Academic journal article Transactions of the American Philosophical Society

Preface

Academic journal article Transactions of the American Philosophical Society

Preface

Article excerpt

This volume presents a series of analyses of peculiar iconographies and texts concerning magical gems. Magical gems are amulets created by carving words or symbols into precious stones; most were made during the Roman Empire. Magical gems are compounds created by modern scholars in which a variety of beliefs can be recognized. These documents provide us with many interesting approaches, from the point of view of magical medicine, of linguistic features of magical words, of the merging of GraecoRoman and Eastern iconographies, and so on. My purpose here is to use the iconographies and the texts about magical gems as documents to understand the most refined religious thought of Imperial Age theologists. During the Imperial Age, gems were often seen as tools used to cope with the problems of common daily life; for modern scholars they preserve elements of ancient theological and cosmological theories. Even the most banal problems were faced by appealing to the higher gods and using sophisticated divine names and iconographies. In several cases we know of these names and images only through magical gems.

This small book gathers five studies on magical gems and religions of the Roman Empire. …

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