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Chapter Summary

This chapter focuses on the study of magic by the historians of ancient religion and society by laying out concepts that challenge the conventional dichotomy between religion and magic, and highlighting the twin issues of the social meanings and uses of magical practice. One of the tasks at hand is the question of the specificity of magical practice in the Latin-speaking West. In this chapter, the authors try to weave together general observations on the wider problems when encountered, with summaries, discussions and sometimes criticism of the individual contributions. It is now reasonably well-established that there was no law specifically forbidding the practice of magic during the Principate. Of the numerous types of magical action in the Roman world, one can define malign and aggressive magic as the attempt, within culturally-specific contexts, to channel divine power, in its morally-ambivalent mode, in the pursuit of ego's immediate situational interests.

Keywords: ancient religion; Latin-speaking West; magical practice; Roman world; social meanings



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