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Magic, Witchcraft and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds (CLA3033)

StaffProfessor Daniel Ogden - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesThe successful completion of at least 90 credits at level 2, of which at least 30 must be in Classics and Ancient History
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The goal of this module is to:

  • Consider the wide range of evidence from the Greek and Roman worlds for the practice and representation of magic and witchcraft along with beliefs about and the practical manipulation of ghosts.
  • Review and analyse curse tablets; voodoo dolls; Greek magical papyri; amulets and intaglios; and a wide range of literary sources, including ghost stories.
  • Examine the mechanisms of magical technology, and the issues surrounding the representation of magical practitioners.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Describe, analyse and evaluate a substantial selection of literary and documentary texts bearing upon the representation and practice of magic in antiquity.
  • 2. Identify and explain the theoretical framework, the central themes and issues and the distinctive characteristics of this subject, including a number of the non-intuitive thought-processes that underpinned magical practice

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Understand, explain, and critically evaluate the nature of a literary tradition
  • 4. Undertake precise exegesis of documentary and literary texts
  • 5. Understand the key concepts of a radically alien religious culture

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Demonstrate that they have developed skills in the formulation, presentation and defence of arguments (both in written form and orally), and that they are able to work independently.
  • 7. Demonstrate confidence and clarity in public communication skills
  • 8. Demonstrate independent research skills and proficiency in the presentation of findings

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Categories of literary and documentary evidence
  • Shamans
  • Greek sorcerers
  • Alien sorcerers
  • Rivals of Jesus
  • Medea
  • Circe
  • Further witches in Greek literature
  • Witches in Latin poetry
  • Witches in the Latin novels
  • Ghosts and ghost stories
  • Necromancy
  • Reanimation
  • Binding curses
  • Prayers for justice
  • Erotic curses
  • Further erotic magic
  • Voodoo dolls and magical images
  • Amulets
  • Legislation against magic
  • Magicians on trial

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching44Classes (1 x 2 hours per week)
Guided independent study256Independent study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Oral presentation15 minutes1-7Mark and written comments

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay 1 252000 words1-8Mark and written comments
Essay 2 252000 words1-8Mark and written comments
Gobbet test 1151 hour1-5Mark and written comments
Gobbet test 2151 hour1-5Mark and written comments
Oral presentation 2015 minutes1-7Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay 1 Essay 1 1-8Referral/Deferral period
Essay 2Essay 21-8Referral/Deferral period
Gobbet test 1Gobbet test 11-5Referral/Deferral period
Gobbet test 2Gobbet test 21-5Referral/Deferral period
Oral presentationOral presentation (recorded)1-7Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Core sourcebook:

  • Ogden, D. 2009. Magic, Witchcraft and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds. A Sourcebook. Second edition. OUP USA, New York. NB must be SECOND EDITION – make sure your book is GREEN and not black!

Background reading:

  • Betz, H.D., ed. 1992. The Greek magical papyri in translation. 2nd ed. Chicago.
  • Dickie, M. 2001. Magic and magicians in the Graeco-Roman world. London.
  • Faraone, C. 1999. Ancient Greek love magic. Cambridge, MA.
  • Faraone, C., and Obbink, D., eds. 1991. Magika hiera. New York.
  • Felton, D. 1999. Haunted Greece and Rome. Austin.
  • Flint, V., Luck, G., Gordon, R., and Ogden, D. 1999. Athlone history of witchcraft and magic in Europe. Vol. 2. London.
  • Gager, J. 1992. Curse tablets and binding spells from the ancient world. New York.
  • Graf, F. 1997. Magic in the ancient world. Cambridge, MA.
  • Ogden, D. 2001. Greek and Roman necromancy. Princeton.

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Key words search

Classics, Greek, Witchcraft, Ghosts, Myth