Oval gem with rooster-headed, snake-legged deity in armor, holding a whip

Roman
Imperial Period
mid 2nd–3rd century


Dimensions

Length x width: 18 x 15 mm (11/16 x 9/16 in.)

Accession Number

2000.991

Medium or Technique

Jasper

On View

Anne and Blake Ireland Gallery (Gallery 210A)

Collections

Jewelry, The Ancient World

Classifications

Gems

Green jasper. Intaglio. The rooster-headed, snake-legged deity is clad in a Roman chestplate (cuirass). He holds an Egyptian flail in his right hand and a small round shield in his left. The shield bears the name “IAW” (Jahweh, the Jewish god) as a protective emblem. This mysterious anguipede (snake-legged) figure is common on magical gems. The reverse is inscribed with the name of Jahweh, followed by “Lord of Hosts” and a magical name (Abraxas). The amulet invokes charisma for a man named Ptolemy. His name is inscribed over an earlier name that was removed from the gem so that Ptolemy could use it.

Inscribed on obverse: IAW (Jahweh) / E-EI / AIW-EHI / T-T
Inscribed on reverse: IAW CABAW ABR/ACAS (Jahweh Sabaoth Abraxas) HXARICAM (charisma) / PTOLEMAIW P/ROC PANTE/C (for Ptolemy, before all)

Provenance

By date unknown: with Frank Sternberg AG, Schanzengasse 10, CH-8001 Zurich, Switerland; purchased on behalf of MFA at Frank Sternberg Auction 35, Hotel Eden au Lac, Zurich, October 28-29, 2000, lot 1282 by Classical Numismatic Group, Inc., 1102 Millersville Pike, Lancaster, PA 17603; December 13, 2000: purchased by MFA from Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.

Credit Line

Gift of the Estate of Dana Estes, by exchange