The aim of this book is to provide a selection of sources in translation for magic and ghosts in Graeco-Roman antiquity that does the following:
• Provides a very full account of the rich representations of sorcerers and witches and their rites in ancient literature.
• Provides a good range of the ghost stories and other sources for ghosts and ideas about them from ancient literature.
• Provides a useful selection from the many hundreds of curse tablets from antiquity, which can be striking in their language and their goals, including a number of recently deciphered ones of great importance. Texts bearing upon the closely related phenomenon of voodoo dolls are also represented.
• Provides a similarly useful selection of amulet texts.
• Provides a meaningful selection of recipes and spells from the often daunting corpus of the Greek magical papyri.
• Attempts to expose such connections as there are between the documentary evidence for magic and its representation in high literature, and to do the same for ghosts.
• Selects and presents sources with an eye to important developments in the new scholarship on these subjects.
• Exploits pre-Christian and especially archaic and classical Greek evidence to the full, without neglecting the later period.
• Presents this material in a fashion that is readily accessible to undergraduates and interested amateurs (whether approaching the material from an interest in ancient social history or from a more general one in the so-called occult).
• Allows the material, so far as possible, to "speak for itself," through careful sequencing of passages and through heavy use of cross-referencing.
• Gives clearly and systematically for all passages their chief significance, their authorship (or provenance), their citation, their date of composition, and their original language.
• Provides all sources in original translations. Particular care has been taken in the selection of text-editions for the magical documents.
• Includes a substantial, up-to-date, guide to further reading.
In the last decade there has been an explosion in interest in ancient magic and the related field of ghosts among scholars of classical antiquity. This has generated new insights into these inherently fascinating subjects and, beyond this, into the broader social history of the ancient world. The new interest has been combined with an eagerness to widen the accessibility of the challenging source material on which the subjects depend, as is exemplified in the work of Hans Dieter Betz, David Jordan, Christopher Faraone, John Gager, Fritz Graf, Sarah Johnston, and their collaborators (see the bibliography). Such work has understandably given rise to a proliferation of undergraduate courses on ancient magic throughout United States and United Kingdom universities. But these courses have been hampered by the lack of a singlevolume sourcebook that meets all the desirable criteria listed above, the need this volume aspires to fill.
The closest thing to such a sourcebook already available is Georg Luck's Arcana Mundi (1985), a title he translates as Secrets of the Universe. This book, compiled before the appearance of what we may call the "new scholarship" of ancient magic, remains a hugely important achievement. It can, however, be a difficult volume for a beginner to find his or her way around. It spreads its purview very wide, with the texts it classes as "magic" only occupying a single chapter out of six (large chapters are devoted to more specialized and late-antique-centered subjects such as astrology and alchemy). The documentary evidence for magic and ghosts is weakly represented. Space is given only to a few of the Greek magical papyri, while the curse tablets, the object of the most exciting developments in scholarship over the last decade, are almost entirely neglected, as are amulets. For the documentary material one must depend on more specialized sourcebooks. John Gager's Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from the Ancient World (1992) is extremely useful but is inevitably limited to the genre it serves. The same is true of Hans Dieter Betz's Greek Magical Papyri in Translation (2nd ed., 1992), which provides comprehensive translations of the fundamental corpus of the Greek magical papyri. This large volume, which has room for only sparing fragments of exegesis, is scarcely less baffling to novice students of the papyri than their Greek originals are. For obvious reasons, a number of the texts translated here overlap with those to be found in these three books, but there are also many that will be found in none of them, and indeed some texts of considerable importance that are not, to my knowledge, available in English, such as the major piece with which I close the volume, Libanius's speech Against the Lying Mage, 300.
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