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Roman Agricultural Magic

By Britta K. Ager

[Snip] Abstract: In this dissertation, I examine the magical practices of Roman farmers, primarily through the Latin farming manuals; topics include the magical practices which the Roman agronomists recommend to farmers, the relationship of this material to other genres of magic such as curses and amulets, and how its inclusion in technical handbooks is part of the authors’ personas as upper-class landowners. The first chapter introduces the problem of identifying magic in the Latin agronomists; the authors are uneasy with obviously supernatural action and prefer to describe it as cultic ritual or ordinary technical activity. This chapter also considers the effects of genre and the double audience of landowners and slaves on how they present agricultural magic. Subsequent chapters examine particular types of magic on the farm with an eye towards how the agronomists’ personas determine the way they approach popular folklore; and how magic, technology, and cult interact despite being loosely constructed as opposing spheres in ancient thought.

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