Show Advanced search options Hide Advanced search options
Non est mea pigra senectus: Old Women and Folk Medicine in Greco-roman Literature
Published October 10, 2021

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.

Show full abstract
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.

Show full abstract
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.

Show full abstract
The Carmen de viribus herbarum (GDRK 64): Between Magical Pharmacology and Homeric Didactic
Published October 10, 2021

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.

Show full abstract
Women and Weasels: a Medico-religious Approach to Maternity in a Republican City of Lazio
Published October 10, 2021

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?

Show full abstract
Materiality, Oral Incantations and Supernatural Agency in Ancient Healing Magic
Published October 10, 2021

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.

Show full abstract
The rules of the game: constructing power in rhizotomic practice
Published August 1, 2020

The growth of contemporary interest in ethnobiology and -botany legitimates an attempt to historicise the activities and claims of ancient rhizotomists, ‘root-cutters’, i.e. individuals who made themselves specially knowledgeable about the medicinal and other values of plants (mainly wild) and animal-parts. These men and women hardly formed... a coherent group in fact, but may be treated as such for heuristic purposes. One model for historicising them is to locate them between family or household medicine on the one hand, and the increasingly complex market in health-care that developed in the Greek world from the fifth century BCE, and continued to grow in complexity throughout the Hellenistic and Roman periods. We can suggest two ways in which rhizotomists responded to this market pressure: experimentation and the construction of the marvellous through complex rules of collection. These rules covered gathering, body movements, offerings to the herb or the earth, addresses to the herb, and close temporal specifications – these latter lent themselves in turn to exploitation by literate rhizotomists in terms of occult schemes. We may use Searle’s distinction between regulative and constitutive rules to interpret these moves.

Show full abstract
1 - 7 of 7 items