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E01770: Bronze medallion with a depiction of an unspecified holy rider and inscription with Psalm 90/91. Reportedly found near Tyre (west Phoenicia). Probably late antique.

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posted on 25.07.2016, 00:00 by pnowakowski
A bronze medallion with a hole, designed to be worn around the neck. 'Shaped like the head-end of a tenpenny cut nail, with the upper part of the head convex and having rounded corners' (as described by Hall 1896, cxv). Max. L. 3.7 cm; Th. 0.4 cm. Decorated with a depiction of a holy rider, piercing a demon resembling an animal. There is no published photograph or drawing of the object, or its decoration. Reportedly found near Tyre.

Kept in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. A description by Isaac Hall, Curator of the Metropolitan Museum, was first read at the meeting of the American Oriental Society 29-31 March 1894, and then published in 1896. The object was commented on by T.F. Wright in 1895.

Inscription (written on the sides of the object):

ἅγιος Κύριος,
Ἰουλιάνῳ
τῷ δούλου σ-
ου τῷ φορõντι,
ὁ κατοικῶν ἐν βοηθίᾳ
τῶ ὑψίστω, βοήθι

4. φορõντι = φοροῦντι, φοροητι Wright Hall || 6. τῷ ὑψίστῳ Hall

'O Holy Lord, help Ioulianos, your servant, who is wearing (it), you that dwell in the aid of the most High!'

or:

'O Holy Lord, help Ioulianos, your servant, who is wearing (it), who dwells in the aid of the most High!'

Text: Wright 1895, 124, lightly modified.

History

Evidence ID

E01770

Saint Name

Unnamed saints (or name lost) : S00518 Sergios, martyr in Syria, ob. 303-311 : S00023 Theodore Tiro, martyr of Amaseia (Helenopontus, north-eastern Asia Minor), ob. 306 : S00480 George, martyr in Nicomedia or Diospolis, ob. c. 303 : S00259 Sisin

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed objects Images and objects - Other portable objects (metalwork, ivory, etc.) Literary - Magical texts and amulets

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

400

Evidence not after

1300

Activity not before

400

Activity not after

1300

Place of Evidence - Region

Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Tyre

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Tyre Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Prayer/supplication/invocation

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Private ownership of an image

Cult Activities - Miracles

Other miracles with demons and demonic creatures

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Demons

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Other

Discussion

The medallion is a common Christian charm with a citation of Psalm 90/91, a passage from the Scriptures frequently appearing on Christian amulets, and with a depiction of a Holy Rider: possibly *Sergios, *Theodore, *George, *Sisinnios, or another warrior saint. The psalm is combined with a regular βοήθει/'help!' invocation. The inscription was not understood by its first editors: Wright and Hall. They did not recognise omegas as possible genitive endings in late antique Greek, and they read the word φορõντι (= φοροῦντι/'to the one who is wearing (it)') in line 4 as φοροητι (which Hall interpreted as an epithet and Wright as a verb in the imperative form). Therefore, their hypothetical translations are far from the correct version, we offer above. Hall translated the inscription as: 'Holy Lord, who dwellest in help, help most loftily Julianus the supporter of thy servant!' and Wright as 'Holy Lord, be favourable (= φοροητι) to Julian, thy servant; thou that dwellest in the secret place of the Most High, give him aid!' or 'Holy Lord, to Julian who has been favourable (= φοροητι) to thy servants, give aid; thou that dwellest in the secret place of the Most High!' Hall openly admitted that he had no idea of the purpose of this object. The fact that this was an amulet and that the inscription contained a citation from Psalm 90/91 was rightly noted by Wright. But he went on to speculate that the Ioulianos, mentioned in line 2, could be the emperor Julian himself! He believed that the medallion was owned by a Jew, praying for the emperor who had allowed for the reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Furthermore he suggested that 'the equestrian figure', depicted on the charm is also Julian. His other idea was that we have here a reference to Julian, a governor of Syria under Antoninus Pius, or a commander of cavalry, based at Palmyra. These theories are, of course, unsound and derive from the ignorance of similar apotropaic objects by their author (see, for example: E01758). Our Ioulianos is certainly a common man and owner of the medallion, and the rider is a saint, meant to protect him.

Bibliography

Edition: Wright, T.F., "The Julian inscription in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York", Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement 27/2 (1895), 124-126. Hall, I., "On a Greek inscription" [in:] "Proceedings of the American Oriental Society, at its meeting in New York, N. Y., March 29th, 30th, and 31st, 1894", Journal of the American Oriental Society 16 (1896), cxv-cxvi. Further reading: Feissel, D., "Une inscription de Salamine de Chypre et les citations du Psaume 90", Bulletin de correspondance hellénique 108 (1984), 576, note 159.

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