2016. A voodoo doll with bound arms and needles, via Wikimedia. Some of us would like to believe that the advancement of education and scientific knowledge should be enough to keep superstitious beliefs in check, but many signs around us tell us that superstition is here to stay. The dolls are mostly made of mud, wax or lead and many of the figures have their arms bound behind their backs, presumably to emphasize the binding process referred to in many curse tablets. The Transformation of Greek Amulets in Roman Imperial Times. ‘Staring at Death: The Jet Gorgoneia of Roman Britain’, in Hoss, Stefanie and Whitmore, Alissa. The introduction is an overview of the subsequent text, and a historiography of the discovery, translation and impact of the Papyri Graecae Magicae. The Greek Magical Papyri are a large collection of papyrus texts found in Egypt, spanning over 600 years of production. BMCR provides the opportunity to comment on reviews in order to enhance scholarly communication. People wore objects engraved with the letters to protect themselves from evil spirits as well as plagues. In Greece, examples have been discovered which date from the fourth century B.C. The study of magic in the Greco-Roman world is a branch of the disciplines of classics, ancient history and religious studies. Laura Hayward is a contributing writer and researcher from London, UK. Voodoo figurines or dolls sometimes accompanied curse tablets. Watson’s 2019 Magic in Ancient Greece and Rome is, by the author’s prefaced account, a book with a long gestation. Magic, Superstition and Religion.  Faraone, Christopher A. She holds a B.A. Apuleius the Magus. MAGIC: MAGIC IN GRECO-ROMAN ANTIQUITY From the beginning, magic was an essential part of Greco-Roman culture and religion. About Magic in Ancient Greece and Rome Parting company with the trend in recent scholarship to treat the subject in abstract, highly theoretical terms, Magic in Ancient Greece and Rome proposes that the magic-working of antiquity was in reality a highly pragmatic business, with very clearly formulated aims - often of an exceedingly maligant kind. (eds) Small Finds and Ancient Social Practices in the Northwest Provinces of the Roman Empire. 98-117. In ancient Roman times, it was considered by many as mere manipulation. Why? It should be interesting to modern practitioners as well as to students of history and culture. This creature holds up a whip in his left hand, while his right hand holds a shield marked with the Greek letters ΙΑΩ (shown here in reverse, since we are looking at a plaster impression of the original). It was the gods and goddesses of the Underworld, such as Hades, Hecate and Hermes, who were believed to be able to assist in the fulfillment of the curses. Watson’s 2019 Magic in Ancient Greece and Rome is, by the author’s prefaced account, a book with a long gestation. Following Theophrastus, the Greek Magical Papyri, which date from around 30 B.C–600 A.D, mention over 450 plants, herbs and minerals in ancient recipes for plant-based remedies and potions. Materia Magica: The Archaeology of Magic in Roman Egypt, Cyprus, and Spain. The origin of this concept of binding is unclear but it is thought to have derived from stories in Greek mythology where gods can bind or tie each other up but they cannot be bound by mortals. By Rahul Krishna Mar 04, 2017. For example, Pennyroyal was used as a contraceptive for women. “Magic and the Supernatural from the Ancient World: An Introduction.” In Ancient Magic and the Supernatural in the Visual and Performing Arts, ed.  Nor do pendants depicting the dextrarum iunctio or couples kissing made from Whitby jet; a material which takes a static charge and was ritually rubbed by its users to experience a thrilling sensation. ‘Magic’, for Watson, is focussed on the practices, rituals, formulae, and so on named within the Papyri Graecae Magicae or discussed by ancient authors. Magical rites were seen as a route for direct access to the gods, for material gains as well as spiritual satisfaction. Oxford, Oxbow. "— The History of Egyptian Hieroglyphs and the Rosetta Stone, A curse tablet with nail holes, via Wikimedia. Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Book for 2000 The roots of European witchcraft and magic lie in Hebrew and other ancient Near Eastern cultures and in the Celtic, Nordic, and Germanic traditions of the Continent. The Materiality of Magic: An Artefactual Investigation in Ritual Practices and Popular Beliefs. Magic in Greek Law and Legal Imagination. In times of Ancient Rome it was commonly believed that the gods communicate through the liver, so after an animal is sacrificed it was read by people on high importance in the Ancient Roman community, they did this by using a device called a 'liver augur' using his they would determine future disasters. S. O. Her particular areas of interest are Latin language and literature as well as Roman art and epigraphy. Beyond Constantinople: Life In the Byzantine Empire, Was Caracalla More than a Bloodthirsty Tyrant? These texts helped the Romans decide what to do in time of uncertainty in the empire. Berti, Irene, and Filippo Carla. Each practice gives us a fascinating insight into everyday human life in the Classical world. As a case in point, Watson goes to some pains to argue that amatory love magic (chapter 2) was not only characterised by violent and visceral language, but intensely connected to similar real-world experiences. Some amulets were inscribed with prayers or incantations and this can provide us with a context for the object and what it might have been used for. Expressions of thanks or praise should be sent directly to the reviewer, using the email address in the review. Magic, with its potential to control the uncontrollable, is an inherently human preoccupation, and examples of it have existed for millennia in cultures throughout the world. For the purposes of this article, we are going to consider examples of magic used in the Classical cultures of ancient Greece and Rome. These locations were thought to provide a fast track to the Underworld. Paderborn, Wilhelm Fink. Weather Magic 58 Introduction Weather Prediction and Divination What is ‘magic’ exactly or, more specifically, what is magic in an ancient context?  Boschung, Dietrich and Bremmer, Jan. N. (eds) The Materiality of Magic (Morphomata 20). I would like to criticise the liberal use of the term ‘magician’, which is used throughout to describe those who were using magic, but because it is used so frequently here, its semantic baggage is (deliberately?) These objects provide a prime example of ‘white’ magic since they were believed to cure ailments and offer protection to the wearer or user. The gem impression in Figure 1 presents us with an image that may at first sight seem bizarre: a rooster-headed figure with snakes for legs, wearing Roman military costume. T. 2012. By our standards, living in antiquity was full of hardships regardless of where you look. This leaves out the other well-established material strategies by which supernatural effects or protection may have been sought for individuals or places; for example, where are the phallic pendants, the lucky hand gestures, the exotic fossils in graves? Irene Berti and Filippo Carla, 1–18.  Wilburn, Andrew. To begin, my area of research focuses on the association of women and dark magic – and what social and cultural phenomena are taking place that are giving rise to this association. Keeping up appearances in ancient Rome was a controversial mission. The earliest curse tablets come from fifth-century B.C. Magic in ancient Greece and Rome involved a number of varied practices, from the use of curse tablets to protective amulets. Supplementary appendices on whether defixiones ‘worked’ and on amulets, broadly discussing lamellae and phylacteries, are found at the end of chapters three and five respectively. 2015. Needles were then placed at strategic points on the body. ‘Circe offering the cup to Odysseus’ by John William Waterhouse, 1891, via Wikipedia. Unlike modern-day … The study of magic in the ancient Greco-Roman world has blossomed in the decades since the publication of the translation of the Greek magical papyri by Hans Dieter Betz and his team in 1987. Perhaps this was true for some, but other non-linguistic material evidence beyond the PGM might point to a more benign, or even romantic, form of love magic – the gold openwork ring inscribed in Greek as the ‘Love Charm of Polemius’, for example, has no such violent connotations associated with it.  Chapter 3 is a well-considered introduction to the topic of curse tablets and defines their form, function, and categorisations clearly. There are also examples of instructions for making voodoo dolls. 15 Of The Strangest Customs From Ancient Rome. 12 Egyptian Hieroglyphs of People and Their Body Parts, A statue of Artemis of Ephesus, via Warwick University. The Sibylline texts were very important to the aristocracy of Rome. Flint suggests the Roman Catholic Church condemmed the practicioners (Sorcerers and Magicians), offered them salvation, … Interpretationes Christianae. Magic and superstition have been present in human societies since the dawn of our species, and ancient Rome was no exception. Bryn Mawr PA 19010. This article provides a conclusive etymology for how a magic … Witches and magicians also appear throughout Greek mythology. The main body of the text is followed by the bibliography and index. Today the Italian word for make up is ‘trucco’, which means trick. It is this non-textual, archaeological/material evidence that may, at least in part, undermine or subvert Watson’s text-informed argument. A curse tablet or binding spell (defixio in Latin, κατάδεσμος katadesmos in Greek) is a type of curse.It could be found in all of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.Curse tablets were used to influence other people, often the gods were asked to influence someone else, or to do harm to them. Just as today, the future was a source of concern in antiquity. Eight of these are helpful additions, but the five examples of supporting imagery from early-modern artists (Figs. MAGIC AND MAGICIANS IN THE GRECO-ROMAN WORLD This absorbing work assembles an extraordinary range of evidence for the existence of sorcerers and sorceresses in the ancient world, and addresses the question of their identities and social origins. Professor Daniel Ogden (Exeter) The day began with a positioning paper by Professor Daniel Ogden, who clearly identified magic as a theme within Ancient Roman and Greek texts. The reader is left to discern who or what a ‘magician’ was and the range of practices with which they could be associated. We ask that comments be substantive in content and civil in tone and those that do not adhere to these guidelines will not be published. She has also worked as a teacher of Classics in a leading independent school in London. Share Share Tweet Email Comment. Trials for Erotic Magic. Flint's essay, is entitled, "The Demonization of Magic and Sorcery in Late Antiquity: Christian Redefinitions of Pagan Religions." There are thirteen monochrome figures punctuating all the chapters. 2422.12. From Greece in the fifth century BC, through Rome and Italy, to the Christian The Roman Inscriptions of Britain, Volume II, Fascicule 3. My focus is both in the earlier Roman Imperial period (1 st century BCE – 1 st century CE) and the early European period. (eds). "—Peter Green, New Republic "An exceptional historical and social analysis of a subject of enduring interest. Scholars of ancient religion and magic are all too well aware of the difficulties surrounding the semantic debate in their field. The resulting 248-page publication delivered here is focussed on “challenging a number of orthodoxies where scepticism seemed in order” (p.vii). While this chapter’s question-led discussion of the ousia (substances) derived from animals and utilised in myriad ways is very good, the change in tone and writing style is jarring. The Twelve Tables. See no. Watson’s work is clearly born from great experience and expertise with Classical literature, and its central theme that ancient magic was a “profoundly pragmatic business with concrete, clearly delineated aims” (p.3) remains both noble and welcome; it is a concept that has further room for growth. Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: Ancient Greece and Rome. Ancient examples of magic can be loosely grouped into two categories: ‘black’ magic, largely associated with inflicting harm, and ‘white’ magic, associated with providing benefits or forms of protection. It is organised into seven distinct chapters: Introduction; The Violence of Amatory Magic; Defixiones: A Recent History; Magic and Herbs; Animals in Magic; Fictional Witches; Human sacrifice in Ancient Magic? The word ‘manipulative’ is important here as it refers to the element of human intervention that directs the magical act towards its objective. Both the Greeks and Romans had laws restricting magical practices but, privately, magic appears to have had a powerful allure and was highly valued at all levels of society. Examples of such amulets include plants, flowers, animal teeth, thin slivers of animal bone or precious metals (known as lamellae) and decorative jewelry, made from engraved tablets or semi-precious stones. Sacred plants can also be classed as a type of amulet since they were mostly used in potions and recipes to cure ailments and prevent diseases. However, because historians of classical Rome and Greece have focused on political or military history or the history of the upper classes, few of us are familiar with the history of Roman magic. But from the examples we have today, what is clear is that it transcended boundaries of gender and social status. He began with a few initial questions: 1. For those aimed at personal enemies, the figurines were often placed within miniature coffins, perhaps to formalize their journey to the Underworld. Magic in these ancient societies was loosely linked to religion and its efficacy was often dependent on the assistance of various deities. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania. How was magic classified in the ancient world? (9 Facts), 15 Exquisite Royal Portraits You Should Check Out, Fascinating Facts from the Bas-Reliefs of Persepolis, 11 Iconic Graffiti Art Murals That Will Make You Stop. By drawing on early European witch-trials, I hope to be able to establish what cultural and social phenomena were taking place in Rome during the 1 st centuries BCE and CE that gave rise to the affiliation of women and dark magic. Magic is widely attested in archaeological evidence, spell books and literature from both Greece and Rome, as well as Egypt and the Middle East. A gemstone ring engraved with magic symbols, via Christie’s. All levels of society are involved; one Greek tablet even includes a reference to the famous orator Demosthenes. The Early Purple Orchid, via Everyday Nature Trails. The people who read the texts were initiated and lived in the temple of Jupiter during their tenure, which is for life. Some athletes also had the letters stitched into their clothing or leather sandals to improve their chances of victory. This approach contrasts with the firecracker content of Chapter 2, which concentrates on promoting the palpably visceral nature of love magic – again, as derived from textual sources — but at the same time lays down a challenge to other contemporary scholarly positions throughout. Public toilets in Ancient Rome were the exact opposite of their public baths. The Opinions of Paulus and Later Law Codes. and Armitage, Natalie. Ancient magic seems to have been a particularly personal practice and, as a result, it gives us a fascinating insight into the everyday fears, loves and hopes of the people of ancient Greece and Rome. The Greek world is clearly overrepresented in the general studies of ancient magic (Bremmer 2015, 8), and so there is clearly academic space for synthetic publications on the developments of Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman magical practices; this was the intention of the recent volume on amulets by Faraone for example. Spells were everything. Magic In Ancient Greece and Rome What is ‘magic’ exactly or, more specifically, what is magic in an ancient context? 2. Who did it? This focus is surprising when the recent ‘material turn’ in ancient magical studies has helped to develop a deeper understanding of the nature and scale of such practices.  Watson takes an essentialist approach to ancient Greece and Rome. The Oxford Classical Dictionary defines it as ‘a manipulative strategy to influence the course of nature by supernatural means’. The main strength of this book lies in its concise introduction of different facets of ancient magical practices, drawing on a broad (although exclusively textual) evidence base, predominantly informed by the PGM, the corpus of curse tablets, and the writings of Pliny the Elder, Dioscorides, Theophrastus, and Ovid. This anxiety was mitigated by the use of a number of divinatory practices, including consultation with seers, oracles, and other specialists in predicting the future and interpreting signs and omens.  Equally, the discussion of the gendered construction of the witch in ancient literature doesn’t help us to identify the contemporary implications of taking a pragmatic approach to ancient magic, but it instead reveals more about modern reactions to ancient narrative tropes. Additional supporting imagery surrounding the material and sensory nature of Watson’s ‘pragmatic magic’ would have been beneficial. The two most common types of dolls are those aimed at a love interest and those aimed at a personal enemy. The contrast is so great that these chapters read as if they are from entirely different books. These tablets were normally thin pieces of lead, inscribed with a curse against an enemy, which could then be folded and often sealed and pierced with a nail. The Egyptians are thought to have first used such dolls, as early as 2000 B.C. 7-9, 12-13) are unhelpful anachronisms; they signpost the author’s investment in a post-reformation understanding of witches rather than uncovering an ancient one. In ancient “binding magic,” it was all about the spells. 2015. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania Press. Magic in the Roman Agronomists 1 Introduction Defining Magic Labeling Ancient Magic Overt Magic Cultic Magic Natural Magic The Interaction of Types of Magic Social and Political Dimensions to Magic Genre and Magic The Agronomists, Context, and Magic Conclusion Chapter II. While there is discussion of ‘folk-medicine’ in the chapters on plant and animal substances, there is no sense here of everyday magic. Their power, derived from knowledge of the future, rendered th… Interestingly, and for better or worse, Watson actively distances the intrinsically thematic-led approach of this volume from the necessity to engage in semantic and theoretical debates (pp.1-3). Some of the texts were found folded around locks of hair and fragments of clothing, perhaps implying that the papyri were seen as amulets in themselves. 1-19, pp.8. Ancient Greeks and Romans often turned to magic to achieve personal goals. Magia and Maleficium: Magic and Witchcraft. The Oxford Classical Dictionary defines it as ‘a manipulative strategy to influence the course of nature by supernatural means’. A famous example is a sorceress Circe, whose magical potions restrained the wily hero Odysseus. Squill was used for getting rid of a plague or disease, Marsh Mallow was used on fractures and the Early Purple Orchid was used as an aphrodisiac. The underpinning was based on a 2006 research grant from the University of Sydney to study the role of animals in Greek and Roman magic. A range of topics is covered in curse tablets, including unrequited love, high-profile law-suits, and rivalry among tradesmen. If you were a Roman emperor, and if you happened to take your name from a sartorial choice, the odds are that the judgment... Royal portraits represent an important part of the history of painting. For those aiming at a potential lover, needles were often placed at the eyes, mouth and sexual organs, not to induce harm but to encourage arousal. There is no sense of cultural or chronological separation through the chapters; while there was of course great influence from the former to the latter, Watson delivers no sense of the temporal or geographic uniqueness of any of the experiences discussed (with the exception that the chapter on human sacrifice focusses on the Roman rather than Greek experience (p.211)) with an eye always on the literary nature of each topic. The Greeks, the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians, and everyone else in the ancient world used some form of magic, like spells, charms, and amulets. ×Your email address will not be published.  Bremmer, Jan. 2015. The Ephesia Grammata were a special type of amulet used by the Greeks and Romans. The edited volumes by Boschung and Bremmer (2015), Houlbrook and Armitage (2015), and the book by Wilburn (2012) are cases in point. The texts are written by many different people and, as well as recipes for plant-based potions, they include lists of magical formulae, hymns and names of gods and demons who could be invoked to assist a practitioner. Plato tells us of a remedy used by Socrates to cure headaches, which consisted of acquiring a special type of leaf followed by a spoken spell. Modern-day scholars are undecided as to how secret or public these texts were, but references to priests in some of the later papyri perhaps suggests that magic was beginning to occupy a similar status to more formal religious practices in the latter centuries of the Roman Empire. It is a view, albeit a detailed and informative one, of a set of practices known from textual and documentary sources, and despite its aims and protestations it remains firmly within a traditional approach to this subject. Many thousands of such tablets have been found across the Classical world, from Athens in Greece to Bath in the South-West of England. They leaned on these texts for all sorts of different advice. A voodoo figurine in a coffin, via Wikimedia. 101 N. Merion Ave., Curse tablets definitely fall into the former category. Media in category "Magic in ancient Rome" The following 13 files are in this category, out of 13 total. 3. The name of the intended target was often engraved on the figurine. in Classics from University College London. Made of wax, in the likeness of an enemy, figurines were buried in graves so that they might receive harsh treatment from the god of the afterlife, Osiris. Magic in Roman Law and Legal History. … The Lex Cornelia. Binding seems to be an attempt to restrict or bring harm to the target while not quite wishing to destroy or kill them. The language used in these tablets includes many examples of people asking the gods to ‘bind’ their intended target. Chapter 5 is in fact written not by the author but by the author’s partner, who is not given a full co-author credit on the cover. The action of binding, therefore, gains a sort of divine agency. Around 300 B.C., Theophrastus of Eresus (c. 370–288 B.C) wrote the seminal work Inquiry into Plants, which was used by doctors and magical practitioners throughout the following centuries. Chapter 4 focusses on the use of plants in ancient ritual and on the nature of sympathy and etymological nomen omen in forming conceptual relationships to healing practices, an often-neglected subject of which further discussion is always welcome. One concludes that Watson suggests extensive overlap/continuity in the practices and, in part, presumes that readers will bring with them a sufficient knowledge of the Classical world to identify these – sometimes – nuanced differences. Whereas baths were relaxed and pleasant places, toilets could be foreboding. Magic appears in the mythology of ancient Greece and was associated with such figures as Hermes, Hecate (goddess of the moon and witchcraft), Orpheus, and Circe, the sorceress daughter of Helios who was expert in magical herbs and potions and who helped Odysseus summon the ghosts from Hades. The biggest issue with this text, however, remains its limited view of what comprised the corpus of ancient magic. The Romans indeed led the way in the race to develop the most elaborate and, by our modern standards, weird and shocking rituals and customs. The curses were then buried, commonly in bodies of water or wells and also in graves.  Houlbrook, Ceri. The underpinning was based on a 2006 research grant from the University of Sydney to study the role of animals in Greek and Roman magic. This name, which references an ancient Roman social practice, has caused considerable speculation in modern literature. Amulets were widely used across the Classical world.  Frere, Sheppard S. and Tomlin, Roger. Having a different author for only one chapter is a little baffling. lost. It is clear that Plato's character thinks that magic, as a technique or technology, should be punished, but this is stated nowhere in ancient Greek or Roman law, which focuses instead on the use to which magic is put--if you murder someone with poison or a magic spell, the punishment is death. Make up is magic, in a way! Paderborn, Wilhelm Fink. There seem to be some set templates for thinking about magical behaviour and practicing magic at thi… A focus on fictional witches in ancient literature is far less relevant for investigating magic ‘on the ground’ than archaeological evidence would be. Avoiding, as Watson puts it, “an excess of abstraction” (p.3) is a valid approach, but the very fact that the title of the book incorporates the word ‘Magic’ probably required a bit more semantic and/or etymological unpacking here for the uninitiated. 2018. Comments are moderated. Folk tales depict magic and its successful practice: it is lodged within the popular imagination in the ancient world. Stroud, Administrators of the Haverfield Bequest. For two millennia, European folklore and ritual have been imbued with the belief in the supernatural, yielding a rich trove of histories and images. Practitioners of magic would often prescribe charms or spoken spells to be used with the amulet. ‘Preface: The Materiality of Magic’, in Boschung, Dietrich and Bremmer, Jan. N. (eds) The Materiality of Magic (Morphomata 20). To begin, my area of research focuses on the image of the Roman witch, and women and magic in the early imperial period. The final two chapters, on witches and human sacrifice, move beyond the broad theme of an individualistic, creative approach to magic and stray into highlighting specific sensational aspects of ancient ritual; while there is no inherent problem in doing this, as interest often focusses on these issues, it is worth noting that the approach differs slightly from the preceding content. Oxford, Oxbow. These portraits served as means of communication for the members of the monarchy.... Expressionist art is a term retrospectively used by art historians to describe a set of specific movements in the early twentieth century. Myths abound in tales of magic potions and curses. Over the course of history, however, it changed in appearance, scope, and importance from being an element of simple rituals to becoming highly complex systems claiming the status of science and philosophy. The Roman baths at Bath, where hundreds of curse tablets have been discovered, via The Roman Baths. 1991.  Parker, Adam. ‘Souls on the Banks of the Acheron’, by Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl, 1898, via Art History Project. Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: Ancient Greece and Rome is deliberately designed as an introduction for the general reader, and it fulfills that function admirably. This volume presents a good overview of the place of 'magic' in the Greek and Roman worlds. Ancient Roman poet Juvenal wrote Cult statue of Artemis of Ephesus, via the University of Heidelberg human life in the field Classics. Branch of the Roman Empire a reference to the target while not quite wishing to or! Coffins, perhaps to formalize their journey to the Underworld questions: 1 has studied. Especially as related to the gods, for material gains as well spiritual! Then buried, commonly in bodies of water or wells and also in.. The ancient world exact opposite of their public baths culture and religion in Greco-Roman antiquity from the use curse... 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Pleasant places, toilets could be foreboding kill them doll with bound arms and needles, via Wikimedia Practices popular. On “ challenging a number of orthodoxies where scepticism seemed in order to enhance scholarly communication cup to ’. And literature as well as Roman Art and epigraphy and Legal Imagination enhance communication!