Pasts Imperfect (11.3.22)
Ancient Magic, Star Maps, the Ethics of 3D Modeling the Past, and More
This week, Jenny Cromwell discusses new books and resources on magic in the ancient world. Then, the lost star catalogue of Hipparchus, Autism and Classics, maps of Asia Minor, 3D modeling the ancient world, and much more.
Accessing Ancient Magic by Jenny Cromwell
The 21st century’s surge in the study of magic in the ancient world is so potent that one may expect it to be accompanied by the faint echoes of words of ritual power, the detritus of magical ingredients, and the faint whiff of something indeterminable, perhaps mineral, perhaps animal. The past month has seen the publication of three edited volumes on different aspects of magic in the ancient, antique, and early medieval periods. Magikon zōon is an open access volume, edited by Korshi Dosoo and Jean-Charles Coulon, which brings together 21 papers that examine the connections between animals and magic. The collected studies cover a broad chronologic and geographic range, spanning from Mesopotamia in the second millennium BCE to 15th century CE Britain. By bringing together such diverse material and topics, drawing upon the range of surviving (primarily textual and amuletic) sources, the ambiguity of magic is highlighted, and the impossibility of producing one overarching definition that can be applied to all times and places. Yet, it is an ambiguity that is central to much of (especially pre-modern) human existence. And by embracing the ‘animal turn’ in the humanities and social sciences, this volume reflects on the nature of the relationship between humans and animals. By interweaving these two factors, magic and animals, this volume provides new perspectives on the human experience.
The two other edited volumes that have recently appeared (unfortunately not open access) focus on magical texts themselves. The Iconography of Magic, edited by Raquel Martin Hernández, presents nine in-depth case studies that examine the non-textual elements of magical artefacts, including images (many of which involve animals and so connect this volume with the previous one) and paratextual features. The third volume, The Greco-Egyptian Magical Formularies edited by Christopher A. Faraone and Sofía Torallas Tovar, has a narrower scope, on Greek and Egyptian texts produced in Roman Egypt. By focussing on the material aspects of these handbooks, the eleven chapters contribute not only to the study of magic itself but of book production, scribal culture, and the consumption of magical works.
In addition to these new volumes, a number of online sources are also available to anybody interested in the study of ancient magic. Arguably the most impressive database dedicated to the topic is Coptic Magical Papyri: Vernacular Religion in Late Roman and Early Islamic Egypt, the result of a research project at Würzburg University under the direction of Korshi Dosoo. In addition to providing information about texts (including transcriptions, translations, and bibliography), the website hosts a blog and podcast on related topics, as well as a comprehensive bibliography for both Coptic and Greek magical texts. The Leuven Database of Ancient Books, which collects literary works from ca. 500 BCE to 800 CE, also includes magical texts in a range of languages. However, as it is part of the Trismegistos database, it is now behind a paywall and so only fully accessible (beyond basic searches) to those with a subscription. But other public-facing websites, especially blogs, are available and aim to make the topic – and its connected sources – accessible to wider audiences. Transmission of Magical Knowledge accompanies the project on the study of magical handbooks run by Christopher A. Faraone and Sofía Torallas Tovar at the University of Chicago. In addition to updates on project activities, it also includes links to images of the material being studied. Magical texts also regularly appear on my own blog, Papyrus Stories, especially from Late Antique and Early Islamic Egypt.
These studies and resources attest to the continuing allure and power that magic wields in the modern world. As Dosoo and Coulon remark in the introduction to their volume: “To study history in all its weirdness, its alienness – much of which falls under “magic”, broadly understood – is to accept the contingency of even our own conceptions of reality, and to broaden the spectrum of possibilities of what it might mean to be human.”
Public Humanities and a Global Antiquity Online
In Live Science, a report that the oldest fully intact “star map” has been discovered, as published in the new volume of the Journal for the History of Astronomy. Using multispectral imaging on a 5th or 6th century CE manuscript of Aratus’ Phaenomena, the palimpsest revealed much more: a portion of Hipparchus’ lost Star Catalogue.
In particular [the manuscript study] confirms that [Hipparchus’] Star Catalogue was originally composed in equatorial coordinates. It also confirms that Ptolemy’s Star Catalogue was not based solely on data from Hipparchus’ Catalogue. Finally, the available numerical evidence is consistent with an accuracy within 1° of the real stellar coordinates, which would make Hipparchus’ Catalogue significantly more accurate than his successor Claudius Ptolemy’s.
Over at the SCS Blog, a number of new and important posts have been published. In an informative interview, Lylaah Bhalerao speaks to Sarah Derbew about her new book, Untangling Blackness in Greek Antiquity, but also discusses Brooklyn, mentorship, turning a dissertation into a book, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition, “The African Origin of Civilization.” Also of note is Kristina Chew’s two-part essay on “Loving the Impossible: Greek, Latin and Autism.” Check out both Part I and Part II.
In the History of Classical Scholarship journal, Richard Talbert has a new open access article on “The Exploration of Asia Minor: Kiepert Maps Unmentioned by Ronald Syme and Louis Robert.” In his thorough look at the maps of Asia Minor, Talbert examines the “successive obstacles to completing a triangulated map of Turkey.” And in other ancient geography news, the Atlas of Classical History: Revised Edition will finally be published with Routledge Press in January 2023. This atlas has long been a staple for introductory courses and for those looking for an entry point into the spatial dynamics of the ancient Mediterranean.
There is a new database to explore online: The Ancient Mediterranean Digital Project is an "open-access database on ship representations of the Mediterranean basin broadly covering the Late Bronze and Early Iron Age periods [2000-500 BCE]"created by Tzveta Manolova.
The Gods have heard our prayers! Loeb has finally added a navigation tool to the online Loeb Classical Library. Expect to cuss at the screen about 30% less.
Lectures, Conferences, and Workshops
On November 23, 2022 at 16:00 GMT, there will be an online roundtable and panel held on the “Ethics of 3D and Cultural Heritage.” Panelists include: Saima Akhtar, Abira Hussein, Jelena Porsanger, and Chao Tayiana. This important discussion is hosted by the School of Advanced Study, UCL. You can register here.
Over at Everyday Orientalism, a panel on the precaritization of academia is being held at 10:00 am ET on November 4, 2022. Join Flavia Amaral, Husseina Dinani, Max Goldman, Khodadad Rezakhani, Derek Silva, and Rachel Yuen-Collingridge on a panel chaired by Vicky Austen on precarious labor in the field. RSVP here.
New Antiquity Journal Issues (by @YaleClassicsLib)
European Journal of Archaeology Vol. 25, No. 4 (2002)
Mnemosyne Vol. 75, No. 6 (2022) NB: Maria Marcinkowska-Rosół & Sven Sellmer, “The Mind as Container: A Study of a Metaphor in Homer and Hesiod with a Parallel Analysis of the Sanskrit Epics”
History of Humanities Vol. 7, No. 2 (2022) NB: Blaž Zabel “Toward a New History of Classical Scholarship” Review Essay
Manuscript Studies Vol. 7, No. 2 (2022)
Gnomon Vol. 94, No. 7 (2022)
Historia Vol. 71, No.4 (2022)
Hermes Vol. 150, No. 3 (2022)
Journal of Urban Archaeology Vol. 6 (2002) #openaccess
thersites Vol. 15 (2022) #openaccess There and Back Again: Tolkien and the Greco-Roman World
Journal of the History of Collections Vol. 34, No. 3 (2022) Bildung beyond borders: German–Jewish collectors outside Germany, c.1870–1940
The Journal of Roman Studies Vol. 112 (2022) NB: Matthew M. McCarty, “Reforesting Roman Africa: Woodland Resources, Worship, and Colonial Erasures.”
Digital Scholarship in the Humanities Vol. 37, No. 4 (2022) NB: Ben Nagy, “Rhyme in classical Latin poetry: Stylistic or stochastic?”
Shedet: Annual Peer-Reviewed Journal of the Faculty of Archaeology, Fayoum University Vol. 9 (2022) #openaccess Dedicated to Prof. Abdelhalim Noureldin
The Medieval Globe Vol. 8, No. 1 (2022) #openaccess New Evidence for the Dating and Impact of the Black Death in Asia
The Classical Journal Vol. 118, No. 1 (2022) NB Hamish Cameron, “Imagining Classics: Towards A Pedagogy of Gaming Reception"
Early Medieval Europe Vol. 30, No. 4 (2022) After the Carolingians: Catalonia and Europe in transformation
Avar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Life and Society in the Ancient Near East Vol. 1 No. 2 (2022)