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The Greek Magical Papyri (papyri is plural of papyrus) (Greek: Ελληνικοί Μαγικοί Πάπυροι) (commonly abbreviated to PGM from the Latin title Papyri Graecae Magicae) is a collective term for a collection of texts, written mostly in Ancient Greek (but also in Coptic, Demotic Egyptian, etc.), found in the deserts of Egypt[1], which cast light in some way on the magico-religious syncretistic world of Greco-Roman Egypt and the surrounding area. Giovanni Anastasi bought the papyri in Egypt about 1827.[2] The "Thebes Cache" also contained the Stockholm papyrus and Leinden X papyrus (alchemical writings)[3]. His collection was dispersed in the 1840s and 1850's.

Contents

The Papyri

The papyri date mostly from the second century BCE to the fifth century or so CE.

The corpus that makes up these papyri was first recollected (by translation) in the early twentieth century by German scholar Karl Preisendanz, and published by him in two volumes in 1928 and 1931. A projected third volume (containing new texts and indices) was destroyed during the bombing of Leipzig in the Second World War. The new texts were incorporated into the 1974 edition of volume II (published after Preisendanz's death), but the indices only ever circulated among scholars in a few xeroxed copies of the galley proofs. (The indices are now effectively obsolete since the PGM can now be searched in the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae database and various concordances and dictionaries have been published.)

Magic in Greco-Roman Egypt

Many of these pieces of papyrus are pages or fragmentary extracts from spell books, repositories of arcane knowledge and mystical secrets. As far as they have been reconstructed, these books appear to fall into two broad categories: some are compilations of spells and magical writings, gathered by scholarly collectors either out of academic interest or for some kind of study of magic; others may have been the working manuals of travelling magicians, containing their repertoire of spells, formulae for all occasions. These often poorly educated magic-users were more like showmen than the traditional Egyptian wizards, who were a highly educated and respected priestly elite. The pages contain spells, recipes, formulae and prayers, interspersed with magic words and often in shorthand, with abbreviations for the more common formulae. These spells range from impressive and mystical summonings of dark gods and daemons, to folk remedies and even parlour tricks; from portentous, fatal curses, to love charms, cures for impotence and minor medical complaints.

In many cases the formulaic words and phrases are strikingly similar to those found in defixiones (curse tablets or binding spells, κατάδεσμοι in Greek), such as those we find inscribed on ostraka, amulets and lead tablets. Since some of these defixiones date from as early as the sixth century BCE, and have been found as far afield as Athens, Asia Minor, Rome and Sicily (as well as Egypt), this provides a degree of continuity and suggests that some observations based on the PGM will not be altogether inapplicable to the study of the wider Greco-Roman world.

Religion in Greco-Roman Egypt

The religion of the Papyri Graecae Magicae, is an elaborate syncretism of Greek, Egyptian, Jewish, and even Babylonian and Christian religious influences engendered by the unique milieu of Greco-Roman Egypt. This syncretism is evident in the Papyri in a variety of ways. Often the Olympians are given attributes of their Egyptian counterparts; alternatively this could be seen as Egyptian deities being referred to by Greek names. For example Aphrodite (who was associated with the Egyptian Hathor), is given the epithet Neferihri--from the Egyptian Nfr-iry.t, "nice eyes" (PGM IV. 1266).

Within this profusion of cultural influences can still be seen classical Greek material, and perhaps even aspects of a more accessible "folk-religion" than those preserved in the mainstream literary texts. Sometimes the Greek gods depart from their traditional Olympian natures familiar to Classicists, and seem far more chthonic, demonic and bestial. This is partly the influence of Egyptian religion, in which beast cult and the terror of the divine were familiar elements; equally the context of magical texts makes such sinister deities appropriate.

References

  1. ^ Faraone, Christopher A. (2001), Ancient Greek Curse Tablets, http://fathom.lib.uchicago.edu/1/777777122300/, retrieved 2008-04-11  
  2. ^ Fowden, Garth (1986). The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind. CUP Archive. ISBN 0521325838.  
  3. ^ Long, Pam O (2004). Openness Secrecy Authorship: Technical Arts and the Culture of Knowedge from Antiquity to the Renaissance. JHU Press. ISBN 0801866065, 9780801866067.  

Bibliography

  • Preisendanz, K. et al. (1928-1931 first ed.) Papyri Graecae Magicae. Die Griechischen Zauberpapyri. (2 vols)
  • Preisendanz, K., Albert Henrichs (1974-1974 second ed.) Papyri Graecae Magicae. Die Griechischen Zauberpapyri. (2 vols) Stuttgart: Teubner.
  • Betz, H. D. et al. (1986) The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation. Including the Demotic Texts. University of Chicago Press.
  • Muñoz Delgado, L. (2001) Léxico de magia y religión en los papiros mágicos griegos. Diccionario Griego-Español. Anejo V. Madrid: CSIC.

See also

For further reading

  • William M. Brashear, “The Greek Magical Papyri,” Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II, 18.5 (1995), pp. 3380–3730, limited preview online.
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The Greek Magical Papyri (papyri is plural of papyrus) (Greek: Ελληνικοί Μαγικοί Πάπυροι) (commonly abbreviated to PGM from the Latin title Papyri Graecae Magicae) is a collective term for a collection of texts, written mostly in Ancient Greek (but also in Coptic, Demotic Egyptian, etc.), found in the deserts of Egypt[1], which cast light in some way on the magico-religious syncretistic world of Greco-Roman Egypt and the surrounding area. Giovanni Anastasi bought the papyri in Egypt about 1827.[2] The "Thebes Cache" also contained the Stockholm papyrus and Leyden papyrus X (alchemical writings)[3]. His collection was dispersed in the 1840s and 1850s.

Contents

The Papyri

The papyri date mostly from the second century BCE to the fifth century or so CE.

The corpus that makes up these papyri was first recollected (by translation) in the early twentieth century by German scholar Karl Preisendanz, and published by him in two volumes in 1928 and 1931. A projected third volume (containing new texts and indices) was destroyed during the bombing of Leipzig in the Second World War. The new texts were incorporated into the 1974 edition of volume II (published after Preisendanz's death), but the indices only ever circulated among scholars in a few xeroxed copies of the galley proofs. (The indices are now effectively obsolete since the PGM can now be searched in the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae database and various concordances and dictionaries have been published.)

Magic in Greco-Roman Egypt

Many of these pieces of papyrus are pages or fragmentary extracts from spell books, repositories of arcane knowledge and mystical secrets. As far as they have been reconstructed, these books appear to fall into two broad categories: some are compilations of spells and magical writings, gathered by scholarly collectors either out of academic interest or for some kind of study of magic; others may have been the working manuals of travelling magicians, containing their repertoire of spells, formulae for all occasions. These often poorly educated magic-users were more like showmen than the traditional Egyptian wizards, who were a highly educated and respected priestly elite. The pages contain spells, recipes, formulae and prayers, interspersed with magic words and often in shorthand, with abbreviations for the more common formulae. These spells range from impressive and mystical summonings of dark gods and daemons, to folk remedies and even parlour tricks; from portentous, fatal curses, to love charms, cures for impotence and minor medical complaints.

In many cases the formulaic words and phrases are strikingly similar to those found in defixiones (curse tablets or binding spells, κατάδεσμοι in Greek), such as those we find inscribed on ostraka, amulets and lead tablets. Since some of these defixiones date from as early as the sixth century BCE, and have been found as far afield as Athens, Asia Minor, Rome and Sicily (as well as Egypt), this provides a degree of continuity and suggests that some observations based on the PGM will not be altogether inapplicable to the study of the wider Greco-Roman world.

Religion in Greco-Roman Egypt

The religion of the Papyri Graecae Magicae, is an elaborate syncretism of Greek, Egyptian, Jewish, and even Babylonian and Christian religious influences engendered by the unique milieu of Greco-Roman Egypt. This syncretism is evident in the Papyri in a variety of ways. Often the Olympians are given attributes of their Egyptian counterparts; alternatively this could be seen as Egyptian deities being referred to by Greek names.[citation needed] For example Aphrodite (who was associated with the Egyptian Hathor), is given the epithet Neferihri—from the Egyptian Nfr-iry.t, "nice eyes" (PGM IV. 1266).

Within this profusion of cultural influences can still be seen classical Greek material, and perhaps even aspects of a more accessible "folk-religion" than those preserved in the mainstream literary texts.[dubious ] Sometimes the Greek gods depart from their traditional Olympian natures familiar to Classicists, and seem far more chthonic, demonic and bestial. This is partly the influence of Egyptian religion, in which beast cult and the terror of the divine were familiar elements; equally the context of magical texts makes such sinister deities appropriate.[citation needed]

See also

References

  1. ^ Faraone, Christopher A. (2001). "Ancient Greek Curse Tablets". http://fathom.lib.uchicago.edu/1/777777122300/. Retrieved 2008-04-11 
  2. ^ Fowden, Garth (1986). The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind. CUP Archive. ISBN 0521325838. 
  3. ^ Long, Pam O (2004). Openness Secrecy Authorship: Technical Arts and the Culture of Knowedge from Antiquity to the Renaissance. JHU Press. ISBN 0801866065, 9780801866067. 

Bibliography

  • Preisendanz, K. et al. (1928-1931 first ed.) Papyri Graecae Magicae. Die Griechischen Zauberpapyri. (2 vols)
  • Preisendanz, K., Albert Henrichs (1974-1974 second ed.) Papyri Graecae Magicae. Die Griechischen Zauberpapyri. (2 vols) Stuttgart: Teubner.
  • Betz, H. D. et al. (1986) The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation. Including the Demotic Texts. University of Chicago Press.
  • Muñoz Delgado, L. (2001) Léxico de magia y religión en los papiros mágicos griegos. Diccionario Griego-Español. Anejo V. Madrid: CSIC.

For further reading

  • William M. Brashear, “The Greek Magical Papyri,” Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II, 18.5 (1995), pp. 3380–3730, limited preview online.

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