Visualising Ancient Magic

March 4 – May 31, 2024, Institute of Classical Studies

Organisers: Nicole Iu, Gabriel Bodard

The exhibition space outside the entrance to the Institute of Classical Studies/Hellenic and Roman Library (Senate House, third floor) has showcased items from the Library's collections as well as external research and creative work. The current project brings together the interests and expertise of three members of the ICS, and several other colleagues in the University of London, on magic in the Greek and Roman world. Combining our research interests and commentary on magical representation and practice, a selection of illustrations and rare books, and reconstructed magical objects (including items designed and 3D printed in the Senate House MakerSpace), this exhibit should be a fun and engaging view into the world of ancient magic.

This temporary exhibit, curated by experts in Greco-Roman magical text and ritual, and running from March through May, explores transgressive and marginal ritual practice in ancient mythology, literature, art, history, archaeology and theory. We will show examples and images of magical scenes, including 3D printed replicas, rare books from the Classics Library special collections, and notes giving translations, analysis and commentary. Four exhibition cases will be divided into: Mythology and art; Polemic and accusation; Texts; Objects and recipes. The artefacts and texts included in this exhibit illustrate some of the characteristics of magic as conceived in antiquity, such as subversive behaviour, representations of ‘the Other,’ secret and arcane knowledge. As a result, these rituals also demonstrate the ongoing negotiation between private, magical ritual and public, civic religion and tradition. Learn about ancient magical practice and stereotype, see the evidence for yourself, and catch a glimpse of the scholarship, old and new, on the ancient supernatural and occult.

There will be a launch event and short presentation of the exhibit on March 4 (booking required), but the exhibit is open and free for three months thereafter.