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Radcliffe G. Edmonds III

Greek magic is the discourse of magic within the ancient Greek world. Greek magic includes a range of practices, from malevolent curses to benevolent protections, from divinatory practices to alchemical procedures, but what is labelled magic depends on who is doing the labelling and the circumstances in which the label is applied. The discourse of magic pertains to non-normative ritualized activity, in which the deviation from the norm is most often marked in terms of the perceived efficacy of the act, the familiarity of the performance within the cultural tradition, the ends for which the act is performed, or the social location of the performer. Magic is thus a construct of subjective labelling, rather than an objectively existing category. Rituals whose efficacy is perceived as extraordinary (in either a positive or negative sense) or that are performed in unfamiliar ways, for questionable ends, or by performers whose status is out of the ordinary might be labelled (by others or by oneself) as magic in antiquity.


Philip Rousseau

The Latin word paganus means literally “one who inhabits a *pagus”: see Festus, 247Lindsay, and *Servius's comment on *Virgil's phrase pagos et compita circum (G. 2. 382). By imperial times (e.g. Tac.Hist. 3. 24. 3, Plin.Ep. 10. 86b), the term was applied to one who stayed at home or lived a civilian life. Christian reference implied one who was not a miles Christi (hence fides pagana and paganus fidelis in Tert. De corona 11. 4 f. and numerous examples thereafter). Paganismus was first used in the 4th century by Marius Victorinus (Ep. ad Galatios 2. 4. 9) and *Augustine (Div. quaest. 83. 83). Traditional usage nevertheless persisted (Prudent.Cath. 11. 87, Macrob.Sat. 1. 16. 6).Both expressions, in the Christian era, may have been colloquial (see Cod. Theod. 16. 5. 46 of 409ce and AugustineEp.


Corinne Ondine Pache

That a human being might become possessed by a supernatural power was a fairly common ancient belief. The effect might be a sudden change in behavior, the altered state of consciousness associated with Dionysiac ritual, or a prophetic frenzy as in the case of a divinely inspired trance (see Delphic oracle). Plato (Phaedr. 244a ff., esp. 265a-c) distinguishes between prophetic (mantikê, inspired by Apollo), mystical (telestikê, inspired by Dionysus), poetic (inspired by the Muses), and erotic (inspired by Aphrodite and Eros) possession. Sources also differentiate between unprompted possession and possession sought through ritual, as in the case of the Pythia at Delphi who became ἔνθεος (“inspired” or “filled with a god”) and whose body became a medium for the god’s voice.Words such as θεόληπτος, θεοφόρητος, or κάτοχος (expressing the notion “possessed by (a) god”), carried an ambivalent meaning. On the one hand, they referred to terrifying pathological experiences, such as epileptic strokes or various types of insanity. On the other hand, possession involved direct contact with a god and thus could effect a kind of sacralization. Socrates mentions the possibility of becoming “seized by the nymphs” (νυμφόληπτος) while conversing in a sanctuary dedicated to nymphs (Phaedr.


Robert Parker

The category of “sacred laws” is one within which modern scholarship on Greek religion assembles inscriptions which in various ways regulate the conduct of cult. Many have a broadly policing function: fines or other punishments are imposed for cutting wood, pasturing animals, lighting fires within a sanctuary, or disorderly conduct at a festival. Some deal with other aspects of sanctuary management such as the positioning and care of votive offerings. Some prescribe ritual activities such as processions or sacrifices to be conducted at new or reorganized festivals; the financing of cult is often a concern. Many define the duties and perquisites of priests and priestesses. A distinctive subclass is the “sale of priesthood” text, from those parts of the east Greek world where some priesthoods were so allocated. Each time a sale was to occur, a job description was published which functioned as a cross between advertisement and contract. Calendars listing month by month the sacrifices to be offered by a particular city or subgroup within one are also conventionally included among sacred laws.


Roy D. Kotansky

The “Getty Hexameters” represent a “cluster” of verse incantations written on a small, folded piece of lead epigraphically and historically dateable to the end of the 5th century. Found in clandestine operations most probably at Selinous (Σελινοῦς, modern Selinunte), in Sicily, the fragmentary text came to the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu, California) in 1981 as the gift of Dr. Max Gerchik, along with four other lead pieces of certain Selinuntine provenance, including the large Lex Sacra from Selinous (= SEG XLIII.630, c. 475–450 bce) and three early defixiones, or curse tablets (Kotansky and Curbera, 2004).After the lead fragments were joined and restored by Mark B. Kotansky in 1981, Roy D. Kotansky independently transcribed and deciphered the text at that time and eventually published a preliminary edition in 2011 with David R. Jordan, an expert on lead defixiones, who provided his own supplements, notes, and translation (Jordan and Kotansky, 2011).



Brian Campbell

Ancient peoples lived in close proximity to the environment and experienced at first hand natural phenomena and landscape features that, while often helpful or indeed essential to life, were also potentially threatening. The land and its produce were crucial to survival, and in a predominantly rural world dotted with towns and cities, many people will have observed at first hand mountains, rivers, and the relationship of landscape to available space for settlement. Rivers expressed the local community’s link with the landscape and sustained river valley communities by providing water for drinking, washing, irrigation, and watering of animals, as well as offering routes of communication. Many rivers were also a fruitful source of fish, especially if the water was clean, such as the high-quality fish from the Pamisos in Messenia (Paus. 4.34.1–2). But of course rivers could also flood a settlement or sweep it away. In addition, popular reaction to the environment around the local area was often influenced by strong cultural and religious feelings associated with landscape. In this context, it is not surprising that some literary works were exclusively devoted to natural features of the landscape, for example describing rivers, their character, history, and legendary associations. Mythology helped to explain natural phenomena. Furthermore, the theme of rivers in various guises appears repeatedly in the work of geographers, ethnographers, teachers, poets, and historians. Philosophers were also interested in the curiosities of riverine conditions, which, by their timeless quality yet constant movement, seemingly offered a comment on the human condition.