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Study information

Magic, Witchcraft and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds

Module titleMagic, Witchcraft and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds
Module codeCLA3033
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Professor Daniel Ogden (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The module investigates the wide range of evidence from the Greek and Roman worlds for the practice and representation of magic and witchcraft and beliefs about ghosts and the practical manipulation thereof. Subjects include curse tablets, voodoo dolls, Greek magical papyri, amulets, and a wide range of entertaining and occasionally gory literary sources, including ghost stories.

Module aims - intentions of the module

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.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 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. In particular, they will be able to describe and explain a number of the non-intuitive thought-processes that underpinned magical practice.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Understand and explain the nature of a literary tradition; critically evaluate same
  • 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

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 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. Through presentations, develop and encourage reflection on public communication skills; students should develop confidence and clarity in the delivery of these.
  • 8. Through essays, develop independent research skills and skills in IT and scholarly formats

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:

  • Introduction, orientation and bibliography;
  • 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

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 202000 words1-8Mark and written comments
Essay 2 202000 words1-8Mark and written comments
Oral presentation 1015 mins 1-7Mark and written comments
Exam 503 hours1-6Mark 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
EssayEssay1-8August ref/def period
ExamExam1-6August ref/def period

Re-assessment notes

Re-assessment is not available for oral presentations.

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.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Classics, Greek, Witchcraft, Ghosts, Myth

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

The successful completion of at least 90 credits at level 2, of which at least 30 must be in Classics and Ancient History

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date