Greek and Roman Necromancy

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Overview

In classical antiquity, there was much interest in necromancy--the consultation of the dead for divination. People could seek knowledge from the dead by sleeping on tombs, visiting oracles, and attempting to reanimate corpses and skulls. Ranging over many of the lands in which Greek and Roman civilizations flourished, including Egypt, from the Greek archaic period through the late Roman empire, this book is the first comprehensive survey of the subject ever published in any language.

Daniel Ogden surveys the places, performers, and techniques of necromancy as well as the reasons for turning to it. He investigates the cave-based sites of oracles of the dead at Heracleia Pontica and Tainaron, as well as the oracles at the Acheron and Avernus, which probably consisted of lakeside precincts. He argues that the Acheron oracle has been long misidentified, and considers in detail the traditions attached to each site. Readers meet the personnel--real or imagined--of ancient necromancy: ghosts, zombies, the earliest vampires, evocators, sorcerers, shamans, Persian magi, Chaldaeans, Egyptians, Roman emperors, and witches from Circe to Medea. Ogden explains the technologies used to evocate or reanimate the dead and to compel them to disgorge their secrets. He concludes by examining ancient beliefs about ghosts and their wisdom--beliefs that underpinned and justified the practice of necromancy.

The first of its kind and filled with information, this volume will be of central importance to those interested in the rapidly expanding, inherently fascinating, and intellectually exciting subjects of ghosts and magic in antiquity.

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Editorial Reviews

Times Literary Supplement - Peter Green
[A] substantial contribution. . . . Ogden takes on . . . Necromancy . . . with a huge diachronic sweep and exhaustive trawling of evidence. . . . [This] book will be indispensable to future scholars.
New York Review of Books - Jasper Griffin
The thought of raising and consulting the dead runs throughout the history of antiquity. . . . The dead who did come back were often in an angry and violent mood; a hero might be needed to vanquish them, or a potent magic to induce them to be gone. . . . Ogden's [is an] admirably cool and scholarly discussion of necromancy.
International History Review - Julia Kindt
Ogden's book . . . makes it easy for the reader to follow and enjoy the beauty (and sometimes strangeness) of the sources and the accounts of necromancy they provide.
Religious Studies Review - Elise P. Garrison
It is rare and refreshing to read a book of the high caliber of the one under review. The scope is breathtaking, the sources cited are thorough and wide-ranging, and the author's own biases are either nonexistent or kept completely under control. Furthermore, the subject matter is so provocative and the writer's style is so direct and fast paced that it is difficult to put the book down once begun. . . . Whether one sits down to read the book cover to cover or comes to it as a resource tool, there will be no disappointment.
From the Publisher

"[A] substantial contribution. . . . Ogden takes on . . . Necromancy . . . with a huge diachronic sweep and exhaustive trawling of evidence. . . . [This] book will be indispensable to future scholars."--Peter Green, Times Literary Supplement

"The thought of raising and consulting the dead runs throughout the history of antiquity. . . . The dead who did come back were often in an angry and violent mood; a hero might be needed to vanquish them, or a potent magic to induce them to be gone. . . . Ogden's [is an] admirably cool and scholarly discussion of necromancy."--Jasper Griffin, New York Review of Books

"Ogden's book . . . makes it easy for the reader to follow and enjoy the beauty (and sometimes strangeness) of the sources and the accounts of necromancy they provide."--Julia Kindt, International History Review

"It is rare and refreshing to read a book of the high caliber of the one under review. The scope is breathtaking, the sources cited are thorough and wide-ranging, and the author's own biases are either nonexistent or kept completely under control. Furthermore, the subject matter is so provocative and the writer's style is so direct and fast paced that it is difficult to put the book down once begun. . . . Whether one sits down to read the book cover to cover or comes to it as a resource tool, there will be no disappointment."--Elise P. Garrison, Religious Studies Review

"For specialists, this is a treasure trove of the ancient evidence on necromancy and its related modern scholarship."--Choice

Times Literary Supplement
[A] substantial contribution. . . . Ogden takes on . . . Necromancy . . . with a huge diachronic sweep and exhaustive trawling of evidence. . . . [This] book will be indispensable to future scholars.
— Peter Green
New York Review of Books
The thought of raising and consulting the dead runs throughout the history of antiquity. . . . The dead who did come back were often in an angry and violent mood; a hero might be needed to vanquish them, or a potent magic to induce them to be gone. . . . Ogden's [is an] admirably cool and scholarly discussion of necromancy.
— Jasper Griffin
International History Review
Ogden's book . . . makes it easy for the reader to follow and enjoy the beauty (and sometimes strangeness) of the sources and the accounts of necromancy they provide.
— Julia Kindt
Religious Studies Review
It is rare and refreshing to read a book of the high caliber of the one under review. The scope is breathtaking, the sources cited are thorough and wide-ranging, and the author's own biases are either nonexistent or kept completely under control. Furthermore, the subject matter is so provocative and the writer's style is so direct and fast paced that it is difficult to put the book down once begun. . . . Whether one sits down to read the book cover to cover or comes to it as a resource tool, there will be no disappointment.
— Elise P. Garrison
Choice
For specialists, this is a treasure trove of the ancient evidence on necromancy and its related modern scholarship.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691119687
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 1/12/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Table of Contents


List of Figures vii
Preface ix
Abbreviations xi
Introduction xv
PART I: PLACES 1
Chapter 1: Tombs and Battlefields 3
Chapter 2: Oracles of the Dead 17
Chapter 3: The Heracleia Pontica and Tainaron Nekuomanteia 29
Chapter 4: The Acheron Nekuomanteia 49
Chapter 5: The Avernus Nekuomanteia 61
Chapter 6: Incubation and Dreaming 75
PART II: PEOPLE 93
Chapter 7: Evocators, Sorcerers, and Ventriloquists 95
Chapter 8: Shamus, Pythagoreans, and Orphics 116
Chapter 9: Aliens and Witches 128
Chapter 10: Necromancy among the Romans 149
PART III: TECHNOLOGY 161
Chapter 11: Traditional Rites of Evocation 163
Chapter 12: From Bowl Divination to Boy-Sacrifice 191
Chapter 13: Reanimation and Talking heads 202
PART IV: THEORY 217
Chapter 14: Ghosts in Necromancy 219
Chapter 15: The Wisdom of the Dead 231
Chapter 16: Between Life and Death 251
CONCLUSION: Attitudes toward Necromancy 263
Bibliography 269
Index 303
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