Classical Studies 645



Professor Radcliffe G. Edmonds III

Office: Thomas 245

Office Phone: 526-5046


Carpenter B13

Th 2:00-4:00
(+ translation session to be scheduled)

Office Hours: MWF 10:00-11:00

or by appointment



Required Texts:

Apuleius, Lucius, The Golden Ass (trans. P. G. Walsh)

Betz, Hans D. edt trl , The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation (PGM)

Faraone & Obbink, edt , Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic & Religion

Gager, John G. edt , Curse Tablets & Binding Spells from the Ancient World

Graf, Fritz , Magic in the Ancient World

Iamblichus, On the Mysteries (trans. Clark, Dillon &Hershbell)

Ogden, Daniel, Magic, Witchcraft, and Ghosts in Greek and Roman Worlds:  A Sourcebook


Recommended Texts:

Barton, Tamsyn, Ancient Astrology

Mauss, Marcel, A General Theory of Magic

Preisendanz & Henrichs, Papyri Graecae Magicae (2 vols)


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 translate, 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.

            One or more students will be selected to lead off the discussion on specific readings for each class, but every student should be prepared to contribute to the discussion. There may be an extra translation section scheduled to focus upon the readings for each week in Greek (marked in bold on the syllabus).  All readings not in the required textbooks will be available online on Blackboard, as well as many others that may be useful as supplements for the discussions on particular topics or as starting points for research.  The readings can be reached directly from the online version of the syllabus at: 


Written Assignments: 

            There will be two short written assignments designed for the students to demonstrate their understanding of specific materials covered in class.  The final paper will be the major requirement for the course.  This paper should be a lengthy (20-25 pages) research paper on a specific topic related to the course.  Students should select a topic and discuss it with me before fall break.  Students will give a brief (5-10 minute) presentation of their research in the last week of class, and a rough draft will be due at this time.  The final paper will be due before the end of exam period.




Week I - Introduction – Issues of Definition



      course introduction

      definition of magic

      magic vs. religion, magic vs. science

      instrumental and symbolic action

      ancient contexts of magic



      Graf, ch. 1-2

      Gager, Introduction

      Betz, Introduction



Week II - The World of Ancient Magic



      societies of the ancient Mediterranean world

      magic and mystery – the lure of magic

      types of magic

      practitioners of magic, victims of magic



      Apuleius, Metamorphoses ( 1-3, 9-10)

      Graf, ch. 1-2

      Gager, Intro., ch. 8

      Bremmer, Birth of the Term 'Magic'

      Frazer, Sympathetic Magic

      Mauss, General Theory of Magic, pp. 44-90

      Phillips, In Search of the Occult

      Smith, Trading Places

      Tambiah, Form and Meaning of Magical Acts

      Versnel, Some Reflections on the Relationship

      Gordon, Imagining Greek and Roman Magic (parts 1, 2, 3, & 4)


Week III - Curses – Binding Spells for All Occasions



      competition and cursing

      athletic contexts

      legal contexts

      binding and harming



      PGM V 304-69, VII 396-404, VII 423-28, VII 429-58, X 36-50

      Plato, Republic 356e-365c

      Supplementum Magicum nos. 53, 55, 56 

      PGM VII 390-3, VII 394-5, VII 417-22, IX 1-14, XXXVI 1-34, XXXVI 35-68, XXXVI 231-55, and LVIII

      Gager, ch. 1, 3-6

      Ogden 14, 168-196, 236, 247

      Graf, ch. 5

      Faraone, The Agonistic Context of Early Greek Binding Spells - Magika Hiera ch. 1

      Strubbe, Cursed be he that moves my bones - Magika Hiera ch. 2

      Versnel, Beyond Cursing - Magika Hiera ch. 3

      Gordon, What's in a List?

      Versnel, Punish Those Who Rejoice in Our Misery



Week IV - Love Charms



      gender and sex

      male vs. female subjects and objects in erotic spells

      sex and violence



      PGM IV 296-466, IV 1716-1870, IV 2441-2621, IV 2891-2942, XXXII 1-19, XXXIIa 1-25, CXXII

      Lucian Dialogues of the Courtesans 4.4-5

      Supplementum Magicum  46-51

      Supplementum Magicum nos. 37, 38, 39, 40, 43, 44, 45,   58, 63, 64 

      PGM IV 1390-1495, IV 1496-1595, IV 1870-1927, IV 1928-2000, IV 2000-2125, IV 2622-2707, IV 2708-2784, IV 2943-2966, VII 300a-310, VII 459-77, VII 862-918, XVI 1-75, XVIIa, XXXVI 69-101, XXXVI 102-33, XXXVI 134-160, XXXVI 187-210, XXXVI 295-311, XXXVI 333-360, XXXVI 361-371, CI, CVII, CVIII

      Gager, ch. 2

      Ogden 52, 76-81 (Deianeira), 197-213, 224-229 (iunx), 244, 248-255 (erotic amulets)

      Graf, ch. 6

      Dickie, Who Practised Love Magic in Classical Antiquity?

      Faraone, Ancient Greek Love Magic

      LiDonnici, Burning For It

      Winkler, The Constraints of Eros - Magika Hiera, ch. 8



Week V - Healing and Protection



      defense against the dark arts

      amulets and antidotes

      repairing and healing

      thanks before and after



      PGM IV 2145-2240, IV. 3007-86, VII 193-221,

      Hippocrates de morbo sacro 1.10-46

      Supplementum Magicum nos. 1, 3, 5, 8, 9, 13, 18

      Handout - Ephesia Grammata

      Gager ch. 7

      PGM IV 1596-1715, VII 260-71, VII 311-18, VII 579-90, (pdm) xiv. 554-626, XX, XXIIA 1-27, XLIII 1-27, LXX, CXIV, CXV

      Greek Magical Amulets nos. 2, 4, 7, 11, 13, 24, 27, 37, 46, 38

      Ogden 256-276, 13, 47

      Pliny, Natural History (part 1 & part 2)

      Kotansky, Incantations and Prayers - Magika Hiera ch. 4

      Scarborough, The Pharmacology of Sacred Plants- Magika Hiera, ch. 5

      Bonner, Studies in Magical Amulets

      Gordon, The Healing Event in Graeco-Roman Folk-Medicine



Defixio Assignment due Friday, October 6



Week VI - Prayer and Magic



      thanks before and after

      supplication and coercion

      relationships with divine powers



      texts from Magika Hiera, ch. 7: PGM IV.2785-2879, VIII.1-26, VII.756-94, XVIIb, VII.668-85, V.392-423, Sappho Frag. 1

      PGM I.262-347; Homer, Iliad I.33-51; Hesiod, Theogony 535-557; Hesiod Works and Days 320-340; Homer, Odyssey xiv.418-436; Isaeus 8.15-16, Pausanias V.15.3-12; Orphic Hymns 17 to Poseidon, 3 to Night

      PGM I 262-347; III 494-611; IV 2241-2358; XII 14-95

      Prayer handout texts

      Sallustius, On the Gods and the World

      Ogden 233

      Graf ch. 7

      Depew, Reading Greek Prayers

      Graf, Prayer in Magical and Religious Ritual - Magika Hiera, ch. 7

      Mauss, The Gift

      Tambiah, The Magical Power of Words

      Versnel, The Poetics of the Magical Charm




Week VII –Break




Week VII - Divination



      divination in society

      magician and client

      theories of divination

      mechanics of divination



      PGM I 262-347, IV 930-1114, IV 3209-3254, VII 348-358, VII 540-78, VII 740-55, VII 795-845, VIII 64-110

      Supplementum Magicum nos. 65, 66

      Odyssey xi.13 ff & Kestos of Julius Africanus book 5

      Plato, Symposium, 201e-203a; Plato, Phaedo 107d-108c; Plato, Cratylus 397e-398c; Plutarch, De Genio Socratis 588c-594a

      Luck, Divination (parts I & part II) #72-94

      PGM I 1-41, , II 1-64 II 65-184, III 187-262, III 263-75, III 282-409, III 424-66, IV 3086-3124, V 172-212, VII 1-148, VII 319-34, VII 335-47, VII 359-69, VII 664-85, VII 703-726, VII 727-739, VII 1009-16.

      Ogden 144-155, 160, 164, 30, 36, 112

      Iamblichus, De Mysteriis III.11-22

      Dillery, Chresmologues and Manteis

      Eitrem, Dreams and Divination - Magika Hiera, ch 6

      Gordon, Reporting the Marvellous

      Graf, Magic and Divination

      Manetti, Greek Divination

      Turner, Divination as a phase in a social process



Week IX - Astrology



      astrology as divination

      astrology as cosmology

      astrology and society



      Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos 1.1-1.2, 1.4;

      Stobaeum Hermeticum VI

      Vettius Valens,  Anthologiarum libri ix, 219.25-221.12, 288.20-289.33

      Firmicus Maternus

      Dorotheus Sidonius

      Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos

      Plato, Timaeus 38e-39e

      Luck, Astrology -  #97-118

      Neugebauer, Greek Horoscopes

      Barton, Ancient Astrology, ch. 4 & 5

      Gordon, Quaedam Veritatis Umbrae (part 1 & part 2)

      Konstan, Evidence from Divination

      MacMullen, Social History in Astrology

      Riley, Theoretical and Practical Astrology



Week X - Alchemy



      alchemy and cosmology

      mechanics of alchemy

      alchemy and science



      Leyden and Stockholm Papyri (selections)

      Zosimus, On Excellence

      Ogden 46

      PGM XII 193-201

      Zosimus On the Letter Omega

      Jung, Visions of Zosimus

      Hershbell, Democritus and The Beginnings of Greek Alchemy

      Stolzenberg, Unpropitious Tinctures

      Taylor, A Survey of Greek Alchemy (part 1 & part 2)




Astrology Assignment due Friday November 9




Week XI - Theurgy



      demonology, philosophy, and the soul

      philosophy and magic

      theories of theurgy

      practical theurgy – means and ends



      Mithras Liturgy (PGM IV.475-829)

      Proclus, On The Sacred Art

      Iamblichus, On the Mysteries, VIII.7-8

      Iamblichus, On the Mysteries, Excerpts

      Theurgy Readings (handout)

      Apuleius, On the God of Socrates

      Plutarch, On the Genius of Socrates

      Plutarch, On the Face in the Moon

      Athanassiadi, Dreams, Theurgy and Freelance Divination

      Johnston, Rising to the Occasion

      Luck, Theurgy and Forms of Worship in Neoplatonism 

      Smith, J.Z., Towards Interpreting Demonic Powers



Week XII - Thanksgiving



Week XIII - The Magician – Craft & Character



      collections of spells - PGM

      handbooks and magicians

      magicians apprentice; Thessalos of Trales

      Greeks and Egyptians – social contexts

      practitioners of magic, victims of magic

      women and foreigners, weirdos and quacks

      social context of depictions of magic

      labelling the other vs. self-labelling



      PGM I 42-195, IV 26-51, IV 154-285, XIII 1-343

      Thessalos of Tralles, De virtutibus herbarum

      PGM I 1-42, IV 1-25, IV 52-85, XIII 344-645, 646-734, 735-1077

      Lucian, Lover of Lies

      Ogden 13-19, 44, 45, 53, 54, 55-107, 144-145, 155, 157, 214-223

      Graf, ch. 4 & 6

      Brashear - ANRW, part I

      Smith, J.Z., The Temple and the Magician

      Ritner, Egyptian Magical Practice under the Roman Empire

      Moyer, Thessalos of Tralles

      Smith, M. The 8th Book of Moses and How It Grew

      Gordon, Innovation and Authority

      Frankfurter, Dynamics of Ritual Expertise




Week XIV - Accusations of Magic



      social context of accusations of magic

      witchcraft and the law

      labelling the other vs. self-labelling



      Apuleius, Apology

      Graf, ch. 3

      Bradley, Law, Magic, and Culture in the Apologia of Apuleius

      Collins, Theoris of Lemnos and the Criminalization of Magic

      Hunink, Introduction to Apologia

      Kippenberg, Magic in Roman Civil Discourse

      Phillips, Nullum Crimen Sine Lege, Magika Hiera, ch. 10



Week XV - Definitions and Theory



      defining magic

      magic and religion; magic and science

      performative language and symbolic systems




      Aune, Magic in Early Christianity

      Betz, Magic and Mystery – Magika Hiera ch. 9

      Braarvig, Magic: Reconsidering the Grand Dichotomy (part 1 & part 2)

      Collins, Nature, Cause, and Agency

      Gordon, Aelian's Peony

      Fowler, Greek Magic, Greek Religion

      Segal, Hellenistic Magic: Some Questions of Definition

      Smith, Here, There, and Anywhere

      Thomassen, Is Magic a Subclass of Ritual?