Kevin Funderburk

Greco-Roman Realia

Dr. R.A. Kraft


  Here's what I can read for the (lead?) metal codex. No identifiable Greek words, but plenty of older epichoric Greek forms that signal archaizing. The boxy chsi and digamma hadn't been used for centuries, at least in Attic epigraphy, especially since the Ionic reforms of 403 BC -- the successor kingdoms to Alexander would only standardize Ionic as the alphabet of choice, I should think. Maybe papyrology tells a different story about the survival of epichoric and archaic letter forms, though. And, if this were magical, would the writing be gibberish for the practitioner as it is to us, or do we mean that they had an understandable code for which they utilized old Greek letters?

Metal Codex Editing, page one


At the upper portion of the metal sheet there is a figure with two snakes as feet with vertical lines indicating clothes draping about a headless figure on left; on the right, another human figure, possibly with cap on and holding something out towards the other figure. Metal unknown: presumably the curators would have marked it as lead if that were the case. Below the two figures:








*n.b.: after a letter indicates an underdotted letter, i.e. an uncertain reading.


  • Line 1: Only possibly identifiable word is the tetragrammaton IAW at the beginning. V shape is possible Latin intrusion into this archaizing gibberish. Omega is w-shaped, and gamma looks archaic, its right branch slanted downwards making it look like a lambda.
  • Line 2: Lower case lambda used; box with a middle-dot or cross is an odd form, possibly Attic/Boeotian , also in line 3; digamma F form evident, horizontal branches angled to the bottom of the page.
  • Line3: Box-like phi
  • Line 4: Upper strokes v visible for second upsiloncould also be a X; left branch and lower branch visible for third upsilon. Rho and mu very faint and doubtful.
  • Line 5: Slant of the crossbar indicated a tau, not upsilon for the first letter; last two lines mostly effaced: what writing utensil and marking substance was used here? A sharp stylus leaving scoring marks or some sort of chalk?