Derek Collins

in The Oxford Handbook of Hellenic Studies

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780199286140
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History


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This article points out the problems of identifying ancient magic and outlines connections between medical, magical, and religious practices. The central problem for any student of Greek magic is that the term mageia, from which people ultimately derive ‘magic’, only emerges in the latter half of the fifth century BCE, whereas the evidence for practices and substances that were understood to be magical, as well as for individuals who were thought to be magicians, existed prior to the birth of the term. Mageia means on the one hand the ‘activity of a magos’ and, on the other, ‘magic’ in the looser sense defined by the Hippocratic author of On the Sacred Disease and Plato.

Keywords: ancient magic; medicine; religious practice; Greek magic; mageia; magicians; Sacred Disease; Plato

Article.  5073 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Religion in the Ancient World ; Ancient Greek History

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