Two Dedicatory Letters

1 Introduction

While Greek (alongside Egyptian) was the foremost language in which Mediterranean “magical” expertise was recorded, there is an important collection of material about the powers of stones, much of it priestly or magical in character, that survives in Latin, under the title of “the book of Damigeron, the most wise, On Stones”. This Damigeron—or Damēgerōn, to give a more exact transliteration of the Greek—is known from some Greek sources, and at least parts of the collection are clearly translated or adapted from Greek originals.

This is, not improbably, also true for the first section of the collection, an anonymous letter that would not be out of place in the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM), since it promises to reveal matters of Egyptian priestly knowledge, including a secret name of “the most exalted god”, the Sun. While the letter as it exists now does not contain such a name, there are many in the PGM, ranging from the Egyptian word for “the Sun”, spelled Phrē in Greek, to “the name of Helios: aithōn (‘blazing’) Hēphaiē Hēphaiste, pyriphaē (‘fire-shining’) lamprophoita (‘blazing-roamer’) Ananōkha Amarza Marmaramō!” (Greek Magical Papyri XII 177–178.)

The second letter, from a (fictional?) Arab king to the second Roman emperor, Tiberius, may be an original Latin composition; but it does not seem to belong with the rest of the collection.

After the letters follow two texts On Stones and their Engravings.

2 A Letter

Since you asked me to write about the mysteries of all stones which humankind, through its own wisdom, has observed to be of assistance, I have not denied your request.

Therefore, guard this mystery of the highest most exalted god with the greatet diligence. For you shall not give this mystery to other learned Egyptians, nor to foreigners, nor to anyone else – lest Egypt decline to the point of barrenness in this science, lest these (books) might be cast into the fire by someone and burn, lest by open offence, all those who lord over the Egyptians become cruel towards Egypt.

This has not been transmitted to others, nor do any others have it in their power or keep it in perpetual protection. I swear to you by the greatest father, the lord, that Egypt does not have a better book than this. And the highest god is the witness to this oath. For I shall transmit the good name of the Sun to you, by (knowledge of) which a good descent is recognized. Therefore, it shall be forever protected by you; for it is a great help in many actions through the respective hieratika (‘priestly directions’), as the Greeks call them, of all stones.

3 Another Letter, Attributed to Evax

Evax king of Arabia to emperor Tiberius, greetings.

I received your magnificent presents from the centurio named Lucinius Fronto, whom you gave the honor to bring them to me. In return, I have sent you something more valuable: every report from across the Eastern parts of the earth about all stones of healing.