HISTORY OF MAGIC AND
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
NEW YORK BOSTON CHICAGO DALLAS
ATLANTA SAN FRANCISCO
MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED
LONDON BOMBAY CALCUTTA
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
OF CANADA, LIMITED
HISTORY OF MAGIC AND
DURING THE FIRST THIRTEEN
CENTURIES OF OUR ERA
LYNN THORNDIKE, PH.D.
Professor of History in Western Reserve University
Author of The History of Medieval Europe
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.
Set up and printed. Published January, I933.
All rights reserved, including the right of re-
production tn whole or in part in any form.
Reprinted with corrections, August, 1929.
Printed in the United States of America by
THE FERRIS PRINTING COMPANY, NEW YORK
PREFACE . . . . . .. X
ABBREVIATIONS . . X
DESIGNATION OF MANUSCRIPTS . . . . XV
LIST OF WORKS FREQUENTLY CITED BY AUTHOR AND DATE OF
PUBLICATION OR BRIEF TITLE . . . .. XVii
I. INTRODUCTION . . . . . * I
BOOK I. THE ROMAN EMPIRE
FOREWORD . . . . . . . 39
2. PLINY'S NATURAL HISTORY . . . . 41
I. Its Place in the History of Science .... 42
II. Its Experimental Tendency . . . 53
III. Pliny's Account of Magic . . . 58
IV. The Science of the Magi ...... 64
V. Pliny's Magical Science . . . .. 72
3. SENECA AND PTOLEMY: NATURAL DIVINATION AND AS-
TROLOGY . . . . . . 100
4. GALEN ... ........ .. 1II7
I. The Man and His Times . . ... .II9
II. His Medicine and Experimental Science 139
III. His Attitude Toward Magic . . .. 165
5. ANCIENT APPLIED SCIENCE AND MAGIC: VITRUVIUS,
HERO, AND THE GREEK ALCHEMISTS . . .. 182
6. PLUTARCH'S ESSAYS . . .. . . 200
7. APULEIUS OF MADAURA . . . . .. 221
8. PHILOSTRATUS'S LIFE OF APPOLLONIUS OF TYANA .242
9. LITERARY AND PHILOSOPHICAL ATTACKS UPON SUPERSTI-
TION: CICERO, FAVORINUS, SEXTUS EMPIRICUS, LUCIAN 268
10. SPURIOUS MYSTIC WRITINGS OF HERMES, ORPHEUS, AND
ZOROASTER ............. .287
II. NEO-PLATONISM AND ITS RELATIONS TO ASTROLOGY AND
THEURGY ............. .298
12. AELIAN, SOLINUS, AND HORAPOLLO . .. . 322
BOOK II. EARLY CHRISTIAN THOUGHT
FOREWORD .............. 337
13. THE BOOK OF ENOCH .......... 3 340
14. PHILO JUDAEUS . . . . ... .348
I5. THE GNOSTICS . . . . . ... 360
16. THE CHRISTIAN APOCRYPHA . . ... 385
17. THE RECOGNITION OF CLEMENT AND SIMON MAGUS 400
I8. THE CONFESSION OF CYPRIAN AND SOME SIMILAR STORIES 428
19. ORIGEN AND CELSUS . ... . . 436
20. OTHER CHRISTIAN DISCUSSION OF MAGIC BEFORE AUGUS-
TINE . . . . .. 462
21. CHRISTIANITY AND NATURAL SCIENCE: BASIL, EPIPHA-
NIUS, AND THE PHYSIOLOGUS . . ... 480
22. AUGUSTINE ON MAGIC AND ASTROLOGY . . 504
23. THE FUSION OF PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN THOUGHT IN
THE FOURTH AND FIFTH CENTURIES . . . 523
BOOK III. THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES
24. THE STORY OF NECTANEBUS, OR THE ALEXANDER LEGEND
IN THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES ....... 551
25. POST-CLASSICAL MEDICINE . .. . .. 566
26. PSEUDO-LITERATURE IN NATURAL SCIENCE . . 594
-27. OTHER EARLY MEDIEVAL LEARNING: BOETHIUS, ISIDORE,
BEDE, GREGORY . . . . .. . 616
-28. ARABIC OCCULT SCIENCE OF THE NINTH CENTURY 641
29. LATIN ASTROLOGY AND DIVINATION, ESPECIALLY IN THE
NINTH, TENTH, AND ELEVENTH CENTURIES . 672
30. GERBERT AND THE INTRODUCTION OF ARABIC ASTROLOGY 697
31. ANGLO-SAXON, SALERNITAN AND OTHER LATIN MEDI-
CINE IN MANUSCRIPTS FROM THE NINTH TO THE
TWELFTH CENTURY . . . . .. 719
32. CONSTANTINUS AFRICANUS (C. 1015-1087) . . 742
-33. TREATISES ON THE ARTS BEFORE THE INTRODUCTION OF
ARABIC ALCHEMY . . . . .. 760
34. MARBOD... .. ...... . .. 775
General ....... .... 783
Bibliographical .. . .... . 81I
Manuscripts . . . . . . 831
BOOK IV. THE TWELFTH CENTURY
35. THE EARLY SCHOLASTIC: PETER ABELARD AND HUGH
OF ST. VICTOR ............ 3
36. ADELARD OF BATH . . . . . .. 14
37. WILLIAM OF CONCHES . . . . .. 50
38. SOME TWELFTH CENTURY TRANSLATORS, CHIEFLY OF
ASTROLOGY FROM THE ARABIC . . . .. 66
39. BERNARD SILVESTER; ASTROLOGY AND GEOMANCY 99
40. SAINT HILDEGARD OF BINGEN . .. . 124
41. JOHN OF SALISBURY . . . . 155
42. DANIEL OF MORLEY AND ROGER OF HEREFORD . . 171
43. ALEXANDER NECKAM ON THE NATURES OF THINGS 1. 88
44. MOSES MAIMONIDES . . . . . 205
45. HERMETIC BOOKS IN THE MIDDLE AGES . . 214
46. KIRANIDES . . . . .... . 229
47. PRESTER JOHN AND THE MARVELS OF INDIA . 236
48. THE PSEUDO-ARISTOTLE . . . . . 246
49. SOLOMON AND THE ARS NOTORIA . . . 279
50. ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL DREAM-BOOKS . . 290
BOOK V. THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY
FOREWORD .............. .305
51. MICHAEL SCOT . . . . . ... .307
52. WILLIAM OF AUVERGNE . . .. . 338
53. THOMAS OF CANTIMPRE . . .. . 372
54. BARTHOLOMEW OF ENGLAND . . . ... 401
55. ROBERT GROSSETESTE . . . . . 436
56. VINCENT OF BEAUVAIS . . . . . 457
57. EARLY THIRTEENTH CENTURY MEDICINE: GILBERT OF
ENGLAND AND WILLIAM OF ENGLAND . . 477
58. PETRUS HISPANUS . . . . . 488
,59. ALBERTUS MAGNUS . . . . .. 517
I. Life . . . . . 521
II. As a Scientist . . . . .. .528
III. His Allusions to Magic ...... .548
IV. Marvelous Virtues in Nature . . .. .560
V. Attitude Toward Astrology . . . 577
60. THOMAS AQUINAS .... . ..: .. 593
61. ROGER BACON . . . ... ... 616
I. Life ............. 619
II. Criticism of and Part in Medieval Learning 630
III. Experimental Science . . . .. 649
IV. Attitude Toward Magic and Astrology . 659
62. THE SPECULUM ASTRONOMIAE . . . .. 692
63. THREE TREATISES ASCRIBED TO ALBERT . . 720
64. EXPERIMENTS AND SECRETS: MEDICAL AND BIOLOGICAL 751
65. EXPERIMENTS AND SECRETS: CHEMICAL AND MAGICAL .777
66. PICATRIX . . . . . . 813
67. GUIDO BONATTI AND BARTHOLOMEW OF PARMA . .825
68. ARNALD OF VILLANOVA . . . . . 841
69. RAYMOND LULL . . . . . .. 862
70. PETER OF ABANO . . . .. . . 874
71. CECCO D'ASCOLI . . . . ... .948
72. CONCLUSION ........... 969
General ....... ... 985
Bibliographical . . . ... 007
Manuscripts . ... .... . . 027
This work has been long in preparation--ever since in
1902-1903 Professor James Harvey Robinson, when my
mind was still in the making, suggested the study of magic
in medieval universities as the subject of my thesis for the
master's degree at Columbia University-and has been
foreshadowed by other publications, some of which are
listed under my name in the preliminary bibliography.
Since this was set up in type there have also appeared:
"Galen: the Man and His Times," in The Scientific Monthly,
January, 1922; "Early Christianity and Natural Science,"
in The Biblical Review, July, 1922; "The Latin Pseudo-
Aristotle and Medieval Occult Science," in The Journal of
English and Germanic Philology, April, 1922; and notes on
Daniel of Morley and Gundissalinus in The English His-
torical Review. For permission to make use of these pre-
vious publications in the present work I am indebted to the
editors of the periodicals just mentioned, and also to the
editors of The Columbia University Studies in History,
Economics, and Public Law, The American Historical Re-
view, Classical Philology, The Monist, Nature, The Philo-
sophical Review, and Science. The form, however, of these
previous publications has often been altered in embodying
them in this book, and, taken together, they constitute but
a fraction of it. Book I greatly amplifies the account of
magic in the Roman Empire contained in my doctoral dis-
sertation. Over ten years ago I prepared an account of
magic and science in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries
based on material available in print in libraries of this
country and arranged topically, but I did not publish it, as it
seemed advisable to supplement it by study abroad and of
the manuscript material, and to adopt an arrangement by
authors. The result is Books IV and V of the present work.
My examination of manuscripts has been done especially
at the British Museum, whose rich collections, perhaps be-
cause somewhat inaccessibly catalogued, have been less used
by students of medieval learning than such libraries as the
Bodleian and Bibliotheque Nationale. I have worked also,
however, at both Oxford and Paris, at Munich, Florence,
Bologna, and elsewhere; but it has of course been impossible
to examine all the thousands of manuscripts bearing upon
the subject, and the war prevented me from visiting some
libraries, such as the important medieval collection of Am-
plonius at Erfurt. However, a fairly wide survey of the
catalogues of collections of manuscripts has convinced me
that I have read a representative selection. Such classified
lists of medieval manuscripts as Mrs. Dorothea Singer
has undertaken for the British Isles should greatly facilitate
the future labors of investigators in this field.
Although working in a rather new field, I have been aided
by editions of medieval writers produced by modern
scholarship, and by various series, books, and articles tend-
ing, at least, in the same direction as mine. Some such
publications have appeared or come to my notice too late
for use or even for mention in the text: for instance, another
edition of the De medicamentis of Marcellus Empiricus by
M. Niedermann; the printing of the Twelve Experiments
with Snakeskin of John Paulinus by J. W. S. Johnsson in
Bull. d. 1. socite' frang. d'hist. d. i. mid., XII, 257-67; the
detailed studies of Sante Ferrari on Peter of Abano; and
A. Franz, Die kirchlichen Benediktionen im Mittelalter,
1909, 2 vols. The breeding place of the eel (to which I
allude at I, 491) is now, as a result of recent investigation by
Dr. J. Schmidt, placed "about 2500 miles from the. mouth
of the English Channel and 500 miles north-east of the
Leeward Islands" (Discovery, Oct., 1922, p. 256) instead
of in the Mediterranean.
A man who once wrote in Dublin 1 complained of the
difficulty of composing a learned work so far from the
Bodleian and British Museum, and I have often felt the
same way. When able to visit foreign collections or the
largest libraries in this country, or when books have been
sent for my use for a limited period, I have spent all the
available time in the collection of material, which has been
written up later as opportunity offered. .Naturally one then
finds many small and some important points which require
verification or further investigation, but which must be
postponed until one's next vacation or trip abroad, by which
time some of the smaller points are apt to be forgotten.
'H. Cotton, Five Books of Maccabees, 1832, pp.-ix-x.
Of such loose threads I fear that more remain than could
be desired. And I have so often caught myself in the act of
misinterpretation, misplaced emphasis, and other mistakes,
that I have no doubt there are other errors as well as
omissions which other scholars will be able to point out and
which I trust they will. Despite this prospect, I have been
bold in affirming my independent opinion on any point
where I have one, even if it conflicts with that of specialists
or puts me in the position of criticizing my betters. Con-
stant questioning, criticism, new points of view, and conflict
of opinion are essential in the pursuit of truth.
After some hesitation I decided, because of the expense,
the length of the work, and the increasing unfamiliarity of
readers with Greek and Latin, as a rule not to give in the
footnotes the original language of passages used in the
text. I have, however, usually supplied the Latin or Greek
when I have made a free translation or one with which I
felt that others might not agree. But in such cases I advise
critics not to reject my rendering utterly without some fur-
ther examination of the context and line of thought of the
author or treatise in question, since the wording of particu-
lar passages in texts and manuscripts is liable to be corrupt,
and since my purpose in quoting particular passages is to
illustrate the general attitude of the author or treatise. In
describing manuscripts I have employed quotation marks
when I knew from personal examination or otherwise that
the Latin was that of the manuscript itself, and have
omitted quotation marks where thel Latin seemed rather to
be that of the description in the catalogue. Usually I have
let the faulty spelling and syntax of medieval copyists stand
without comment. But as I am not an expert in palaeog-
raphy and haveexamined a large number of manuscripts
primarily for'their substance, the:reader should not regard
my Latin quotations from them as exact transliterations or
carefully considered texts. He should also remember that
there is little uniformity i-h the manuscripts themselves.
I have tried to reduce the bulk of the footnotes by the
briefest forms of reference consistent with clearness-con-
sult lists of abbreviations and of works frequently cited by
author and date of publication-and by use of appendices
at the close of certain chapters.
Within the limits of a preface I may not enumerate all
the libraries where I have been permitted to work or which
have generously sent books-sometimes rare volumes-to
Cleveland for my use, or all the librarians who have person-
ally assisted my researches or courteously and carefully an-
swered my written inquiries, or the other scholars who have
aided or encouraged the preparation of this work, but I
hope they may feel that their kindness has not been in vain.
In library matters I have perhaps most frequently imposed
upon the good nature of Mr. Frederic C. Erb of the Co-
lumbia University Library, Mr. Gordon W. Thayer, in
charge of the John G. White collection in the Cleveland
Public Library, and Mr. George F. Strong, librarian of
Adelbert College, Western Reserve University; and I cannot
forbear to mention the interest shown in my work by Dr.
R. L. Poole at the Bodleian. For letters facilitating my
studies abroad before the war or application for a passport
immediately after the war I am indebted to the Hon.
Philander C. Knox, then Secretary of State, to Frederick
P. Keppel, then Assistant Secretary of War, to Drs. J.
Franklin Jameson and Charles F. Thwing, and to Professors
Henry E. Bourne and Henry Crew. Professors C. H.
Haskins,1 L. C. Karpinski, W. G. Leutner, W. A. Locy,
D. B. Macdonald, L. J. Paetow, S. B. Platner, E. C. Rich-
ardson, James Harvey Robinson, David Eugene Smith,
D'Arcy W. Thompson, A. H. Thorndike, E. L. Thorndike,
T. Wingate Todd, and Hutton Webster, and Drs. Charles
Singer and Se Boyar have kindly read various chapters in
manuscript or proof and offered helpful suggestions. The
burden of proof-reading has been generously shared with
me by Professors B. P. Bourland, C. D. Lamberton, and
Walter Libby, and especially by Professor Harold North
Fowler who has corrected proof for practically the entire
work. After receiving such expert aid and sound counsel
I must assume all the deeper guilt for such faults and indis-
cretions as the book may display.
'But Professor Haskins' recent article in Isis on "Michael Scot and
Frederick II" and my chapter on Michael Scot were written quite
Abhandl. Abhandlungen zur Geschichte der Mathema-
tischen Wissenschaften, begriindet von M.
Cantor, Teubner, Leipzig.
Addit. Additional Manuscripts in the British Museum.
Amplon. Manuscript collection of Amplonius Ratinck at
AN Ante-Nicene Fathers, American Reprint of the
Edinburgh edition, in 9 vols., 1913.
AS Acta sanctorum.
Beitrige Beitrage zur Geschichte der Philosophie des
Mittelalters, ed. by C. Baeumker, G. v. Hert-
ling, M. Baumgartner, et al., Miinster, 1891-.
BL Bodleian Library, Oxford.
BM British Museum, London.
BN Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.
Borgnet Augustus Borgnet, ed. B. Alberti Magni Opera
omnia, Paris, 1890-1899, in 38 vols.
Brewer Fr. Rogeri Bacon Opera quaedam hactenus in-
edita, ed. J. S. Brewer, London, 1859, in RS,
Bridges The Opus Maius of Roger Bacon, ed. J. H.
Bridges, I-II, Oxford, 1897; III, 1900.
CCAG Catalogus codicum astrologorum Graecorum, ed.
F. Cumont, W. Kroll, F. Boll, et al., 1898.
CE Catholic Encyclopedia.
CFCB Census of Fifteenth Century Books Owned in
America, compiled by a committee of the Bib-
liographical Society of America, New York,
CLM Codex Latinus Monacensis (Latin MS at Mu-
xiv MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE
CSEL Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum,
CU Cambridge University (used to distinguish MSS
in colleges having the same names as those at
CUL Cambridge University Library.
DNB Dictionary of National Biography.
EB Encyclopedia Britannica, IIth edition.
EETS Early English Text Society Publications.
EHR English Historical Review.
ERE Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. J.
Hastings et al., 1908-.
HL Histoire Litteraire de la France.
HZ Historische Zeitschrift, Munich, 1859-.
Kiihn Medici Graeci, ed. C. J. Kiihn, Leipzig, 1829,
containing the works of Galen, Dioscorides,
MG Monumenta Germaniae.
Muratori Rerum Italicarum scriptores ab anno aerae chris-
tianae 500 ad 1500, ed. L. A. Muratori, 1723-
NH C. Plinii Secundi Naturalis Historia (:Pliny's
PG Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, series
PL Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, series
PN The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second
Series, ed. Wace and Schaff, 1890-1900, 14
PW Pauly and Wissowa, Realencyclopidie der class-
RS "Rolls Series," or Rerum Britannicarum medii
aevi scriptores, 99 works in 244 vols., Lon-
TU Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der
altchristlichen Literatur, ed. Gebhardt und
DESIGNATION OF MANUSCRIPTS
Individual manuscripts are usually briefly designated in
the ensuing notes and appendices by a single word indicating
the place or collection where the MS is found and the num-
ber or shelf-mark of the individual MS. So many of the
catalogues of MSS collections which I consulted were un-
dated and without name of author that I have decided to
attempt no catalogue of them. The brief designations that
I give will be sufficient for anyone who is interested in MSS.
In giving Latin titles, Incipits, and the like of MSS I employ
quotation marks when I know from personal examination
or otherwise that the wording is that of the MS itself, and
omit the marks where the Latin seems rather to be that of
the description in the manuscript catalogue or other source of
information. In the following List of Works Frequently
Cited are included a few MSS catalogues whose authors I
shall have occasion to refer to by name.
LIST OF WORKS FREQUENTLY CITED BY
AUTHOR AND DATE OF PUBLICATION
OR BRIEF TITLE
For more detailed bibliography on specific topics and for
editions or manuscripts of the texts used see the bibliogra-
phies, references, and appendices to individual chapters. I
also include here some works of general interest or of rather
cursory character which I have not had occasion to mention
elsewhere; and I usually add, for purposes of differentia-
tion, other works in our field by an author than those works
by him which are frequently cited. Of the many histories of
the sciences, medicine, and magic that have appeared since
the invention of printing I have included but a small selec-
tion. Almost without exception they have to be used with
the greatest caution.
Abano, Peter of, Conciliator differentiarum philosophorum
et praecipue medicorum, 1472, 1476, 1521, 1526, etc.
De venenis, 1472, 1476, 1484, 1490, 1515, 1521, etc.
Abel, ed. Orphica, 1885.
Abelard, Peter. Opera hactenus seorsim edita, ed. V. Cou-
sin, Paris, 1849-1859, 2 vols.
Ouvrages in6dits, ed. V. Cousin, 1835.
Abt, Die Apologie des Apuleius von Madaura und die an-
tike Zauberei, Giessen, 1908.
Achmetis Oneirocriticon, ed. Rigaltius, Paris, 1603.
Adelard of Bath, Quaestiones naturales, 1480, 1485, etc.
De eodem et divers, ed. H. Willner, Miinster, 1903.
Ahrens, K. Das Buch der Naturgegenstainde, 1892.
Zur Geschichte des sogenannten Physiologus, 1885.
Ailly, Pierre d', Tractatus de ymagine mundi (and other
works), 1480 (?).
Albertus Magnus, Opera omnia, ed. A. Borgnet, Paris, 189o-
1899, 38 vols.
xviii MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE
Allbutt, Sir T. Clifford. The Historical Relations of Medi-
cine and Surgery to the End of the Sixteenth Century,
London, 1905, 122 pp.; an address delivered at the St.
Louis Congress in 1904.
The Rise of the Experimental Method in Oxford, Lon-
don, 1902, 53 pp., from Journal of the Oxford Univer-
sity Junior Scientific Club, May, 1902, being the ninth
Robert Boyle Lecture.
Science and Medieval Thought, London, 1901, n16
brief pages. The Harveian Oration delivered before
the Royal College of Physicians.
Allendy, R. F. L'Alchimie et la Medecine; Atude sur les
theories hermetiques dans l'histoire de la m6decine,
Paris, 1912, 155 pp.
Anz, W. Zur Frage nach dem Ursprung des Gnostizismus,
Aquinas, Thomas. Opera omnia, ed. E. Frett6 et P. Mar6,
Paris, 1871-1880, 34 vols.
Aristotle, De animalibus historic, ed. Dittmeyer, 1907; En-
glish translations by R. Creswell, 1848, and D'Arcy W.
Thompson, Oxford, 1910.
Pseudo-Aristotle. Lapidarius, Merszborg, 1473.
Secretum secretorum, Latin translation from the Arabic
by Philip of Tripoli in many editions; and see Gaster.
Arnald of Villanova, Opera, Lyons, 1532.
Artemidori Daldiani et Achmetis Sereimi F. Oneirocritica;
Astrampsychi et Nicephori versus etiam Oneirocritici;
Nicolai Rigaltii ad Artemidorum Notae, Paris, 1603.
Ashmole, Elias, Theatrum chemicum Britannicum, 1652.
Astruc, Jean. Memoires pour servir A 1'histoire de la Fa-
cult6 de M6decine de Montpellier, Paris, 1767.
Auriferae artis quam chemiam vocant antiquissimi auctores,
Barach et Wrobel, Bibliotheca Philosophorum Mediae Aeta-
tis, 1876-1878, 2 vols.
Bartholomew of England, De proprietatibus rerum Lingel-
bach, Heidelberg, 1488, and other editions.
WORKS FREQUENTLY CITED xix
Bauhin, De plants a divis sanctisve nomen habentibus,
Baur, Ludwig, ed. Gundissalinus De division philosophiae,
Die Philosophischen Werke des Robert Grosseteste,
Beazley, C. R. The Dawn of Modern Geography, London,
1897-1906, 3 vols.
Bernard, E. Catalog librorum manuscriptorum Angliae et
Hiberniae in unum collect (The old catalogue of the
Bodleian MSS), Tom. I, Pars I, Oxford, 1697.
Berthelot, P. E. M. Archeologie et histoire des sciences
avec publication nouvelle du papyrus grec chimique de
Leyde et impression original du Liber de septuaginta
de Geber, Paris, 1906.
Collection des anciens alchimistes grecs, 1887-1888, 3
Introduction a l'6tude de la chimie des anciens et du
moyen age, 1889.
La chimie au moyen age, 1893, 3 vols.
Les origins de l'alchimie, 1885.
Sur les voyages de Galien et de Zosime dans l'Archipel
et en Asie, et sur la matiere m6dicale dans l'antiquit6,
in Journal des Savants, 1895, pp. 382-7.
Bezold, F. von, Astrologische Geschichtsconstruction im
Mittelalter, in Deutsche Zeitschrift fur Geschichtswiss-
enschaft, VIII (1892) 29ff.
Bibliotheca Chemica. See Borel and Manget.
Bj6rnbo, A. A. und Vogl, S. Alkindi, Tideus, und Pseudo-
Euklid; drei optische Werke, Leipzig, 1911.
Black, W. H. Catalogue of the Ashmolean Manuscripts,
Boffito, P. G. II Commento di Cecco d'Ascoli all' Alcabizzo,
II De principiis astrologiae di Cecco d'Ascoli, in Gior-
nale Storico della Letteratura Italiana, Suppl. 6, Turin,
xx MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE
Perch& fu condannato al fuoco I'astrologo Cecco d'As-
coli, in Studi e Documenti di Storia e Diritto, Publi-
cazione periodic dell' accademia de conferenza Storico-
Giuridiche, Rome, XX (1899).
Boll, Franz. Die Erforschung der antiken Astrologie, in
Neue Jahrb. f. d. klass. Altert., XI (1908) 103-26.
Eine arabisch-byzantische Quelle des Dialogs Hermip-
pus, in Sitzb. Heidelberg Akad., Philos. Hist. Classe
(1912) No. 18, 28 pp.
Sphaera, Leipzig, 1903.
Studien fiber Claudius Ptolemaeus, in Jahrb. f. klass.
Philol., XXI (1894) 49-244.
Zur Ueberlieferungsgeschichte d. griech. Astrologie u.
Astronomie, in Miinch. Akad. Sitzb., 1899.
Boll und Bezold, Sternglauben, Leipzig, 1918; I have not
Bonatti, Guido. Liber astronomicus, Ratdolt, Augsburg,
Boncompagni, B. Della vita e delle Opere di Gherardo
Cremonese traduttore del secolo duodecimo e di Ghe-
rardo da Sabbionetta astronomo del secolo decimoterzo,
Della vita e delle opere di Guido Bonatti astrologo
ed astronomo del secolo decimoterzo, Rome, 1851.
Estratte dal Giornale Arcadico, Tomo CXXIII-
CXXIV. Della vita e delle opere di Leonardo Pisano,
Intorno ad alcune opere di Leonardo Pisano, Rome,
Borel, P. Bibliotheca Chimica seu catalogs librorum phi-
losophicorum hermeticorum usque ad annum 1653,
Bostock, J. and Riley, H. T. The Natural History of
Pliny, translated with copious notes, London, 1855;
Bouche-Leclercq, A. L'astrologie dans le monde remain, in
Revue Historique, vol. 65 (1897) 241-99.
WORKS FREQUENTLY CITED xxi
L'astrologie grecque, Paris, 1899, 658 pp.
Histoire de la divination dans l'antiquit6, 1879-1882,
Breasted, J. H. Development of Religion and Thought in
Ancient Egypt, New York, 1912.
A History of Egypt, 1905; second ed., 1909.
Brehaut, E. An Encyclopedist of the Dark Ages; Isidore of
Seville, in Columbia University Studies in History, etc.,
vol. 48 (1912) 1-274.
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Rydberg, V. The Magic of the Middle Ages, 1879, trans-
lated from the Swedish. Popular.
Salverte, E. Des sciences occultes, ou essai sur la magie,
xxxvi MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE
SAnchez Perez, J. A. Biografias de Matematicos Arabes que
florecieron en Espafia, Madrid, 1921.
Schanz, M. Geschichte der R6mischen Litteratur, Dritter
Teil, Munich, 1905; Vierter Teil, Erste Hilfte, Munich,
1914, in Miiller's Handbuch d. klass. Alt. Wiss., VIII,
Schepss, G. ed. Priscilliani quae supersunt, 1889.
Schindler. Der Aberglaube des Mittelalters, Breslau, 1858.
Schmid, W. Die Nachklassiche Periode der Griechischen
Litteratur, 1913, in Miiller's Handb. d. kl. Alt. Wiss.,
VII, ii, 2.
Schum, W. Beschriebendes Verzeichnis der Amplonian-
ischen Handschriften-Sammlung zu Erfurt, Berlin,
Sighart, J. Albertus Magnus: sein Leben und seine Wissen-
schaft, Ratisbon, 1857; French translation, Paris,
1862; partial English translation by T. A. Dixon, Lon-
Singer, Charles. Early English Magic and Medicine, 1920,
"Science," pp. 106-48 in "Medieval Contributions to
Modern Civilization," ed. F. J. C. Hearnshaw, 1921.
Studies in the History and Method of Science, Oxford,
1917; a second volume appeared in May, 1921.
Stapper, Richard. Papst Johannes XXI, Miinster, 1898, in
Kirchengesch. Studien herausg. v. Dr. Kn6pfler, IV, 4.
Steele, R. Opera hactenus inedita Rogeri Baconi, 1905-
Steinschneider, Moritz. Abraham ibn Ezra, in Abhandl.,
Apollonius von Thyana (oder Balinas) bei den Arabern,
in Zeitschrift d. deutschen morgenldndischen Gesell-
schaft, XLV (1891) 439-46.
Arabische Lapidarien, Ibid., XLIX (1895).
Constantinus Africanus und seine arabischen Quellen,
in Virchow's Archiv fiir pathologische Anatomie, etc.,
Berlin, XXXVII (1866) 351-410.
WORKS FREQUENTLY CITED
Der Aberglaube, Hamburg, 1900, 34 pp.
Die europiischen Uebersetzungen aus dem Arabischen
bis Mitte des 17 Jahrhunderts, in Sitzungsberichte d.
kaiser. Akad. d. Wiss., Philos. Hist. Klasse, Vienna,
CXLIX, 4 (1905); CLI, i (1906).
Lapidarien, ein culturgeschichtlicher Versuch, in
Semitic Studies in memory of Rev. Dr. Alexander
Kohut, Berlih, 1897, pp. 42-72.
Maschallah, in Zeitsch. d. deut. morgenl. Gesell., LIII
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Studien zur Geschichte der Medizin herausgegeben von der
Puschmann-Stiftung an der Universitit Leipzig, 1907-.
Sudhoff, Karl. His various articles in the foregoing publi-
cation and other periodicals of which he is an editor lie
in large measure just outside our period and field, but
some will be noted later in particular chapters.
Suter, H. Die Mathematiker und Astronomen der Araber,
in Abhandl., X (1900) 1-277; XIV (1902) 257-85.
Die astronomischen Tafeln des Muhammed ibn Musa-
al-Khwarizmi, Copenhagen, 1914.
Tanner, T. Bibliotheca Britannico-Hibernica, London,
1748. Still much cited but largely antiquated and un-
xxxviii MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE
Tavenner, E. Studies in Magic from Latin Literature, New
Taylor, H. 0. The Classical Heritage, 1901.
The Medieval Mind, 2nd edition, 1914, 2 vols; 3rd edi-
Theatrum chemicum. See Zetzner.
Theatrum chemicum Britannicum. See Ashmole.
Theophilus Presbyter, Schedula diversarum artium, ed. A.
Ilg, Vienna, 1874; English translation by R. Hendrie,
Thomas of Cantimpr6, Bonum universal de apibus, 1516.
Thompson, D'Arcy W. Aristotle as a Biologist, 1913.
Glossary of Greek Birds, Oxford, 1895.
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lish translation of The Works of Aristotle edited by
J. A. Smith and W. D. Ross.
Thorndike, Lynn. Adelard of Bath and the Continuity of
Universal Nature, in Nature, XCIV (1915) 616-7.
A Roman Astrologer as a Historical Source: Julius
Firmicus Maternus, in Classical Philology, VIII
Natural Science in the Middle Ages, in Popular Science
Monthly (now The Scientific Monthly), LXXXVII
Roger Bacon and Gunpowder, in Science, XLII
Roger Bacon and Experimental Method in the Middle
Ages, in The Philosophical Review, XXIII (1914),
Some Medieval Conceptions of Magic, in The Monist,
XXV (1915), 107-39.
The Attitude of Origen and Augustine toward Magic,
in The Monist, XIX (1908), 46-66.
The Place of Magic in the Intellectual History of
Europe, Columbia University Press, 1905.
The True Roger Bacon, in American Historical Re-
view, XXI (1916), 237-57, 468-80.
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Tiraboschi. Storia della Letteratura Italiana, Modena,
Tischendorf, C. Acta Apostolorum Apocrypha, Leipzig,
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Vacant, A. et Mangenot, E. Dictionnaire de theologie
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Valois, Noel. Guillaume d'Auvergne, 6veque de Paris,
1228-1249. Sa vie et ses ouvrages, Paris, 1880.
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Walsh, J. J. Medieval Medicine, 1920, 221 pp.
Old Time Makers of Medicine; the story of the stu-
dents and teachers of the sciences related to medicine
during the middle ages, New York, 1911. Popular.
The Popes and Science, 1908.
Webb, C. C. I. See John of Salisbury.
Webster, Hutton. Rest Days, 1916.
Wedel, T. C. The Medieval Attitude toward Astrology
particularly in England, Yale University Press, 1920.
Wellmann, Max. ed. Dioscorides de material medical, 1907,
Die Schrift des Dioskurides Ilepti a&rXv oapiaK6Pv, 1914.
White, A. D. A History of the Warfare of Science with
Theology in Christendom, New York, 1896, 2 vols.
Wickersheimer, Ernest. Figures medico-astrologiques des
neuvieme, dixieme et onzieme si&cles, in Transactions
of the Seventeenth International Congress of Medicine,
xl MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE
Section XXIII, History of Medicine, London, 1913,
p. 313 ff.
William of Auvergne. Opera omnia, Venice, 1591.
Withington, E. T. Medical History from the Earliest
Times, London, 1894.
Wright, Thomas. Popular Treatises on Science written
during the middle ages in Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Nor-
man, and English, London, 1841.
ed. Alexander Neckam De naturis rerum, in RS vol.
Wulf, M. de. History of Medieval Philosophy, 1909,
Wiistenfeld, F. Geschichte der Arabischen Aerzte und
Naturforscher, G6ttingen, 1840.
Yule, Sir Henry, The Book of Ser Marco Polo, third edition
revised by Henri Cordier, 2 vols., London, 1903.
Zarncke, F. Der Priester Johannes, in Abhandl. d. philol.-
hist. Classe, Kgl. Sachs. Gesell. d. Wiss., VII (1879),
627-1030; VIII (1883), 1-186.
Zetzner, L. Theatrum chemicum, 1613-1622, 6 vols.
HISTORY OF MAGIC AND
A HISTORY OF MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL
SCIENCE AND THEIR RELATION TO CHRISTIAN
THOUGHT DURING THE FIRST THIRTEEN CEN-
TURIES OF OUR ERA
Aim of this book-Period covered-How to study the history of
thought-Definition of magic-Magic of primitive man; does civiliza-
tion originate in magic ?-Divination in early China-Magic in ancient
Egypt-Magic and Egyptian religion-Mortuary magic-Magic in daily
life-Power of words, images, amulets-Magic in Egyptian medicine-
Demons and disease-Magic and science-Magic and industry-Alchemy
-Divination and astrology-The sources for Assyrian and Babylonian
magic-Was astrology Sumerian or Chaldean?-The number seven
in early Babylonia-Incantation texts older than astrological-Other
divination than astrology-Incantations against sorcery and demons-
A specimen incantation-Materials and devices of magic-Greek culture
not free from magic-Magic in myth, literature, and history-Simul-
taneous increase of learning and occult science-Magic origin urged for
Greek religion and drama-Magic in Greek philosophy-Plato's attitude
toward magic and astrology-Aristotle on stars and spirits-Folk-lore
in the History of Animals-Differing modes of transmission of ancient
oriental and Greek literature-More magical character of directly trans-
mitted Greek remains-Progress of science among the Greeks-Archi-
medes and Aristotle-Exaggerated view of the scientific achievement
of the Hellenistic age-Appendix I. Some works on Magic, Religion,
and Astronomy in Babylonia and Assyria.
"Magic has existed among all peoples and at every
THIS book aims to treat the history of magic and experi- Aim of
mental science and their relations to Christian thought dur- this book.
ing the first thirteen centuries of our era, with especial
emphasis upon the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. No
'Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion; quoted by Sir James
Frazer, The Magic Art (1911), I, 426.
2 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
adequate survey of the history of either magic or experi-
mental science exists for this period, and considerable use
of manuscript material has been necessary for the medieval
period. Magic is here understood in the broadest sense of
the word, as including all occult arts and sciences, supersti-
tions, and folk-lore. I shall endeavor to justify this use
of the word from the sources as I proceed. My idea is
that magic and experimental science have been connected
Tn their development; that magicians were perhaps the
First to experiment; and that the history of both magic and
experimental science can be better understood by studying
them together. I also desire to make clearer than it has
Be-n to most scholars the Latin learning of the medieval
period, whose leading personalities even are generally inac-
curately known, and on perhaps no one point is illumination
more needed than on that covered by our investigation. The
subject of laws against magic, popular practice of magic,
the witchcraft delusion and persecution lie outside of the
scope of this book.'
Period At first my plan was to limit this investigation to the
covered, twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the time of greatest
medieval productivity, but I became convinced that this
period could be best understood by viewing it in the setting
of the Greek, Latin, and early Christian writers to whom
it owed so much. If the student of the Byzantine Empire
needs to know old Rome, the student of the medieval church
to comprehend early Christianity, the student of Romance
languages to understand Latin, still more must the reader
of Constantinus Africanus, Vincent of Beauvais, Guido
Bonatti, and Thomas Aquinas be familiar with the Pliny,
Galen, and Ptolemy, the Origen and Augustine, the Alkindi
and Albumasar from whom they drew. It would indeed be
difficult to draw a line anywhere between them. The ancient
'That field has already been soon to be edited by Professor
treated by Joseph Hansen, Zau- George L. Burr from H. C. Lea's
berwahn, Inquisition und Hexen- materials. See also a work just
process im Mittelalter, I9oo, and published by Miss M. A. Murray,
will be further illuminated by A The Witch-Cult in Western Eu-
History of Witchcraft in Europe, rope, Oxford, 1921.
authors are generally extant only in their medieval form;
in some cases there is reason to suspect that they have
undergone alteration or addition; sometimes new works
were fathered upon them. In any case they have been pre-
served to us because the middle ages studied and cherished
them, and to a great extent made them their own. I begin
with the first century of our era, because Christian thought
begins then, and then appeared Pliny's Natural History
which seems to me the best starting point of a survey of
ancient science and magic.1 I close with the thirteenth
century, or, more strictly speaking, in the course of the four-
teenth, because by then the medieval revival of learning had
spent its force. Attention is centred on magic and experi-
mental science in western Latin literature and learning,
Greek and Arabic works being considered as they con-
tributed thereto, and vernacular literature being omitted as
either derived from Latin works or unlearned and unscien-
Very probably I have tried to cover too much ground How to
and have made serious omissions. It is probably true that study the
for the history of thought as for the history of art the evi- thought.
dence and source material is more abundant than for politi-
cal or economic history. But fortunately it is more reliable,
since the pursuit of truth or beauty does not encourage
deception and prejudice as does the pursuit of wealth or
power. Also the history of thought is more unified and
consistent, steadier and more regular, than the fluctuations
and diversities of political history; and for this reason its
general outlines can be discerned with reasonable sureness
by the examination of even a limited number of examples,
provided they are properly selected from a period of suf-
ficient duration. Moreover, it seems to me that in the
present stage of research into and knowledge of our subject
Some of my scientific friends a treatment of the science of the
have urged me to begin with genuine Aristotle per se, although
Aristotle, as being a much abler in the course of this book I shall
scientist than Pliny, but this would say something of his medieval in-
take us rather too far back in fluence and more especially of the
time and I have not felt equal to Pseudo-Aristotle.
4 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
sounder conclusions and even more novel ones can be drawn
by a wide comparative survey than by a minutely intensive
and exhaustive study of one man or of a few years. The
danger is of writing from too narrow a view-point, magni-
fying unduly the importance of some one man or theory,
and failing to evaluate the facts in their full historical
setting. No medieval writer whether on science or magic
can be understood by himself, but must be measured in
respect to his surroundings and antecedents.
Definition Some may think it strange that I associate magic so
of magic. closely with the history of thought, but the word comes
from the Magi or wise men of Persia or Babylon, to whose
lore and practices the name was applied by the Greeks and
Romans, or possibly we may trace its etymology a little
farther back to the Sumerian or Turanian word imga or
unga, meaning deep or profound. The exact meaning of
the word, "magic," was a matter of much uncertainty even
in classical and medieval times, as we shall see. There can
be no doubt, however, that it was then applied not merely
to an operative art, but also to a mass of ideas or doctrine,
and that it represented a way of looking at the world. This
side of magic has sometimes been lost sight of in hasty or
assumed modern definitions which seem to regard magic as
merely a collection of rites and feats. In the case of primi-
tive men and savages it is possible that little thought accom-
panies their actions. But until these acts are based upon
or related to some imaginative, purposive, and rational
thinking, the doings of early man cannot be distinguished
as either religious or scientific or magical. Beavers build
dams, birds build nests, ants excavate, but they have no
magic just as they have no science or religion. cMagic im-
plies a mental state and so may be viewed from the stand-
point of the history of thought., In process of time, as the
learned and educated lost faith in magic, it was degraded
to the low practices and beliefs of the ignorant and vulgar.
It was this use of the term that was taken up by anthro-
pologists and by them applied to analogous doings and
I INTRODUCTION 5
notions of primitive men and savages. But we may go too
far in regarding magic as a purely social product of tribal
society: magicians may be, in Sir James Frazer's words,1
"the only professional class" among the lowest savages, but
note that they rank as a learned profession from the start.
It will be chiefly through the writings of learned men that
something of their later history and of the growth of
interest in experimental science will be traced in this work.
Let me add that in this investigation all arts of divination,
including astrology, will be reckoned as magic; I have been
quite unable to separate the two either in fact or logic, as I
shall illustrate repeatedly by particular cases.2
Magic is very old, and it will perhaps be well in this in- Magic of
troductory chapter to present it to the reader, if not in its pranve
infancy-for its origins are much disputed and perhaps does civ-
antecede all record and escape all observation-at least some originate
centuries before its Roman and medieval days. Sir J. G. in magic?
Frazer, in a passage of The Golden Bough to which we
have already referred, remarks that "sorcerers are found
in every savage tribe known to us; and among the lowest
savages . they are the only professional class that
exists." 3 Lenormant affirmed in his Chaldean Magic and
Sorcery 4 that "all magic rests upon a system of religious
belief," but recent sociologists and anthropologists have
SFrazer has, of course, repeat-
edly made the point that modern
science is an outgrowth from
primitive magic. Carveth Read,
The Origin of Man, 1920, in his
chapter on "Magic and Science"
contends that "in no case . is
Science derived from Magic" (p.
337), but this is mainly a logical
and ideal distinction, since he
admits that "for ages" science "is
in the hands of wizards."
'I am glad to see that other
writers on magic are taking this
view; for instance, E. DouttE,
Magie et religion dans 'Afrique
du Nord, Alger, Igog, p. 351.
'Golden Bough, 1894, I, 420.
W. I. Thomas, "The Relation of
the Medicine-Man to the Origin
of the Professional Occupations"
(reprinted in his Source Book for
Social Origins, 4th edition, pp.
281-303), in which he disputes
Herbert Spencer's "thesis that the
medicine-man is the source and
origin of the learned and artistic
occupations," does not really con-
flict with Frazer's statement, since
for Thomas the medicine-man is
a priest rather than a magician.
Thomas remarks later in the same
book (p. 437), "Furthermore, the
whole attempt of the savage to
control the outside world, so far
as it contained a theory or a doc-
trine, was based on magic."
'Chaldean Magic and Sorcery,
1878, p. 70.
6 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
inclined to regard magic as older than a belief in gods. At
any rate some of the most primitive features of historical
religions seem to have originated from magic. Moreover,
religious cults, rites, and priesthoods are not the only things
that have been declared inferior in antiquity to magic and
largely indebted to it for their origins. Combarieu in his
Music and Magic 1 asserts that the incantation is universally
employed in all the circumstances of primitive life and
that from it, by the medium it is true of religious poetry, all
modern music has developed. The magic incantation is,
in short, "the oldest fact in the history of civilization."
Although the magician chants without thought of aesthetic
form or an artistically appreciative audience, yet his spell
contains in embryo all that later constitutes the art of music.2
M. Paul Huvelin, after asserting with similar confidence
that poetry,3 the plastic arts,4 medicine, mathematics, astron-
omy, and chemistry "have easily discernable magic sources,"
states that he will demonstrate that the same is true of law.5
Very recently, however, there has been something of a reac-
tion against this tendency to regard the life of primitive
man as made up entirely of magic and to trace back every
phase of civilization to a magical origin. But R. R. Marett
still sees a higher standard of value in primitive man's magic
than in his warfare and brutal exploitation of his fellows
and believes that the "higher plane of experience for which
mana stands is one in which spiritual enlargement is appre-
ciated for its own sake." 6
Divina- Of the five classics included in the Confucian Canon,
early The Book of Changes (I Ching or Yi-King), regarded by
SJules Combarieu, La musigue Art, London, 1900, Chapter xx,
et la magie, Paris, I909, p. v. "Art and Magic." J. Capart,
2 Ibid., pp. 13-14. Primitive Art in Egypt.
'Among the early Arabs 'P Huvelin, Magie et droit in-
"poetry is magical utterance" dividuel, Paris, 1907, in Ann-e
(Macdonald (19o09) p. 16), and Sociologique, X, 1-471; see too
the poet "a wizard in league with his Les tablettes magiques et le
spirits" (Nicholson, A Literary droit remain, MAcon, 1901.
History of the Arabs, 1914, p. 72).
*See S. Reinach, "L'Art et la *R. R. Marett, Psychology and
Magie," in L'Anthropologie, XIV Folk-Lore, 1920, Chapter iii on
(1903), and Y. Him, Origins of "Primitive Values."
I INTRODUCTION 7
some as the oldest work in Chinese literature and dated
back as early as 3000 B.C., in its rudimentary form appears
to have been a method of divination by means of eight
possible combinations in triplets of a line and a broken line.
Thus, if a be a line and b a broken line, we may have aaa,
bbb, aab, bba, abb, baa, aba, and bab. Possibly there is a
connection with the use of knotted cords which, Chinese
writers state, preceded written characters, like the method
used in ancient Peru. More certain would seem the resem-
blance to the medieval method of divination known as
geomancy, which we shall encounter later in our Latin
authors. Magic and astrology might, of course, be traced
all through Chinese history and literature. But, contenting
ourselves with this single example of the antiquity of such
arts in the civilization of the far east, let us turn to other
ancient cultures which had a closer and more unmistakable
influence upon the western world.
Of the ancient Egyptians Budge writes, "The belief in Magic in
magic influenced their minds . from the earliest to the Egypt.
latest period of their history . in a manner which, at
this stage in the history of the world, is very difficult to
understand." 1 To the ordinary historical student the evi-
dence for this assertion does not seem quite so overwhelm-
ing as the Egyptologists would have us think. It looks
thinner when we begin to spread it out over a stretch of four
1E. A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian berspriiche fiir Mutter und Kind,
Magic, 1899, p. vii. Some other 1901. F. L. Griffith and H.
works on magic in Egypt are: Thompson, The Demotic Magical
Groff, Etudes sur la sorcellerie, Papyrus of London and Leiden,
mamoires prdsentis d l'institut 1904. See also J. H. Breasted,
igyptien, Cairo, 1897; G. Busson, Development of Religion and
Extrait d'un minioire sur l'ori- Thought in Ancient Egypt, New
gine ggyptienne de la Kabbale, in York, 1912.
Compte Rendu du Congrhs Scien- The following later but briefer
tifique International des Catho- treatments add little to Budge:
liques, Sciences Religieuses, Paris, Alfred Wiedemann, Magie und
1891, pp. 29-51. Adolf Erman, Life Zauberei im Alten Z gypten, Leip-
in Ancient Egypt, English transla- zig, 1905, and Die Amulette der
tion, 1894, "describes vividly the alten iEgypter, Leipzig, 1910, both
magical conceptions and practices." in Der Alte Orient; Alexandre
F. L. Griffith, Stories of the High Moret, La magie dans lEgypte
Priests of Memphis, Oxford, 1900, ancienne, Paris, 1906, in Musie
contains some amusing demotic Guimet, Annales, Bibliotheque de
tales of magicians. Erman, Zau- vulgarisation, XX, 241-81.
8 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
thousand years, and it scarcely seems scientific to adduce
details from medieval Arabic tales or from the late Greek
fiction of the Pseudo-Callisthenes or from papyri of the
Christian era concerning the magic of early Egypt. And
it may be questioned whether two stories preserved in the
Westcar papyrus, written many centuries afterwards, are
alone "sufficient to prove that already in the Fourth Dynasty
the working of magic was a recognized art among the
Magic At any rate we are told that the belief in magic not only
Egyptian was predynastic and prehistoric, but was "older in Egypt
religion. than the belief in God." 2 In the later religion of the Egyp-
tians, along with more lofty. and intellectual conceptions,
magic was still a principal ingredient.3 Their mythology
was affected by it and they not only combated demons
with magical formulae but believed that they could terrify
and coerce the very gods by the same method, compelling
them to appear, to violate the course of nature by miracles,
or to admit the human soul to an equality with themselves.5
Mortuary Magic was as essential in the future life as here on earth
among the living. Many, if not most, of the observances
and objects connected with embalming and burial had a
magic purpose or mode of operation; for instance, the
"magic eyes placed over the opening in the side of the body
through whichh the embalmer removed the intestines," 6 or
the mannikins and models of houses buried with the dead.
In the process of embalming the wrapping of each bandage
was accompanied by the utterance of magic words.7 In "the
oldest chapter of human thought extant"-the Pyramid
1Budge (1899), p. 19. At pp. 7- 2Budge, p. ix.
o1 Budge dates the Westcar Papy- a Budge, pp. xili-xiv.
rus about 1550 B. C. and Cheops, 'For magical myths see E. Na-
of whom the tale is told, in 3800 ville, The Old Egyptian Faith,
B. C. It is now customary to date English translation by C. Camp-
the Fourth Dynasty, to which bell, 1909, p. 233 et seq.
Cheops belonged, about 2900-2750 Budge, pp. 3-4; Lenormant,
B. C. Breasted, History of Egypt, Chaldean Magic, p. Too; Wiede-
pp. 122-3, speaks of a folk tale mann (1905), pp. 12, 14, 31.
preserved in the Papyrus Westcar' "So labelled in the Egyptian
some nine (?) centuries after the Museum at Cairo.
fall of the Fourth Dynasty. Budge, p. 185.
I INTRODUCTION 9
Texts written in hieroglyphic at the tombs at Sakkara of
Pharaohs of the fifth and sixth dynasties (c. 2625-2475
B.C.), magic is so manifest that some have averred "that the
whole body of Pyramid Texts is simply a collection of
magical charms." 1 The scenes and objects painted on the
walls of the tombs, such as those of nobles in the fifth and
sixth dynasties, were employed with magic intent and were
meant to be realized in the future life; and with the twelfth
dynasty the Egyptians began to paint on the insides of the
coffins the objects that were formerly actually placed
within.2 Under the Empire the famous Book of the Dead
is a collection of magic pictures, charms, and incantations
for the use of the deceased in the hereafter,s and while it is
not of the early period, we hear that "a book with words of
magic power" was buried with a pharaoh of the Old King-
dom. Budge has "no doubt that the object of every reli-
gious text ever written on tomb, stele, amulet, coffin, papy-
rus, etc., was to bring the gods under the power of the de-
ceased, so that he might be able to compel them to do his
will." 4 Breasted, on the other hand, thinks that the amount
and complexity of this mortuary magic increased greatly in
the later period under popular and priestly influence.5
Breasted nevertheless believes that magic had played Magic in
a great part in daily life throughout the whole course of dailylife.
Egyptian history. He writes, "It is difficult for the modern
mind to understand how completely the belief in magic pene-
trated the whole substance of life, dominating popular cus-
tom and constantly appearing in the simplest acts of the
daily household routine, as much a matter of course as
'Breasted (19r2), pp. 84-5, 93-5. Day," Breasted, History of Egypt,
"Systematic study" of the Pyra- p. 175.
mid Texts has been possible "only 'Budg, 28.
since the appearance of Sethe's Budge 2
great edition,"-Die Altagypti- 'History of Egypt, p. 175; pp.
schen Pyramidentexte, Leipzig, 249-50 for the further increase in
1908-191o, 2 vols. mortuary magic after the Middle
2 Budge, pp. 104-7. Kingdom, and pp. 369-70, 390, etc.,
8 Many of them are to enable for Ikhnaton's vain effort to sup-
the dead man to leave his tomb at press this mortuary magic. See
will; hence the Egyptian title, also Breasted (1912), pp. 95-6, 281,
"The Chapters of Going Forth by 292-6, etc.
io MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
sleep or the preparation of food. It constituted the very
atmosphere in which the men of the early oriental world
lived. Without the saving and salutary influence of such
magical agencies constantly invoked, the life of an ancient
household in the East was unthinkable." 1
Power of Most of the main features and varieties of magic known
wmaes, to us at other times and places appear somewhere in the
amulets. course of Egypt's long history. For one thing we find the
ascription of magic power to words and names. The power
of words, says Budge, was thought to be practically un-
limited, and "the Egyptians invoked their aid in the smallest
as well as in the greatest events of their life." 2 Words
might be spoken, in which case they "must be uttered in a
proper tone of voice by a duly qualified man," or they might
be written, in which case the material upon which they were
written might be of importance.3 In speaking of mortuary
magic we have already noted the employment of pictures,
models, mannikins, and other images, figures, and objects.
Wax figures were also used in sorcery,4 and amulets are
found from the first, although their particular forms seem
to have altered with different periods.6 Scarabs are of
course the most familiar example.
Magic in Egyptian medicine was full of magic and ritual and
Egyptian its therapeusis consisted mainly of "collections of incan-
stations and weird random mixtures of roots and refuse." 6
Already we find the recipe and the occult virtue conceptions,
the elaborate polypharmacy and the accompanying hocus-
pocus which we shall meet in Pliny and the middle ages.
The Egyptian doctors used herbs from other countries and
preferred compound medicines containing a dozen ingredi-
ents to simple medicines.7 Already we find such magic
'Breasted (1912), pp. 29o-1. can Historical Association, 1919.
*Budge, pp. xi, 170-1. See also B. Holmes and P. G.
8Budge, p. 4. Kitterman, Medicine in Ancient
SBudge, pp. 67-70, 73, 77. Egypt; the Hieratic Material,
"Budge, pp. 27-28, 41, 6o. Cincinnati, 1914, 34 pp., reprinted
From the abstract of a paper from The Lancet-Clinic.
on The History of Egyptian Medi- 'See H. L. Luring, Die iiber die
cine, read by T. Wingate Todd at medicinischen Kenntnisse der al-
the annual meeting of the Ameri- ten AEgypter berichtenden Papyri
logic as that the hair of a black calf will keep one from
growing gray.' Already the parts of animals are a favorite
ingredient in medical compounds, especially those connected
with the organs of generation, on which account they were
presumably looked upon as life-giving, or those which were
recommended mainly by their nastiness and were probably
thought to expel the demons of disease by their disagreeable
In ancient Egypt, however, disease seems not to have Demons
been identified with possession by demons to the extent that disease.
it was in ancient Assyria and Babylonia. While Breasted
asserts that "disease was due to hostile spirits and against
these only magic could avail," 2 Budge contents himself with
the more cautious statement that there is "good reason for
thinking that some diseases were attributed to . evil
spirits . entering . human bodies . but the texts
do not afford much information" 3 on this point. Certainly
the beliefs in evil spirits and in magic do not always have
to go together, and magic might be employed against disease
whether or not it was ascribed to a demon.
In the case of medicine as in that of religion Breasted Magic
takes the view that the amount of magic became greater in science.
the Middle and New Kingdoms than in the Old Kingdom.
This is true so far as the amount of space occupied by it in
extant records is concerned. But it would be rash to assume
that this marks a decline from a more rational and scientific
attitude in the Old Kingdom. Yet Breasted rather gives
this impression when he writes concerning the Old Kingdom
that many of its recipes were useful and rational, that
"medicine was already in the possession of much empirical
wisdom, displaying close and accurate observation," and
that what "precluded any progress toward real science was
the belief in magic, which later began to dominate all the
verglichen mit den medic. Schrif- in Zeitschrift f. egypt. Sprache,
ten griech. u. r6mischer Autoren, XII (1874), p. io6. M. A. Ruffer,
Leipzig, 1888. Also Joret, I Palaeopathology of Egypt, 1921.
(1897) 31o-lI, and the article 1History of Egypt, p. IoI.
there cited by G. Ebers, Ein Ky- 2Ibid, p. Io2.
phirecept aus dem Papyrus Ebers, Budge, p. 206.
12 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP
practice of the physician." 1 Berthelot probably places the
emphasis more correctly when he states that the later medical
papyri "include traditional recipes, founded on an em-
piricism which is not always correct, mystic remedies, based
upon the most bizarre analogies, and magic practices that
date back to the remotest antiquity." 2 The recent efforts
of Sethe and Wilcken, of Elliot Smith, Miiller, and Hooten
to show that the ancient Egyptians possessed a considerable
amount of medical knowledge and of surgical and dental
skill, have been held by Todd to rest on slight and dubious
evidence. Indeed, some of this evidence seems rather to
suggest the ritualistic practices still employed by uncivil-
ized African tribes. Certainly the evidence for any real
scientific development in ancient Egypt has been very
meager compared with the abundant indications of the preva-
lence of magic.3
Magic Early Egypt was the home of many arts and industries,
and but not in so advanced a stage as has sometimes been sug-
gested. Blown glass, for example, was unknown until late
Greek and Roman times, and the supposed glass-blowers
depicted on the early monuments are really smiths engaged
in stirring their fires by blowing through reeds tipped with
clay.4 On the other hand, Professor Breasted informs me
that there is no basis for Berthelot's statement that "every
sort of chemical process as well as medical treatment was
executed with an accompaniment of religious formulae, of
prayers and incantations, regarded as essential to the success
of operations as well as the cure of maladies." 5
Alchemy. Alchemy perhaps originated on the one hand from the
practices of Egyptian goldsmiths and workers in metals,
who experimented with alloys,6 and on the other hand from
'History of Egypt, p. 1ol. 'Petrie, "Egypt," in EB, p. 73.
2Archdologie et Histoire des *Berthelot (1885), p. 235. See
Sciences. Paris, I906, pp. 232-3. E. B. Havell, A Handbook of In-
SProfessor Breasted, however, dian Art, 1920, p. II, for a corn-
feels that the contents of the new bination of "exact science," ritual,
Edwin Smith Papyrus will raise and "magic power" in the work
our estimate of the worth of Egyp- of the ancient Aryan craftsmen.
tian medicine and surgery: letter
to me of Jan. 20, 1922. 'Berthelot (1889), pp. vi-vii.
I INTRODUCTION 13
the theories of the Greek philosophers concerning world-
grounds, first matter, and the elements.' The words,
alchemy and chemistry, are derived ultimately from the
name of Egypt itself, Kamt or Qemt, meaning literally black,
and applied to the Nile mud. The word was also applied
to the black powder produced by quicksilver in Egyptian
metallurgical processes. This powder, Budge says, was sup-
posed to be the ground of all metals and to possess mar-
velous virtue, "and was mystically identified with the body
which Osiris possessed in the underworld, and both were
thought to be sources of life and power." 2 The analogy to
the sacrament of the mass and the marvelous powers
ascribed to the host by medieval preachers like Stephen of
Bourbon scarcely needs remark. The later writers on
alchemy in Greek appear to have borrowed signs and phrase-
ology from the Egyptian priests, and are fond of speaking
of their art as the monopoly of Egyptian kings and priests
who carved its secrets on ancient steles and obelisks. In
a treatise dating from the twelfth dynasty a scribe recom-
mends to his son a work entitled Chemi, but there is no
proof that it was concerned with chemistry or alchemy.3
The papyri containing treatises of alchemy are of the third
century of the Christian era.
Evidences of divination in general and of astrology in Divina-
particular do not appear as early in Egyptian records as astrology
examples of other varieties of magic. Yet the early date
at which Egypt had a calendar suggests astronomical inter-
est, and even those who deny that seven planets were dis-
tinguished in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley until the last
millennium before Christ, admit that they were known in
Egypt as far back as the Old Kingdom, although they deny
the existence of a science of astronomy or an art of astrology
then.4 A dream of Thotmes IV is preserved from 1450 B.C.
or thereabouts, and the incantations employed by magicians
'Berthelot (1885), pp. 247-78; E. 'Berthelot (1885), p. 1o.
O. v. Lippmann (1919), pp. 118-43. 4Lippmann (I919), pp. 181-2,
Budge, pp. 19-20. and the authorities there cited.
14 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
in order to procure divining dreams for their customers
attest the close connection of divination and magic.' Belief
in lucky and unlucky days is shown in a papyrus .calendar of
about 1300 B.C.,2 and we shall see later that "Egyptian
Days" continued to be a favorite superstition of the middle
ages. Tables of the risings of stars which may have an astro-
logical significance have been found in graves, and there were
gods for every month, every day of the month, and every
hour of the day.3 Such numbers as seven and twelve are fre-
quently emphasized in the tombs and elsewhere, and if the
vaulted ceiling in the tenth chamber of the tomb of Sethos
is really of his time, we seem to find the signs of the zodiac
under the nineteenth dynasty. If Boll is correct in suggest-
ing that the zodiac originated in the transfer of animal gods
to the sky,4 no fitter place than Egypt. could be found for
the transfer. But there have not yet been discovered in
Egypt lists of omens and appearances of constellations on
days of disaster such as are found in the literature of the
Tigris-Euphrates valley and in the Roman historians. Budge
speaks of the seven Hathor goddesses who predict the death
that the infant must some time die, and affirms that "the
Egyptians believed that a man's fate . was decided be-
fore he was born, and that he had no power to alter it." I
But I cannot agree that "we have good reason for assigning
the birthplace of the horoscope to Egypt," 6 since the evidence
seems to be limited to the almost medieval Pseudo-Callis-
thenes and a Greek horoscope in the British Museum to which
is attached the letter of an astrologer urging his pupil to
study the ancient Egyptians carefully. The later Greek and
Latin tradition that astrology was the invention of the divine
men of Egypt and Babylon probably has a basis of fact, but
more contemporary evidence is needed if Egypt is to contest
the claim of Babylon to precedence in that art.
1Budge, pp. 214-5. Annales du service des antiquitis
'Budge, pp. 225-8; Wiedemann de lEgypte, I (1900), 79-90.
(1905), p. 9. F. Boll in Neue Iahrb. (1908),
aWiedemann (1905), pp. 7,8, I. p. 108.
See also G. Daressy, Une ancienne Budge, pp. 222-3.
liste des dicans igyptiens, in Budge, p. 229.
x INTRODUCTION 15
In the written remains of Babylonian and Assyrian The
civilization 1 the magic cuneiform tablets play a large part Assyrian
and give us the impression that fear of demons was a lead- and Baby-
ing feature of Assyrian and Babylonian religion and that magic.
daily thought and life were constantly affected by magic.
The bulk of the religious and magical texts are preserved in
the library of Assurbanipal, king of Assyria from 668 to
626 B.C. But he collected his library from the ancient
temple cities, the scribes tell us that they are copying very
ancient texts, and the Sumerian language is still largely
employed.2 Eridu, one of the main centers of early Su-
merian culture, "was an immemorial home of ancient wis-
dom, that is to say, magic." 3 It is, however, difficult in
the library of Assurbanipal to distinguish what is Baby-
lonian from what is Assyrian or what is Sumerian from
what is .Semitic. Thus we are told that "with the exception
of some very ancient texts, the Sumerian literature, con-
sisting largely of religious material such as hymns and
incantations, shows a number of Semitic loanwords and
grammatical .Semitisms, and in many cases, although not
always, is quite patently a translation of Semitic ideas by
Semitic priests into the formal religious Sumerian lan-
The chief point in dispute, over which great controversy Was
has taken place recently among German scholars, is as to astroleo
the antiquity of both astronomical knowledge and astrologi- or Chal-
cal doctrine, including astral theology, among the dwellers dean?
in the Tigris-Euphrates region. Briefly, such writers as
Winckler, Stiicken, and Jeremias held that the religion of
the early Babylonians was largely based on astrology and
that all their thought was permeated by it, and that they
had probably by an early date made astronomical observa-
tions and acquired astronomical knowledge which was lost
'Some works on the subject of 'Thompson, Semitic Magic, pp.
magic and religion, astronomy and xxxvi-xxxvii; Fossey, pp. 17-20.
astrology in Babylonia and Farnell, Greece and Babylon,
Assyria will be found in Appendix p. 102.
I at the close of this chapter. 4Prince, "Sumer and Sumeri-
ans," in EB.
16 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
in the decline of their culture. Opposing this view, such
scholars as Kugler, Bezold, Boll, and Schiaparelli have
shown the lack of certain evidence for either any consid-
erable astronomical knowledge or astrological theory in the
Tigris-Euphrates Valley until the late appearance 'of the
Chaldeans. It is even denied that the seven planets were
distinguished in the early period, much less the signs of the
zodiac or the planetary week,' which last, together with any
real advance in astronomy, is reserved for the Hellenistic
Yet the prominence of the number seven in myth, re-
ligion, and magic is indisputable in the third millennium
before our era. For instance, in the old Babylonian epic of
creation there are seven winds, seven spirits of storms, seven
evil diseases, seven divisions of the underworld closed by
seven doors, seven zones of the upper world and sky, and
so on. We are told, however, that the staged towers of
Babylonia, which are said to have symbolized for millen-
niums the sacred Hebdomad, did not always have seven
stages.2 But the number seven was undoubtedly of frequent
occurrence, of a sacred and mystic character, and virtue and
perfection were ascribed to it. And no one has succeeded
in giving any satisfactory explanation for this other than
the rule of the seven planets over our world. This also
applies to the sanctity of the number seven in the Old Testa-
ment 3 and the emphasis upon it in Hesiod, the Odyssey,
and other early Greek sources.4
1 Webster, Rest Days, pp. 215-22,
with further bibliography. See
Orr (1913), 28-38, for an inter-
esting discussion in English of the
problem of the origin of solar and
2Lippmann (I919), pp. 168-9.
SAlthough Schiaparelli, Astron-
omy in the Old Testament, 1905,
pp. v, 5, 49-51, 135, denies that
"the frequent use of the number
seven in the Old Testament is in
any way connected with the plan-
ets." I have not seen F. von
Andrian, Die Siebenzahl im Geis-
tesleben der Volker, in Mitteil. d.
anthrop. Gesellsch. in Wien, XXI
(19o0), 225-74; see also Hehn,
Siebenzahl und Sabbat bei den
Babyloniern und im alten Testa-
ment, 1907. J. G. Frazer (1918),
I, 140, has an interesting passage
on the prominence of the number
seven "alike in the Jehovistic and
in the Babylonian narrative" of
'Webster, Rest Days, pp. 211-2.
Professor Webster, who kindly
read this chapter in manuscript,
stated in a letter to me of 2 July
1921 that he remained convinced
that "the mystic properties as-
I INTRODUCTION ty
However that may be, the tendency prevailing at present Incanta-
is to regard astrology as a relatively late development intro- older than
duced by the Semitic Chaldeans. Lenormant held that the astro-
writing and magic were a Turanian or Sumerian (Acca-
dian) contribution to Babylonian civilization, but that
astronomy and astrology were Semitic innovations. Jas-
trow thinks that there was slight difference between the
religion of Assyria and that of Babylonia, and that astral
theology played a great part in both; but he grants that the
older incantation texts are less influenced by this astral
theology. L. W. King says, "Magic and divination bulk
largely in the texts recovered, and in their case there is noth-
ing to suggest an underlying astrological element." 1
Whatever its date-and origin, the magic literature may Other
be classified in three main groups. There are the astrological than
texts in which the stars are looked upon as gods and pre- astrology.
dictions are made especially for the king.2 Then there are
the tablets connected with other methods of foretelling the
future, especially liver divination, although interpretation
of dreams, augury, and divination by mixing oil and water
were also practiced.3 Fossey has further noted the close
connection of operative magic with divination among the
Assyrians, and calls divination "the indispensable auxiliary
of magic." Many feats of magic imply a precedent knowl-
edge of the future or begin by consultation of a diviner,
or a favorable day and hour should be chosen for the magic
Third, there are the collections of incantations, not how-
ever those employed by the sorcerers, which were pre-
cribed to the number seven" can 293).
only in part be accounted for by 1 L. W. King, History of Baby-
the seven planets; "Our Ameri- Ion, 1915, p. 299.
can Indians, for example, hold *Fossey (1902) pp. 2-3.
seven in great respect, yet have
no knowledge of seven planets." Farnell, Greece and Babylon,
But it may be noted that the poet- pp. 301-2. On liver divination see
philosophers of ancient Peru com- Frothingham, "Ancient Oriental-
posed verses on the subject of as- ism Unveiled," American Journal
trology, according to Garcilasso of Archaeology, XXI (1917) 55.
(cited by W. I. Thomas, Source 187, 313. 420.
Book for Social Origins, I909, p. 'Fossey, p. 66.
18 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
Incanta- sumably illicit and hence not publicly preserved-in an
against incantation which we shall soon quote sorcery is called evil
sorcery and is said to employ "impure things"-but rather defen-
demons. sive measures against them and exorcisms of evil demons.1
But doubtless this counter magic reflects the original pro-
cedure to a great extent. Inasmuch as diseases generally
were regarded as due.to demons, who had to be exorcized
by incantations, medicine was simply a branch of magic.
Evil spirits were also held responsible for disturbances
in nature, and frequent incantations were thought necessary
to keep them from upsetting the natural order entirely.2
The various incantations are arranged in series of tablets:
the Maklu or burning, Ti'i or headaches, Asakki marsitti or
fever, Labartu or hag-demon, and Nis kati or raising of the
hand. Besides these tablets there are numerous ceremonial
and medical texts which contain magical practice.3 Also
hymns of praise and religious epics which at first sight one
would not classify as incantations seem to have had their
magical uses, and Farnell suggests that "a magic origin for
the practice of theological exegesis may be obscurely
traced." 4 Good spirits are represented as employing magic
and exorcisms against the demons.5 As a last resort when
good spirits as well as human magic had failed to check the
demons, the aid might be requisitioned of the god Ea, re-
garded as the repository of all science and who "alone was
possessed of the magic secrets by means of which they could
be conquered and repulsed." 6
A speci- The incantations themselves show that other factors than
men incan- the power of words entered into the magic, as may be illus-
treated by quoting one of them.
"Arise ye great gods, hear my complaint,
Grant me justice, take cognizance of my condition.
I have made an image of my sorcerer and sorceress;
1Fossey, p. 16. *Greece and Babylon, p. 296.
'Lenormant, pp. 35, 147, 158. 5Lenormant, pp. 146-7.
aThompson, Semitic Magic, pp.
xxxviii-xxxix., Ibid, p. 158.
I have humbled myself before you and bring to you my
Because of the evil they have done,
Of the impure things which they have handled.
May she die! Let me live!
May her charm, her witchcraft, her sorcery be broken.
May the plucked sprig of the binu tree purify me;
May it release me; may the evil odor of my mouth be
scattered to the winds.
May the mashtakal herb which fills the earth cleanse me.
Before you let me shine like the kankal herb,
Let me be brilliant and pure as the lardu herb.
The charm of the sorceress is evil;
May her words return to her mouth, her tongue be cut off.
Because of her witchcraft may the gods of night smite her,
The three watches of the night break her evil charm.
May her mouth be wax; her tongue, honey.
May the word causing my misfortune that she has spoken
dissolve like wax.
May the charm she had wound up melt like honey,
So that her magic knot be cut in twain, her work de-
It is evident from this incantation that use was made Materials
of magic images and knots, and of the properties of trees and
and herbs. Magic images were made of clay, wax, tallow, employed
and other substances and were employed in various ways. in the
Thus directions are given for making a tallow image of an
enemy of the king and binding its face with a cord in order
to deprive the person whom it represents of speech and will-
power.2 Images were also constructed in order that disease
demons might be magically transferred into them,3 and
sometimes the images are slain and buried.4 In the above
incantation the magic knot was employed only by the sor-
ceress, but Fossey states that knots were also used as
'Jastrow, Religion of Babylon Ibid., p. 161.
and Assyria, pp. 283-4.
'Zimmern, Beitriige, p. 173. 'Fossey, p. 399.
20 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
counter-charms against the demons.1 In the above incan-
tation the names of herbs were left untranslated and it is
not possible to say much concerning the pharmacy of the
Assyrians and Babylonians because of our lack of a lexicon
for their botanical and mineralogical terminology.2 How-
ever, from what scholars have been able to translate it
appears that common rather than rare and outlandish sub-
stances were the ones most employed. Wine and oil, salt
and dates, and onions and saliva are the sort of things used.
There is also evidence of the employment of a magic wand.3
Gems and animal substances were used as well as herbs; all
sorts of philters were concocted; and varied rites and cere-
monies were employed such as ablutions and fumigations.
In the account of the ark of the Babylonian Noah we are
told of the magic significance of its various parts; thus the
mast and cabin ceiling were made of cedar, a wood that
Greek cul- One remarkable corollary of the so-called Italian Renais-
ture not sance or Humanistic movement at the close of the middle
magic. ages with its too exclusive glorification of ancient Greece
and Rome has been the strange notion that the ancient
Hellenes were unusually free from magic compared with
other periods and peoples. It would have been too much to
claim any such immunity for the primitive Romans, whose
entire religion was originally little else than magic and whose
daily life, public and private, was hedged in by superstitious
observances and fears. But they, too, were supposed to
have risen later under the influence of Hellenic culture to
a more enlightened stage,5 only to relapse again into magic
in the declining empire and middle ages under oriental
influence. Incidentally let me add that this notion that in
the past orientals were more superstitious and fond of
SFossey, p. 83. form.
"Ibid., pp. 89-91. F. Kiichler, "Lenormant, p. xgo.
Beitrige zur Kenntnis der Assyr.-
Babyl. Medizin; Texte mit Urn- Ibid., p. 59.
schrift, Uebersetzung und Kom- So enlightened in fact that they
mentar, Leipzig, 1904, treats of spoke with some scorn of the
twenty facsimile pages of cunei- "levity" and "lies" of the Greeks.
marvels than westerners in the same stage of civilization
and that the orient must needs be the source of every super-
stitious cult and romantic tale is a glib assumption which I
do not intend to make and which our subsequent investiga-
tion will scarcely substantiate. But to return to the sup-
posed immunity of the Hellenes from magic; so far has this
hypothesis been carried that textual critics have repeatedly
rejected passages as later interpolations or even called entire
treatises spurious for no other reason than that they seemed
to them too superstitious for a reputable classical author.
Even so specialized and recent a student of ancient astrol-
ogy, superstition, and religion as Cumont still clings to this
dubious generalization and affirms that "the limpid Hellenic
genius always turned away from the misty speculations of
magic." 1 But, as I suggested some sixteen years since,
"the fantasticalness of medieval science was due to 'the
clear light of Hellas' as well as to the gloom of the 'dark
It is not difficult to call to mind evidence of the presence Magic
of magic .in Hellenic religion, literature, and history. One in myth,
has only to think of the many marvelous metamorphoses in and
Greek mythology and of its countless other absurdities; of history.
the witches, Circe and Medea, and the necromancy of
Odysseus; or the priest-magician of Apollo in the Iliad who
could stop the plague, if he wished; of the lucky and unlucky
days and other agricultural magic in Hesiod.3 Then there
were the Spartans, whose so-called constitution and method
of education, much admired by the Greek philosophers, were
largely a retention of the life of the primitive tribe with its
ritual and taboos. Or we remember Herodotus and his
childish delight in ambiguous oracles or his tale of seceders
from Gela brought back by Telines single-handed because
he "was possessed of certain mysterious visible symbols of
the powers beneath the earth which were deemed to be of
'Oriental Religions in Roman E. E. Sikes, Folk-lore in the
Paganism, Chicago, 1911, p. 189. Works and Days of Hesiod. in
The Classical Review, VII (1893),
"Thorndike (9go0), p. 63. 390.
22 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
wonder-working power." 1 We recall Xenophon's punc-
tilious records of sacrifices, divinations, sneezes, and dreams;
Nicias, as afraid of eclipses as if he had been a Spartan; and
the matter-of-fact mentions of charms, philters, and incan-
tations in even such enlightened writers as Euripides and
Plato. Among the titles of ancient Greek comedies
magic is represented by the Goetes of Aristophanes, the
Mandragorizomene of Alexis, the Pharma.comantis of An-
axandrides, the Circe of Anaxilas, and the Thettale of
Menander.2 When we candidly estimate the significance of
such evidence as this, we realize that the Hellenes were not
much less inclined to magic than other peoples and periods,
and that we need not wait for Theocritus and the Greek
romances or for the magical papyri for proof of the
existence of magic in ancient Greek civilization.3
Simul- If astrology and some other occult sciences do not
taneousin- appear in a developed form until the Hellenistic period, it
learning is not because the earlier period was more enlightened, but
and occult because it was less learned. And the magic which Osthanes
is said to have introduced to the Greek world about the
time of the Persian wars was not so much an innovation
as an improvement upon their coarse and ancient rites of
Magic ori- This magic element which existed from the start in
gin urged Greek culture is now being traced out by students of anthro-
religion pology and early religion as well as of the classics. Miss
and drama. Jane E. Harrison, in Themis, a study of the social origins
of Greek religion, suggests a magical explanation for many
a myth and festival, and even for the Olympic games and
Greek drama.5 The last point has been developed in more
*Freeman, History of Sicily, I, B. Jevons, "Graeco-Italian Magic,"
101-3, citing Herodotus VII, 153. p. 93-, in Anthropology and the
Butler and Owen, Apulei Classics, ed. R. Marett; and the
Apologia, note on 30, 30. article "Magic" in ERE.
SFor details concerning opera- 4I think that this sentence is an
tive or vulgar magic among approximate quotation from some
the ancient Greeks see Hubert, ancient author, possibly Diogenes
Magia, in Daremberg-Saglio; Abt, Laertius, but I have not been able
Die Apologie des Apuleius von to find it.
Madaura und die antike Zau- J. E. Harrison,. Themis, Cam-
berei, Giessen, 19o8; and F. bridge, 1912. The chapter head-
I INTRODUCTION 23
detail by F. M. Cornford's Origin of Attic Comedy, where
much magic is detected masquerading in the comedies of
Aristophanes.1 And Mr. A. B. Cook sees the magician in
Zeus, who transforms himself to pursue his amours, and
contends that "the real prototype of the heavenly weather-
king was the earthly" magician or rain-maker, that the
pre-Homeric "fixed epithets" of Zeus retained in the
Homeric poems "are simply redolent of the magician," and
that the cult of Zeus Lykaios was connected with the belief
in werwolves.2 In still more recent publications Dr. Rendel
Harris 3 has connected Greek gods in their origins with the
woodpecker and mistletoe, associated the cult of Apollo
with the medicinal virtues of mice and snakes, and in other
ways emphasized the importance in early Greek religion and
culture of the magic properties of animals and herbs.
These writers have probably pressed their point too far,
but at least their work serves as a reaction against the old
attitude of intellectual idolatry of the classics. Their views
may be offset by those of Mr. Farnell, who states that
"while the knowledge of early Babylonian magic is begin-
ning to be considerable, we cannot say that we know
anything definite concerning the practices in this department
of the Hellenic and adjacent peoples in the early period
with which we are dealing." And again, "But while Baby-
lonian magic proclaims itself loudly in the great religious
literature and highest temple ritual, Greek magic is barely
mentioned in the older literature of Greece, plays no part
at all in the hymns, and can only with difficulty be dis-
covered as. latent in the higher ritual. Again, Babylonian
ings briefly suggest the argument: on Ritual Forms preserved in
"I. Hymn of the Kouretes; 2. Greek tragedy; 9. Daimon to
Dithyramb, AQ6oRevov, and Drama; Olympian; io. The Olympians;
3. Kouretes, Thunder-Rites and II. Themis."
Mana; 4. a. Magic and Tabu, b. 1F. M. Cornford, Origin of
Medicine-bird and Medicine-king; Attic Comedy, 1914, see especially
5. Totemism, Sacrament, and Sac- pp. 10, 13, 55, 157, 202, 233.
rifice; 6. Dithyramb, Spring Fes- 'A. B. Cook, Zeus, Cambridge,
tival, and Hagia Triada Sarcoph- 1914, pp. 134-5, 12-14, 66-76.
agus; 7. Origin of the Olympic Rendel Harris, Picus who is
Games (about a year-daimon); 8. also Zeus, 1916; The Ascent of
Daimon and Hero, with Excursus Olympus, 1917.
24 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP,
magic is essentially demoniac; but we have no evidence that
the pre-Homeric Greek was demon-ridden, or that demon-
ology and exorcism were leading factors in his consciousness
and practice." Even Mr. Farnell admits, however, that
"the earliest Hellene, as 'the later, was fully sensitive to the
magico-divine efficacy of names." 1 Now to believe in the
power of names before one believes in the existence of
demons is the best possible evidence of the antiquity of
magic in a society, since it indicates that the speaker has
confidence in the operative power of his own words without
any spiritual or divine assistance.
Magic in Moreover, in one sense the advocates of Greek magic
Greek phi- have not gone far enough. They hold that magic lies back
of the comedies of Aristophanes; what they might contend
is that it was also contemporary with them.2 They hold
that classical Greek religion had its origins in magic; what
they might argue is that Greek philosophy never freed
itself from magic. "That Empedocles believed himself
capable of magical powers is," says Zeller, "proved by his
own writings." He himself "declares that he possesses the
power to heal old age and sickness, to raise and calm the
winds, to summon rain and drought, and to recall the
dead to life." 3 If the pre-Homeric fixed epithets of
Zeus are redolent of magic, Plato's Timaeus is equally redo-
lent of occult science and astrology; and if we see the
weather-making magician in the Olympian Zeus of Phidias,
we cannot explain away the vagaries of the Timaeus as
flights of poetic imagination or try to make out Aristotle
a modern scientist by mutilating the text of the History of
'Farnell, Greece and Babylon, Ancients, in Folk-lore, 18go, and
pp. 292, 178-9. E. H. Klatsche, The Supernatural
SSee Ernest Riess, Superstitions in the Tragedies of Euripides, in
and Popular Beliefs in Greek University of Nebraska Studies,
Tragedy, in Transactions of the 1919.
American Philological Associa- 'See Zeller, Pre-Socratic Phi-
tion, vol. 27 (1896), pp. 5-34; and losophy, II (1881), 119-20, for fur-
On Ancient superstition, ibid. 26 their boasts by Empedocles himself
(1895), 40-55. Also J. G. Frazer, and other marvels attributed to
Some Popular Superstitions of the him by later authors.
i INTRODUCTION 25
Toward magic so-called Plato's attitude in his Laws is Plato's
cautious. He maintains that medical men and prophets and attitude
diviners can alone understand the nature of poisons (or magic and
spells) which work naturally, and of such things as incan- astrology.
stations, magic knots, and wax images; and that since other
men have no certain knowledge of such matters, they ought
not to fear but to despise them. He admits nevertheless
that there is no use in trying to convince most men of this
and that it is necessary to legislate against sorcery.1 Yet
his own view of nature seems impregnated, if not actually
with doctrines borrowed from the Magi of the east, at least
with notions cognate to those of magic rather than of
modern science and with doctrines favorable to astrology.
He humanized material objects and confused material and
spiritual characteristics. He also, like authors of whom
we shall treat later, attempted to give a natural or rational
explanation for magic, accounting, for example, for liver
divination on the ground that the liver was a sort of mirror
on which the thoughts of the mind fell and in which the
images of the soul were reflected; but that they ceased after
death.2 He spoke of harmonious love between the elements
as the source of health and plenty for vegetation, beasts,
and men, and their "wanton love" as the cause of pestilence
and disease. To understand both varieties of love "in rela-
tion to the revolutions of the heavenly bodies and the
seasons of the year is termed astronomy," 3 or, as we should
say, astrology, whose fundamental law is the control of
inferior creation by the motion of the stars. Plato spoke
of the stars as "divine and eternal animals, ever abiding," 4
an expression which we shall hear reiterated in the middle
ages. "The lower gods," whom he largely identified with
the heavenly bodies, form men, who, if they live good lives,
return after death each to a happy existence in his proper
star.5 Such a doctrine is not identical with that of nativities
'Laws, XI, 933 (Steph.). 'Timaeus, p. 40 (Steph.) ; Jow-
2 Timaeus, p. 71 (Steph.). ett, III, 459.
3Symposium, p. 188 (Steph.);
in Jowett's translation, I, 558. "Ibid., pp. 41-42 (Steph.).
26 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
and the horoscope, but like it exalts the importance of the
stars and suggests their control of human life. And when
at the close of his Republic Plato speaks of the harmony or
music of the spheres of the seven planets and the eighth
sphere of the fixed stars, and of "the spindle of Necessity
on which all the revolutions turn," he suggests that when
once the human soul has entered upon this life, its destiny
is henceforth subject to the courses of the stars. When in
the Timaeus he says, "There is no difficulty in seeing that
the perfect number of time fulfills the perfect year when all
the eight revolutions . .are accomplished together and
attain their completion at the same time," 1 he seems to
suggest the astrological doctrine of the magnus annus, that
history begins to repeat itself in every detail when the
heavenly bodies have all regained their original positions.
Aristotle For Aristotle, too, the stars were "beings of superhuman
on stars intelligence, incorporate deities. They appeared to him as
the purer forms, those more like the deity, and from them
a purposive rational influence upon the lower life of the
earth seemed to proceed,-a thought which became the root
of medieval astrology." 2 Moreover, "his theory of the
subordinate gods of the spheres of the planets . pro-
vided for a later demonology." 3
Folk-lore Aside from bits of physiognomy and of Pythagorean
in the superstition, or mysticism, Aristotle's History of Animals
Animals. contains much on the influence of the stars on animal life,
the medicines employed by animals, and their friendships
and enmities, and other folklore and pseudo-science.4 But
1 Timaeus, p. 39 (Steph.); rejected as spurious, see Thorn-
Jowett, III, 458. dike (1905), pp. 62-3. T. E.
Lones, Aristotle's Researches in
'W. Windelband, History of Natural Science, London, 1912,
Philosophy, English translation by 274 pp., discusses "Aristotle's
J. H. Tufts, 1898, p. 147. method of investigating the natu-
8Windelband, History of An- ral sciences," and a large number
cient Philosophy, English transla- of Aristotle's specific statements
tion by H. E. Cushman, 1899. showing whether they were cor-
rect or incorrect. The best trans-
'For a number of examples, lation of the History of Animals
which might be considerably mul- is by D'Arcy W. Thompson, Ox-
tiplied if books VII-X are not ford 1910, with valuable notes.
I INTRODUCTION 27
the oldest extant manuscript of that work dates, only from
the twelfth or thirteenth century and lacks the tenth book.
Editors of the text have also rejected books seven and nine,
the latter part of book eight, and have questioned various
other passages. However, these expurgations save the face
of Aristotle rather than of Hellenic science or philosophy
generally, as the spurious seventh book is held to be drawn
largely from Hippocratic writings and the ninth from
There is another point to be kept in mind in any com- Differing
prison of Egypt and Babylon or Assyria with Greece in modes
the matter of magic. Our evidence proving the great part mission of
played by magic in the ancient oriental civilizations comes oriental
directly from them to us without intervening tampering or andGreek
alteration except in the case of the early periods. But
classical literature and philosophy come to us as edited by
Alexandrian librarians 2 and philologers, as censored and
selected by Christian and Byzantine readers, as copied or
translated by medieval monks and Italian humanists. And
the question is not merely, what have they added? but also,
what have they altered? what have they rejected? Instead
of questioning superstitious passages in extant works on
the ground that they are later interpolations, it would very
likely be more to the point to insert a goodly number on
the ground that they have been omitted as pagan or idola-
Suppose we turn to those writings which have been More
unearthed just as they were in ancient Greek; to the papyri, magical
the lead tablets, the so-called Gnostic gems. How does the of directly
proportion of magic in these compare with that in the Greekm
indirectly transmitted literary remains? If it is objected remains.
that the magic papyri 3 are mainly of late date and that
1 See the edition of the History the library of Assurbanipal.
of Animals by Dittmeyer (1907), 'A list of magic papyri and of
p. vii, where various monographs publications up to about 19oo deal-
will be found mentioned. ing with the same is given in
'Perhaps pure literature was Hubert's article on Magia in
over-emphasized in the Museum Daremberg-Saglio, pp. 1503-4. See
at Alexandria, and magic texts in also Sir Herbert Thompson and
28 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
they are found in Egypt, it may be replied that they are
as old as or older than any other manuscripts we have of
classical literature and that its chief store-house, too, was
in Egypt at Alexandria. As for the magical curses written
on lead tablets,1 they date from the fourth century before
our era to the sixth after, and fourteen come from Athens
and sixteen from Cnidus as against one from Alexandria
and eleven from Carthage. And although some display
extreme illiteracy, others are written by persons of rank
and education. And what a wealth of astrological manu-
scripts in the Greek language has been unearthed in Euro-
pean libraries by the editors of the Catalogus Codicum
Graecorum Astrologorum! 2 And occasionally archaeolo-
gists report the discovery of magical apparatus 3 or of repre-
sentations of magic in works of art.
In thus contending that Hellenic culture was not free
from magic and that even the philosophy and science of the
ancient Greeks show traces of superstition, I would not, how-
ever, obscure the fact that of extant literary remains the
Greek are the first to present us with any very considerable
body either of systematic rational speculation or of classified
collection of observed facts concerning nature. Despite the
rapid progress in recent years in knowledge of prehistoric
man and Egyptian and Babylonian civilization, the Hellenic
F. L. Griffith, The Magical De-
motic Papyrus of London and
Leiden, 3 vols., 1909-1921; Cata-
logue of Demotic Papyri in the
John Rylands Library, Manches-
ter, with 'facsimiles and complete
translations, 1909, 3 vols. Grenfell
(1921), p. 159, says, "A corpus of
the magical papyri was projected
in Germany by K. Preisendanz
before the war, and a Czech
scholar, Dr. Hopfner, is engaged
upon the difficult task of eluci-
'W. C. Battle, Magical Curses
Written on Lead Tablets, in
Transactions of the American
Philological Association, XXVI
(1895), pp. liv-lviii, a synopsis of
a Harvard dissertation. Audol-
lent, Defixionum tabulae, etc.,
Paris, 1904, 568 pp. R. Wiinsch,
Defixionum Tabellae Atticae, 1897,
and Sethianische Verfluchungsta-
feln aus Rom (390-420 A.D.),
2Since 1898 various volumes
and parts have appeared under the
editorship of Cumont, Kroll, Boll,
Olivieri, Bassi, and others. Much
of the material noted is of course
post-classical and Byzantine, and
of Christian authorship or Ara-
'For example, see R. Wiinsch,
Antikes Zaubergeriit aus Per-
gamon, in Jahrb. d. kaiser.
deutsch. archeol. Instit., supply. VI
(1905), p. 19.
I INTRODUCTION 29
title to the primacy in philosophy and science has hardly
been called in question, and no earlier works have been
discovered that can compare in medicine with those ascribed
to Hippocrates, in biology with those of Aristotle and
Theophrastus, or in mathematics and physics with those of
Euclid and Archimedes. Undoubtedly such men and writ-
ings had their predecessors, probably they owed something
to ancient oriental civilization, but, taking them as we have
them, they seem to be marked by great original power.
Whatever may lie concealed beneath the surface of the past,
or whatever signs or hints of scientific investigation and
knowledge we may think we can detect and read between
the lines, as it were, in other phases of older civilizations,
in these works solid beginnings of experimental and mathe-
matical science stand unmistakably forth.
"An extraordinarily large proportion of the subject Archime-
matter of the writings of Archimedes," says Heath, "repre- deisant
sents entirely new discoveries of his own. Though his
range of subjects was almost encyclopedic, embracing
geometry (plane and solid), arithmetic, mechanics, hydro-
statics and astronomy, he was no compiler, no writer of
text-books. . His objective is always some new thing,
some definite addition to the sum of knowledge, and his com-
plete originality cannot fail to strike anyone who reads his
works intelligently, without any corroborative evidence such
as is found in the introductory letters prefixed to most of
them. . In some of his subjects Archimedes had no fore-
runners, e. g., in hydrostatics, where he invented the whole
science, and (so far as mathematical demonstration was
concerned) in his mechanical investigations." 1 Aristotle's
History of Animals is still highly esteemed by historians of
biology 2 and often evidences "a large amount of personal
1T. L. Heath, The Works of Aristotle's Researches in Natural
Archimedes, Cambridge, 1897, pp. Science, London, 1912. Professor
xxxix-xl. W. A. Locy, author of Biology
'On "Aristotle as a Biologist" and Its Makers, writes me (May
see the Herbert Spencer lecture by 9, 1921) that in his opinion G. H.
D'Arcy W. Thompson, Oxford, Lewes, Aristotle; a Chapter from
1913, 31 pp. Also T. E. Lones, the History of Science, London,
30 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE
observations," 1 "great accuracy," and "minute inquiry," as
in his account of the vascular system 2 or observations on
the embryology of the chick.3 "Most wonderful of all,
perhaps, are those portions of his book in which he speaks of
fishes, their diversities, their structure, their wanderings, and
their food. Here we may read of fishes that have only
recently been rediscovered, of structures only lately reinves-
tigated, of habits only of late made known." 4 But of the
achievements of Hellenic philosophy and Hellenistic science
the reader may be safely assumed already to have some
But in closing this brief preliminary sketch of the period
before our investigation proper begins, I would take excep-
tion to the tendency, prevalent especially among German
scholars, to center in and confine to Aristotle and the
Hellenistic age almost all progress in natural science made
before modern times. The contributions of the Egyptians
and Babylonians are reduced to a minimum on the one hand,
while on the other the scientific writings of the Roman
1864, "dwells too much on Aris-
totle's errors and imperfections,
and in several instances omits the
quotation of important positive
observations, occurring in the
chapters from which he makes his
quotations of errors." Professor
Locy also disagrees with Lewes'
estimate of De generation as
Aristotle's masterpiece and thinks
that "naturalists will get more
satisfaction out of reading the
Historia animalium" than either
the De generation or De partibus.
Thompson (1913), P. 14, calls
Aristotle "a very great naturalist."
This quotation is from Pro-
fessor Locy's letter of May 9,
2 The quotations are from a note
by Professor D'Arcy W. Thomp-
son on his translation of the
Historia animalium, III, 3. The
note gives so good a glimpse of
both the merits and defects of the
Aristotelian text as it has reached
us that I will quote it here more
"The Aristotelian account of the
vascular system is remarkable for
its wealth of details, for its great
accuracy in many particulars, and
for its extreme obscurity in others.
It is so far true to nature that it
is. clear evidence of minute in-
quiry, but here and there so
remote from fact as to suggest
that things once seen have been
half forgotten, or that supersti-
tion was in conflict with the result
of observation. The account of
the vessels connecting the left arm
with the liver and the right with
the spleen . is a surviving ex-
ample of mystical or superstitious
belief. It is possible that the
ascription of three chambers to
the heart was also influenced by
tradition or mysticism, much in
the same way as Plato's notion of
the three corporeal faculties."
SProfessor Locy called my at-
tention to it in a letter of May 17,
1921. See also Thompson (I913),
'Thompson (1913), p. 19.
I INTRODUCTION 31
Empire, which are extant in far greater abundance than
those of the Hellenistic period, are regarded as inferior imita-
tions of great authors whose works are not extant; Posi-
donius, for example, to whom it has been the fashion of the
writers of German dissertations to attribute this, that, and
every theory in later writers. But it is contrary to the law
of gradual and painful acquisition of scientific knowledge
and improvement of scientific method that one period of a
few centuries should thus have discovered everything. We
have disputed the similar notion of a golden age of early
Egyptian science from which the Middle and New King-
doms declined, and have not held that either the Egyptians
or Babylonians had made great advances in science before
the Greeks. But that is not saying that they had not made
some advance. As Professor Karpinski has recently written:
"To deny to Babylon, to Egypt, and to India, their part
in the development of science and scientific thinking is to
defy the testimony of the ancients, supported by the dis-
coveries of the modern authorities. The efforts which have
been made to ascribe to Greek influence the science of Egypt,
of later Babylon, of India, and that of the Arabs do not
add to the glory that was Greece. How could the Baby-
lonians of the golden age of Greece or the Hindus, a little
later, have taken over the developments of Greek astron-
omy? This would only have been possible if they had
arrived at a state of development in astronomy which would
have enabled them properly to estimate and appreciate the
work which was to be absorbed. . The admission that
the Greek astronomy immediately affected the astronomical
theories of India carries with it the implication that this
science had attained somewhat the same level in India as in
Greece. Without serious questioning we may assume that
a fundamental part of the science of Babylon and Egypt
and India, developed during the times which we think of as
Greek, was indigenous science." 1
1L. C. Karpinski, "Hindu Science," in The American Mathematical
Monthly, XXVI (1919), 298-300.
32 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP. I
Nor am I ready to admit that the great scientists of the
early Roman Empire merely copied from, or were distinctly
inferior to, their Hellenistic predecessors. Aristarchus may
have held the heliocentric theory but Ptolemy must have
been an abler scientist and have supported his incorrect
hypothesis with more accurate measurements and calcula-
tions or the ancients would have adopted the sounder view.
And if Herophilus had really demonstrated the circulation
of the blood, so keen an intelligence as Galen's would not
have cast his discovery aside. And if Ptolemy copied
Hipparchus, are we to imagine that Hipparchus copied from
no one? But of the incessant tradition from authority to
authority and yet of the gradual accumulation of new matter
from personal observation and experience our ensuing sur-
vey of thirteen centuries of thought and writing will afford
more detailed illustration.
'Sir Thomas Heath, Aristar-
chus of Samos, the Ancient
Copernicus: a history of Greek
astronomy to Aristarchus to-
gether with Aristarchus's treatise,
"On the Sizes and Distances of
the Sun and Moon," a new Greek
text with translation and notes,
Oxford, 1913, admits that "our
treatise does not contain any sug-
gestion of any but the geocentric
view of the universe, whereas
Archimedes tells us that Aristar-
chus wrote a book of hypotheses,
one of which was that the sun and
the fixed stars remain unmoved
and that the earth revolves round
the sun in the circumference of a
circle." Such evidence seems
scarcely to warrant applying the
title of "The Ancient Copernicus"
to Aristarchus. And Heath
thinks that Schiaparelli (I precur-
sori di Copernico nell' antichitd,
and other papers) went too far
in ascribing the Copernican hy-
pothesis to Heraclides of Pontus.
On Aristotle's answer to Pythag-
oreans who denied the geocentric
theory see Orr (1913), pp. 100oo-2.
SOME WORKS ON MAGIC, RELIGION, AND ASTRONOMY IN
BABYLONIA AND ASSYRIA
The following books deal expressly with the magic of
Assyria and Babylonia:
Fossey, C. La magie assyrienne; 6tude suivie de textes magiques,
King, L. W. Babylonian Magic and Sorcery, being "The Prayers
of the Lifting of the Hand," London, 1896.
Laurent, A. La magie et la divination chez les Chald6o-Assyr-
iens, Paris, 1894.
Lenormant, F. Chaldean Magic and Sorcery, English transla-
tion, London, 1878.
Schwab, M., in Proc. Bibl. Archaeology (1890), pp. 292-342, on
magic bowls from Assyria and Babylonia.
Tallquist, K. L. Die Assyrische Beschw6rungsserie Maqlfh, Leip-
Thompson, R. C. The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers
of Nineveh and Babylon in the British Museum, London, 1900.
Texts and translations-all but three are astrological.
The Devils and Evil Spirits of Babylonia, London, 1904.
Semitic Magic, London, 1908.
Weber, O. Dfimonenbeschworung bei den Babyloniern und As-
syrern, 1906. Eine Skizze (37 pp.), in Der Alte Orient.
Zimmern. Die Beschwbrungstafein Surpu.
Much concerning magic will also be found in works on
Babylonian and Assyrian religion.
Craig, J. A. Assyrian and Babylonian Religious Texts, Leipzig,
Curtiss, S. I. Primitive Semitic Religion Today, 1902.
Dhorme, P. Choix des textes religieux Assyriens Babyloniens,
La religion Assyro-Babylonienne, Paris, 1910.
Gray, C. D. The Samas Religious Texts.
34 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE
Jastrow, Morris. The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, Boston,
1898. Revised and enlarged as Religion Babyloniens und As-
syriens, Giessen, 1904.
Jeremias. Babylon. Assyr. Vorstellungen von dem Leben nach
Tode, Leipzig, 1887.
H6lle und Paradies, and other works.
Knudtzon, J. A. Assyrische Gebete an den Sonnengott, Leipzig,
Lagrange, M. J. fitudes sur les religions s6mitiques, Paris, 1905.
Langdon, S. Sumerian and Babylonian Psalms, Paris, 1909.
Reisner, G. A. Sumerisch-Babylonische Hymnen, Berlin, 1896.
Robertson Smith, W. Lectures on the Religion of the Semites,
Roscher, Lexicon, for various articles.
Zimmern. Babylonische Hymnen und Gebete in Auswahl, 32 pp.,
1905 (Der Alte Orient).
Beitrige zur Kenntniss der Babyl. Religion, Leipzig, 1901.
On the astronomy and astrology of the Babylonians one
Bezold, C. Astronomie, Himmelschau und Astrallehre bei den
Babyloniern. (Sitzb. Akad. Heidelberg, 1911, Abh. 2).
Boissier. A. Documents assyriens relatifs aux presages, Paris,
Choix de textes relatifs A la divination assyro-babylonienne,
Craig, J. A. Astrological-Astronomical Texts, Leipzig, 1892.
Cumont, F. Babylon und die griechische Astrologie. (Neue
Jahrb. fiir das klass. Altertum, XXVII, 1911).
Epping, J., and Strassmeier, J. N. Astronomisches aus Babylon,
Ginzel, F. K. Die astronomischen Kentnisse der Babylonier, 19ol.
Hehn, J. Siebenzahl und Sabbat bei den Babyloniern und im
Alten Testament, 1907.
Jensen, P. Kosmologie der Babylonier, 1890.
Jeremias. Das Alter der babylonischen Astronomie, 1908.
Handbuch der altorientalischen Geisteskultur, 1913.
Kugler, F. X. Die Babylonische Mondrechnung, 19oo.
Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel, Freiburg, 1907-1913. To
be completed in four vols.
Im Bannkreis Babels, 1910.
Oppert, J. Die astronomischen Angaben der assyrischen Keilin-
APPENDIX I 35
schriften, in Sitzb. d. Wien. Akad. Math.-Nat. Classe, 1885, pp.
Un texte Babylonien astronomique et sa traduction grecque par
Cl. Ptol6me6, in Zeitsch. f. Assyriol. VI (1891), pp. 103-23.
Sayce, A. H. The astronomy and astrology of the Babylonians,
with translations of the tablets relating to the subject, in Trais-
actions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, III (1874), 145-
339; the first and until recently the best guide to the subject.
Schiaparelli, G. V. I Primordi ed i Progressi dell' Astronomia
press i Babilonesi, Bologna, 1908.
Astronomy in the Old Testament, 1905.
Stiicken, Astralmythen, 1896-1907.
Virolleaud, Ch. L'Astrologie chald6enne, Paris, 1905-; to be
completed in eight parts, texts and translations.
Winckler, Himmels- und Weltenbild der Babylonier als Grundlage
der Weltanschauung und Mythologie aller Volker, in Der alte
Orient, III, 2-3.
BOOK I. THE ROMAN EMPIRE
Chapter 2. Pliny's Natural History.
I. Its place in the history of science.
II. Its experimental tendency.
III. Pliny's account of magic.
IV. The science of the Magi.
V. Pliny's magical science.
3. Seneca and Ptolemy: Natural Divination an.
I. The man and his times.
II. His medicine and experimental science.
III. His attitude toward magic.
5. Ancient Applied Science and Magic.
6. Plutarch's Essays.
7. Apuleius of Madaura.
8. Philostratus's Life of Apollonius of Tyana.
9. Literary and Philosophical Attacks upon
I. The Spurious Mystic Writings of Hermes,
Oi-pheus, and Zoroaster.
I. Neo-Platonism and its Relations to Astrology
12. Aelian, Solinus, and Horapollo.
BOOK I. THE ROMAN EMPIRE
A TRIO of great names, Pliny, Galen, and Ptolemy, stand out A trio of
above all others in the history of science under the Roman names.
Empire. In the use or criticism which they make of earlier
writers and investigators they are also our chief sources for
the science of the preceding Hellenistic period. By their
voluminousness, their generous scope in ground covered, and
their broad, liberal, personal outlooks, they have painted, in
colors for the most part imperishable, extensive canvasses
of the scientific spirit and acquisitions of their own time.
Pliny pursued politics and literature as well as natural sci-
ence; Ptolemy was at once mathematician, astronomer,
physicist, and geographer; Galen knew philosophy as well
as medicine. The two latter men, moreover, made original
contributions of their own of the very first order to scientific
knowledge and method. It is characteristic of the homo-
geneous and widespread culture of the Roman Empire that
these three representatives of different, although overlap-
ping, fields of science were natives of the three continents
that enclose the Mediterranean Sea. Pliny was born at Como
where Italy verges on transalpine lands; Ptolemy, born some-
where in Egypt, did his work at Alexandria; Galen came
from Pergamum in Asia Minor. (Finally, these men were,
after Aristotle, the three ancient scientists who directly or
indirectly most powerfully influenced the middle ages. Thus
they illuminate past, present, and future)
We shall therefore open the present section of our in- Plan of
vestigation by considering in turn chronologically, Pliny, this
Ptolemy, and Galen, coupling, however, with our considera-
tion of Ptolemy the work of Seneca on Natural Questions
which shows the same combination of natural science and
natural divination. Next we shall consider some representa-
tives of ancient applied science and its relations to magic, and
the more miscellaneous writings of Plutarch, Apuleius, and
Philostratus's Life of Apollonius of Tyana. From the hos-
pitable attitude toward magic and occult science displayed by
these last writers we sha" then turn back again to consider
some examples of literary and philosophical attacks upon
superstition, before proceeding lastly to spurious mystic
writings of the Roman Empire, Neo-Platonism and its re-
lations to astrology and theurgy, and the works of Aelian,
Solinus, and Horapollo.
PLINY'S NATURAL HISTORY
I. Its Place in the History of Science
Its importance in our investigation-As a collection of miscellaneous
information-As a repository of ancient natural science-As a source
for magic-Pliny's career-His writings-His own description of the
Natural History-His devotion to science-Conflict of science and
religion-Pliny not a trained naturalist-His use of authorities-His
lack of arrangement and classification-His scepticism and credulity
-A guide to ancient science-His medieval influence-Early printed
II. Its Experimental Tendency
Importance of observation and experience-Use of the word experi-
mentum-Experiments due to scientific curiosity-Medical experimenta-
tion-Chance experience and divine revelation-Marvels proved by
III. Pliny's Account of Magic
Oriental origin of magic-Its spread to the Greeks-Its spread out-
side the Graeco-Roman world-Failure to understand its true origin-
Magic and divination-Magic and religion-Magic and medicine-Magic
and philosophy-Falseness of magic-Crimes of magic-Pliny's censure
of magic is mainly intellectual-Vagueness of Pliny's scepticism-Magic
and science indistinguishable.
IV. The Srience of the Magi
Magicians as investigators of nature-The Magi on herbs-Marvel-
ous virtues of herbs-Animals and parts of animals-Further instances
-Magic rites with animals and parts of animals-Marvels wrought
with parts of animals-The Magi on stones-Other magical recipe"
-Summary of the statements of the Magi.
V. Pliny's Magical Science
From the Magi to Pliny's magic-Habits of animals-Remedies dis-
covered by animals-Jealousy of animals-Occult virtues of animals-
The virtues of herbs-Plucking herbs-Agricultural magic-Virtue of
stones-Other minerals and metals-Virtues of human parts--Virtues
42 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
of human saliva-The human operator-Absence of medical compounds
-Sympathetic magic-Antipathies between animals-Love and hatred
between inanimate objects-Sympathy between animate and inanimate
objects-Like cures like-The principle of association-Magic transfer
of disease-Amulets-Position or direction-The time element-Ob-
servance of number-Relation between operator and patient-Incanta-
tions-Attitude towards love-charms and birth control-Pliny and
astrology-Celestial portents-The stars and the world of nature-
Astrological medicine-Conclusion: magic unity of Pliny's superstitions.
"Salve, parents rerum omnium Natura, teque nobis
Quiritium solis celebratam esse numeris omnibus tuis fave!"
-Closing words of the Natural History.1
I. Its Place in the History of Science
WE should have to search long before finding a better start-
ing-point for the consideration of the union of magic with
the science of the Roman Empire, and of the way in which
that union influenced the middle ages, than Pliny's Natural
History.2 The foregoing sentence, with which years ago
I opened a chapter on the Natural History of Pliny the
Elder in my briefer preliminary study of magic in the intel-
lectual history of the Roman Empire, seems as true as
ever; and although I there considered his confusion of magic
and science at some length, I do not see how I can make the
present work well-rounded and complete without including
in it a yet more detailed analysis of the contents of Pliny's
Pliny's Natural History, which appeared about 77 A. D. ,
and is dedicated to the Emperor Titus, is perhaps the most
As a col-
which is superior to both the Ger-
man editions in its explanatory
notes and subject index, and which
also apparently antedates them
in some readings suggested for
doubtful passages in the text.
Three modes of dividing the
Natural History into chapters are
indicated in the editions of Janus
and Detlefsen. I shall employ
that found in the earlier editions
of Hardouin, Valpy, Lemaire, and
Ajasson, and preferred in the
English translation of Bostock
1 "Farewell, Nature, parent of
all things, and in thy manifold
multiplicity bless me who, alone
of the Romans, has sung thy
'For the Latin text of the
Naturalis Historia I have used the
editions of D. Detlefsen, Berlin,
1866-1882, and L. Janus, Leipzig,
1870, 6 vols. in 3; 5 vols. in 3.
There is, however, a good English
translation of the Natural History,
with an introductory essay, by
J. Bostock and H. T. Riley, Lon-
don, 1855, 6 vols. (Bohn Library),
PLINY'S NATURAL HISTORY
important single source extant for the history of ancient v
civilization. Its thirty-seven books, written in a very com-
pact style, constitute a vast collection of the most miscel-
laneous information. Whether one is investigating ancient
painting, sculpture, and other fine arts; or the geography of
the Roman Empire; or Roman triumphs, gladiatorial con-
tests, and theatrical exhibitions; or the industrial processes
of antiquity; or Mediterranean trade; or Italian agriculture;
or mining in ancient Spain; or the history of Roman coin-
age; or the fluctuation of prices in antiquity; or the Roman
attitude towards usury; or the pagan attitude towards im-
mortality; or the nature of ancient beverages; or the relig-
ious usages of the ancient Romans; or any of a number of
other topics; one will find something concerning all of them
in Pliny. He is apt both to depict such conditions in his
own time and to trace them back to their origins. Further-
more he repeats many detailed incidents of interest to the
political or narrative historian of Rome as well as to the
student of the economic, social, artistic, and religious life of
antiquity. Probably there is no place where an isolated point
is more likely to be run down by the investigator, and it is
regrettable that exhaustive analytical indices of the work
are not available. We may add that, although the work is
supposedly a collection of facts, Pliny contrives to introduce
many moral reflections and sharp comments on the luxury,
vice, and unintellectual character of his times, suggesting
Juvenal's picture of degenerate Roman society and his own
lofty moral standards.
Indeed, Pliny's title, Naturalis Historia, or at least the As a
common English translation of it, "Natural History," has repository
been criticized as too limited in scope, and the work has been natural
described as "rather a vast encyclopedia of ancient knowl- science.
edge and belief upon almost every known subject."1
Pliny himself mentions in his preface the Greek word
"encyclopedia" as indicative of his scope. Nevertheless, his
work is primarily an account of nature rather than of civili-
'Bostock and Riley (1855), I, xvi.
44 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
zation, and much of its information concerning such mat-
ters as the arts and business is incidental. Most of its books
bear such titles as Aquatic Animals, Exotic Trees, Medi-
cines from Forest Trees, The Natures of Metals. After an
introductory book containing the preface and a table of con-
tents and lists of authorities for each of the subsequent
books, the second book treats of the universe, heavenly
bodies, meteorology, and the chief changes, such as earth-
quakes and tides, in the land and water forming the earth's
surface. After four books devoted to geography, the sev-
enth deals with man and human inventions. Four more fol-
low on terrestrial and aquatic animals, birds, and insects.
Sixteen more are concerned with plants, trees, vines, and
other vegetation, and the medicinal simples derived from
them. Five books discuss the medicinal simples derived
from animals, including the human body; and the last five
books treat of metals and minerals and the arts in which
they are employed. It is thus evident that in the main Pliny
is concerned with natural science, and that, if his work is a
mine of miscellaneous historical information, it should even
more prove a rich treasure-house-"quoniam, ut ait Do-
mitius Piso, thesauros oportet esse non libros" 1-for an in-
vestigation concerned as intimately as is ours with the his-
tory of science.
As a The Natural History is a great storehouse of misinfor-
source for mation as well as of information, for Pliny's credulity and
magic. ack of discrimination harvested the tares of legend and
magic along with the wheat of historical fact and ancient
science in his voluminous granary. This may put other his-
torical investigators upon their guard in accepting its state-
ments, but only increases its value for our purpose. Per-
haps it is even more valuable as a collection of ancient er-
rors than it is as a repository of ancient science. It touches
upon many of the varieties, and illustrates most of the char-
acteristics, of magic. Moreover, Pliny often mentions the
Magi or magicians and discusses "magic" expressly at some
II PLINY'S NATURAL HISTORY 45
length in the opening chapters of his thirtieth book-one of
the most important passages on the theme in any ancient
Pliny the Elder, as we learn from his own statements in Pliny's
the Natural History and from one or two letters concerning career.
him written by his nephew, Pliny the Younger, whom he
adopted, went through the usual military, forensic, and offi-
cial career of the Roman of good family, and spent his life
largely in the service of the emperors. He visited vari-
ous Mediterranean lands, such as Spain, Africa, Greece, and
Egypt, and fought in Germany. He was in charge of
the Roman fleet on the west coast of Italy when he met his
death at the age of fifty-six by suffocation as he was trying
to rescue others from the fumes and vapors from the erup-
tion of Mount Vesuvius.
Of Pliny's writings the Natural History is alone extant, His
but other titles have been preserved which serve to show his writings.
great literary industry and the extent of his interests. He
wrote on the use of the javelin by cavalry, a life of his
friend Pomponius, an account in twenty books of all the
wars waged by the Romans in Germany, a rather long work
on oratory called The Student, a grammatical or philo-
logical work in eight books entitled De dubio sermone, and
a continuation of the History of Aufidius Bassus in thirty-
one books. Yet in the dedication of the Natural History to
the emperor Titus he states that his days were taken up with
official business and only his nights were free for literary
labor. This statement is supported by a letter of his nephew
telling how he used to study by candle-light both late at
night and before daybreak. Pliny the Younger narrates sev-
eral incidents to illustrate how jealous and economical of
every spare moment his uncle was. He would dictate or
have books read to him while lying down or in the bath, and
on journeys a secretary was always by his side with books
and tablets. If the weather was very cold, the amanuensis
wore gloves so that his hands might not become too numb
to write. Pliny always took notes on what he read, and at
46 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
his death left his nephew one hundred and sixty notebooks
written in a small hand on both sides.
His own Such were the conditions under which, and the methods
description by which, Pliny compiled his encyclopedia on nature. No
Natural single writer either Greek or Latin, he tells us, had ever be-
History. fore attempted so extensive a task. He adds that he treats
of some twenty thousand topics gleaned from the perusal of
about two thousand volumes by one hundred authors.1)
Judging from his bibliographies and citations, however, he
would seem to have utilized more than one hundred au-
thors. But possibly he had not read all the writers men-
tioned in his bibliographies. He affirms that previous stu-
dents have had access to but few of the volumes which he
has used, and that he adds many things unknown to his
ancient authorities and recently discovered. Occasionally
he shows an acquaintance with beliefs and practices of the
Gauls and Druids. Thus his work assumes to be something
more than a compilation from other books. He says, how-
ever, that no doubt he has omitted much, since he is only
human and has had many other demands upon his time. He
admits that his subject is dry steriliss material) and does not
lend itself to literary exhibitions, nor include matters stimu-
lating to write about and pleasant to read about, like
speeches and marvelous occurrences and varied incidents.
Nor does it permit purity and elegance of diction, since one
must at times employ the terminology of rustics, foreigners,
and even barbarians. Furthermore, "it is an arduous task
to give novelty to what is ancient, authority to what is new,
interest to what is obsolete, light to what is obscure, charm
to what is loathsome"-as many of his medicinal simples
undoubtedly are-"credit to what is dubious."
His devo- It is a great comfort to Pliny, however, in his immense
tion to task, when many laugh at him as wasting his time over
science. worthless trifles, to reflect that he is being spurned along
with Nature.2 In another passage he contrasts the blood
1 NH, Preface.
'NH, XXII, 7.
'NH, II, 6.
II PLINY'S NATURAL HISTORY 47
and slaughter of military history with the benefits bestowed
upon mankind by astronomers. In a third passage he
looks back regretfully at the widespread interest in science
among the Greeks, although those were times of political
disunion and strife and although- communication between
different lands was interrupted by piracy as well as war,
whereas now, with the whole empire at peace, not only is
no new scientific inquiry undertaken, but men do not even
thoroughly study the works of the ancients, and are intent
on the acquisition of lucre rather than learning. These and
other passages which might be cited attest Pliny's devotion
In Pliny we also detect signs of the conflict between Conflict of
science and religion. In a single chapter on God he says and
pretty much all that the church fathers later repeated at religion.
much greater length against paganism and polytheism. But
his discussion would hardly satisfy a Christian. He asserts
that "it is God for man to aid his fellow man,2 and this is
the path to eternal glory," but he turns this noble sentiment
to justify deification of the emperors who have done so much
for mankind. He questions whether God is concerned with
human affairs; slyly suggests that if so, God must be too
busy to punish all crimes promptly; and points out that
there are some things which God cannot do. He cannot
commit suicide as men can, nor alter past events, nor make
twice ten anything else than twenty. Pliny then concludes:
"By which is revealed in no uncertain wise the power of
Nature, and that is what we call God." In many other pas-
sages he exclaims at Nature's benignity or providence. He
believed that the soul had no separate existence from the
body, 3 and that after death there was no more sense left in
body or soul than was there before birth. The hope of per-
sonal immortality he scorned as "puerile ravings" produced
by the fear of death, and he believed still less in the possibility
of any resurrection of the body. In short, natural law, me-
NH, II, 46. iuvare mortalem.... .
'NH, II, 5. "Dens est mortali 'NH, VII, 56.
48 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
chanical force, and facts capable of scientific investigation
would seem to be all that he will admit and to suffice to
satisfy his strong intellect. Yet we shall later find him hav-
ing the greatest difficulty in distinguishing between science
and magic, and giving credence to many details in science
which seem to us quite as superstitious as the pagan beliefs
concerning the gods which he rejected. But if any reader
is inclined to belittle Pliny for this, let him first stop and
think how Pliny would ridicule some modern scientists for
their religious beliefs, or for their spiritualism or psychic re-
Pliny not It is desirable, however, to form some estimate of Pliny's
natralist fitness for his task in order to judge how accurate a picture
of ancient science his work is. He does not seem to have
had much detailed training or experience in the natural sci-
ences himself. He writes not as a. naturalist who has ob-
served widely and profoundly the phenomena and opera-
tions of nature, but as an omnivorous reader and volumin-
ous note-taker who owes his knowledge largely to books or
hearsay, although occasionally he says "I know" instead of
"they say," or gives the results of his own observation and
experience. In the main he is not a scientist himself but
only a historian of science or nature; after all, his title,
Natural History, is a very fitting one. The question, of
course, arises whether he has sufficient scientific training to
evaluate properly the work of the past. Has he read the
best authors, has he noted their best passages, has he under-
stood their meaning? Does he repeat inferior theories and
omit the correcter views of certain Alexandrian scientists?
These questions are hard to answer. On his behalf it may
be said that he deals little with abstruse scientific theory and
mainly with simple substances and geographical places, mat-
ters in which it seems difficult for him to go far astray.
Scientific specialists were not numerous in those days, any-
way, and science had not yet so far advanced and ramified
that one man might not hope to cover the entire field and
do it substantial justice. Pliny the Younger was perhaps
II PLINY'S NATURAL HISTORY 49
a partial judge, but he described the Natural History as "a
work remarkable for its comprehensiveness and erudition,
and not less varied than Nature herself." 1
One thing in Pliny's favor as a compiler, besides his per- His use of
sonal industry, unflagging interest, and apparently abundant authori-
supply of clerical assistance, is his full and honest statement
of his authorities, although he adds that he has caught many
authors transcribing others verbatim without acknowledg-
ment. He has, however, great admiration for many of his
authorities, exclaiming more than once at the care and dili-
gence of the men of the past who have left nothing untried
or unexperienced, from trackless mountain tops to the roots
of herbs.2 Sometimes, nevertheless, he disputes their as-
sertions. For instance, Hippocrates said that the appear-
ance of jaundice on the seventh day in fever is a fatal sign,
"but we know some who have lived even after this." Pliny
also scolds Sophocles for his falsehoods concerning amber.'
It may seem surprising that he should expect strict scientific
truth from a dramatic poet, but Pliny, like many medieval
writers, seems to regard poets as good scientific authorities.
In another passage he accepts Sophocles' statement that a
certain plant is poisonous, rather than the contrary view of
other writers, saying "the authority of so prominent a man
moves me against their opinions." ( He also cites Menander
concerning fish and, like almost all the ancients, regards
Homer as an authority on all matters.6) Pliny sometimes
cites the works of King Juba of Numidia, than whom there
hardly seems to have been a greater liar in antiquity.7 He
stated among other things in a work which he wrote for
Gaius Caesar, the son of Augustus, that a whale six hun-
dred feet long and three hundred and sixty feet broad had
'Letter to Macer, Ep. III, 5, ed. 'Yet C. W. King, Natural His-
Keil. Leipzig, 1896. tory of Precious Stones, p. 2, de-
SNH, VII, i; XXIII, 6o; XXV, plores the loss of Juba's treatise,
I; XXVII, I. which he says, "considering his
8XXVI, 76. position and opportunities for
SXXXVII, II. exact information, is perhaps the
6XXI, 88. greatest we have to deplore in
"XXXII, 24. this sad catalogue of desiderata."
50 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
entered a river in Arabia.' But where should Pliny turn
for sober truth? The Stoic Chrysippus prated of amulets; 2
treatises ascribed to the great philosophers Democritus and
Pythagoras 3 were full of magic; and in the works of Cicero
he read of a man who could see for a distance of one hun-
dred and thirty-five miles, and in Varro that this man, stand-
ing on a Sicilian promontory, could count the number of
ships sailing out of the harbor of Carthage.4
His The Natural History has been criticized as poorly ar-
lack of ranged and lacking in scientific classification, but this is a
ment and criticism which can be made of many works of the classi-
classifica- cal period. Their presentation is apt to be rambling and
discursive rather than logical and systematic. Even Aris-
totle's History of Animals is described by Lewes 5 as un-
classified in its arrangement and careless in its selection of
material. I have often thought that the scholastic centuries
did mankind at least one service, that of teaching lecturers
and writers how to arrange their material. Pliny seems
rather in advance of his times in supplying full tables of
contents for the busy emperor's convenience. Valerius So-
ranus seems to have been the only previous Roman writer to
do this. One indication of haste in composition and failure
to sift and compare his material is the fact that Pliny some-
times makes or includes contradictory statements, probably
taken from different authorities. On the other hand, he not
infrequently alludes to previous passages in his own work,
thus showing that he has his material fairly well in hand.
His Pliny once said that there was no book so bad but what
scepticism some good might be got from it,6 and to the modern reader
credulity, he seems almost incredibly credulous and indiscriminate in
SNH, XXXII, 4. rite." Bouch6-Leclercq adds, how-
'XXX, 30. ever, "Rien n'y fit: D6mocrite
sBouche-Leclercq (1899), p. devint le grand docteur de la
519, notes, however, that Aulus magie."
Gellius (X, 12) protested against 'NH, VII, 21.
Pliny's credulity in accepting such G. H. Lewes, Aristotle; a
works as genuine and that "Colu- Chapter from the History of
melle (VII, 5) cite un certain Science, London. 1864.
Bolus de Mendes come 1'auteur "Letters of Pliny the Younger,
des broprivawra attributes a D6moc- III, 5, ed. Keil, Leipzig, 1896.
II PLINY'S NATURAL HISTORY 51
his selection of material, and to lack any standard of judg-
ment between the true and the false. Yet he often assumes
an air of scepticism and censures others sharply for their
credulity or exaggeration. 'Tis strange," he remarks
a propos of some tales of men transformed into wolves for
nine or ten years, "how far Greek credulity has gone. No
lie is so impudent that it lacks a voucher." 1 Once he ex-
presses his determination to include only those points on
which his authorities are in agreement.2
On the whole, while to us to-day the Natural History A guide to
seems a disorderly and indiscriminate conglomeration of ancient
fact and fiction, its defects are probably to a great extent
those of its age and of the writers from whom it has bor-
rowed. If it does not reflect the highest achievements and
clearest thinking of the best scientists of antiquity-and be
it said that there are a number of the Hellenistic age of
whom we should know less than we do but for Pliny-it
probably is a fairly faithful epitome of science and error
concerning nature in his own time and the centuries pre-
ceding. At any rate it is the best portrayal that has reached
us. From it we can get our background of the confusion
of magic and science in the Hellenistic age, and then reveal
against this setting the development of them both in the
course of the Roman Empire and middle ages. Pliny gives
so many items upon each point, and is so much fuller than
the average ancient or medieval book of science, that he
serves as a reference book, being the likeliest place to look
to find duplicated some statement concerning nature by a
later writer. This of course shows that such a statement
did not originate with the later writer, but is not a sure sign
that he copied from Pliny; they may both have used the same
authorities, as seems the case with Greek authors later in the
empire who probably did not know of Pliny's work.
In the middle ages, however, Pliny had an undoubted His
direct influence.3 Manuscripts of the Natural History are influence.
'NH, VIII, 34. des Plinius im Mittelalter, in
'XXVIII, i. Sitzb. Bayer. Akad. Philos-Philol.
'Riick, Die Naturalis Historia Classe (1908) pp. 203-318. For
52 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
numerous, although in a scarcely legible condition owing to
corrections and emendations which enhance the obscurity of
the text and perhaps do Pliny grave injustice in other re-
spects.1 Also many manuscripts contain only a few books
or fragments of the text, so that it is possible that many
medieval scholars knew their Pliny only in part.2 This,
however, can scarcely be argued from their failure to in-
clude more from him in their own works; for that might
be due to their knowing the Natural History so well that
they took its contents for granted and tried to include other
material in their own works. In a later chapter we shall treat
of The Medicine of Pliny, a treatise derived from the Nat-
ural History. Pliny's phrase rerum natural figures as the
title of several medieval encyclopedias of somewhat similar
scope. And his own name was too well known in the middle
ages to escape having a work on the philosopher's stone
ascribed to him.3
citations of Pliny by writers of Roberti Crikeladensis Prioris Ox-
the late Roman empire and early oniensis excerpta ex Plinii His-
middle ages, see Panckoucke, toria Naturali, 12-I3th century,
Bibliotheque Latine-Frangaise, vol. in a large English hand, giving
CVI. extracts extending from Book II
Concerning the MSS see Det- to Book IX.
lefsen's prefaces in each of his Of Balliol 124, fols. 1-138, Cos-
first five volumes and his fuller mographia mundi, by John Free,
dissertations in Jahn's Neue Iahrb., born at Bristol or London, fellow
77, 653ff, Rhein. Mus., XV, 265ff; at Balliol College, Oxford, later
XVIII, 227ff, 327. professor of medicine at Padua
Detlefsen seems to have made and a doctor at Rome, also well
no use of English MSS, but a instructed in civil law and Greek,
folio of the close of the 12th cen- Coxe writes, "This work is noth-
tury at New College, Oxford, ing but a series of excerpts from
contains the first nineteen books Pliny's Natural History, beginning
of the Natural History and is with the second and leaving off
described by Coxe as "very well with the twentieth." I wonder if
written and preserved." John Free may not have used the
Nor does Detlefsen mention Le very MS of the first nineteen
Mans 263, 12th century, containing books mentioned in the foregoing
all 37 books except that the last note, since the second book of the
book is incomplete, and with a full Natural History is often reckoned
page miniature (fol. iov) show- as the first.
ing Pliny in the act of presenting In Balliol I46A, I5th century,
his work to Vespasian. Escorial fol. 3-, the Natural History ap-
Q-I-4 and R-I-5 are two other pears in epitome, with a prologue
practically complete texts of the opening, "I, Reginald (Retinal-
fourteenth century which Detlef- dus), servant of Christ, perusing
sen failed to use. the books of Pliny . .
'See M. R. James, Eton Manu- Bologna, 952, 15th century,
scripts, p. 63, MS 134, Bl. 4. 7., fols. 157-60, "Tractatus optimus in
II PLINY'S NATURAL HISTORY 53
That the Natural History was well known as a whole at Early
least by the close of the middle ages is shown by the numer- pnted
ous editions, some of them magnificently printed, which
were turned off from the Italian presses immediately after
the invention of printing. In the Magliabechian Library
of Florence alone are editions printed at Venice in 1469 and
1472, at Rome in 1473 and Parma in 1481, again at Venice
in 1487, 1491, and 1499, not to mention Italian translations
which appeared at Venice in 1476 and 1489.1 These edi-
tions were accompanied by some published criticism of
Pliny's statements, since in 1492 appeared at Ferrara a treat-
ise On the Errors of Pliny and Others in Medicine by Nich-
olas Leonicenus of Vicenza with a dedication to Politian.2
But two years later Pliny found a defender in Pandulph
But Pliny's future influence will come out repeatedly in
later chapters. We shall now inquire, first, what signs of
experimental science he shows, either derived from the past
or added by himself. Second, what he defines as magic and
what he has to say about it. Third, how much of what he
supposes to be natural science must we regard as essentially
II. Its Experimental Tendency
It is probably only a coincidence that two medieval manu- Impor-
scripts close the Natural History in the midst of the seventy- tance of
sixth chapter of the last book with the words, "Experimenta tion and
pluribus modis constant . Primum pondere." 4 But al- exei-
though from the very nature of his work Pliny makes ex-
tensive use of authorities, he not infrequently manifests a
realization, as one dealing with the facts of nature should, of
the importance of observation and experience as means of
quo exposuit et aperte declaravit ana Florentiae adservan.tur, 1793-
plinius philosophus quid sit lapis 1795, II, 374-81.
philosophicus et ex qua material 'De erroribus Plinii et aliorum
debet fieri et quomodo." in medicine, Ferrara, 1492.
SFossi, Catalogus codicum Pliniana defensio, 1494.
saeculo XV impressorum qui in Escorial Q-I-4, and R-I-5, both
public Bibliotheca Magliabechi- of the i4th century.
54 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
reaching the truth. The claims of many Romans of high
rank to have carried their arms as far as Mount Atlas, which
Pliny declares has been repeatedly shown by experience to
be most fallacious, leads him to the further reflection that
nowhere is a lapse of one's credulity easier than where a
dignified author supports a false statement.' In other pas-
sages he calls experience the best teacher in all things,2 and
contrasts unfavorably garrulity of words and sitting in
schools with going to solitudes and seeking herbs at their
appropriate seasons. That upon our globe the land is en-
tirely surrounded by water does not require, he says, inves-
tigation by arguments, but is now known by experience.8
And if the salamander really extinguished fire, it would have
been tried at Rome long ago.4 On the other hand, we find
some assertions in the Natural History which Pliny might
easily have tested himself and found false, such as his state-
ment that an egg-shell cannot be broken by force or any
weight unless it is tipped a little to one side.5 Sometimes he
gives his personal experience,6 but also mentions experience
in many other connections.
The word employed most of the time by Pliny to denote
experience is experimentum.7 In many passages the word
does not indicate anything like a purposive, prearranged,
scientific experiment in our sense of that word, but simply
the ordinary experience of daily life.8 We are also told
what experti9 or men of experience, advise. In a number of
passages, however, experimentum is used in a sense some-
*NH, V, I, 12.
"XXVI, 6, "usu efficacissimo
rerum omnium magistro"; XVII,
2, 12, quaree experiments optime
'XXV, 54, "coramque nobis";
XXV, o16, "nos earn Romanis ex-
perimentis per usus digeremus."
'Sometimes another term, as
usus in note 2 above, is employed.
8See II, 41, 1-2; II, io8; VII,
41; VII, 56; VIII, 7; XIV, 8;
XVI, I; XVI, 64; XVII, 2; XVII,
35; XXII, I; XXII, 43; XXII,
49; XXII, 51; XXV, 7; XXXIV,
39 and 51. Experience is also the
idea in the two following passages,
although the word experimentum
could not smoothly be rendered as
"experience" in a literal transla-
tion: VII, 50, "Accedunt experi-
menta et exempla recentissimi
census . ."; XXVIII, 45, "Nec
uros aut bisontes habuerunt Graeci
gXVI, 24; XXII, 57; XXVI, 6o.
n PLINY'S NATURAL HISTORY 55
what more closely approaching our "experiment." These are
cases where something is being tested. For instance, a
method of determining whether an egg is fresh or rotten by
putting it in water and watching if it floats or sinks is called
an experimentum.1 That horses would whinny at no other
painting of a horse than that by Apelles is spoken of as illius
experimentum artis, a test of, or testimony to, his art.2 The
expression religionis experiment is applied to a religious
test or ordeal by which the virginity of Claudia was vindi-
cated.3 The word is also used of ways of telling if unguents
are good4 and if wine is beginning to turn;5 and of various
tests of the genuineness of drugs, gems, earths, and metals.8
It is also twice used of letting down a lighted lamp into a
huge wine cask or into wells to discover if there is danger at
the bottom from noxious vapors.7 If the lamp was ex-
tinguished, it was a sign of peril to human life. Pliny fur-
ther suggests purposive experimentation in speaking of
experiment to discover water under ground 8 and in graft-
Most of the tests and experiences thus far mentioned Experi-
have been practical operations connected with husbandry and to scien-
industry. But Pliny recounts one or two others which seem tific curi-
to have been dictated solely by scientific curiosity. He classi-
fies the following as experiment: '0 the sinking of a well to
prove by its complete illumination that the sun casts no
shadow at noon of the summer solstice; the marking of a
dolphin's tail in order to throw some light upon its length
of life, should it ever be captured again, as it was three
hundred years later-perhaps the experiment of longest
duration on record;11 and the casting of a man into a pit of
SX, 75. 22 and 76; such phrases as sinceri
2XXXV, 30. experimentum and veri experi-
VII, 35. mentum are used for "test of
XIII, 3. genuineness."
XIV, 25. XXIII, 31; XXXI, 28.
'XVII, 4; XX, 3 and 76; XXII, "XXXI, 27.
23; XXIX, 12; XXXIII, 19 and 'XVII, 26.
43 and 44 and 57; XXXIV, 26 and 0 II, 75.
48; XXXVI, 38 and 55; XXXVII, "IX, 7.
56 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
serpents at Rome to determine if he was really immune from
Medical Experimentum is employed by Pliny in a medical sense
experi- which becomes very common in the middle ages. He calls
some remedies for toothache and inflamed eyes certa experi-
mentta-sure experiences.2 Later experimentum came to be
applied to almost any recipe or remedy. Pliny, indeed,
speaks of the doctors as learning at our risk and getting
experience through our deaths.3 In another passage he
states more favorably that "there is no end to experimenting
with everything so that even poisons are forced to cure us." 4
He also briefly mentions the medical sect of Empirics, of
whom we shall hear more from Galen. He says that they
so name themselves from experiences 5 and originated at
Agrigentum in Sicily under Acron and Empedocles.
Chance Pliny is puzzled how some things which he finds stated
experience in "authors famous for wisdom" were ever learned by ex-
revelation. perience, for example, that the star-fish has such fiery fervor
that it burns everything in the sea which it touches, and di-
gests its food instantly.6 That adamant can be broken only
by goat's blood he thinks must have been divinely revealed,
for it would hardly have been discovered by chance, and he
cannot imagine that anyone would ever have thought of
testing a substance of immense value in a fluid of one of the
foulest of animals.7 In several other passages he suggests
chance, accident, dreams,8 or divine revelation as the ways
in which the medicinal virtues of certain simples were dis-
covered. Recently, for example, it was discovered that the
root of the wild rose is a remedy for hydrophobia by the
mother of a soldier in the praetorian guard, who was warned
1XXVIII, 6. *XXV, 17. ". . adeo nullo
'XX 14 omnia experiendi fine ut cogeren-
XXVIII, 14. tur etiam venena prodesse."
SXXIX, 8. "Discunt periculis 'XXIX, 4 ". . ab experimen-
nostris et experiment per mortes tis se cognominans empiricen."
agunt." Bostock and Riley trans- IX, 86.
late the last clause, "And they ex- 'XXXVII, 15.
perimentalize by putting us to According to Galen, as we shall
death." Another possible transla- hear later, the Empirics relied a
tion is, "And their experiments good deal upon chance experience
cost lives." and dreams.
11 PLINY'S NATURAL HISTORY 57
in a dream to send her son this root, which cured him and
many others who have tried it since.1 And a soldier in
Pompey's time accidentally discovered a cure for elephan-
tiasis when he hid his face for shame in some wild mint
leaves.2 Another herb was accidentally found to be a cure
for disorders of the spleen when the entrails of a sacrificial
victim happened to be thrown on it and it entirely consumed
the milt.3 The healing properties of vinegar for the sting
of the asp were discovered by chance in this wise. A man
who was stung by an asp while carrying a leather bottle of
vinegar noticed that he felt the sting only when he set the
bottle down.4 He therefore decided to try the effects of a
drink of the liquid and was thereby fully cured.5 Other
remedies are learned through the experience of rustics and
illiterate persons, and yet others may be discovered by ob-
serving animals who cure their ills by them.0 Pliny's opinion
is that the animals have hit upon them by chance.
Pliny represents a number of marvelous and to us in- Marvels
credible things as proved by experience. Divination from prve by
thunder, for instance, is supported by innumerable experi- ence.
ences, public and private. In two passages out of the three
mentioning expert which I cited above, those experienced
persons recommended a decidedly magical sort of procedure.7
In another passage "the experience of many" supports "a
strange observance" in plucking a bud.8 A fourth bit of
magical procedure is called "marvelous but easily tested." 9
Thus the transition is an easy one from signs of experimen-
tal science in the Natural History to our next topic, Pliny's
account of magic.
'XXV, 6. mouth, it will prevent one from
'XX, 52. feeling the heat in the baths.
SXXV, 20. 'XXV, 6 and 21 and 50; XXVII,
'XXIII, 27. 2.
"Among other virtues of vine- 'XVI, 24; XXVI, 6o.
gar, besides its supposed property 'XXIII, 59.
of breaking rocks, Pliny mentions XXVIII, 7.
that if one holds some in the
58 MAGIC AND EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE CHAP.
III. Pliny's Account of Magic.
Oriental Pliny supplies some account of the origin and spread of
tagic. magic 1 but a rather confused and possibly unreliable one, as
he mentions two Zoroasters separated by an interval of five
or six thousand years, and two Osthaneses, one of whom
accompanied Xerxes, and the other Alexander, in their re-
spective expeditions. He says, indeed, that it is not clear
whether one or two Zoroasters existed. In any case magic
has flourished greatly the world over for many centuries,
and was founded in Persia by Zoroaster. Some other ma-
gicians of Media, Babylonia, and Assyria are mere names to
Pliny; later he mentions others like Apollobeches and Dar-
danus. Although he thus derives magic from the orient, he
appears to make no distinction, as we shall find other writers
doing, between the Magi of Persia and ordinary magicians,
nor does he employ the word magic in two senses. He makes
it evident, however, that there have been other men who have
regarded magic more favorably than he does.
Its spread Pliny next traces the spread of magic among the Greeks.
reeks. He marvels at the lack of it in the Iliad and the abundance
of it in the Odyssey. He is uncertain whether to class Or-
pheus as a magician, and mentions Thessaly as famous for
its witches at least as early as the time of Menander who
named one of his comedies after them. But he regards the
Osthanes who accompanied Xerxes as the prime introducer
of magic to the Greek-speaking world, which straightway
went mad over it. In order to learn more of it, the philos-
ophers Pythagoras, Empedocles, Democritus, and Plato
went into distant exile and on their return disseminated their
lore. Pliny regards the works of Democritus as the greatest
single factor in that dissemination of the doctrines of magic
which occurred at about the same time that medicine was
being developed by the works of Hippocrates. Some
'In the opening chapters of Book XXX, unless otherwise indicated by