Inducing and Warding Off Fever in Graeco-Roman Magic



Year of publication 2019
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
Description The interplay between magic and medicine in Classical Antiquity has been the focus of numerous studies, but they are usually limited to either a particular class of epigraphical documents (e.g. Lancellotti 2001) or a particular ailment (e.g. Faraone 2011a). For instance, the “uterine magic” and “wandering wombs” generated significant scholarly attention that was not materialized only in the individual case studies (e.g. Ritner 1984; Tomlin 1997; Mastrocinque 2005) but also in more general overviews (e.g. Aubert 1989; Faraone 2003; Faraone 2011b; Björklund 2016). Despite its well-attested presence in all different types of performative magic, fever (???????, febris) stood largely out of focus of researchers and – to my best knowledge – specialized studies exist only for Mesopotamian or Hebrew magic (Bácskay 2017; Lincicum 2008). In my talk, I will therefore analyse the uses and abuses of “fever” and its cognate terms in all relevant Greek and Latin epigraphical documents related to magical practice: defixiones (e.g. TheDeMa 490: … tradas illanc febri quartanae, tertianae, cottidianae …), inscribed gems (e.g. CBd 2325: ????????? ????? ??? ??????? …), amulets (e.g. I.Akrai 52: … ??? ??ß???, ???? ??????? ? ???? ?µ??????? ??ß??? …) and magical papyri (e.g. PGM XIV, 25–26: … ????ß??? ??? ????? [? ??? ?????] ????? ??? ?????? …). Whether the practitioners aim to induce fever or ward it off, its double nature as a burning amorous desire on the one hand and a crippling, potentially life-threatening affliction on the other offers interesting avenues of research into this hitherto rather unexplored topic.