An inscription on the four faces of the object reads Φοῖβος κελεύι μὴ κύιν πόνον πόδας. The formula is like that prescribed by Marcellus for a colic amulet,43
except that Φοῖβος takes the place of θεός and πόδας that of κόλον.
Among the odd items that belong to the class of medical amulets there is a group of seven stones alike in material, obverse design, and reverse inscription. All are of yellow jasper or a similar yellowish stone, and all have as their obverse design a scorpion, which is very well executed on some of the specimens. The inscriptions on the reverse differ only in trivial errors.
British Museum 56180. Obverse, scorpion, reverse ωρθμενχινιαμβων. This is probably the correct form of the magical word.
Lewis Collection, p. 81 (Class C, 22). Obverse, a finely cut scorpion, reverse ωιβμενχεινιαμβων. The engraver probably read a small-looped rho as iota, and mistook a rectangular theta for beta.
Museo Borgiano, p. 457, 21. Obverse, scorpion, reverse ωρθμενχινι...λβων. The lambda of Zoega's copy probably represents the second half of mu.
Seyrig 25 (D. 128). Obverse, scorpion, reverse ωιθμενχινιβων. Lambda is, as often, meant for alpha, the cross stroke of which is frequently omitted in amulet inscriptions. In this specimen the reverse inscription looks later than the well-cut obverse design; but it may be that some illiterate lapidaries were capable of better work in a design from life than in copying a text.
Ustinow collection. Obverse, scorpion; reverse, ορθμενχινιαμβω. Discussed by S. Eitrem in Eitrem and Fridrichsen, “Ein christliches Amulett auf Papyrus,” p. 21, with Pl. 2, 13 (cf. p. xi); in Forhandlinger i Videnskapsselskapet, Oslo, 1921.
Oval intaglio found in Tunisia. Agate, “couleur café au lait.” Obverse, scorpion; reverse, ωργεμηνχινιανξων. Reported by Poinssot, Bull. arch., 1936–1937, 47–48.
Oval yellow jasper. Obverse, scorpion; reverse, ωιθμενχενιαμεω. Bull. arch., 1936–1937, 344. The reporter, Lapeyre, had seen another stone of the same material; with the same design arid inscription, in private possession at Carthage, arid still another at an earlier date.
These stones, like some other groups, show clearly that certain magical words of unknown meaning, or meaningless, were regarded as powerful for certain purposes and when used under certain conditions. In spite of its variations the word on the reverse of these stones was meant to be the same, and whether meaningless or not, it was chosen not at random but for the sake of some power imputed to it. It is probable that these five amulets — and others like them may yet appear — closely followed a prescription set down in some magical book that was common and much used.
It is natural to think that these stones may have been intended to protect against the painful sting of scorpions, a risk well known in Mediterranean lands. The scorpion design may have been apotropaic, just as on some Attic vases representations of the eye were probably meant to ward off the evil eye. But another possibility must be allowed, particularly with amulets which, like these, are late enough to come under the influence of systematic astrology. Adepts in that science assigned to each constellation of the zodiac
42 Published by H. Seyrig, Berytus, 2, 48.
43 Marcellus De medic. 29, 23; cf. p. 64 above.