You are here

Protective Magic in Ancient Greece

Title: Protective Magic in Ancient Greece: Patterns in the Material Culture of Apotropaia from the Archaic to Hellenistic Periods.

Inaccessible until May 8, 2020 due to copyright restrictions.

Name(s): Habib, Reema Raihana, author
Pfaff, Christopher A., professor directing dissertation
Levenson, David B., university representative
Slaveva-Griffin, Svetla, committee member
Pullen, Daniel J., 1954-, committee member
Florida State University, degree granting institution
College of Arts and Sciences, degree granting college
Department of Classics, degree granting department
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Doctoral Thesis
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2017
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource (338 pages)
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: The term apotropaia is conventionally understood to refer to a specific type of protective magic in which an object possesses a supernatural ability to avert evil from its human users, the practice of which is generally assumed to be a facet of human behavior so fundamental in nature that it is applied universally and rarely subjected to critical review. The application of such a universal approach to the tutelary magic of ancient Greece is problematic, particularly in light of the concept’s origination in outdated treatments of the ancient world. This study intends to examine the human agency that directs the selection and use of protective magic in the art of Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic Greece, to explore how, why, and under whose agency the visual expression of apotropaic motifs developed, and to situate all of these answers in their relevant historical and cultural contexts. A chronological examination of the evidence reveals a distinct shift in agency over time, in which early appeals to the gods for protection gradually give way to a preference for human ritual behaviors that purport to provide the same security. The apotropaic element of the iconography of the ancient gorgon is developed gradually, as it grows from an image that symbolizes divine action to one that can be used by humans with individual, non-divine agency, all of which occurs against a backdrop of larger changes in the perception of the roles of gods and men. These shifts reveal the existence of a clear human need, in the years following the Hellenistic period, to secure protection from non-standard sources, or, in those cases where the Greek gods are preferred, to use the deities as tools in service to human needs. Furthermore, these diachronic shifts in tutelary agency correspond to periods of socio-economic crisis, perhaps as the result of general losses of faith in the divine. As a result, a pattern emerges in which the early reliance on the gods for protection gives way to a human need to assert control over one’s circumstances by any means necessary.
Identifier: FSU_SUMMER2017_Habib_fsu_0071E_13857 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Classics in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Degree Awarded: Summer Semester 2017.
Date of Defense: May 5, 2017.
Keywords: apotropaic, evil eye, gorgon, protective magic, ship eyes
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory Committee: Christopher Pfaff, Professor Directing Dissertation; David Levenson, University Representative; Svetla Slaveva-Griffin, Committee Member; Daniel J. Pullen, Committee Member.
Subject(s): Civilization, Greco-Roman
Art -- History
Persistent Link to This Record:
Owner Institution: FSU

Choose the citation style.
Habib, R. R. (2017). Protective Magic in Ancient Greece: Patterns in the Material Culture of Apotropaia from the Archaic to Hellenistic Periods. Retrieved from