Whether the simpler Solomon type was used by Christians or not, there is no doubt that a great number of Christian amulets were derived from it. They are bronze pendants and medals. The pendants begin in Roman times, probably as early as the third century, and continue into the Byzantine period; the medals seem to be all of Byzantine date. Common to almost all is the chief feature of the obverse, the Rider Saint spearing the Evil Spirit. Some specimens add below this design a roaring lion walking to right. The pendants are mostly oblong with rounded corners, but the dimensions vary considerably; some are broad and shovel-like, others narrower in proportion to their height, others are tall ovals. A suspension loop is made in one piece with the plaque but set at right angles to it, an arrangement that helps to keep the plate from turning the reverse face outward.
Certain types may be set apart on the basis of the reverse design that accompanies the rider of the obverse. The largest group uses for its reverse type the πολυπαθής ὀφθαλμός, as it is called by the author of the Testament of Solomon
This design shows the evil eye pierced by various sharp weapons and attacked by several fierce or noxious animals (D. 298-303). It probably originated in the east and was widely used in the Roman period as an apotropaic device. The most elaborate example of the kind is a mosaic which lay in the vestibule of a chapel (called basilica
in the accompanying inscription) used by a guild of pearl dealers (margaritarii
) in Rome. It has been discussed by several archaeologists and has often been reproduced.19
A gem with a similar design was published by King and is now in the Metropolitan Museum.20
As used on the bronze pendants the design is simplified and standardized. Directly above the eye is the head of a trident with its three points resting on the eyelid. On each side the eye is threatened or actually pierced by a sharp instrument, sometimes a dagger, sometimes a nail, in one example apparently a short curved blade with neither hilt nor guard. Below this are five animals — at the left, a lion rearing up and pawing at the hated eye, next, an ibis pecking at it, a snake, a scorpion, and at the right a quadruped which seems to be a dog, or perhaps a hunting leopard (cheetah), since in most of the specimens the animal is spotted. Variations are of little importance. An amulet from Beisan has only four animals under the eye, omitting the snake (D. 303). One in Mr. Seyrig's possession (D. 302) has in place of the trident what looks like a dagger with a rectangular guard; but this is probably