The CBd
Bonner, SMA, 37.

C. W. King and, following him, Lord Southesk, have characterized as Mithraic another design, a very strange one, of which I know only four examples, differing from one another in several details. One is in the British Museum, another in the Southesk collection, a third, the largest and clearest of the four, is in the Walters Art Gallery (D. 72), a fourth, crudely figured by King (Pl. K 2) may be in the British Museum, though I missed it in my study of the amulets there.73 The center of the design is a table, or possibly a couch; but in the British Museum specimen it seems to be a throne. King called the object on his stone a Mithraic sacramental table. In all four examples this object is flanked on each side by a monster in which a snake takes the place of trunk and neck, while the head is that of an ox or a ram. On the Southesk stone the two monsters seem to have the hindquarters of a dog or a fox; in the Walters specimen one of them is similar, but in the other the tail as well as the main part of the body is that of a snake. On the stone in the British Museum one of the serpents is double, the two bodies being joined at the tail, while a ram's head appears at one extremity, a goat's head at the other. The other serpent, unless the illustration is very imperfect, is not double, as the editor describes it; the head is that of an ox, the body and tail are those of a snake. On the stone published by King (Pl. K 2) the monsters are birds except for snaky necks and the head of a ram in one instance, that of an ox in the other.
There seems to be nothing in Mithraic mythology to explain such creatures, nor would an admixture of Babylonian elements adequately account for them. Monsters of this sort suggest an Egyptian rather than an Iranian or a Babylonian origin,74 and on some of the amulets they are accompanied by other marks of Egyptian style. Some hieroglyphics are visible on the back of the throne on the London stone, and a sphinx sits underneath. A lion holds that position on the Southesk gem, and that also is an Egyptian motif. Horapollo (I, 17) says of the Egyptians, ὑπὸ τὸν θρόνον τοῦ Ὥρου λέοντας ὑποτιθέασι, words which probably refer to the custom of making royal couches and chairs with supports in the form of lions.75
The stone belonging to the Walters Art Gallery presents a strange feature which may point the way to an understanding of the whole group. On the couch or throne, occupying its whole width, rests a kind of bundle, the left end of which projects upward, resting against the low back of the throne. It strikingly resembles the aniconic form of Amon, which was first brought to the attention of Egyptologists by Daressy.76 According to his description and illustrations (Pls. I–II), it is a rounded mass like a wineskin, the left side of which is elevated into a protuberance. Three small monuments

73 B. M. Cat. Gems, 2630; Southesk N 65, P1. 14; Walters Art Gallery 42.870. King, Gnostics, Pl. K2.
74 Lanzone, Pls. 159, 9; 172; 173, 4; Daressy, Statues, 38837, Pl. 43.
75 See Sbordone's note on Horapollo 1, 17.
76 76 Daressy's article, “Une nouvelle forme d'Amon,” appeared in Ann. du serv., 9 (1908), 64–69. The same journal, twenty years later, contains Wainwright's “The Aniconic Form of Anon in the New Kingdom” (28, 175–189), with useful references to notices of similar objects that have become known in the interval since Daressy's work.

Last modified: 2012-11-05 10:12:01