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Cosmology, Astrology, and Magic: Discourse, Schemes, Power, and Literacy

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Chapter Summary

The pairing of astrology and magic derives from the ingenious fabrications of early-imperial delatores; but it received theoretical reinforcement from Pliny the Elder's tripartite model, which presented astrology as one of the three foundations of the fraudulentissima ars along with medicine and religion. Franz Cumont devoted a chapter of Les religions orientales to the pair. By the late 1950s, when Vermaseren conceived the EPRO project, both astrology and magic had fallen out of the agenda of the 'oriental religions'. As for the relation of the 'oriental religions' to the standard Hellenistic cosmology, only the cult of Mithras, with its interpretation of the cave as the cosmos, seems wholeheartedly to have adopted it. This chapter considers briefly the four themes: discourse, schemes, power and literacy in relation to cosmology, astrology and magic, all of them topics broached over the life-time of ÉPRO, if scarcely in the series itself.

Keywords: astral scheme; cult of Mithras; EPRO project; Franz Cumont; Maarten Vermaseren; magical discourse; oriental religion; standard Hellenistic cosmology

10.1163/9789004256903_005
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