Magic and Magicians in the Greco-Roman World

Magic and Magicians in the Greco-Roman World

Magic and Magicians in the Greco-Roman World

Magic and Magicians in the Greco-Roman World

Synopsis

This study is the first to assemble the evidence for the existence of sorcerors in the ancient world; it also addresses the question of their identity and social origins. The resulting investigation takes us to the underside of Greek and Roman society, into a world of wandering holy men and women, conjurors and wonder-workers, and into the lives of prostitutes, procuresses, charioteers and theatrical performers.This fascinating reconstruction of the careers of witches and sorcerors allows us to see into previously inaccessible areas of Greco-Roman life. Compelling for both its detail and clarity, and with an extraordinarily revealing breadth of evidence employed, it will be an essential resource for anyone studying ancient magic.

Excerpt

This book had its origins in a footnote on the drunken old women mentioned by Athanasius and John Chrysostom who were summoned to houses to cure the sick by incantations and amulets. The footnote became an article on drunken old women as sorceresses in Classical and Late Antiquity. That expanded into an article on sorceresses in general. At that point I realized that sorceresses could not be treated satisfactorily on their own but needed to be looked at alongside male magic-workers. That meant a book, not an article. I hope that what began as an attempt to satisfy my own curiosity about a subject on which virtually nothing had been written will be of some use to others. Since the compass of the book is fairly wide, extending as it does from the fifth century BC to the seventh century AD, there will no doubt be references that I have missed. I thank my wife for her forbearance in putting up with a project that took rather longer to complete than had been expected and that was delayed by its author's natural indolence and the ease with which he could be distracted from his task. I should also like to record a particular debt to David Jordan, who has offered unstinting help and support in my stumbling efforts to understand ancient magic.

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