Classical Quarterly 50 (02):563- (2000)

Very soon after I began working on the identity of magic-workers in classical antiquity, I realized that it was necessary to come to terms with a thesis about depictions of erotic magic-working in Greek and Roman literature. It asserted that male writers engaged in a systematic misrepresentation of the realities of magic-working in portraying erotic magic as an exclusively female preserve; the reality was that men were the main participants in this form of magic-working. The thesis is based on the supposition that the truth about erotic magic and the people who performed it is to be found in the formularies or spell-books preserved in papyrus and in defixiones. These two sources of information are said to show us that erotic magic was performed by men and not by the women who are the persons depicted engaging in love-magic in literature. The scholar who first presented the thesis was the late John Winkler. A version of it is to be found in Fritz Graf's general account of Greek and Roman magic. There is agreement over what are taken to be the facts, but views diverge over their interpretation. Winkler appeals to the Freudian notion of denial and transference to offer an explanation not only of the discrepancy between life and literature, but of what he took to be the belief held by the young men who cast erotic spells that the girls who were the objects of their spells were as sexually eager as they were: men, when overwhelmed by sexual desire for unattainable women, through a process of denial transfer that feeling to women, whether old or young, whom they fondly imagine suffer the same intense sexual longings as themselves
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DOI 10.1093/cq/50.2.563
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