Biblical Archaeology Review 23:4, July/August 1997

Don’t Leave Home Without Them

Pilgrim eulogiai ensure a safe trip

By Gary Vikan

A modern airline passenger, concerned about safety, will purchase travel insurance. In ancient times, however, travel was far more dangerous, and there was no insurance.

Bandits, wild animals and hostile local populations threatened those traveling by land, the standard route to the Holy Land for Byzantine pilgrims. Whether on foot or donkey, pilgrims faced the characteristic dangers of remote, unfamiliar territories and harsh climates. Winds and gales, rains and storms, submerged rocks and crude or nonexistent harbors all made sea travel—the choice of more affluent pilgrims—an even more dangerous venture.

Without travel insurance, it is not surprising that ancient travelers turned to the supernatural to help ensure their physical safety in transit. For protection they used amulets, including earthen tokens and flasks for oil or water,1 that were thought to provide a miraculous antidote to danger. Eulogia, literally “blessing,” is the generic term for these implements.

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