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Greek magical hymns: Egyptian voices in Greek dress? The nature of divinity in Graeco-Egyptian magical literature

Bortolani, LM; (2012) Greek magical hymns: Egyptian voices in Greek dress? The nature of divinity in Graeco-Egyptian magical literature. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

This study investigates a special sub-section of the corpus of Greek magical papyri (PGM): the so-called Greek magical hymns, the metrical sections of PGM. In a corpus that is usually seen as a significant expression of religious syncretism and that shows strong Egyptian influence, these hymns were for long considered to be the ‘most authentically Greek’ contribution. My research focuses not so much on philology as on history of religions and aims at defining the nature of divinity displayed by these hymns according to its Greek or Egyptian origin. The most representative hymns are given a line-by-line commentary following an approach that takes into consideration language, style, religious concepts, and ritual practice. The methodology employed is to examine earlier Greek and Egyptian sources and religious-magical traditions with a view to finding textual or conceptual parallels, in order to determine which divine aspects can be ascribed either to a Greek or an Egyptian background. The collected data helps to answer questions such as: were the magical hymns composed in a Greek or Egyptian environment? Why were some Greek or Egyptian divine features preserved and others not? Can these reasons tell us anything about the mutual reception of the two cultures? The analysis, though expected to open a debate on the mechanics of assimilation, shows that at a conceptual level the nature of divinity described does not display any unambiguous trace of mutual religious influence. Contrary to the global religious trend, these hymns did not feel any urgency to escape the indigenousness of their deities, and were the expression of a world in which the theological incompatibilities between the Greek and Egyptian religions were far from being overcome. In spite of the apparent syncretism, Greek metre was used to convey two traditional and distinct religious imageries.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Greek magical hymns: Egyptian voices in Greek dress? The nature of divinity in Graeco-Egyptian magical literature
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Greek and Latin

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