Professor Fabrizio Conti Publishes Book on Magic in the Roman World

Professor Fabrizio Conti has published a new book titled “Nemo non Metuit”: Magic in the Roman World (Trivent, 2022). The volume, which Professor Conti has edited along with Professor Elizabeth Ann Pollard from San Diego State University, is the second volume in the series “Advances in the History of Magic, Witchcraft and Religion” published by Trivent (Budapest) of which Professor Conti is the series editor.

Magic in the Roman World book cover

Magic in the Roman World book cover

The book discusses some of the fundamental themes in the development of the idea of magic, in all its facets, in the long chronological span of the Roman world, between the 8th century BCE and the 5th century CE. The volume is also the result of a team effort that has brought together fifteen among both accomplished scholars and young researchers at the beginning of their scholarly careers. The broad content of the volume includes studies on magical gems of Etruscan, Greek, and Phoenician background; curse tablets; amulets targeting malaria; erotic spells; the use of veneficia or poisons for magical purposes; judicial prayers in Roman Britain; witches in the literary tradition; the role of women in the matter of magic and divination; the figure of the “Orphic witch” in the age of Augustus; sorcerers and rivals of Jesus Christ; early-Christian sermons against magic and superstition; the fight of late-antique Church against magical powers.

On March 13 and 20, 2021, while the book project was still in the making, Professor Conti and Professor Pollard organized a two-day workshop held remotely that brought together interested students from John Cabot and San Diego State to discuss the process of creation of an academic book along with the editors, the authors, and the publisher of this volume.

Professor Michael D. Bailey (Iowa State University), in his review of Professor Conti’s and Professor Pollard’s volume has written: “These essays span the full range of magic’s history in the Roman world, from real practices performed via physical objects that we can in some cases still hold in our hands today (gems, curse tablets) to literary constructions that exerted tremendous force on both contemporary and subsequent imaginings about how magic operated and who magicians were supposed to be. Focus falls on the imperial center and on the provinces, and extends chronologically from Rome’s own appropriation of the magical practices of earlier cultures to the critical metamorphosis that ideas about magic underwent in late antiquity, as Christian beliefs became dominant across the classical world. With this breadth, the volume provides an excellent introduction to Roman magic and an essential basis for those interested in magic in later periods as well.”

Fabrizio Conti (Ph.D., Central European University, 2011) is Lecturer in History at John Cabot University in Rome and an Arts and Humanities Advisor at the American Academy in Rome. His teaching and research interests span the late antique, medieval, and renaissance periods, with an interdisciplinary approach to cultural and religious developments and special focus on the history of magic and witchcraft. His publications include the monograph Witchcraft, Superstition, and Observant Franciscan Preachers: Pastoral Approach and Intellectual Debate in Renaissance Milan (Brepols, 2015) and the edited volume Civilizations of the Supernatural: Witchcraft, Ritual, and Religious Experience in Late Antique, Medieval, and Renaissance Traditions (Trivent, 2020) with a foreword by Teofilo F. Ruiz.

Elizabeth Ann Pollard (Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2001), is Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence at San Diego State University, where she has been teaching courses in Roman History, World History, and witchcraft studies since 2002. Her research has investigated women accused of witchcraft in the Roman world as well as the exchange of goods and ideas between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean in the early centuries of the Common Era. Apart from her work on magic, Pollard is co-author of Worlds Together Worlds Apart Concise, the WTWA Full 6th edition, and the Worlds Together Worlds Apart, Companion Reader (W.W. Norton).  She has also published on various pedagogical and digital history topics.