Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum: 44.750


Greek text:   SEG_44.750   ( OF 475,   B11 )
Provenance:   Entella , Sicily
Date:   3rd century B.C.
Translated by:   S.I. Johnston
Format:   see key to translations

This is one of the longest of the 'Orphic' Gold Tablets. It is composed in hexameters. Like other tablets, it is written on very thin gold leaf, which makes it difficult to read, but most of the gaps in the text can be restored by comparison with other tablets.

Like several other tablets, the Greek text stresses the importance of drinking from the Lake of Memory, as opposed to the water of Lethe ('forgetfulness'), which was usually drunk by the dead in Greek tradition. In the fragmentary lines at the end, the word 'symbols' was probably followed by tokens or passwords, to enable the soul to proceed along its way.

There are at least two recent books in English about the gold tablets: "Ritual Texts for the Afterlife" by F. Graf and S.I. Johnston ( Google Books ); and "The 'Orphic' Gold Tablets and Greek Religion", edited by R.G. Edmonds ( Google Books ).

  . . . [when] you are about to die
  . . . remembering hero
  . . . darkness enwrapping
  . . . [you will find] upon the right a lake
  and standing [by it a white] cypress.
  [Descending to it], the souls of the dead refresh themselves.
  Do not even approach [this spring]!
  [Ahead you will find] from the Lake of Memory,
  [cold water pouring forth]; there are guards before it.
  10 [They will ask you], with astute wisdom,
  [what you are seeking in the darkness] of murky [Hades].
  [Say, I am a child of Earth and] starry Sky,
  [I am parched with thirst and] am dying; but grant me
  [cold water from] the Lake of Memory [to drink].
  But my [race is heavenly. You yourselves know this].
  And [they will announce] you [to the Chthonian Queen];
  and then [they will grant] you [to drink from the Lake of Memory];
  and then . . .
  symbols . . .
  20 and . . .
  . . .

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