Associations in the Greco-Roman World (AGRW)

An expanding collection of inscriptions, papyri, and other sources in translation (run by Philip A. Harland)

Gem with an Oracle for Members of a Theatrical Synod (III CE) Unknown - Unknown

Unknown (Unknown, Egypt),
A. Delatte and P. Derchain, Les intailles magiques gréco-égyptiennes (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale, 1964), 335-336 (no. 514) = EGBR (2010), no. 38 = SEG 60 (2010), no.1817 = AGRW ID# 21762
Copenhagen Inventory info: 1995


Hematite gem decorated with a naked winged figure (Eros ?) riding on a fish. The fish has the head of a griffon and the profile of a man. Beneath is an eagle clasping a liver from an altar. Chaniotis (EGBR) points out that this imagery has parallels in Nemesis iconography. The gem was likely possessed by a member of a synod of performers, and the reference to the need to have a good soul may suggest some moral expectations for members of the group. The oracle itself may have been in existence in some other form before the making of the gem. The mention of a "Paphian synod" may refer to a branch of the Dionysiac performers centred at Paphos on Cyprus island. This may also allude to the Paphian Aphrodite, in which case the synod itself may have Aphrodite as patron deity. On this, see the two inscriptions involving performers devoted to Aphrodite at Syracuse, as discussed by Fountoulakis 2000.

One god says: “The person with a good soul who steps on the theatrical stage is accompanied by Nemesis and the Graces; but if someone, being ignorant, has a trouble-making soul, the gods and the Paphian synod (synodos) have rejected that person.”  So, companion (hetairos), love such behaviors (i.e. those of a person with a good soul).

Translation by: Harland

Ἷς θεὸς λέγι· "Ὃς ἀγαθῇ ψυχῇ σκηνὴν θυ[μ|έ]λης ἐπάτησε, | τ[ο]ύτῳ καὶ Νέμεσι[ς] | κὲ Χάριτες συνέπο|ντε· | ἰ δέ τις ὢν ἀμαθὴς ψυχὴν ἔσχε περίεργον, | τοῦτον ἀπηρνήσαντο θεοὶ κὲ Παφίης σύνοδ|ος." | Τοίνυν, ἑτε͂ρε, τῶν τρόπων γίνου φίλ[ος].

Item added: January 20, 2016
Item modified: May 31, 2021
ID number: 21762
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