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.

Ghosts in Antiquity and in Magic: April 30th – Lecture II

Ghosts played a major role in the belief system of the ancient Greeks and Romans. They featured in magic, helping spell-casters to ensure their curses were enacted and successful. They haunted all sorts of places – from battlefields to houses and the crossroads – sometimes to such an extent that professional magicians (and sometimes priests) were called upon to exorcise them. We end this lecture with some ancient ghost stories.   

For a peak preview of some of the topics we’ll be looking at, read Evelien Bracke’s ‘How the ancient world invoked the dead to help the living’, The Conversation, October 28, 2016: 

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

The Greek Stoic Philosopher Athenodorus Rents a Haunted House. Henry Justice Ford, c. 1900. 


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