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E01296: Greek charm on a lead leaf, exorcising a malicious tumour, by the names of the Archangels: *Michael (S00181), *Gabriel (S00192), *Ouriel (S00770), and *Raphael (S00481). Probably Christian. Found near Arkesini (island of Amorgos; Aegean Islands). Probably 5th-8th c.

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posted on 2016-04-20, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Side A:

[- - -]
[ὁρκίζω σέ, φῦμα ἄγριον,]
[κατὰ τὴν σήμερον ἡμ]έρα-
[ν καὶ τὸν Κύριον τὸν]
(4) [ἐξερευν]õντα τὴν
μετὰ λύχνου
κὲ ἀποκτήναν-
(8) τα τὸν δωδε-
δράκοντα, δι-
ὰ Μιχαεὶλ κὲ Γ-
(12) αβριεὶλ τῶν ἁ-
γίων αὐτοῦ ἀρχαγ-
γέλων, ἔξελθε
κὲ μὴ ἀδικί(σ)ις μη-
(16) δὲ τὸν ὡρκίζον
τα μηδὲ τὸν ὡρκ-
ιζόμενον. ὡρκί-
ζο σέ, φῦμα ἄγριω-
(20) ν, κατὰ τὸν με-
τρίσαντα τὸν οὐρα-
νὸν σπιθαμὶν κὲ
τὴν γῆν δρακίν,
(24) κατέχοντα τὴν
οἰκουμένην ὡσὶ κα-
μάραν, ἔξελθε κὲ
μὴ ἀδικήσις μηδὲ
(28) τὸν ὡρκιζόμενον μη-
δὲ τὸν φοροῦν-
τα τὸν ἀφορκισμόν.
ὡρκίζο σε, φῦμα
(32) ἄγριων, κατὰ τὸ ὑπ[ε]-
ρα[ληθ]ὲς [ὄν]ο[μ]α,
ἄπελθε κὲ μὴ ἀ-
δικήσις μηδὲ τὸν
(36) ὡρκίζοντα μηδὲ
τὸν ὡρκιζόμενον.
ἐξορκίζο σέ,
ὡρκίζο σέ
[- - - c. 12 lines - - -]

Side B:

[- - -]
(40) Μιχαὴλ Γαβρι-
ὴλ Οὐριεὶλ Ῥαφα-
ὴλ τοῦ τõν [ἀΰ]λων
[- - - c. 15 lines - - -]
(44) ἰσπεταμ(έ)νις
τῖς μικρῖς παρα
φυᾶδος. ὡρκίζο
(48) σέ, αἰξορκίζο σέ,
φῦμα ἄγριων [κατὰ τὸ (?)]
μέγα ὤνωμα
[τ]οῦ θ(εο)ῦ, ἔξελθε [καὶ]
(52) μὴ ἀδηκίσις μη-
δὲ τὸν ὁρκίζο-
ντα μηδὲ τὸν
(56) ὡρκίζο σέ, ἐξορκί-
ζο σέ, φῦμα ἄγρι-
ον, κατὰ τὸν κα-
(60) <τὰ> κάτω [καὶ]
τρίτ[ῃ ἡμέρᾳ]
[- - - c. 3 lines - - -]
ἐξελθε κὲ μὴ ἀ
(64) δικίσις μηδὲ τὸ
ν ὡρκίζοντα μη-
δὲ τὸν φοροῦ
ντα [τὸν ἀφορκισμὸν (?)] ἀλλὰ ἄπ-
(68) ελθε ἐκ τοῦ δού-
λου τοῦ θ(εο)ῦ – ἐκ τῆς
δούλης τοῦ θ(εο)ῦ –
τὸν ἀφορκιζόμε
(72) νον κὲ τὸν φοροῦ
ντα νεανία[ν] (?) . . .

1-4. [ὁρκίζω σέ, φῦμα ἄγριον κατὰ τὸν ....]ερα[..... τὸν διὰ τοῦ Υἱοῦ φωτίζ]οντα Homolle, κατὰ τὸν πάτ]ερα [τὸν διά..... τοῦ Υἱοῦ φωτίζ]οντα Grégoire || 15. ΑΔΙΚΙΕΙΣ Homolle || 33. ΤΟΥΠΑΡΑΔΟΣΕΣΙΜΟΝΑ the reconstruction is only conjectural, cf. Homolle and Grégoire, ΚΑΤΑ ΤΟΥ ̣Μ[Ε]̣ΓΑ̣ΛΟ(Υ) ̣Ο[Ν]̣ΟΜ[ΑΤΟΣ] is implausible || 42. ΩΛΩΝ copy || 44. ΙΣΠΕΤΑΜΣΝΙΣ copy || 49-50. [κατὰ τὸ (?)] Grégoire || 60-62. <τὰ> κάτω [καὶ] | τρίτ[ῃ ἡμέρᾳ] | [ἀναστάντα] Grégoire, τὰ κάτω... τριτ.... Homolle || 67. τὰ....., ἀλλὰ ἀπ- Homolle

Side A: '[I adjure you, malicious tumour, by the present] day [and by the Lord, who search]ed Jerusalem with a lamp, and who killed the dragon with twelve heads, through Michael and Gabriel, his holy Archangels, go away, and do no harm to the exorcist and to the exorcised.

I adjure you, malicious tumour, by the one who meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the earth between his fingers, and stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, go away and do no harm to the exorcist and and the wearer of this charm (aphorkismos).

I adjure you, evil tumour by the m[o]st v[er]acious [na]me, go away and do no harm to the exorcist and the exorcised.

I exorcise you, I adjure you [c. 12 lines missing]'

Side B: '[- - -] of Michael, Gabriel, Ouriel, Raphael, and (of the creator?) of the [imm]aterial powers [c. 15 lines missing] of the small off-shoot, which sneaks into (?) and remains concealed.

I adjure you, I exorcise you, malicious tumour, [by the] great name of God, go away [and] do no harm to the exorcist and to the exorcised.

I adjure you, I exorcise you, the malicious tumour, by the one who descended and [rose (?)] on the third [day (3 lines missing)] go away and do no harm to the exorcist and to the wearer of this charm (aphorkismos) (?)], but go away from the servant of God / from the (female) servant of God / the exorcised and the young wearer (?) [- - -]'

Text: Kiourtzian 2000, no. 1. Translation: P. Nowakowski (using Kiourtzian's French translation and completions).


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Michael, the Archangel : S00181 Raphaēl, the Archangel : S00481 Gabriel, the Archangel : S00192 Ouriel, the Archangel : S00770

Saint Name in Source

Μιχαείλ, Μιχαήλ Γαβριείλ, Γαβριήλ Ῥαφαήλ Οὐριείλ

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed objects Images and objects - Other portable objects (metalwork, ivory, etc.) Literary - Magical texts and amulets


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Aegean islands and Cyprus Aegean islands and Cyprus

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Amorgos Arkesini

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Amorgos Salamis Σαλαμίς Salamis Salamis Farmagusta Far Κωνσταντία Konstantia Constantia Arkesini Salamis Σαλαμίς Salamis Salamis Farmagusta Far Κωνσταντία Konstantia Constantia

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Exorcism Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Children Women Other lay individuals/ people Demons

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects



A lead leaf, broken and lost at top and bottom. H. 0,21 m; W. 0,05 m, found in 1899 by a local priest, D. Prasinos, in his field, near the city of Arkesisni in the southern part of the island of Amorgos. Prasinos communicated the find to Théophile Homolle, the director of the École française d’Athènes, who published it in 1901 (after Prasinos' copy). Currently lost. Next to our charm Prasinos found another leaf, bearing a pagan invocation of Demeter, asked to bring back some fugitive slaves. Our charm is written on both sides of the leaf.


The lead leaf was used as personal charm/amulet (here named aphorkismos) to cure or protect from φῦμα ἄγριον, normally interpreted by editors and commentators as a 'malicious tumour' (fr. tumeur malicieuse). It is, however, also possible that φῦμα may mean simply 'creature', as it derives from the verb φύω/'to grow'. Therefore, one could understand the charm as an exorcism against a 'malicious creature' = 'malicious demon'. The affliction (or the evil entity) is exorcised by the names of four Archangels, and by references to other heavenly entities, including God and Christ (not mentioned by name). Michael and Gabriel are first mentioned alone in lines A11-14 (as the conquerors of the dragon, though the Book of Revelation 12, the certain inspiration for this passage, contains a description of only Michael's fight), and then the group of four Archangels is evoked in line B40-42 (probably in an attempt to exorcise the tumour by the name of their creator). Such a charm could be worn by a Christian, perhaps by a Jew, or a late antique pagan syncretist, though the formulas, lacking clear references to pagan gods or demons, and the circumlocutive reference to Christ, make it plausible that it was manufactured in a Christian milieu. The object is usually included in editions of Christian inscriptions from the Aegean Islands. Late antique Christians commonly believed that illnesses were caused by sins, curses and demons, hence the need for relevant remedies, like exorcisms and protective amulets (phylakteria). Such objects were usually manufactured by a specialist in the field, based on textbooks of spells/prayers, etc. It seems that the maker of this charm faithfully copied the form from the book, as in lines 68-73 we can see that superfluous optional designations of “customers” were not removed: ἀλλὰ ἄπελθε ἐκ τοῦ δούλου τοῦ θ(εο)ῦ – ἐκ τῆς δούλης τοῦ θ(εο)ῦ – τὸν ἀφορκιζόμενον κὲ τὸν φοροῦντα νεανία[ν]/'go away from the servant of God / from the (female) servant of God / the exorcised and the young wearer'. This is not uncommon in texts from preserved ancient charms, both pagan and Christian, and implies that the maker was an uneducated person, with just a basic (or even no) knowledge of the alphabet. It is possible that the charm was not a local product, but was brought to the island by its wearer. As usual, the charm includes several modified passages from the Scriptures and liturgical prayers. Lines A2-6 are based on the Book of Zephaniah 1,12: καὶ ἔσται ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐξερευνήσω τὴν Ιερουσαλημ μετὰ λύχνου καὶ ἐκδικήσω ἐπὶ τοὺς ἄνδρας τοὺς καταφρονοῦντας ἐπὶ τὰ φυλάγματα αὐτῶν / 'And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees'. Homolle implausibly suggested that the reference to the 12 heads of the dragon in lines A7-10, stood for the 12 rulers of Rome (beginning from Julius Ceasar). The dragon of the Book of Revelation has seven heads, and the last one would correspond to the reign of the emperor Domitian (81-96), the twelve heads of the dragon of our charm would point to the reign of the emperor Hadrian (117-138), who suppressed the Bar Kokhba revolt. Such a reasoning is, of course, highly hypothetical. The reference to the dragon is probably just a reminiscence of the story told by the Book of Revelation, stressing the power of God and Archangels, with no further implications. Lines A20-26 derive from the Book of Isaiah 40, 12-22: τίς ἐμέτρησεν τῇ χειρὶ τὸ ὕδωρ καὶ τὸν οὐρανὸν σπιθαμῇ καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν δρακί (…) ὁ στήσας ὡς καμάραν τὸν οὐρανὸν / 'Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure (…) stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain'. Kiourtzian points out that this passage could be quoted through the Apocalypse of Ezra, which offers a version closer to that of the charm. The word ἔξελθε/'go away', used throughout the charm is characteristic of regular Christian exorcisms. For an in-depth commentary on sources used by the composer of this spell/charm, see: Kiourtzian 2000, 32-40. Dating: Homolle proposed a 3rd c. dating, based on the wording, derived from apocalyptic writings. Kiourtzian dates the charm to the 5th/6th c., a period when people were more likely to abandon traditional magical charms in favour of Christianised formulas, and when the text of apocrypha, quoted in the charm, was more or less established. However, we must remember that the amulet itself was almost certainly made much later than the composition of the text is bears, as such exorcism/spells could be continuously in use for decades or centuries.


Editions: Kiourtzian, G., Recueil des inscriptions grecques chrétiennes des Cyclades, de la fin du IIIe au VIIIe siècle après J.-C., (Travaux et mémoires du Centre de recherche d'histoire et civilisation de Byzance. Monographies 12, Paris: De Boccard, 2000), no. 1. IGC - Grégoire, H (ed.), Recueil des inscriptions grecques chrétiennes d'Asie Mineure, vol. 1 (Paris: Leroux, 1922), no. 210(3). Homolle, Th., "Inscriptions d'Amorgos: lames de plomb portant des imprécations", Bulletin de correspondance hellénique 25 (1901), 430-456. Further reading: Halkin, F., "Inscriptions grecques relatives à l'hagiographie. Supplément", Analecta Bollandiana 71 (1953), 340 (lines 8-12; 38-40). Kiourtzian, G., "Pietas insulariorum", [in:] Eupsychia: mélanges offerts à Hélène Ahrweiler, vol. 2 (Série Byzantina Sorbonensia 16, Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1998), 371-372. Leclercq, H., "Amulettes", Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et liturgie, vol. 1/2 (Paris: Librarie Letouzey et Ané, 1924), coll. 1796-1799. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 50, 818.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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