Commonly abbreviated PGM, or papyri graecae magicae
, this is a collection of papyri
, containing various magical spell
s and ritual
s. In a sense, the content is neither particularly Greek
; the cultural background is a convention of Egyptian
, and Semitic
elements, and many of the texts represent what we might call prayer
s, or philosophical texts
The content ranges widely, from curses to hymns to Mithras to prayers for divine knowledge and guidance. Many consist only of vague, symbolic gibberish and perhaps a few recognisable pictures, while some are lengthy scrolls of text.
Language also varies, depending on date (they range from the 4th/3rd century B.C. to about A.D. 500 or so), including Greek (primarily), Coptic, and Demotic, though many of the words in individual texts have been connected with Aramaic and Hebrew. The same text can easily pray to Adonai of the Jews and Christians, Hecate of the Greeks and Romans, and Ra and Osiris of the Egyptians in quick succession, without particular religious distinction.
The PGM form the first textbook of magic we have from the ancient world.