Essays on the magical handbooks of Greco-Roman Egypt
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
—Robert Daniel, University of Cologne