In his introduction, Frankfurter states the ambitious goal of redirecting modern studies of magic from the etic (where what constitutes magic is determined by the modern author) to the emic (where it is the ancient cultures being studied that decide what rituals are unsanctioned or illegitimate). His constituent ancient world is centered mainly on Mediterranean countries and includes Greek, Roman, Jewish, Mesopotamian, Persian, and Egyptian cultures, ranging in time from c. 2000 BCE to the Byzantine Christian period. Topics taken up include how these ancient cultures themselves describe such practices, if they do so at all; the ritual materials (spells, amulets, drugs, magic bowls, images, and manuals); and the social contexts in which such rituals occur. While all of these ancient societies engaged in practices to control human events—to foresee or alter the future, to ward off harm, to compel certain behaviors...

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