Magic & Witchcraft in Ancient Greece & Rome – Prof. Marguerite Johnson – 7 Lecture Course

In this special seven-part series, Marguerite Johnson takes us on a magical mystery tour of magic and witchcraft in ancient Greece and Rome, with a sprinkling of Egyptian occult practices. Each lecture introduces a particular type of magic; is extensively illustrated with archaeological evidence; features excerpts from ancient writing; and includes a fascinating reading list for those interested in pursuing the topics in more detail. 

Curse Tablets, Binding Spells and Poppets in Antiquity : April 9th – Lecture I

 In this illustrated talk, Professor Marguerite Johnson takes us on a tour of the intriguing and widespread practice of cursing in the ancient Mediterranean. The focus is on curse tablets and binding spells; a discussion of the many examples of curse tablets and binding spells; the uncanny poppets that sometimes accompanied these spells; and a deep dive into the many and varied reasons for employing them. Finally, we ask: Did they work?  

For a peak preview of some of the topics we’ll be looking at, read Marguerite Johnson’s ‘Spells, charms, erotic dolls: love magic in the ancient Mediterranean’, The Conversation, June 27, 2018: 

You may also like Kate Murphy’s ‘Secrets of Ancient Magic’, Expedition Magazine 58.1 (2016): 

The Louvre Doll. 4th century CE, clay and bronze. E 27145b. Louvre Museum, Paris. 


Marguerite Johnson is Professor of Classics and Ancient History at The University of Newcastle, Australia. Her research expertise is predominantly in ancient Mediterranean cultural studies, particularly in representations of gender, sexualities, and the body. She also researches Classical Reception Studies, and ancient magic. Marguerite has published on magic, particularly the portrayal of witches, in Greek and Latin literature and was dramaturg on professional productions of Theocritus’ Idyll 2 (‘The Sorceress’) in 2019 and Euripides’ Medea in 2021. She also researches and publishes on the Australian witch, Rosaleen Norton, with whom she has held a fascination since childhood. Marguerite delivers one of the few undergraduate courses on ancient occultism (AHIS2370: Magic and Witchcraft in Greece and Rome) and supervises several PhD students working on aspects of historical and literary magic.

don’t worry if you miss it – we will send you a recording valid for two weeks the next day