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Arcana Mundi

, 568 pages
April 2006
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Arcana Mundi

Magic and the Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Collection of Ancient Texts

second edition

Magic, miracles, daemonology, divination, astrology, and alchemy were the arcana mundi, the "secrets of the universe," of the ancient Greeks and Romans. In this path-breaking collection of Greek and Roman writings on magic and the occult, Georg Luck provides a comprehensive sourcebook and introduction to magic as it was practiced by witches and sorcerers, magi and astrologers, in the Greek and Roman worlds.

In this new edition, Luck has gathered and translated 130 ancient texts dating from the eighth century BCE through the fourth century CE. Thoroughly revised, this volume offers several new elements: a comprehensive general introduction, an epilogue discussing the persistence of ancient magic into the early Christian and Byzantine eras, and an appendix on the use of mind-altering substances in occult practices. Also added is an extensive glossary of Greek and Latin magical terms.

In Arcana Mundi Georg Luck presents a fascinating—and at times startling—alternative vision of the ancient world. "For a long time it was fashionable to ignore the darker and, to us, perhaps, uncomfortable aspects of everyday life in Greece and Rome," Luck has written. "But we can no longer idealize the Greeks with their 'artistic genius' and the Romans with their 'sober realism.' Magic and witchcraft, the fear of daemons and ghosts, the wish to manipulate invisible powers—all of this was very much a part of their lives."

Georg Luck is professor emeritus in the Department of Classics at the Johns Hopkins University. He has served as editor of American Journal of Philology and is the author of The Latin Love Elegy (Methuen, 1969) and others.

"This lengthy volume contains wide-ranging samples of material from literature, philosophy, and real-life practitioners of magic... There is immense food for thought here in many aspects of the field."

"A 'must' for mythology courses and the classical civilization curriculum!"

"An excellent work. It will rapidly and deservedly become one of the standard works on magic and the occult in the Greek and Roman worlds."

"An excellent translation of ancient texts on the subject, but it's a lot more than that. It's a glimpse into the minds of the everyday people of the times and what made them turn, what made them stop, what made them look over their shoulders."

"An indispensable guide."

"No one currently at work in ancient magic or related fields can remotely compare with Luck for the breadth and profundity of his knowledge of the literary texts... or for the humility and lightness of touch with which he conveys his scholarship."

"A hugely important achievement."