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Level 7

7AACM650 Late Antique Magic

Credit value: 20 credits
Module convenor/tutor: Dr Ioannis Papadogiannakis
Assessment: 1 x essay of 5,000 words (100%)
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour seminars (weekly)
Availability: Please see module list for relevant year

Places on this module will be capped at 16 and will be allocated in the first instance to those students from any College who are following the MA Late Antique and Byzantine Studies degree programme and secondly to students following the MA Ancient History degree programme. Any remaining places up the maximum size of the class will then be distributed proportionally between Colleges.

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years. 

This module will introduce you to the history of magic in late antiquity (from the third to fifth centuries CE) through the close and contextualized study of a number of magical texts, with a particular focus on the Greek Magical Papyri, and some comparative consideration of magical texts in Demotic, Coptic, Syriac and Latin.

You will read a range of these texts (in translation), from curses and erotic magic to spells of healing and exorcism, and learn to analyse them in their social, political and cultural contexts. You will explore the literary, material and visual qualities of magical texts and objects, as well as considering their ritual functions.

This module will develop your ability to analyse and critique the varied contemporary interpretations of magical texts and practices, and to formulate and substantiate your own research questions related to late antique magical practices and magical texts.

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.


  • Ed. H.D. Betz, The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation (1986) – one of the most important corpora of magical texts, translated and annotated; a good place to start exploring the texts themselves
  • F. Graf, Magic in the Ancient World (trans. 1997) – a magisterial exploration of magic in antiquity, and an excellent overall introduction to the topic
  • N, Janowitz, Magic in the Late Antique World: Pagans, Jews, and Christians (2001) – a useful period-specific survey



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