Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion. Front Cover. Christopher A. Faraone, Dirk Obbink. Oxford University Press, Feb 13, – History – pages. Magika Hiera has 49 ratings and 6 reviews. said: Sometimes a book really captures an attempt to show cross cultural perceptions of a popular soci. Magika Hiera. Ancient Greek Magic & Religion. Edited by Christopher A. Faraone and Dirk Obbink. Oxford: Oxford University Press,

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All readers, from professional Hellenists to “Greekless” generalists curious to learn about the irresistibly intriguing world of the occult, will welcome the appearance of this uniformly useful and often stimulating collection of ten essays by established experts on practices and problems encountered in the broad sphere of Magima “magic.

It must also be said, however, that this volume could have been made more useful still by imposition of greater consistency of format on its contributors. For example, special bibliographies of works most frequently cited, extremely helpful for readers wishing to pursue further a specific topic, are prefixed to the notes of the first four chapters but absent in the rest; cross-referencing between chapters dealing with identical issues and texts is surprisingly rare there is no index of the principal ancient texts discussed for the reader to use as a substitute ; and provision of the Greek, with careful English translation, of the texts and key terms studied, though laudably prevalent in the book as a whole, is by no means uniform throughout.

There is a somewhat curious inconsistency in the the editorial decision to translate Greek for readers, but not the German occasionally cited in the magija and notes of the book. In addition, the sequence in which the ten contributions are presented four chapters “devoted to newly found or reedited inscriptional material and to the subsequent refinement of categories and theories of historical development,” followed by six chapters dealing with “specific ritual practices and procedures — and with new definitions of What, then, is the “traditional [does not this word imply some sort of consensus?

In sum, the volume’s title implies that “Greek Magic” mqgika somehow legitimately separable from “Greek Religion,” but it conspicuously fails to provide an initial demonstration to both its contributors and its readers of precisely how this line, at least for purposes of discussion, should be drawn. The result is a significant degree of “overkill” on this issue, with each of the contributors compelled to duplicate the efforts of his collaborators in demonstrating the inadequacy of any such “traditional dichotomy” when applied to to the specific material under study on each occasion.

Some, however, treat this unquestionably important — and interesting — definition problem more fully and forcefully than others, as will be noted in the following comments on individual chapters. The chapter’s first section pp. Throughout this section, discussion of linguistic and ritual detail alike makes a persuasive case for the first of F.

The demonstration that hierq curses, despite their invocation of chthonic forces, were, almost always, not murderous in intent, constitutes a valuable clarification of the role of these imprecations within Greek religion and society and certainly, by eliminating actual demise as the sole criterion for judging their success, helps explain the survival of reliance in their efficacy over so many centuries.


The chapter’s second section, pp. A number of interesting exx. I, constitutes the earliest example of athletic defixio is not convincing, given the absence of any reference to chthonic divinity or accompanying ritual action. Judicial curses are persuasively argued to be attempts to gain an advantage during the actual legal proceedings, rather than “posttrial” hierq in revenge by unsuccessful litigants, as some have argued.

As a whole, the detailed discussion in this segment lends convincing support to F. In his “Conclusions,” F.

Nabers’ claim to find such a distinction in the six Morgantina lead tablets receives a convincing refutation here [p. The need to prevent discovery from prompting ritual countermeasures explains the burying in taboo areas. Much less cogent is the suggestion that difference in social or political status motivates the anonymity. Self-protection seems an obvious and much more compelling reason for concealed identity. This approach has value as a corrective to an assuredly simplistic view that all or even most practitioners of these rites observed secrecy to conceal activities felt to be disreputable, but it is itself a bit simplistic in failing to note the existence of evidence clearly showing that intense moral disquiet could, at least occasionally, be generated by such actionse.

Choosing a line from Shakespeare’s epitaph for his title, S. These are classified into two types, “specific” and “non-specific,” depending on whether or not the [supernatural] punishments involved are made explicit.

Hence my insertion, in brackets, of “supernatural” as an essential qualifying adjective.

Latte’s claim that the first type is “religious” and Anatolian in origin, whereas the second reflects Greek “magic,” is convincingly argued to be arbitrary, and a brief but somewhat rambling discussion of the non-specific type is provided pp. The eastern tradition itself is reasonably linked with the oriental habit of viewing the tomb as a house, a permanent residence for the corpse, an idea alien to the conventional views of death prevailing in Greece proper.

The following section, “The Power of Words” pp. The discussion of the spear ritual associated with some of S. The chapter concludes with a brief and somewhat superficial look at “Funerary Imprecations and the Gods” pp. In general, then, though this chapter contains some information of considerable intrinsic interest, the discussion is somewhat diffuse, symptomatic, perhaps, of an effort to include too many facets of the argument developed within the more expansive framework of the author’s doctoral dissertation on this subject.

In this masterfully constructed contribution, V. They also occasionally imply embarrassment at maika forced to resort to “magic. Here coercive elements are absent, and the responsibility for securing revenge for irreparable harm or redress of hierz action is humbly ceded to divinity by the injured parties. The appeals for redress cited by V. Victims of theft “consecrate” to the divinity sometimes the perpetrator whether already known or still to be identifiedand sometimes the stolen article itself, urging the god to torment the culprit until a public confession is made and the lost property restored, whether to the victim or to the god not always being clear.

Here, as on maguka uncertainties, V.

Reference to the occasional requests for confession leads smoothly to a discussion of the “confession inscriptions” pp. Here exposed culprits, including practitioners of black magic further evidence that at least some of the supernatural manipulation reflected in the defixiones was not, in fact, sanctioned by society at largeconfess their crime, praise the god who has compelled the confession by infliction of illness, accident or the like, and profess their wonder at his power.


In one case the confessing culprit makes explicit reference to a document pittakionprovided by the man he has slandeed, which apparently precipitated the punishment inflicted by god and so provides close and illuminating analogues to the judicial prayers previously discussed. Noting that Seneca reported the submission of libelli involving legal cases to the Capitoline Triad, V. In the course of this illuminating discussion, V.

The attempt to “legitimize” the appeal for supernatural retaliation by reference to wrong done is reaffirmed as “the essential criterion” for differentiating true judicial prayer from true defixio, and both are claimed to giera “the two opposites on the extreme ends of a whole spectrum of more or less hybrid forms” connecting the realms of “religion” and “magic.

Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion

Here, after some helpful introductory remarks on matters of definition e. Discussion of the much more numerous exx. XX]and introduces the gold and silver lamellae studied in K.

Here the well-known “Orphic” exx. Here again failure to provide complete texts and translations of any of the exx. Nexta subsection noticeably failing to deliver what its subtitle promises, “The Social Context” of these documents. Instead we are informed simply of the categories of ailments addressed by these amulets, e. Similarly, the only Homeric verse found on K’s exx.

Though useful as a very general introduction to amulet usage in antiquity, and here and there enlivened by some memorable eccentricities of ancient magic e. Proofreading lapses, extremely rare in the book as a whole, are evident in at least three places: The failure, on p.

Magika Hiera : Dirk Obbink :

Historians of science and students of Theophrastus will find this often rambling and repetitive chapter more satisfying than will those seeking detailed instruction about the specific functions of a wide variety of plants within Greek “magical” usage. There follows some, to this reader, at least, fairly obscure general discussion of early Greek medicine, which is argued to be characterized by a theoretical fusion of “natural” and supernatural causation, precipitating a combination of “theurgy” with the “practical application of drugs” in the attempts at remedy.

In the presentation of the “murky” evidence for herbalist concerns in the jagika between Homer and Theophrastus pp. Kotansky’s chapter has just made it magkka that all pharmaka are not of an herbal nature.

Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion by Christopher A. Faraone

The magical practices recorded in Athenian drama are said to demonstrate that the audience must magikx familiar with such practices in real life, a claim that may apply to the exx.

Discussion of the Aristophanic exx.

In what follows, the discussion rambles noticeably and sometimes fails to pinpoint the nature and location of evidence cited. To cite only two out of several exx. After a mini-history of the development of pharmacology from folklore into empirical science, beginning with Theophrastus’ “muddled” definition of “herb” and culminating in praise of Dioscorides’ mxgika in the field pp.