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Magic in the Ancient World by Fritz Graf - Book Report/Review Example

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I picked this book for review because of the reputation the author has on Greek religion and because the book touches on magic practices that were practiced in the ancient world. Religion and magic are antagonistic and reviewing the work of Fritz will give a sense of how magic was regarded in the ancient time. This text shows that magic was widespread in the ancient world. Magic in the Ancient World Fritz Graf takes us back to the ancient world and specifically to the underworld of magic. He helps us to see what the sorcerers and witches did and how the general society viewed this art. He tries to pin point the origin of magic, or to put it correctly, where magic was said to have appeared earliest. This book has seven chapters and has a total of 308 pages. The chapters are systematically reviewed below. The author draws his sources widely including from those touching on the bible. Indeed in chapter one, he highlights a significant texts touching on the biblical Moses (Graf 6). Chapter One In this chapter the author makes a general introduction to the book. What comes out here is that in the ancient time, practicing magic was more than common – he uses the word ‘omnipresent’ (Graf 1) to describe the commonness of this practice. The author gives a brief outline of the history of the study of magic – he covers this roughly from page 8 to 19 (Graf 19). He also outlines how the magic literature was passed down. The author therefore gives a snippet preview of the publications and ancient magical texts that he uses to complete his work - the publications are largely anthropological, historical, and papyrological based. Chapter two This chapter is titled ‘Naming the Sorcerer’. In this chapter, the author makes an avid effort to examine magic in the context of Persians, Greeks, and Romans. He does this by discussing the terminologies used in magic studies. The terms are magus, magos, agyrtes, goes, mantis. He also examines how magic practices are named – the names include pharmakon, veneficium, and veneficus. This chapter is detailed on Greek and Roman magic and gives a good foundation to understanding magic as it was in the Greek and Roman ancient world. Unfortunately, the chapter uses many foreign terms and words which interfere with a smooth reading of the chapter, for instance the terms iunges and trohkiskoi are used (Graf 39). Though in some cases the foreign terms are explained – all that explanation is disruptive to some extent. Chapter three This chapter is titled ‘Portrait of the Magician, Seen from the Outside’. This chapter helps to show how the magicians were identified in the Roman Empire. If a person could achieve what others could not, then such a person became a suspect of witchcraft. The author substantiates this with two examples. He discusses the case of Furius Cresimus. In the eyes of his neighbors Furius Cresimus was too successful and this success could only be attributed to magic (Graf 68). The second case the author discusses is that of Apuleius. Apuleius succeeded to marry a wealth widow against all odds that he faced (Graf 65). At this time therefore a great social turnabout would be an indication of magic in practice. People whose normal performance seemed to exceed what was considered normal were viewed as magicians. This is why indeed the author observed in the introductory section of the book that Moses and Jesus were viewed by the people as magicians. There were also laws that were instituted to deal with such people, for instance, the Twelve Tables of Roman Law. Chapter four In this chapter, the author goes deeper to revealing magic. He does this by discussing the initiation rites of the magicians. The description is detailed and step wise. The ...Show more
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Magic in the Ancient World was fist written in French and later translated to English by Franklin Philip.This review is on the English version of the book. Through this book the author makes an attempt to reveal the ancient world to its readers …
Magic in the Ancient World by Fritz Graf
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