Reviewed by Radcliffe G. Edmonds III
This little volume provides a nice, brief, French overview of magic in the ancient Greco-Roman world. As the author notes, there has been a resurgence of interest in ancient magic in recent years, and the scholarship has been proliferating rapidly, which makes the need for a good introductory survey all the more pressing. This survey, covering evidence from around the Greco-Roman world in the broadest sense (not just the Mediterranean, but Roman Britain and Gaul) over nearly a millennium, does not aim at depth, but rather provides a quick glimpse into the range of materials and ideas that fall under the rubric of ancient magic.
The structure of the book is not particularly clear; the chapters treat various topics pertaining to ancient magic, but there is no logical structure that ties them to one another. The introductory chapter sets out the scope of the book, both in time and in space, and provides a summary of the types of evidence to be surveyed, but it never actually tackles the thorny problem of what magic is or how to define it. At various points in the volume, Martin relates magic to religion, medicine, and philosophy, but it would be helpful to understand from the outset where he sees the boundaries of the categories or even what issues are at stake in drawing the boundaries.