Current Issue

Vol 57 (2021)

Published October 10, 2021



Materiality, Oral Incantations and Supernatural Agency in Ancient Healing Magic

In the Ancient World illness was thought to be the effect not of accidental or natural causes, but rather the result of a negative agency, an external attack on the victim’s body. This paper focuses on the diverse strategies used in healing magic attested in the material and textual records from the ancient Near East to Late Antiquity, with s...pecial attention paid to how the cultural status of objects and substances was changed through ritual, a process that, along with the invocations of demons and gods, allowed objects to acquire agency to counterattack the harm inflicted on the victim’s body.

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Magical Iconography. How Can an Image Protect and Heal?

One of the features of the attitude of ancient societies towards the threats of everyday life was a close relationship between spiritual/magical and religious beliefs and the real actions aimed at overcoming dangers. This relationship is visible in the magical iconography of Ancient Egypt and other Ancient Near Eastern cultures – in the form ...of demons, minor deities, and other benevolent supernatural beings that can protect people. Images of theses deities are sometimes accompanied by archaeological traces (holes for water, traces of rubbing, touching), indicating that images were also subjects of action. The question is how the magical and religious iconography meets the non-supernatural actions and how this custom could emerge in other parts of the Ancient world and in post-ancient times.

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Sofocle: Magia, Medicina, Religione

In Sophocles’ tragedies the interweaving of medicine, religion and magic produces a lot of meanings and concepts that show the complexity of the Greek thought of the Fifth century. In his tragedies, Sophocles shows his interest both in the magical and religious medicine and in the new Hippocratic medical science. The aim of this paper is to a...nalyze the conceptual and lexical intertwining that reflects this interest, focusing on the character of Oedipus. In fact, Oedipus is the hero who best embodies this duplicity. At the beginning of the drama he assumes a rational investigation method through which he tries to discover Laius’ murderer and then to heal Thebes from the plague that afflicts it. However, his responsibility emerges during the tragedy; Oedipus’ fault has divine origin and makes him the first cause of the evil of the city. In the Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus’ body is released from the contamination that had made him the origin of the plague and the hero’s body turns into a sort of magic amulet to protect the polis that will guard it when he will be dead.

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Women and Weasels: a Medico-religious Approach to Maternity in a Republican City of Lazio

Medicine and magico-religious practices went hand in hand in Greco-Roman societies, because they attached enormous importance to divine manifestations. Insofar as the gods were present everywhere and in all circumstances, it was necessary to scrupulously respect the rituals which were practised in their honour. Without these rituals, peace with... the gods could be disrupted. In the town of Palestrina (Lazio), a votive deposit was unearthed near the foundations of a sanctuary. It contained several effigies of Juno as well as eight very original little statuettes with the breasts of a woman but the body of a weasel. In addition, there were also weasel’s bones and metal keys. Even though it seems logical to think that the religious complex and these offerings were evoted to the goddess, it is more difficult, however, to understand the link between Juno and the different offerings. Why were they placed there and by whom?

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Non est mea pigra senectus: Old Women and Folk Medicine in Greco-roman Literature

This paper will examine the old-woman healer figure through Greco-Roman literary sources. First, I will discuss briefly the social reputation of old women in comparison with senex and the creation of a negative stereotype around them. After that, I will focus on the triple relation between woman, old age, and medicine in order to the reputation of old women as skilled healers. Finally, I will analyse the use of different treatments close to magic, like enchantments and purifications, and the healings of some specific illnesses, such as love, to conclude with a brief overview of the political and social attitude towards them.

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Las Gemas Uterinas y la Terapéutica de las Piedras en la Obra de Oribasio de Pérgamo

Uterine gems belong to a group of amulets, usually engraved on red minerals, such as jasper and carnelian; the most used is the hematite or “blood stone”. The iconography of the uterus in these gems refers to the mobility of the uterus, an idea already present in Plato's Timaeus (Pl., Ti. 91c.), and in the Greco-Roman medical ...texts, the wandering uterus theory. In this work we will complete the analysis of uterine gems with the use of stones as a therapeutic in the work of Oribasio de Pérgamo.

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Le pied de Sérapis de la sculpture à l’intaille : étude d’un thème isiaque caractéristique

The so-called foot of Serapis sculptures (i.e. those in the round with a bust of Serapis directly on top of a right foot) are well known and studied. Nevertheless, it was still necessary to take into account the representations of this motif in other media, such as gems and coins. And that is precisely the purpose of the present paper. In the f...ollowing pages, these images are analyzed in the iconographical context of their period (1st and 2nd centuries CE). Such an approach allows us to observe the development of the motif in the different materials. In addition, this analysis will help us better understand the meaning of this image, and also to formulate some theories concerning the possible uses of these gems.

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The Carmen de viribus herbarum (GDRK 64): Between Magical Pharmacology and Homeric Didactic

This paper aims to assess the nature of magic and medicine in the extant fragment of the little-known Carmen de viribus herbarum (fr. 64 Heitsch), an anonymous didactic poem of considerable length (216 hexameters have been transmitted) from the third century CE. The Carmen, a poem concerned with the curative powers of som...e fifteen different plants, is an evident descendant of the didactic pharmacological verse tradition of Nicander of Colophon and the like, yet its method of composition, reusing large chunks of Homeric lines, is remarkable. What sets the Carmen apart from the tradition of didactic pharmacology, moreover, is its fascination with magic, a factor virtually absent from the Nicandrean legacy. Next to pharmacological knowledge it repeatedly discusses effective plants against ghosts, apparitions, and witches.

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Farmacopea de la peonia, la planta de la Luna

For the Greeks, the peony plant had exceptional properties. It was used for many medicinal remedies. The most frequent were gynecological, nervous and mental diseases (insanity), as well as other minor, varied uses. This plant becomes visible at night when the moonlight falls on it. For this reason, it soon became associated with astrological ...and magical superstitions. These beliefs passed into the Latin world. It appears in herbaria and in medical treatises. In the Middle Ages it was still a plant frequently used in rural areas.

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De la Precatio Terrae y la Precatio omnium herbarum a un texto inacabado: las precationes herbarum de un recetario médico tardoantiguo

The Curae herbarum is a late antique medical recipe book made up of 64 chapters; it is mostly based on a Latin translation of the De materia medica by Dioscorides. Chapters 1–32 always end with a precatio to the plant so that it ‘comes with all its healing powers’. The article argues for an erudit...e origin for the precationes of the Curae herbarum, which borrow epithets, phraseology, and verbs of entreaty from the Precatio Terrae and the Precatio omnium herbarum. Moreover, the study of internal references in the precationes demonstrates that they were written with the intention of being placed before the medical recipes, but, for unknown reasons, were instead copied at the end of the chapters without ever occupying the place they were intended for.

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Minima Epigraphica Auctionum (2019). La Estela de la Milesia Dafnis

This paper presents an unpublished inscription from the antiquities market. This entry pertains to the Milesian woman Daphnis’ gravestone. A new exemplar of a Milesian citizen who lived in Attica gives a novel anthroponym to Roman prosopography. In this brief note, we discuss the textual and iconographical aspects of the new item.

Magic Symbols (Charaktêres) on North African Curse Tablets as a Regional Feature

This study examines the practice of magic symbols in North Africa to find out whether there was a regional peculiarity in the use of charaktêres that distinguished this area from other parts of the Roman Empire. Two phenomena appear to be more common in North Africa, though they may also occur elsewhere: first, charaktêres as encrypted names,... and second, charaktêres as framing devices. First and foremost, though, some introductory remarks concerning charaktêres in general are made.

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The Presence and Importance of Beauty in the Byzantine Epigrams About the Cross and the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ: Some Basic Observations

Scholar poetry, particularly the epigram, has been a literary means of expression not only of ideas and attitudes about life but also of religious sentiment and profound religious faith. Delving into the epigrams of the second category, particularly those related to the Cross and the Crucifixion, our attention will be focused on the presence of... beauty, its meaning, and the role it played within the category of Byzantine epigrams. The aim of this article is to identify relevant epigrams (by anonymous or known writers), make some basic observations and reach certain conclusions regarding the issue of beauty.

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