Sunday, May 14, 2017


Oreobezagra and Mokhtar?

Peter Brown, Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD (Princeton: Princeton University Press, [2012]), p. 12 (ellipsis in original), with note on p. 536:
Examples of magical spells have survived. In the Oued Siliane in Tunisia, a stone was placed in the hills looking down over the fields:
Oreobezagra, Abraxas, Mokhtar ... Adonaï, lords and gods, keep away, turn away from this estate and from the fruits which grow in it—from the vines, from the olive-trees, from the sown fields—the hail, the mildew, the anger of hurricanes, the swarms of locusts, so that none of these plagues may attack this estate and the fruits that are all found there. Rather, protect them, always intact and healthy, as long as these stones, on which these sacred names are inscribed, remain in place in the earth and all around.28
28 P.A. Février, Approches du Maghreb romain: Pouvoirs, différences et conflits, vol. 2 (La Calade: Édisud, 1990), 17; A. Mastrocinque, "Magia agraria nell'impero cristiano," Mediterraneo antico 7 (2004): 795–836.
The works cited in the note are unavailable to me. The 2nd-3rd century A.D. inscription was first published by Naïdé Ferchiou (1945-2013) and Aimé Gabillon (1922-2010), "Une inscription grecque magique de la région de Bou Arada (Tunisie), ou les quatre plaies de l'agriculture antique en Proconsulaire," in Actes du IIe Colloque international sur l'histoire et l'archéologie de l'Afrique du Nord (Grenoble, 5-9 avril 1983) (1985) 109-125, also unavailable to me.

Brown's translation raised my suspicion because the first word (Oreobezagra) was a hapax legomenon in Google. Also, Mokhtar in Brown's translation is a common Arabic name, but not an accurate transcription of the name in the inscription. For a full translation with all of the magical names accurately transcribed, see Roy Kotansky, Greek Magical Amulets. The Inscribed Gold, Silver, Copper, and Bronze Lamellae. Part I: Published Texts of Known Provenance. Text and Commentary (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1994 = Papyrologica Coloniensia 22/1), p. 53 (I changed Kotansky's locust to locusts):
(Magic signs) Oreobazagra Oreob[azagra] Abrasax Machar Semeseilam Stenachta Lorsachthê Koriauchê Adônaie, sovereign (4) gods, hinder, turn aside from this property and from what is growing on it — in the vineyards, the olive-groves, in the seeding places — hail over the produce, grain-rust, fury (8) of Typhonian winds, a swarm of harmful locusts, so that none of these pernicious things touch this field nor any of the produce in it; (12) but guard them altogether unharmed and uncorrupt, as long as these stones engraved with your sacred names (16) are here lying about the land.
The Greek, from Kotansky, p. 52:
(Magic signs) Ορεοβαζαγρα, Ορεοβ[αζαγρα],
Αβρασαξ μαχαρ Σεμεσειλαμ στεναχτ[α],
λορσαχθη κοριαυχη Ἀδωναῖε, κύρ[ιοι]
θεοί, κωλύσατε, ἀποστρέψατε ἀπὸ τοῦ[δε]        4
χωρίου καὶ τῶν ἐν αὐτῷ γεννωμένω[ν]
— ἐν ἀμπέλοις, ἐλαιῶσιν, σπορητοῖς τόπ[οις] —
καρπῶν χάλαζαν, ἐρυσείβην, ὀργὴ[ν]
τυφώνων ἀνέμων, κακοποιῶν        8
ἀκρίδων ἑσμόν, ἵνα μηδὲν τῶν λ[υ]-
μαιωτικῶν τῶνδε ἅψηται τοῦ-
δε τοῦ χωρίου καὶ τῶν ἐν αὐτῷ [κ]α[ρ]-
πῶν πάντων· ἀσινεῖς δὲ αὐτοὺ[ς] καὶ ἀ-        12
φθόρους πάντοτε συντηρήσατε,
ἕως ἂν οἵδε λίθοι γεγραμ-
μένοι τοῖς ἱροῖς ὑμῶν ὀνόμα-
σιν ὑπὸ γῇ πέριξ κείμενοι        16
Thanks to my daughter, who gave me Brown's book as a Christmas present.


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