What We Are Reading Today: Drawing Down the Moon

Updated 15 June 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Drawing Down the Moon

Authors: Radcliffe G. Edmonds III

What did magic mean to the people of ancient Greece and Rome? How did Greeks and Romans not only imagine what magic could do, but also use it to try to influence the world around them?
In Drawing Down the Moon, Radcliffe Edmonds, one of the foremost experts on magic, religion, and the occult in the ancient world, provides the most comprehensive account of the varieties of phenomena labeled as magic in classical antiquity, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.
Exploring why certain practices, images, and ideas were labeled as “magic” and set apart from “normal” kinds of practices, Edmonds gives insight into the shifting ideas of religion and the divine in the ancient past and in the later Western tradition.
Using fresh approaches to the history of religions and the social contexts in which magic was exercised, Edmonds delves into the archaeological record and classical literary traditions to examine images of witches, ghosts, and demons as well as the fantastic powers of metamorphosis and reversals of nature, such as the famous trick of drawing down the moon.


What We Are Reading Today: The Rise of Coptic

Updated 25 January 2020

What We Are Reading Today: The Rise of Coptic

Author: Jean-Luc Fournet

Coptic emerged as the written form of the Egyptian language in the third century, when Greek was still the official language in Egypt.
By the time of the Arab conquest of Egypt in 641, Coptic had almost achieved official status, but only after an unusually prolonged period of stagnation. Jean-Luc Fournet traces this complex history, showing how the rise of Coptic took place amid profound cultural, religious, and political changes in late antiquity, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.
For some 300 years after its introduction into the written culture of Egypt, Coptic was limited to biblical translation and private and monastic correspondence, while Greek retained its monopoly on administrative, legal, and literary writing.  
This changed during the sixth century, when Coptic began to penetrate domains that were once closed to it, such as literature, liturgy, regulated transactions between individuals, and communications between the state and its subjects.