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Byzantine Magic

Henry Maguire, editor

Dumbarton Oaks Other Titles in Byzantine Studies

Byzantine Studies, Byzantine History

This book may be freely downloaded here.


In recent years considerable attention has been given to magic in the societies of ancient Greece and Rome, of late antiquity, and of the medieval West. Much less attention, however, has been given to the phenomenon of magic in eastern Christendom during the middle ages.

The papers in this volume, written by specialists in several disciplines, explore the parameters and significance of magic in Byzantine society, from the fourth century to after the empire's fall. The authors address a wide variety of questions, some of which are common to all historical research into magic, and some of which are peculiar to the Byzantine context.

Among the topics discussed are the attitudes of the early church fathers toward the evil eye and their efforts to reconcile that belief with orthodox Christian theology, the physical evidence provided by archaeology for magical practices during the early Byzantine period, the concerns raised by the magical use of Christian images and the consequences for the design and presentation of icons, the ambiguous distinctions between holy and unholy miracles found in saints' lives and histories, the reactions of Byzantine intellectuals to the theory and practice of magic, and the changing attitudes toward magic between the late antique and medieval periods as revealed by imperial legislation and canon law. The last two chapters discuss the rich evidence for the continued importance of magic in the late Byzantine period, seen in texts such as practical manuals for magicians and proceedings of trials, and, finally, the transmission of much magical lore as a Byzantine legacy to the Slavs.

The authors reveal the scope, the forms, and the functioning of magic in Byzantine society, throwing light on a hitherto relatively little-known aspect of Byzantine culture, and, at the same time, expanding upon the contemporary debates concerning magic and its roles in pre-modern societies.

 
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