Abbildungen der Seite
PDF

is a kneeling figure in the attitude of supplication, over his head are two stars. Behind each horseman stand two soldiers; at the bottom is a table supporting a loaf of bread, a roe (an attribute of Bacchus), a cup, a sword, combined with some indistinct emblems, possibly the wreath mentioned by Tertullian. On the back of the stone is engraved a more simple composition representing two crested serpents, twined round staves and looking into a cup; two stars above a table resting on a crater, and two bows ending in serpents' heads on each side. Here I fancy we may discover the picture of some of the trials of courage (the twelve degrees of torture of Suidas), to which the neophyte was subjected, exactly as the " apprentice " on his admission to the Masonic Lodge of the present day,4 and surrounded by all the host of Mithras so remorsely destroyed by the zealous Gracchus. One test of the courage of the neophyte was the apparent approach of death, for Lampridius mentions, among the mad freaks of Commodus, that "during the Mithraic ceremonies, when something was to be done for the sake of inspiring terror, he polluted the rites by a real murder:" an expression which clearly proves that a show or scenic representation of such an act entered into the proceedings; a circumstance probably denoted by the two corpses beneath the horsemen. The raven properly takes its place among the symbols of Mithras as being an attribute of Apollo in the early mythology, for which reason it is often engraved seated on a lyre.

Niphus, or Chneph, spelt upon the gems Xnoybic, Xnoy*ic, and Xnoymic, the lion-headed serpent of such frequent

* During this probation, which scourged for the space of two days, lasted forty days, the neophyte was These twelve tests are represented tested by the four elements; he was on the sides of the well-known lasobliged to lie naked on the snow a relief preserved in the museum at certain number of nights, and was lnnspruck.

occurrence is said by Hephaestion to be one of the Decani or three chief stars in Cancer. This name comes from the Egyptian Xnovb, gold, Xapxnovmic, the first Decanus in Leo, also occurs figured with a human head surrounded by rays and with a serpent's tail: his name is written xoAXNovBic on the gems. A Greek5 astrologer says of these Decani, "there are in each sign three Decani6 appointed, of various forms; one holding an axe, the others represented differently: these figures engraved in rings are charms against accidents as Teucer says, as do other great astrologers of his times." This passage explains the meaning of a curious Carnelian in the Mertens-Schaafhausen Collection, engraved

[graphic]

Hermes Heptachrysos. Roman Sard.

in a late Koman style, with the figure of Mercury seated on a throne, bearing the attributes of Jupiter, the thunderbolt and laurel-crown, and with a ram at his side. Around him is the legend EnnTAXPveoc, which has a strong analogy to the Xapxnovmic above mentioned as the name of a Decanus in Leo. From the statement as to the talismanic power of the three Decani in each sign, and the custom of wearing their figures engraved in rings, there can be little doubt but that we have in this intaglio a potent Decanus of Leo or Aries, for the animal at his side may do for either, and in his mis-spelt Greek title a translation of his Egyptian name— an epithet compounded with the word "gold," for it may be rendered "sevenfold golden."

5 Quoted by Salmasius, De Annis spector," a term exactly rendered Cliraact. by Horoscopus, the star that looks

6 From Dekan, Chaldee "In- upon the hour of one's nativity.

A curious passage indicative of the general belief of the protective virtue of this figure of Chneph, is to be found in Galen De Simp., Med. Facult, B. ix. "Some indeed assert that a virtue of this kind is inherent in certain stones, such as is in reality possessed by the green Jasper, which benefits the chest and mouth of the stomach if tied upon it. Some set it in a ring and engrave upou it a serpent with radiated head, just as Kiug Nechepsos prescribes in his thirteenth book. Of this stone I have had ample experience, having made a necklace out of such gems and hung it round the neck, descending so low that the stones might touch the mouth of the stomach, and they appeared to be of no less service than if they had been engraved in the way laid down by King Nechepsos."

Chneph is given as the name of the Good Genius by Eusebius, I., 7, where he says, "the serpent unless injured by violence never dies naturally, whence the Phenicians named it the Good Genius; similarly the Egyptians have called him Chneph and given him a hawk's head on account of the especial velocity of that bird. The priest at Epeae, styled the head interpreter of sacred things and scribe, has thus explained the meaning of the allegory. "The most divine nature of all was one serpent bearing the form of a hawk, and also being most delightful in aspect: for when he opened his eyes he filled all the places of his native region with light, but when he closed them darkness immediately ensued." Our serpent of the gems, however, does not appear with a hawk's head, but always with a lion's; for which reason one would be inclined to apply this description of Eusebius' to the Abraxas figure, who sometimes appears with the head of a hawk, or of a lion, instead of that of a cock, the most common mode of representing him.

I have already described the Mithraic gems as being earlier in date, and unconnected with the doctrines of the Basilidans. I have no doubt as to the correctness of this assertion, and that no difficulty will be found on inspection in distinguishing the two classes of intagli, the former being marked by the superiority of style as well as by the absence of Egyptian symbols, and of the long Coptic legends. Many of these intagli belong to the best period of Eoman art, and it is not difficult to see how the worship of Apollo was gradually merged in that of his more spiritual Oriental representative. The Pater Bromius of the Cave of Mithras may, however, be designated by the title Sabao, so often repeated in company with Adonai; for Bacchus is often called Sabaziug from the cry Sabaoi raised by his votaries during the orgies, a word clearly the same as the Hebrew Sabi, glory.7 Adonai, "Our Lord," is rendered by the Greeks Adoneus, a title of Pluto, and we have already seen the verse of Orpheus asserting the identity of Bacchus, Pluto, and Sol. This list of synonyms recalls the circumstance that the Syrian worship of Adonis was explained as typical of the sun's loss of power at the winter solstice. These sacred names Iao, Sabao, were degraded at a later period into charms for making fish come into the net. The mediaeval doctors read Iao as Aio, and construing it as the cry of the peacock, promised wonderful effects from a gem engraved with this bird with a sea-turtle beneath it, and inscribed with this word. There is an amulet against the plague still current in Germany (probably the last surviving trace of this class of inscriptions), which is engraved on a thin plate of silver in this manner.

7 Certain sectarians of the pre- what an ancient and respectable sent day, who shout out this word authority they may claim for the at their " Revivals," are little aware practice.

[ocr errors][table][ocr errors]

The numerals added together downwards, across, or diagonally make up the sum 34, perhaps in allusion to the time of Christ's ministry on earth. This table appears suspended over the head of Melancholy in A. Durer's famous engraving: the meaning of it there had long puzzled me until I met with the above plate in a little work by Kerner on Amulets.

[graphic]

ISIAC SYMBOLS. The most detailed account preserved of the symbols and types used in the worship of Isis when still in its glory (in the second century), is the description of the procession given by Apuleius, Met. xi. "Next the crowds flow on of persons initiated into the divine mysteries, men and women, of every rank and of all ages, shining in the pure whiteness of a linen robe; the latter having their dripping hair en

« ZurückWeiter »