A Brief Note on Goals and Methodologies


This project is intended to piece together how magic was encountered in daily life in Roman North Africa and what role it played in society; thus, its focus is not the nature of ancient magic, and no attempt is made to discuss issues such as: how magic was believed to work; theological concepts behind magic; its relation to mainstream religions; Egyptian and Near-Eastern influences in "Greco-Roman" magic; and so on. Numerous books and journal articles have already been written concerning these and related subjects. Since it is my primary goal to provide a context for Apuleius's defense speech, I have intentionally avoided discussing the Apologia. It is my hope that the reader, having explored this section of the Apologia Website, will gain a greater sense of the context for the charges against Apuleius and his defense against them.

The overwhelming majority of literary and archaeological evidence for magic in the ancient world does not come from North Africa, and I bring it into my discussion only in such places where I am fairly confident that it can illustrate an aspect of magic in North Africa for which we unfortunately do not have corresponding evidence. Inevitably, then, a great deal of materials are given relatively little attention: most of the magical papyri from the Papyri Graecae Magicae corpus and other recent publications; major curse tablet finds from such distant places as the Athenian agora and a sacred spring in Bath, England; tomb curses from Asia Minor; magic gems from Egypt; as well as literary sources dealing with situations unlikely to have existed in North Africa, such as accounts from Rome of political trials of those accused of using astrology to predict the emperor's death. Just as I have attempted to limit the evidence in terms of place of origin, so, too, have I tried to focus on Ap uleius's era, omitting evidence from other times unless it might shed light on Apuleius's. Although some materials cited do come from the centuries before the trial, I have made very little use of the sources after the third century and have also omitted hundreds of papyri, curse tablets, talismans, and so on that were of Christian origin or influence, since these would not have been common in Apuleius's world.[[1]]

Since this project is aimed at a wide audience as well as the scholarly community, I have opted to use existing translations and not to provide the Greek and Latin originals. When available, I have used the translations of the Loeb Classical Library. Most of the translations of magical texts come from the recent works of H.D. Betz, J. Gager, R.W. Daniel, F. Maltomini, and others. Some of the translations I have used, most notably F. Legge's translation of Hippolytus's Refutation of All Heresies, are erratic, and it is my hope to improve these passages in the not too distant future. Texts for which there are no existing translations -- most notably, several curse tablets from North Africa -- I have tackled myself, and I would welcome suggestions on how to refine my work.

In addition, it should be noted that scholarly works that are mentioned in footnotes but are not listed in the bibliography have not been consulted for this project, and these references were gleaned from various scholars' footnotes and included for the reader's convenience.

I would welcome any comments from the scholarly community regarding any mistakes or omissions, especially any sources for magic in Roman North Africa which I might have missed. The beauty of the fluid medium of the Internet is that corrections can easily be made, and will be if brought to my attention. Therefore, please do not hesitate to e-mail me at GHR@acpub.duke.edu regarding needed corrections or changes.