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Guest spartacus

Rome And The Occult

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Guest spartacus

Today I had an interesting chat with a work-mate on the Occult and Black Magic, he suggests it goes back centuries and mentioned the Romans!

 

I am not sure if he is just trying to "wind me up", as I have not come across any such theories of Romans dabbling in the Black Arts!

 

So a bit of help from those users in the know please?

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The "occult" was frowned on by the authorities, who banished or even proscribed the death penalty for certain practices. Having said that, there were certainly people who believed in astrology, curses, and so forth.

 

I really don't know why your friend suggested Romans as the basis of the Occult. When I think of cultures for whom "magical" practices were culturally widespread, I would think of Egypt or possibly the Celts, but certainly not the Greeks or the Romans.

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Guest spartacus

Ursus

 

My work-mate did not suggest the Romans were the basis for the Occult, I think he was commenting they may have dabbled in it!

 

As I said I have never come accross it and I have been following Ancient Rome for over 37 years!

 

I think he may be confused with Paganism, Druids and the like!

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Black Magic & Black Arts seem to be modern terms for medieval practices. But perhaps my understanding of what these are is lacking.

In the late Empire there were people (almost always in the Greek east) such as Iamblichus who detailed the calling of daimones, but such practices are foreign to Latin culture.

Pliny the Elder went on many tirades against the magi in his Natural History.

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In one example Dio Cassius tells us that the Egyptian Magi Arnuphis, the friend and advisor to Marcus Aurelius, was supposedly responsible for the 'Thundering Legion' episode. The same episode has also been explained numerous ways, and was especially adopted by early Christians, but Cassius shows that the Magi could be quite popular at times.

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But they had to rely on Egyptians and other Easterners for such things, because Rome and Greece didn't have much of a tradition of magical things (unless you count divination, which is a different animal). The lack of magical stuff in the Greco-Roman cultural framework is one of the reasons why the native religions fell out of favor and why people turned to Orientalism - they wanted a tradition of magic and mysticism to help save them from troubled times, and they couldn't get such things from their own religions.

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