CLAS-210 Ancient Magic and Witchcraft

From the earliest European literary references in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey to the esoteric bookshops of the modern world, magic and belief in the supernatural have offered spiritual experiences for believers outside of regulated, societal norms. For the Greeks and Romans the use of magic represented another means of controlling their universe which was not regulated by state ritual or cult religious practice. In this class we will examine the evidence for magic and the supernatural in antiquity, focusing on ancient Greece and Rome. Topics of interest include 1) the nature of magic and its relationship to religion, science, & medicine; 2) practitioners of magic; 3) magical language; 4) magical objects; 5) supernatural creatures; and 6) contact with the supernatural. As we examine these topics we will attempt to make sense of the techniques and devices used by the practitioners of magic and the ends to which the supernatural was employed in the Greco-Roman world.