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Magic in the Ancient World


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Introduction Naming the Sorcerer Portrait of the Magician. Seen from the Outside How to Become a Magician: The Rites of Initiation Curse Tablets and Voodoo Dolls Literary Representation of Magic Words and Acts Notes Bibliography Index

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A comprehensive and fascinating introduction to ancient magic. It gives direct access to the sources but selects the important, characteristic examples. The author is well versed in the scholarly literature and in modern theories and presents a vivid and original account. -- Walter Burkert

About the Author

Fritz Graf is Professor and Director of Epigraphy and Chair of the Department of Greek and Latin at The Ohio State University.


Whether because of uninspired translation or the author's own heavy-handed writing, this work is a dull, disappointing read. Graf (classics, Univ. of Basel) presupposes that his reader is steeped in prior scholarly treatises on the history of magic and limits his study to the Greco-Roman period from the fifth century B.C. to the third century A.D. Relying primarily on literary sources from various papyri extant in European museums and libraries, he gives equal weight to oratorical allusions, theatrical fiction, and philosophical observations. He jumps back and forth in time and location without any discernible logic or progression. His connection of magic with religion, medicine, and astrology is hardly groundbreaking, and while his descriptions of spell casting are interesting, they do not lead to any articulated discussions. This work may have significance in academic circles where there has been considerable investigation into the origins and uses of magic, but it is not recommended for public libraries.‘Rose M. Cichy, Osterhout Free Lib., Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

A very good book, full of insights. -- David Graeber The Nation [Graf's] combination of scholarly knowledge, caution and a willingness to test the boundaries of his arguments (this third is rarely combined with the first two) makes this the most successful general introduction to the problems and scope of Greco-Roman magical practices...He provides much intelligent solidity where the subject has often prompted an over-sympathetic obsessiveness and wildness. -- Simon Goldhill London Review of Books This will be a very helpful introduction to the subject. Society for Old Testament Study Fritz Graf's imaginative contributions to the study of myth and ritual are deservedly well known; in this work, Graf brings his own scholarship, and that of participants in a series of seminars...to bear on the hitherto rather neglected field of magic in antiquity. The result is an accessible, clear and well-annotated guide to the complex world of the ancient magician, which serves both as a valuable introduction to the field and as an invaluable resource for further research and debate. -- Michael Lambert [Fritz Graf] draws upon a wide range of evidence, including papyri recipes, curse tablets, 'voodoo dolls,' trials of alleged magicians, and observations made by ancient authors, to reconsider, as a 'historian of religion,' the changing forms and functions of magic in Greece and Rome. Clearly written, scholarly, and at times stimulatingly controversial, the book should appeal to a variety of readers, from those approaching the subject for the first time to experts in the field. -- Hugh Parry Phoenix Fritz Graf...is well known for his work on Greek religion. His book on magic in the ancient world...contains a great deal of very interesting material, ably discussed; it is a substantial and controversial contribution to the study of a fascinating and controversial subject. -- Jasper Griffin New York Review of Books

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