Prognostikon – The Divining Disc of Pergamon

To be featured in The Elements

The Prognosticon or Prognostikon is the name of a magical bronze circle pendant from ancient Greece, from the city of Pergamon dated to the 3rd century BC.
Known as “the Divining Disk of Pergamon” the disc is reputed to be have been used in the use of divination, an ancient Greek magic circle used by the magicians of Pergamon for purposes of divination and obtaining Oracles. It was originally discovered at Pergamon in Asia Minor in 1899, and is preserved in the Museum in Berlin.

The ‘Divination Kit’ Discovery

In 1899, a cache of 9 artifacts described as “Zauberapparat” – a divination kit, by the German excavations were discovered in the lower town at the site Pergamon in Asia Minor. Known as the ‘Pergamon divination kit’, the first mention of the artifacts was made by R. Wünsch in 1905, dating the artifacts to the 3rd C. A.D.
The artifacts themselves, which are now in the Berlin Antikensammlung include a 4-sided bronze nail; two bronze rings with characters engraved on the bronze bevel; two rectangular bronze lamellae inscribed with characters similar to stone-masons’ monograms, three smoothed black river stones with identical inscriptions and the Prognosticon – a very unusual bronze convex disk and a bronze table, consisting of an equilateral triangular base with a post projecting from the center. Affixed to the other end of the post is a small, unadorned disk.
© Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Antikensammlung
The triangular base of the ‘divination kit’ had a raised rim at the sides and a metal rod (h: 86 mm, d: 12 mm) set at the center, holding up a bronze disc (d: 70 mm). The angles of the triangle each represent an aspect of Hecate trimorph, wearing peplos and modius, arms bent in elbow, hands raised, their names inscribed above their heads. Phoibie (at bottom left in the image) holds a key in her right hand and a burning torch in her left hand, Dione (at top in the image) holds a whip in her right hand and a burning torch in her left hand, Nychie (at bottom right in the image) holds a serpent in her right hand and a dagger in her left hand.
The remaining surface of the triangle is covered with Greek inscription and characters.
© Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Antikensammlung
The Pergamon Zaubergerät, first published by R. Wünsch, the triangle inscriptions read:
1 Λουλου|ζαρζαρκαθ|μαθουσμη|μυλαρθω|
Flower | zarkaras | matthous | myrrho |

5 μουσαφου||μαρχιαλα|ρισοαρηθε|ουνφωραζω|φρισσαμου|

Mashafou || marchesala | risoarithe | ounforazo | frissamou |

10 βερφορισσα||βρυχισσαφα|ρισμυθωναρ|φουνισνουναρι|φαφιλωνισφλω|

verforissa || vrychissafa | rismythonar | founisnounari | fafilonisflo |

15 χαρεοφορε[ . . ]||σιων|ενεβεν|θελησσα|βαρβωτοισ|

chareofore (Harefoot) [ . . ]|| sion | eneven | thelissa | varvotois |

20 ιωλιπαφαρ||βορβορο[φ]ορ[β]α|στριαλαλαχ|μαφυζαζαω|ναυμιλλοναθω|

Jilipaphir | sorvo [φ] or [β] α | strialalah | mafazzao | nauillinatho |

25 λαωρεοβαρβαρο||φων|ααα εεε |ηηη ιιι οοο|υυυ ωωω|

Laurencebarvar || fon | aaa eee | iii iii ooo | yyy ooo |

30 αλαλαλ ελ[-]||ιλιλιλ ολολολ|υλυλυλ ωλωλ[-]|ωλ αναναν|

Alalyl [-] - phenylethylolylsilylolyl [-]] anil |

35 ενενεν ηνην[-]||ην ινινιν ονον[-]|ον υνυνυν|ωνωνων|αραραρ|
40 ερερερ||ηρηρηρ ιριριρ ορορορ|υρυρυρ ωρωρωρ|ασασασ εσ[-]|εσεσ ησησ[-]|
45 ησ ισισισ οσ[-]||οσοσ υσυσυσ|ωσωσωσ αψ[-]|αψαψ εψεψεψ|ηψηψηψ ιψιψ[-]|
50 ιψ οψοψοψ υψυψ[-]||υψ ωψωψωψ Ἰάω|ευη Ἰάη ευοα|ζαγουρη· ευ-|ευευ· ιωιωιω·|
55 αεηιουω· αεαε[-]||αε· αηαηαη· αιαι[-]|αι· αοαοαο·αυαυαυ|αωαωαω|ωαωαωα|
60 ωεωεωε||ωηωηωη|ωιωη(!)ωι ωο[-]|ωοωο ωυωυ[-]|ωυ ωωωωωω|
65 [. .]ἰὼ||Πασικράτ[ε]ια, ἰὼ|Πασιμέδουσα, ἰὼ|πάντα ἐ[-]|φέπουσα,|
70 ἰὼ Περσεφόνη, ἰὼ Μηλι[-]||νόη, ἰὼ Λευκο[φ]ρυηνή.| Φοιβίη|Διώνη|Νυχίη|
75 Ἀμ[ε]ίβουσα.

CBd-Number: CBd-1864
ID-Number DE-Berlin-Ant_Misc. 8612,6
Collection DE_Berlin, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Antikensammlung
Inventory Misc. 8612,6
References Wünsch 1905, 2
Material bronze
Dimensions diameter: 128 mm; height: 10 mm
Place of discovery Pergamon, Lower Town, 1897
Dating 3rd c. AD (Wünsch)
Iconographical elements: Concentric motifs
Images © Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Antikensammlung:
© Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Antikensammlung
© Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Antikensammlung
Material: bronze
Dimensions: 50 x 162 mm
Place of discovery: Pergamon, Lower Town, 1897
Dating: 3rd c. AD (Wünsch)
© Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Antikensammlung
© Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Antikensammlung

In Volume 15 2002, of the Journal of Roman archaeology pp. 188-198 ‘Another view of the Pergamon divination kit’, Richard Gordon states in his abstract that the pieces are not part of a kit, but part of a ‘ragbag’ collection:

“The discovery in 1977 of a very similar ‘triangle’ in the Maison du Cerf at Apamea seemed to confirm Wünsch’s account of the kit as the equipment required to perform a type of divination very similar to that described in Hilarius’ confession relating to the seance of A.D. 371. … Wünsch’s commentary leads to a kind of revelation, the disclosure of the true sense of the kit as whole. In the last major section of his account, Wünsch discussed each object in turn, noting the use of similar objects in diverse magical contexts.

For his interpretation the crucial apparatus was the inscribed disc, which has 24 fields in the three outer circles, that is, the number of letters in the Greek alphabet. That implied an alphabet-oracle, and it was then easy to point to Ammianus’ already famous report. It is his story of the ‘wizard at work’ that caught the imagination of his readers, the story of the polished stones used as protective amulets, the ring hung from the nail over the circular disc, which was moved by the handle to create words or sentences from the signs inscribed on its surface.

If one looks closely at the disc, it is very difficult (indeed, in my view impossible) to credit that it could have served as an alphabet-oracle or anything similar. If so, does the disc belong to the triangular support at all? Can the other appliances be understood differently from the way Wünsch suggested? My argument is that we might read much of his own commentary as undercutting the final disclosure that depends so heavily on Hilarius, and that we should revert to his own initial conception of an ensemble, a group of instruments with a variety of ritual uses. Indeed, there are reasons for thinking that the individual items were not conceived as a group, but rather assembled over time from various sources as a collection. I incline to understand the ensemble as not so much a ‘kit’ as a rag-bag collection.”


Pergamon or Pergamum was a rich and powerful ancient Greek city in Aeolis. It is located 26 kilometres (16 mi) from the modern coastline of the Aegean Sea on a promontory on the north side of the river Caicus (modern-day Bakırçay) and northwest of the modern city of Bergama. Many remains of its impressive monuments can still be seen and especially the outstanding masterpiece of the Pergamon AltarIt became the capital of the Kingdom of Pergamon during the Hellenistic period under the Attalid dynasty in 281–133 BC.Captured by Xenophon in 399 BC and immediately recaptured by the Persians, it was severely punished in 362 BC after a revolt.

Acropolis of Pergamon by Friedrich Thierch – 1882

Pergamon did not become important until Lysimachus, King of Thrace, took possession in 301 BC, but soon after his lieutenant Philetaerus enlarged the town, the kingdom of Thrace collapsed and it became the capital of the new kingdom of Pergamon which Philetaerus founded in 281 BC, beginning the Attalid dynasty. In 261 BC he bequeathed his possessions to his nephew Eumenes I (263–241 BC), who increased them greatly, leaving as heir his cousin Attalus I (241–197 BC).Pergamon is cited in the Book of Revelation as one of the seven churches of Asia.

Serapis Temple

One of Pergamon’s notables structure is the great temple of the Egyptian gods Isis and/or Serapis, known today as the “Red Basilica” (or Kızıl Avlu in Turkish), about one kilometre (0.62 miles) south of the Acropolis. It consists of a main building and two round towers within an enormous temenos or sacred area. The temple towers flanking the main building had courtyards with pools used for ablutions at each end, flanked by stoas on three sides. At this temple in the year 92 Saint Antipas, the first bishop of Pergamum ordained by John the Apostle, was a victim of an early clash between Serapis worshipers and Christians. An angry mob is said to have burned Saint Antipas alive inside a Brazen Bull incense burner, which represented the bull god Apis.

In the 1st century AD, the Christian Church at Pergamon inside the main building of the Red Basilica was one of the Seven Churches to which the Book of Revelation was addressed. The forecourt is still supported by the 193-metre-wide (633-foot) Pergamon Bridge, the largest bridge substruction of antiquity.

Deciphering The Divining Disc

Copyright Antikensammlung Berlin
 The surface of the Prognosticon is divided into sectors containing different characters amongst them Greek vowels. It is comprised of 16 parts – 8 on the outside and 8 inside, each rotating in opposite directions: A circle of life the 16 separate cycles. Although the radial divisions of the three outer rings are aligned, the segmentation of the central region is not aligned with the outer rings.
The inscriptions on the convex side are arranged in 4 concentric circles and contain a large number of magical hieroglyphs, but among them are several letters of the Greek alphabet, and a whole circle of Greek vowels, the Egyptian hieroglyph for B, the symbols of the sun and moon.
The 8 outside sections are divided into 24 smaller sections= 32. So it is likely that numerology plays a large part in this pendant representing the cycles and choices in life. The concentric circles of the inscribed disc are filled with magic characters, Egyptian hieroglyphs and planetary symbols.
The systems employed remain unknown. It is believed it formed a part of the apparatus which the magicians of Pergamon used for purposes of divination and for obtaining Oracles in the first half of the third century of our Era. One theory is that the disc might have been a tool used to enter an altered state of consciousness, in which the operator would gaze at the central point of the hypnotic radial design until they entered a trance. It has been carefully described Dr. R. Wünsch in the Jahrbuch of the German Archaeological Institute, Ergänzungshaft, No. 6, 1905.
From Griechisch-Ägypischer Offenbarungszauber, Leipzig, 1924, p. 146
The picture here is of an original copy made of the original bronze one found in Asia Minor in 1899, thought to be made by the museum of Berlin during WWII by direct casting.
Cracking the Prognosticon Code
It appears that the outside ring a calender system portraying the movement of the year around the seasons, the next ring being the movement of the stars or planets in line with the seasons. The third ring shows how they relate to man with the center representing the domain of the Gods YH*V being visible next to the symbol of a man.
The system employed by the magician is unknown: Some say as an amulet it strengthens the intuition, the subconscious and, as a result, self-knowledge, imagination and creativity. It is believed by others that these types of objects with these symbols are like combination locks that connect our spiritual energies to other energy systems.
The disc is thought to be an amalgamation of magical systems and practices from the Middle East representing a much older religious/magical system of belief, older even than most modern archaeologists suspect. Some common symbols used on the King Solomon amulets are visible.

What do the symbols represent? The mysteries of the symbols share a lot of common ground with:

Hemisphærum Avstrale Coelestium

Is the title of a plate by German Jesuit priest Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680) of a graphic representation of the heavens made in his work Oboliscus Aegyptiacus. Kircher was the brightest scientific star of his day. Towards the end of his life, though he was to be eclipsed by the rationalism of René Descartes and others he is still “a giant among seventeenth-century scholars… one of the last thinkers who could rightfully claim all knowledge as his domain”.
Kircher’s ‘Alpahetvm Scriptvræ Coelestis’ shows the night heavens called by Kircher ‘Hemisphæreum Coelestium’ – deciphering the mystery of mysterious symbols that have long plagued archaeologists and students of esoterica. What the stars or constellations on the Prognosticon are, remain of course still open to interpretation, but there can be no doubt, that with reference to Kircher and Kircher’s interpretation of ancient studies that the peculiar symbols decode the heaven into some form of symbolic script.
The nature of the mystery can therefore be partly answered with reference to Kircher’s work, revealing the use of symbols to group stars in a codification of the heavens. If the symbols represent stars as a script, this resolves the mysterious symbols. With reference to Kircher’s work, it is possible that the Prognosticon reveals stars or constellations as a script to be read, but what they are remains open to interpretation. Could the disc be a means of decoding the heavens as a symbolic script?


Described as the last man of the Renassiance, Kircher was “a champion of wonder, a man of awe-inspiring erudition and inventiveness,” whose work was read “by the smartest minds of the time.” He is known in history primarily as the man who drew the map of the fabled Atlantis.
Kircher cited as his sources Chaldean astrology, Hebrew kabbalah, Greek myth,Pythagorean mathematics, Arabian alchemy and Latin philology. Modern experts on hieroglyphic writing have found Kircher’s work to be of little value. Another symbol featured in Kircher’s writings is the seven-pointed star.


Kircher argued that Coptic preserved the last development of ancient Egyptian. For this Kircher has been considered the true “founder of Egyptology”, because his work was conducted “before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone rendered Egyptian hieroglyphics comprehensible to scholars”. He also recognized the relationship between hieratic and hieroglyphic scripts.

In Oedipus Aegyptiacus, Kircher argued under the impression of the Hieroglyphica that ancient Egyptian was the language spoken by Adam and Eve, that Hermes Trismegistuswas Moses, and that hieroglyphs were occult symbols which “cannot be translated by words, but expressed only by marks, characters and figures.” This led him to translate simple hieroglyphic texts now known to read as dd Wsr (“Osiris says”) as “The treachery of Typhon ends at the throne of Isis; the moisture of nature is guarded by the vigilance of Anubis”.

Egyptian-Coptic Links

Scholars of the 20th century discovered amongst Kircher’s writings, correspondence with hieroglyphic inscriptions deciphered to represent past events thought unique – Kircher illustrating sources lost to science. He established the link between the ancient Egyptian and the modern Coptic languages, and some commentators regard him as the founder of Egyptology, while others that his writings were too subjective to have been science.

The Prognosticon is the source of ongoing research.


Antiksamlung Berlin

The Campbell Bonner Magical Gems Database

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