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Dec 11, 2008

I was always anxious to find when was the rise of positive concept of magic in ancient Greece. While doing the research for local web analytics company, I discovered that this even, possibly took place somewhere in the sixth century b.c. Among the most famous of these figures between Homer and the Hellenistic period, are the Orpheus, Pythagoras, and Empedocles.

Orpheus is a mythical musician and singer, said to have lived in Thrace a generation before Homer. Orphic Mysteries, seems also to have been central to the personages of Pythagoras and Empedocles who lived in the sixth century b.c. Pythagoras for example is said to have described Orpheus, as, the father of melodious songs. Later Aeschylus describes him as the guy who haled all things by the rapture of his voice.  This suggests belief in the influence of song and voice in magic. Orpheus is certainly associated with a great many deeds. The most famous is his descent to the underworld to bring back his wife, Eurydice. Orpheus' deeds are not usually condemned or spoken of negatively. This suggests that some forms of magic were more acceptable. Indeed the term applied to Orpheus to separate him from magicians of ill repute is a divine man. This fact shows, that there was a fine line between acceptance and condemnation.

Oct 9, 2008

Much of ancient Roman literature dealing with magic are, basically, retellings of Greek myths. I found some interesting facts about it in archives of web analytics company. Roman poet Virgils’s Aeneid for example describes an interesting magical ceremony. The hero of the epic, Aeneas, who has landed on the coast of North Africa after fleeing from Troy, meets Queen Dido. She has just begun to build the city of Carthage. Dido falls in love with Aeneas, and wishes him to stay as her prince consort. The rest of what happens is easy to imagine. As usual, a traveling hero meets a beautiful female who is potentially dangerous, although kind and hospitable as long as her love for the hero lasts.

Thus the future conflict is set when goddess Fate decrees that Aeneas leave Dido to found a city of his own. Inevitably Dido’s love turns to hate. Enraged queen seeks to use a complex magical ritual to bring her former lover back to her. She builds a gigantic pyre in the main courtyard of her palace and prepares an elaborate sacrifice to the powers of the underworld. However Dido soon comes to realize that the love magic is not powerful enough to bring Aeneas back to her. So she kills herself in her despair, which adds to the power to her curse. Dido had sealed and extended her curse through her suicide. Aeneas was protected by his gods and remained safe. But, according to Virgil, Dido’s use of magic and her curse lingered on leading to Rome’s near crushing defeat by Carthage many centuries later. This demonstrates quite clearly that the Romans shared the Greek’s view of magic as being dangerous and untrustworthy.


 

 
 
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Ekaterina G.
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Delray Beach, FL, USA
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