Academic year
2022/2023 Syllabus of previous years
Official course title
Course code
LM4100 (AF:368718 AR:212516)
On campus classes
ECTS credits
Degree level
Master's Degree Programme (DM270)
Educational sector code
1st Semester
Course year
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The instruction is situated between the fields of religious studies and ancient Mediterranean history and provides students with the theoretical, methodological, and historical skills necessary to study ancient religion (especially the religion of everyday life in antiquity) and magic. The objectives of instruction are: to develop the capacity to think historically and critically about ancient Mediterranean religious and magical phenomena; to improve students’ capacity to read ancient texts pertaining to ancient Mediterranean religion and magic. Particular attention will be devoted to the relationship between textual, material, and visual aspects of ancient artifacts. In addition, this course attends to the interactions and overlaps between religion, magic, and other social dimensions of antiquity, such as sexuality and group boundaries. The attainment of these objectives equips the student with an anthropologically informed understanding of the study of ancient religious history.
• Knowledge and Understanding
o Know how to analyze ancient texts and artifacts, which are important for the study of ancient religion and magic.
o Know the academic terminology of the study of ancient religion and magic.
o Know the basic historical development of religious and magical practices from the ancient world through late antiquity.

• Ability to Apply Knowledge and Understanding
o Know how to apply the hermeneutical, theoretical, and methodological principles necessary to analyze ancient religious writings and magical objects. Particular attention is given to the relationships between the texts, materials, and images of ancient manuscripts and artifacts.
o Know how to articulate the basic history of the academic study of religion and magic.
o Know how to engage critically with the most important academic works in the study of ancient religion and magic.
o Know how to integrate ancient religious and magical texts and objects into the study of ancient history more generally.
There are no particular prerequisite courses that are required; however, some general knowledge of ancient history and culture is highly recommended.
This course is divided into two parts. The first part of the course includes a basic overview of the historical development of ancient Mediterranean religion and magic, on the one hand, and an examination of the primary theoretical issues involved in studying religion and magic, on the other hand. Concerning the latter, we will address various questions: What is religion? What is magic? How can historians productively use these terms? In part two, we will examine in detail various texts and artifacts that reflect or offer insight into ancient and late antique Mediterranean (every-day) religion and magic (e.g., votive offerings, amulets, and defixiones). As part of this second section we will consider a range of methodological approaches to these data (e.g., cognitive-linguistic approaches; text-image-material analysis; and gender studies). We will also reflect on the significance of these texts and objects for understanding religious, ethnic, and group boundaries in antiquity.
The professor will make available online selections of various academic works, including the following:

1. Editions and Translations

M. Beard, J. North, and S. Price, eds. Religions of Rome, Vol. 2: A Sourcebook (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

H. D. Betz, ed., The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation Including the Demotic Spells, vol. 1: Texts with an Updated Bibliography (2nd edition; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, The University of Chicago Press, 1992).

J. G. Gager, Curse Tablets and Binding Spells from the Ancient World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992).

M. W. Meyer and R. Smith, Ancient Christian Magic: Coptic Texts of Ritual Power (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999).

S. Pernigotti, Testi della magia copta (Imola: La Mandragora, 2000).

2. General Scholarship

M. Blanco Cesteros and E. Chronopolou, "The Irresistible Attraction of Purity," in Purity and Purification in the Ancient Greek World, ed. J.-M. Carbon and S. Peels-Matthey (Liège: Presses Universitaires de Liège, 2018), 281-98.

P. Cappelli, "Satana e Satani nell'ebraismo antico," Humanitas 75 (2020): 329–39.

R. G. Edmonds, Drawing Down the Moon (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019).

C. A. Faraone, The Transformation of Greek Amulets in Roman Imperial Times: Empire and after (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018).

D. Frankfurter, ed., Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic (Leiden: Brill, 2019).

G. Sfameni Gasparro, "Il mago e i suoi clienti," in Magikè téchne: Formación y consideración social del mago en el Mundo Antiguo, ed. E. Suárez, M. Blanco et al. (Madrid: Clásicos Dykinson, 2017), 47–64.

S. I. Johnston, ed., Ancient Religions (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007).

B. Nongbri, Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013).

B.-C. Otto, "Towards Historicizing 'Magic' in Antiquity," Numen 60 (2013): 308–347.

J. Sanzo, Scriptural Incipits on Amulets from Late Antique Egypt: Text, Typology, and Theory (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014).

K. Sessa, Daily Life in Late Antiquity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018)

K. Stratton and D. Kalleres, eds. Daughters of Hecate: Women & Magic in the Ancient World, ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2014).

The learning of course content will be assessed through an oral exam. The exam will be based on course readings, lectures, and seminar discussions. Students will answer questions in the following four areas: (1) the historical development of ancient Mediterranean religion and magic; (2) the primary theoretical issues associated with the study of ancient Mediterranean religion and magic; (3) the primary methods used for the study of ancient lived religion and magic; and (4) the significance of ancient religious and magical sources for the study of ancient history in general.
The course consists of readings, lectures, and seminar work.
Definitive programme.
Last update of the programme: 02/05/2022