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Magic in Roman Law: The Reconstruction of a Crime

JAMES B. RIVES
Classical Antiquity
Vol. 22, No. 2 (October 2003), pp. 313-339
DOI: 10.1525/ca.2003.22.2.313
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/ca.2003.22.2.313
Page Count: 27
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Magic in Roman Law: The Reconstruction of a Crime
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Abstract

In this paper I reconsider the Roman law on magic through an examination of three key “moments”: the Lex Cornelia de sicariis et veneficiis; the trial of Apuleius as known from his Apology; and a passage from The Opinions of Paulus. I argue that the Roman law on magic grounded in the Lex Cornelia gradually shifted from a focus on harmful and uncanny actions to a concern with religious deviance. This shift was already underway at the time of Apuleius' trial, if only on an ad hoc basis, and was firmly established in the formal discourse of Roman law by ca. 300 CE, the date of The Opinions of Paulus. I argue for the importance of retaining “magic” as a heuristic category, since it is the only term fluid enough to function as an inclusive rubric for this shifting set of concerns.

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