A strange magic amulet made of clay with encraved decoration on one side and greek writing on the other was found at the ancient market of Paphos

The ancient amulet with palindromic writing

Το φυλακτό ή αλλιώς γούρι , το περίαπτο των αρχαίων Ελλήνων, αποτελεί ένα από τα σημαντικότερα «μαγικά» μέσα με τα οποία επιδιώκεται άλλοτε η αποτροπή του κακού και άλλοτε η επίτευξη αγαθού και ευδαιμονίας. Τα φυλακτά έχουν μια μακραίωνη παράδοση. Οι άνθρωποι ήδη από τα αρχαία χρόνια συνήθιζαν να φοράνε φυλακτά για να προστατεύονται από το κακό. Συνήθως τα φυλακτά τα συνόδευαν επιγραφές, ακατανόητα λόγια και σύμβολα, σχέδια και παραστάσεις. Ειδικότερα για τα παιδιά οι αρχαίοι συνήθιζαν να τους φοράνε περίαπτα κοσμήματα, τα οποία τους τα κρεμούσαν στο λαιμό, στον αστράγαλο με σκοπό να αποτρέπουν το κακό.

The ancient amulet with palindromic writing

For the ancient Greeks, an amulet or a charm is one of the most important magic items, that through them the prevention of evil is achieved and/or the achievement of bliss. Charms have a long history during the ages. In the ancient years the people used to wear them for protecting them from the evil. Usually on the amulets there were inscriptions, incomprehensive words and symbols as well as drawings and emblazonments. Most often the ancients used to wear charms on children, usually on the neck or ankle to protect them from evil.

Most known specimen of palindromic writing

The most know specimen of palindromic writing. "Νίψον ανομήματα μη μόναν όψιν" which means “Wash your sins off not only your face”. Usually engraved onto wellsprings.

The ancient amulet was found at the ancient market of Paphos and is dating back 1500 years. It is engraved on both sides. The one side displays Harpocrates, the Egyptian God of Silence, a mummy in a boat and astral and animal symbols like the sun, moon, a peacock, a snake and a crocodile. On the other side an ancient Greek phrase is engraved (“ΙΑΕW ΒΑΦΡΕΝΕΜ ΟΥΝΟΘΙΛΑΡΙ ΚΝΙΦΙΑΕΥΕ ΑΙΦΙΝΚΙΡΑΛ ΙΘΟΝΥΟΜΕ ΝΕΡΦΑΒW ΕΑΙ”) which means “Iahweh-The Lord is the bearer of the ancient name; the lion of Ra is safe in its sanctuary”.  Today this phrase might have no meaning but in the ancient times not only the meaning was apparent, but the phrase could be read backwards giving the same meaning if it was read normally.

Ancient charm at Paphos

In antiquity, it was believed that palindromic phrases, were bearers of magical attributes and were used as spells against evil. In the first Christian years, these phrases were used by the Christians in order to recognize each other and protect themselves from persecution. Archaeologists point out that the creator of the amulet did mistakes in the writing and the way the symbols were displayed. Also, they concluded that the mixture of different styles is an indication that Christianity and idolatry co-existed In Paphos at that time.  

Ancient charm at Paphos

This specific amulet came to light on 2011 during excavations at New Paphos. The theme of the excavations was “The Market of Paphos” and were conducted by the Department of Classical Archaeology of the University of Jagiellonian (Krakow, Poland), under the supervision of Professor Evdoxia Papoutsi Wladyka and the cooperation of the Department of Archaeology of Cyprus. During the excavation many findings were discovered, dating back to the Hellenistic and Roman Era.

The Ancient Market of Paphos

The Ancient Market of Paphos