Essays on the magical handbooks of Greco-Roman Egypt

Table of contents

Table of Contents
Introduction (Faraone and Torallas Tovar)
Alphabetical List of Contributors
Libraries, Codices, and Rolls:
1) Korshi Dosoo and Sofía Torallas Tovar: “Anatomy of the Magical Archive”
2) Korshi Dosoo and Sofía Torallas Tovar: “Roll vs. Codex: The Format of the Magical Handbook”
3) Alberto Nodar: “The Paleography and Dating of the Magical Formularies from Roman Egypt”
Compositional and Redactional Patterns:
4) Lynn R. LiDonnici: “Compositional Patterns in the Paris Magical Codex (GEMF 57 = PGM IV)”
5) Korshi Dosoo: “The Composition of the Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden (GEMF 16 = PGM/PDM XIV)”
6) Richard Gordon and Rachel Yuen-Collingridge: “GEMF 60 (PGM XIII): A Study of Material, Scribal, and Compositional Issues”
Distribution of Texts and Their History:
7) Richard Gordon and Raquel Martín Hernández: “GEMF 74 (PGM VII): Reconstructing the Textual Tradition”
8) Panagiota Sarischouli: “GEMF 15 (= PGM/PDM XII): Production and Use of a Bilingual Magical Formulary”
Individual Recipes:
9) Christopher A. Faraone: “Two Composite Recipes in GEMF 57 (= PGM IV) and How They Grew”
10) Richard Gordon: “The Rationale of Multi-purpose Praxeis in the Formulary Tradition”
11) Christopher A. Faraone: “The Traffic in Magical Spells: Single-Sheet Formularies as Prompts for Oral Performance”
Abbreviations and Bibliography


In Greco-Roman Egypt, recipes for magical undertaking, called magical formularies, commonly existed for love potions, curses, attempts to best business rivals—many of the same challenges that modern people might face. In The Greco-Egyptian Magical Formularies: Libraries, Books, and Individual Recipes, volume editors Christopher Faraone and Sofia Torallas Tovar present a series of essays by scholars involved in a multiyear project to reedit and translate the various magical handbooks that were inscribed in the Roman period in the Greek or Egyptian languages.  For the first time, the material remains of these papyrus rolls and codices are closely examined, revealing important information about the production of books in Egypt, the scribal culture in which they were produced, and the traffic in single recipes copied from them.  Especially important for historians of the book and the Christian Bible are new insights in the historical shift from roll to codex, complicated methods of inscribing the bilingual papyri (in which the Greek script is written left to right and the demotic script right to left), and the new realization that several of the longest extant handbooks are clearly compilations of two or more shorter handbooks, which may have come from different places.  The essays also reexamine and rethink the idea that these handbooks came from the personal libraries of practicing magicians or temple scriptoria, in one case going so far as to suggest that two of the handbooks had literary pretensions of a sort and were designed to be read for pleasure rather than for quotidian use in making magical recipes.

Christopher A. Faraone is Edward Olson Professor of Classics at the University of Chicago.

Sofía Torallas Tovar is Professor of Classics and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.

"This book takes an entirely new and much-needed approach to the magical papyri from Egypt. It will spark interesting debates that will enhance the importance of late ancient magic in the eyes of students of ancient studies in general."
—Robert Daniel, University of Cologne

- Robert Daniel

"The attention paid to the material and paratextual features in these artifacts will prove to be a treasure-chest for linguists interested in multimodal aspects of ancient texts and their semiotic features."
--The Classical Review

- The Classical Review

Winner: C.J. Goodwin Award of Merit from the Society for Classical Studies | 12/06/2023
Read: Author blog post | 11/21/2022