Academic journal article Transactions of the American Philosophical Society


Academic journal article Transactions of the American Philosophical Society


Article excerpt

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An important gem in the Civic Museum of Bologna1 needs to be considered because it provides evidence of theological speculations of Near-Eastern theologists. The gem is a round obsidian (Figure 1.1) from about the 2nd century CE, which represents, on the obverse side, Kronos holding a swordsickle (harpe) in his left hand and a mysterious object in his right; a globe is placed on top of his head. In another chapter we will deal with the reverse side, which depicts a boar above a leontocephalic snake. Obsidian was chosen for this gem because it was the sacred stone of Kronos2 and the gods who could be identified with him, such as Dispater.3 Another similar specimen, also carved on obsidian, is housed in the Vatican Library and was previously kept in the Borgia collection.4

Roy Kotansky5 has published information about a gem in the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, in Santa Monica (Figure 1.2), which bears a similar iconography. He has identified this god with the Alexandrian Kronos, who is represented on several coins of the 2nd century AD (Figure 1.3). Other images show Kronos holding the harpe in one hand and a small crocodile (Figure 1.4) or a gazelle in the other.6 On yet another specimen, in the Skoluda collection,7 he is clearly holding a crocodile (Figure 1.5). An obsidian in the Kelsey Museum in Ann Arbor8 shows the same god (Kronos; Figure 1.6A) and, on the reverse side, Chnoubis in front of a fat pig (Figure 1.6B).

This version of Kronos represents the Egyptian Suchos, the crocodilegod, who was especially revered in Krokodilonpolis. During the Hellenistic and Roman period, the god Suchos was often represented with the iconography of Kronos (see Figure 1.4). This Suchos-Kronos was revered in many Egyptian sanctuaries. In Tebtynis he was called ... ...: "Soknebtynis (i.e., Suchos lord of Tebtynis) alias Kronos."9 Indeed, the iconography of the gem in Bologna (see Figure 1.1) is very similar to these other gems, but it does not show the god with the crocodile, as on the stones depicted in Figures 1.3-1.6. The god on the gem in Bologna may be associated with Egyptian doctrines, but he is also linked to Near-Eastern theological doctrines.

The first book of the Lapidarium known as Kyranides (a stone book of the 4th century CE, collecting more ancient works attributed to Hermes Trismegistos and to Harpokration; the first book is called Kyranis) presents, in alphabetical order, groups of one bird, one fish, one plant, and one stone whose names begin with the same letter. These groupings were supposed to share the same properties. This treatise had admittedly borrowed from Syrian10 and Babylonian traditions." Dealing with the letter "K" a stone named kinaidios, "cinaedus,"12 is presented, and the Kyranis (i.e., Kyranides' first book) says: "Although this stone is well known, the kinaidios is scarcely recognized; it is called obsidian and is the property of Kronos."13 After that the treatise14 explains how to make a magic gem: "You should engrave on the obsidian an emasculated man, having his sexual organs lying at his feet, his hands downward, and he himself looking down towards his genitals. Aphrodite is to be engraved behind him, shoulder to shoulder, and she is gazing at him." Such an amulet made its wearers impotent or effeminate. This amulet was concealed in the center, on the inner side of Aphrodite's leather ribbon, the .... On the outer side stood 12 gems, which produced different love incantations. This ribbon was known to Homer,15 who thought it was a ribbon or a rope with many piercings, which concealed all magical love charms. In the Hellenistic and Roman world this ribbon became a diadem or a crown on Aphrodite's head that was decorated with many magical gems.16 The Kyranis says that the gem of Kronos was endowed with the most terrible incantation. …

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