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Renassault

The price of a book in ancient Rome

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With a proliferation of middle eastern cults you might think so. However, I would point out that many of these cults did not appeal to educated classes. One in particular was popular among rural slaves. Notice also that verbal traditions are far more important in ancient times and since the Romans weren't shy of accusations of witchcraft, even in pre-christian times, you wouldn't expect such damning evidence to be lying around.

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Serendipitously, Yale have just sent me a copy of Cassons 'Libraries of the ancient world' as a reward for some work I did in August. (So why is it taking ABE two months to send a book I paid for in July? But I digress ...)

 

Anyway, a quick flip though this book suggests that it is highly relevant to the current discussion - for example this text quoted on p.131.

 

'Deios came to us and showed us the six parchment codices. We did not take any, but we collated eight others for which I gave 100 drachmas on account.'

 

This is 2nd century AD so inflation was about 10% from Martial's time.

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Did Romans had magic books? Some practices regarded by Romans as sorcery were forbidden and punished while others that we may consider magic were part of the state cults like divination in entrails or bird flight. Also Ancient medicine was something that we will regard as mostly magic rather then science. Modern distinctions between religion, magic and science were non existent for Romans.

 

Fragments of what might be considered magic books have been found by archaeologists in Egypt. For instance in one example from the fourth century AD (berlin papyrus.5026) there is a mention of The great headless one, a powerful demon. Supposedly owning one of these magical papyri was a capital offence.

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Obviously 20 Pfennigs in 1904 would not have been so cheap (pre-Weimar).

Good point!

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