Magic sphere from Athens
A marble sphere 30 centimeters in diameter was found in 1866 by Professor Athanasios Rusopoulos among the ruins of the Theater of Dionysus in Athens, at the foot of the Acropolis.
It bears a carved anthropomorphic figure of a deity standing between the two pillars of the covered portico in a rayed crown, which is an attribute of the solar god Helios. In one hand, he holds a whip, in the other – a scepter, which ends with three torches.
At the feet of the deity are depicted two dogs (or a lion and a dragon according to various interpretations), one of which also wears a rayed crown. On one side of the god’s figure are a torch, a seated lion and a serpent with a human head, which most likely represented constellations.
Not all scholars agree with this interpretation. It has been suggested that the relief figure depicts the witch goddess Hecate, who is usually associated with torches and lions.
Another hypothesis assumes that here the god Dionysus is depicted, who is usually associated with snakes, and the sceptre with torches is, in fact, his usual attribute – the thyrsus.
The hypothesis that dogs are symbols of constellations seems interesting. The one depicted in the rayed crown is the Big Dog, and the other, respectively, the Little Dog. Thus, the whole subject depicted on the sphere represents the image of the summer solstice.
In addition to the images, geometrical figures, circles and triangles, and Greek letters forming five words, ΑΙΘΑΕΡ, ΑΝΝΙΑΒΠΑ, ΑΝΙΑΕΥ, ΕΔΕΒΩΠ̣Ι, ΑΠΙΟΒΙ, are also visible here.
In 1913, the sphere was studied by the Belgian researcher Armand L. Delatt, who concluded that it was associated with magic. The symbols depicted, although not decipherable, have similarities with the symbolism of magical papyri of the II – III centuries.
From his point of view, the sphere was a kind of talisman hidden in the ruins of the theater to ensure victory in the theatrical or sports competitions held at that time.