Apotropaia and Phylakteria

Conference Paper

Archaeological evidence: 3d. Apotropaic qualities of objects: Inscribed and other form of evidence
Friday 2021-06-25
17:25 | 19:25
Place: Swedish Institute at Athens & Zoom

Fearing the evil eye in Greco-Roman Religion and magic. Remarks on an apotropaic bas-relief from Actia Nicopolis

Evangelos Pavlidis and Anastasia Giovanopoulou., 2021-06-25

Abstract

In the face of the onset of evil rational is broken, irrational prevails and humans resort to symbols that prevent evil. The evil eye as causing evil is commonplace in the Greco-Roman world. Envy and the evil eye are so intimately related that sometimes it is not possible to differentiate between them. A common widespread apotropaic symbol in the images and texts of the Greco-Roman world was the Phallus.

During the excavations of a luxurious domus at Nicopolis, covering an entire insula and known as the domus of Ekdikos Georgios, a bas-relief was discovered, which provides a rare piece of evidence of the apotropaic practices held at Nicopolis. The relief depicts a legged double phallus and is inscribed with apotropaic Latin verses, relating to envy and witchcraft.

In our paper the Latin text engraved on the phalluses will be presented and analyzed, as well as the relief itself as an object, in its wider Roman context and in its narrower household context, in an attempt to trace the identity of the owner of the domus, the Pater familias. Considering that in Nicopolis the Greek population prevailed over the Roman one, our relief could shade some light on the coexistence of two communities and their interaction in religious customs and practices.

About the Author(s)

Archaeologist, Ephorate of Antiquities of Preveza

MA, archaeologist

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