CLASSICAL STUDIES 212

MAGIC IN THE ANCIENT GRECO-ROMAN WORLD

 

Professor Radcliffe G. Edmonds III

Office: Thomas 245

Office Phone: 526-5046

redmonds@brynmawr.edu

Thomas 110

MW 1:00-2:30; F to be scheduled

Office Hours: MWF 2:30-3:30

or by appointment

 

 

Required Texts:

Recommended Texts:

Course Description:

Bindings and curses, love charms and healing potions, amulets and talismans - from the simple spells designed to meet the needs of the poor and desperate to the complex theurgies of the philosophers, the people of the Greco-Roman World made use of magic to try to influence the world around them. In this course we shall examine the magicians of the ancient world and the techniques and devices they used to serve their clientele. We shall consider ancient tablets and spell books as well as literary descriptions of magic in the light of theories relating to the religious, political, and social contexts in which magic was used.

Course Requirements:

Class participation:

Participation, of course, includes attendance, since you cannot participate if you are not in class. If, for some reason, you cannot attend class, please inform me in advance. Each student should be prepared to discuss and answer questions on the material covered in the lesson for the week. Coming prepared with questions on the material is even better than coming with answers to the basics. If, for some reason, you cannot prepare for class, please attend anyway - you will be better prepared for the next class.

Monday classes will be primarily lecture, with some discussion of the general issues raised in the secondary readings. On Wednesday (and possibly Friday), the class will meet in smaller sections to discuss the primary and secondary readings in greater detail. Several students will be selected to lead off the discussion in the section for each class, but every student should be prepared to contribute to the discussion. Another way to participate is to post questions or comments on the Blackboard chatlist for the class. All readings not in the required textbooks will be available online in the Blackboard site for this class. The online syllabus (http://www.brynmawr.edu/classics/redmonds/csts21203.html) links to the Blackboard site and viceversa.

Written Assignments:

There will be two short written assignments designed for the students to demonstrate their understanding of specific materials covered in class. These projects may require some out of class research in addition to the readings assigned for the class.

The first of these assignments will require you to take the examples we've looked at in classs and analyze them for their essential features — logical structure, common patterns of formulation, etc. You will then have to synthesize these features into a composite that illustrates the features of, e.g., a love spell or a curse, and discuss why what you have put together corresponds with the ancient evidence.

The second assignment will involve divination, specifically astrology. You will have to read a chart on the basis of the excerpts from the ancient manuals I will give you and then decide how to advise a client in a specific situation. The task is not just to show your mastery of the technical details but, even more importantly, of the social dynamics that underlie divination in the ancient world.

Examinations:

There will be take-home Midterm and Final Examinations for this class. Each of these examinations will require students to apply the analyses and definitions discussed throughout the course to primary materials. These open book essay exams will ask you to analyze ancient materials that we haven't studied in class in the same way we have been analyzing materials in class — looking at the context — what, who, why, where, how - and connections with other texts we have looked at.

Grade Distribution:

Class Participation 30%

Written Assignments 30%

Midterm Exam 15%

Final Exam 25%

 

Supplementary Bibliography

 

Week I - Introduction — Issues of Definition

Topics:

Readings:

 

Week II - The World of Ancient Magic

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Readings:

 

Week III - Curses — Binding Spells for All Occasions

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Readings:

Supplementary Readings:

 

Week IV - Love Charms

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Readings:

Supplementary Readings:

 

Defixio Assignment

 

Week V - Healing and Protection

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Readings:

Supplementary Readings:

 

 

Week VI - Prayer and Magic

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Week VII - Fall Break

 

Week VIII — Divination

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Supplementary Readings:

 

Week IX - Astrology

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Readings:

Supplementary Readings:

 

Astrology Assignment

 

Week X - Alchemy

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Week XI - Theurgy

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Supplementary Readings:

 

Week XII - The Magician’s Craft

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Week XIII - The Portrait of a Magician

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Thanksgiving Break

 

Week XIV - Accusations of Magic

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Week XV - Definitions and Theory

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Readings:

Supplementary Readings:

 

Take home final exam

Supplementary Bibliography