introduced by the next line (88), where the slave Carion puts in the remark, ἀλλ' οὐκ ἔνεστι συκοφάντου δήγματος. This should be written ἀλλ' οὐκ ἔνεστι “συκοφάντου δήγματος,” and translated, as Fritzsche recommended, “But it is not marked 'for blackmailer-bite.'”12
Recent critics have rejected this interpre-
11 Migne, PG 36, 907 B–C.