Lamella Orphica

Object Details


Lamella Orphica






Greece (Place created)


second half of 4th century B.C.




2.2 × 3.7 × 0.1 cm (7/8 × 1 7/16 × 1/16 in.)

Credit Line:

Gift of Lenore Barozzi

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Reportedly found folded in with the ashes of the deceased in a bronze cinerary urn, this lamella or gold sheet with its engraved inscription provides instructions about the path to be followed in the underworld in order to ensure salvation. Gold lamellae are quite rare. This example, said to have been found in Thessaly in northern Greece, gives a condensed version of the standard text. The dead soul is thirsty. It is guided to the proper spring. The soul is asked about its origin and replies with the formula of salvation, stressing its half-terrestrial, half-celestial origin.

Beginning in the 500s B.C., various religions sprang up in Greece of a type called mystery religions. These new cults often promised people a hope of a better afterlife, which in traditional Greek religion was quite grim. Linked with the beliefs of Orphism, this lamella provided the key for the deceased to reclaim the tiny divine spark that existed in mortals and to pass a happy afterlife among the heroes.

- 1975

Lenore Barozzi (Chicago, Illinois), donated to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1975.


Breslin, Joseph. A Greek Prayer. Malibu: 1977.

Merkelbach, R. "Ein neues 'Orphisches' Goldblaettchen," Zeitschrift fuer Papyrologie und Epigraphik 25 (1977), p. 276.

Bodel, John, and Stephen Tracy. Greek and Latin Inscriptions in the USA: A Checklist. New York: American Academy in Rome, 1997. p. 9.

Hornblower, Simon, and Anthony Spawforth, eds. The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. p. 504.

Gavrilaki, Irini, and Yannis Tzifopoulos. "An 'Orphic-Dionysiac' Gold Epistomion from Sfakaki, near Rethymo," Bulletin de Correspondance Hellenique 122, 1 (1998), pp. 343-355. p. 348, n. 19.

Graf, Fritz and Sarah Iles Johnston. Ritual Texts for the Afterlife. Orpheus and the Bacchic Gold Tablets (Routledge, 2007) 40, no. 29 and front cover.

Mazor, Ma'ayan. Gods, Heroes and Myths in Ancient Greece. Moshav Ben-Shemen: Modan Publishing House, 2014. 169, fig. 8.

Hornblower, Simon, and Anthony Spawforth, eds. The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization. 2nd edition. (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2014). p. 557.