are several examples of the noun with no defining genitive, as in the ἡ χάρις μεθ᾿ ὑμῶν (or μετὰ πάντων ὑμῶν), and it is possible that in non-Greek groups ἡ χάρις had taken on a religious significance before it was used by the Christians. G. Wetter, the author of an important monograph (Charis
), raises this question in these words:93
“Wie fest sich dieser Ausdruck (ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ) in dem christlichen Briefstil eingewurzelt hat zeigen uns Eph. 6, 24; Kol. 4, 18; 1 Tim. 6, 21; 2 Tim. 4, 22; Tit. 3, 15; Hebr. 13, 25; Mart. Pol. 22, 2; hier liegt bereits ein terminus technicus vor. χάρις allein würde sonst nie einem Griechen verständlich sein. Oder war dies schon der Fall, ehe das Wort als ein christlicher Gruss verwendet wurde? Ist die Auslassung des Genitivs ein Zeichen dafür, dass die religiöse Bedeutung auch ohnehin feststeht?”
I am disposed to answer those questions in the affirmative, and despite the fact that our amulets cannot, as a rule, be dated earlier than the second or third century, there seems to be support for that affirmation in some of the gem inscriptions, to which we may now turn.
Ἡ χάρις is the reverse inscription for the following obverse designs: Osiris mummy between two winged goddesses (Isis and Nephthys fanning the dead god); Canopic jars with heads of Osiris (Sarapis?) and Isis, facing each other; Isis seated, holding the infant Horus; Harpocrates seated on lotus; Harpocrates of Pelusium, standing; Horus with hawk's head.94
Thus far the words ἡ χάρις may be understood as a pious ejaculation addressed to one or another person of the Osirian triad.
The situation may be different in certain other examples. A design of Ares with Aphrodite in the Michigan collection has ἡ χάρις in the field of the obverse side; similarly, a stone described by Le Blant, on which Eros and Psyche stand near a tree and a pedestal surmounted by a statue of Aphrodite drying her hair.95
Two closely similar plaques of terra cotta represent the goddess in the same posture standing in a little shrine; both are inscribed below ἡ χάρις.96
In this group the inscription may mean no more than “charm or
beauty.” In one instance ἡ χάρις follows a proper name; it is evidently a compliment or a good wish, however one expands the elliptical construction.97
INSCRIPTIONS SHOWING THE PURPOSE OF THE AMULETS
Some of the legends listed under acclamations show that the objects on which they are inscribed were meant to bring good luck, good health, or long life to the wearers. Among those to be discussed here, the simplest case is that of a descriptive word, such as φύλαξ cut in a tabula ansata on a small
94 The stones are D. 3; Petrie, Amulets, 135 c, Pl. 21; D. 29, 190, 219; Museo Borgiano, p. 453, 13.
95 D. 159; Le Blant, 750 Inscriptions, 270.
96 E. Breccia, Terrecotte greco-egiziane del Museo di Alessandria, p. 16, 7; Pl. 5, 13–14.
97 Le Blant, op. cit., 304.