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Hieroglyphs in Greek Magical Texts?
Published August 15, 2017

The paper examines hieroglyphs and magic signs resembling hieroglyphs attested in Greek and demotic magical texts.

Sofocle: Magia, Medicina, Religione
Published October 10, 2021

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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The Gems in the Ustinow Collection, Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo
Published September 1, 2022

Scientifically, the collection’s primary importance is its Middle-Eastern origin; collections of gemstones from the Middle East have rarely been published unlike those from European archaeological sites. Thus the possibility opens up to compare finds from the eastern and western parts of the Roman Empire with a focus on similarities and diffe...rences. While in the western provinces the gemstones typically spread during the era of the Roman Empire, in the eastern provinces the use of seals and gemstones goes back several thousand years. It follows that in the western regions, representations of the official themes of the age of the emperors, including the characteristic figures of gods of the state religion (Jupiter, Minerva, Mars, Venus Victrix), are the most common. In contrast, the eastern provinces saw the spread of representations of local gods (Zeus Ammon, Zeus Heliopolitanos, Sarapis) or the Hellenistic types of the Greek gods (Apollo Musagetes, Aphrodite Anadyomene, Hermes Psychopompos). However, there were figures of gods that were equally popular in both regions, such as Tyche–Fortuna, Nike–Victoria, Eros–Amor, Dionysos–Bacchus, Heracles–Hercules. Each of these became rather popular in the Hellenistic World, spreading basically spontaneously throughout the entire Roman Empire. There was a similar unity in the popularity of represenations of animals, too.
The eastern region was, however, characterised by the relatively large number of magic gemstones. There is a piece among these which has no exact analogy (Cat. 69) and its analysis sheds new light on the previous interpretation of similar pieces. The popularity of magic gemstones is highlighted by the fact that some of their motifs became distorted beyond recognition in the popularisation process. Understandably, Sasanian gemstones and seals, which revived the Romans’ dying custom of sealing for some time, were also typical of the eastern regions. What is conspicuous is that the stone cameos (agate, sardonyx) so common in the western regions are completely missing from the collection, while there is a fair number of glass cameo pendants made in the eastern regions.
From an educational and community cultural aspect, the significance of the Ustinow collection lies in the fact that it represents several historical and cultural eras between the fourth century B.C. and the fifth century A.D. for the benefit of the interested public, private collectors, and students of archaeology and the antiquities. The gemstones may be small, but the representations on them can be extraordinarily rich in meaning. With adequate enlargement and due professional expertise, which this catalogue aims to promote, all this information can come to life in front of us, allowing us a glimpse into the lives and thoughts of the citizens of a Mediterranean world two thousand years back.

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The Magical Fomula on a Lost Uterine Amulet
Published August 9, 2020

The article tries to reconstruct the inscription of a magical gem found in 1883 in Torontál which went lost by now. For this reconstructive work I used other gem inscriptions and also other magical papyri and lead tablets in order to compare the two types of texts. The inscription contains the Soroor-logos and the Gigantorekta barophita-logos well. The gem and the inscription together were used for the protection of the uterus.

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Farmacopea de la peonia, la planta de la Luna
Published October 10, 2021

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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A gold lamella for ‘Blessed’ Abalala
Published July 8, 2020

This article examines a previously unpublished gold lamella of unknown provenance, datable on palaeographical grounds to the 1st century BCE, give-or-take a half century, either side. The tablet preserves three words written in Greek letters that may contain a GrecoPersian formula of protection in the afterlife for its bearer, Abalala,... a name of pre-Islamic extraction. The study compares the formula with those on a number of shorter ‘Orphic’ gold lamellae to show that the tiny piece represents a ‘Totenpaß’ for the beneficent dead, rather than a protective charm (phylactery) with the usual voces magicae, although the distinction between magic words and meaningful text is not always clear in such instances.

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