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. 

Spell Books in the Ancient World: May 28th – Lecture III

In ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt, spell books were expensive, precious and a major item in the toolkit of the professional magician. Despite various emperors attempts to rid the ancient world of these collections of papyri, several significant artefacts still remain, including the famous Greek Magical Papyri. In this illustrated talk, Professor Marguerite Johnson discusses the collection known as the Greek Magical Papyri, a spell book belonging to a magician from Graeco-Roman Egypt, which was buried with him (perhaps to assist him in working magic in the afterlife). The features of the Greek Magical Papyri, such as the inclusion of magical words, potent drawings, and sigils will be discussed to shed light on some of the intricacies of ancient magical practices.  

For a peak preview of some of the topics we’ll be looking at, read Jessica Nadeau’s ‘Curious and Unusual Spells from the Greek Magical Papyri’, Ancient Origins, April 8, 2022: 

You may also like Federica Micucci’s ‘Love spells in the Greek Magical Papyri’, Medieval manuscripts blog, February 13, 2021: 

Magical Handbook (P.Lond. I 121 = Greek Magical Papyri VII), Egypt 3rd Century CE. British Library.


Marguerite Johnson is a classical scholar who works on ancient Mediterranean cultural studies, particularly gender, sexuality, and the body. She also researches ancient magic, particularly the portrayal of witches, in Greek and Latin literature. When she’s not thinking about the ancient world, Marguerite researches and writes on the 20th-century Australian witch, Rosaleen Norton, with whom she has held a fascination since childhood, as well as modern aspects of sexuality and gender. Marguerite was, until 2022, Professor of Classics and Ancient History at The University of Newcastle, Australia. She is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities.

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