Heirs of Egypt

Egyptian elements in Greek magical hymns

Although the surviving magical hymns are written in Greek and contain many elements in terms of form and content that link them to the Greek hymnic and poetic tradition, there are also many aspects of these compositions that do not come from the Greek world, but have Egyptian origins. In this paper, and taking advantage of the wonderful opportunity given to me by Professor José Ramón Pérez-Accino to participate in the V Encuentro de Egiptología Complutense (EEC5, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 30-31 May 2022), I wanted to reflect on some of these aspects.

Hymns to (en)chant to the gods

In a 1991 article, Fritz Graf tried to dismantle the view of magic as a ritual field dominated by coercion and alien to persuasion. Already Plato insists that magicians, in addition to casting spells, know how to “persuade the gods.” Graf, who was later followed by many other researchers, added his contribution to the discussion on the existence (or not) of a distinction between magic and religion by means of a practical exercise: the analysis of some magical logoi that are indistinguishable from a literary-religious hymn in terms of form and content. Well, among the logoi used in magical practices, this feature is particularly striking in connection with a specific set of compositions: the hymns of the Apollonian sphere.  I devoted my doctoral dissertation to them (Edición y comentario de los himnos a Apolo, Helio y el Dios Supremo de los papiros mágicos griegos, 2017) and this brief paper within the colloqium El género hímnico: desde el lejano Oriente hasta el Oriente grecorromano (University Complutense of Madrid, 20th-21st January, 2022).

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