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Magic in the Ancient World

Level 1 (CQFW Level 4), 10 Credits.


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Course Description

In many societies of the ancient world magic was seen as absolutely real and played an important role in how people lived. This course will explore magical practices and theories in ancient Near Eastern, Greek and Roman cultures.  Using literary and historical texts as well as visual and material artefacts and evidence, this course will examine a wide range of magical practices and techniques including amulets, drugs and incantations, curse tablets, sacrifice, divination, shape-changing and necromancy.  From Babylonian omen texts to Greek mirror divination to witchcraft in Roman epic (to give just a few examples), this course will aim to give a comprehensive overview and understanding of magic in the ancient world.

Who is this course for?

This course is for anyone with an interest in ancient history and the enthusiasm to take that interest further. It operates as part of the Exploring the Past pathway, and will equip you with the knowledge, understanding and skills that will help you to study other courses in the pathway.

Learning and Teaching

The course is delivered over nine evening classes through a mixture of lectures, class discussions, group-work and workshop-style activities. Each two-hour session will include elements of direct student participation to hone your skills in interpreting evidence and in pursuing academic study more generally. These evening sessions are supplemented by support and activities delivered online via Learning Central, the university’s Virtual Learning Environment.

Coursework and Assessment

Students will be expected to complete two pieces of assessed work: a 500 word source analysis exercise and a 1000 word essay Advice and support will be provided for both assignments and you will receive detailed feedback relating to strengths and areas for improvement on both pieces of work.

Reading suggestions

Betz, Hans Dieter, The Greek magical papyri in translation, including the Demotic spells, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1992.
Dickie, Matthew, Magic and Magicians in the Graeco-Roman World, London: Routledge, 2001.
Graf, Fritz, Magic in the Ancient World, Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997.
Luck, Georg, Arcana Mundi: Magic and the Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds, Wellingborough: Crucible, 1987.
Noegel, Scott (ed.), Prayer, Magic, and the Stars in the Ancient and Late Antique World, Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003.
Ogden, D., Magic, Witchcraft and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds: A Sourcebook, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Library and Computing Facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University library and computing facilities. You can find out more about these facilities on our website www.cardiff.ac.uk/learn under Student Information, or by ringing the Centre on (029) 2087 0000.

Accessibility of Courses

Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and Dyslexia screening. Please contact the Centre on (029) 2087 0000 for an information leaflet.

Further Information

A range of further information can be found on our web site www.cardiff.ac.uk/learn or in Choices.  This includes the times and dates of courses and an explanation of accreditation and credit levels.