Here is a very old (possibly 2nd century) depiction of the Crucifixion of Jesus on an engraved gem:


What do the words say?

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_in_the_arts#Late_Antiquity

  • I do not see that the linked article says anything about this em.it
    – fdb
    Mar 14, 2019 at 23:32

2 Answers 2


The words are Greek:

Orpheos Baccicos

My guess is that it was meant to be Orpheus Bacchicos, either misspelled or written in a different dialect. In this case, it would mean "Bacchic Orpheus" (where "Bacchic" refers to the worship of Bacchus, and "Orpheus" is the singer who went down to the Underworld and returned).

Both Bacchus and Orpheus had cults relating to death and resurrection, and they were sometimes unified into a single deity called "Zagreus", so I wouldn't be too surprised to see their names associated with the Christian idea of the Resurrection.


According to this site, it has the image of

a crucified man identified as ΟΡΦΕΩΣ ΒΑΚΧΙΚΟΣ (Orpheos Bacchikos).

A dedicated scientific article analysing the stone (in relation to, for instance, the Crucifixion of Jesus) can be found here. Notice that it is unclear if the image is that of Jesus. Orpheos might be a reference to the Greek legendary figure of that name. For instance, the article states:

The fact that Christ appears represented on a cross, but is designated OPΦEOC BAKKIKOC—“Bacchic Orpheus”—, is of remarkable singularity in religious history, because Christ has taken the place of Orpheus, and not vice versa, as it is well-known from catacomb frescoes, for example with Orpheus as the Good Shepherd. Therefore the artefact would be syncretistic or Orphic, however with an Orpheus subjected to Dionysian suffering like Marsyas at the stake, and not like the Apollonian Orpheus with his lyra amidst tamed beasts. Bakkikos as an epithet of Orpheos is not tautologic, because beside the tradition that (as it seems to be the case here) Orpheus was killed by the enemies of his own following, there was among many others one famous variant, in which Orpheus, after returning from the Hades, abandoned his earlier habit of worshipping Dionysus-Bacchus and turned to Helios-Apollo instead, for which the insulted god had him dismembered by his Maenads. Therefore the designation Bakkikos would contrast this Orpheus on the cross from the follower of Apollo and identify him as the founder of the Dionysian Mysteries (see below).

  • 2
    I was about to write an answer based on this site. It says it's a magic amulet, syncretic in nature, thus the admixture of the Christian Crucifix with a Greek deity's name.
    – Rafael
    Mar 14, 2019 at 16:29
  • 2
    I'm wondering where they got the omega and chi from…they seem to pretty clearly be an omicron and kappa in the image.
    – Draconis
    Mar 14, 2019 at 16:31
  • @Rafael Please do so! Sorry to have stepped over.
    – luchonacho
    Mar 14, 2019 at 16:31
  • 1
    You didn't step over. But I'm no longer convinced there is one explanation. Perhaps the best answer is we don't know, but there is a number of theories about it. The paper you cite even says it is not clear whether it is a forgery, and it's currently lost!
    – Rafael
    Mar 14, 2019 at 16:43
  • 1
    @Rafael Do feel free to post another answer of your own! It sounds like you've got another source that neither Lucho nor I used, and competing theories are always fun.
    – Draconis
    Mar 14, 2019 at 16:57

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