History of Religions (i) SC (2017/2018)

Course code
Name of lecturers
Attilio Mastrocinque, Federico Barbierato
Attilio Mastrocinque
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
First half of Semester 2 dal Feb 26, 2018 al Apr 21, 2018.

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

The knowledge of several important problems concerning the relationship between religion and magic will be dealt with in the course. First of all, the terminology of magic will be clarified and then we will analyse documents referring to a series of enactements and events corresponding to the definitions of magic and the related terminology.
Students will will be introduced to a critical approach to the different opinions about magic in different societies, and they will be put in comparison with texts and documents describing rituals and enactements labelled magic. Documents taken into account will are taken mostly from the Roman imperial history and from the modern age in northern Italy so that a large diachronic view of the phenomenon will be allowed and an evaluation of the different ways of conceiving of magic over time and among different cultures will be possible.
Students will be able to evaluate autonomously the documents which will be discussed, thanks to comparisons between either different authors or different kinds of sources, in order to deem their reliability.
Students can improve their communication skill by expressing opinions about the topics of the course and by receiving answers and directions on how to feature their discourse.
Their learning skill will be improved, as well, thanks to the critical reading of texts and the study of related iconographies.
At the end of the course students are expected to show that they have understood almost the most important topics dealt with, that they are able to analyse critically both sources and iconographies taken into account, by explainig their points of view, in a clear manner, according to a rational series of arguments based on the fundamental documents.


1) the first part consists in the lessons previewing readings of and comments on passages of several authors and documents, often accompanied by related iconographies.
2) The study of Pliny the Elder, Naturalis historia XXX, and Hippolytus, Refutatio omnium haeresium, book V (whatever edition; for ex. Plinio, a cura di Antonio Corso, Turin, Einaudi; Hippolytus, a cura di Augusto Cosentino, Roma, Città Nuova. English translations of both authors are available online for free).
3) A handbllok of history of religions. Suggested: G. Sfameni Gasparro, Introduzione alla storia delle religioni, Rome - Bari : Laterza , 2011
Moreover: Cohn, Norman: Europe's inner demons: an enquiry inspired by the great witch-hunt, Brighton: Sussex Univ. Pr., 1975; Italian translation: N. Cohn, I demoni dentro: le origini del sabba e la grande caccia alle streghe, Milan: UNICOPLI, \1994

Further readings (not mandatory):

Fritz Graf: Magic in the ancient world. Transl. by Franklin Philip., Cambridge, Mass. ; London: Harvard Univ. Press, 1997; Ital. transl.
Fritz Graf, La magia nel mondo antico, Bari, Laterza, 1995
Carlo Ginzburg, I benandanti: stregoneria e culti agrari tra Cinquecento e Seicento. -Torino: Einaudi, 2002

The educational activities consist in normal lessons in which a series of powerpoint files will be presented with archaeological images and also texts. The documents and images presented in the classes will be increasingly uploaded in the E-Learning site so that at the end of the course they will be available.
Students who cannot attend one or more classes can study for the exam by using the E-Learning page of the course.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
Carlo Ginzburg I benandanti: stregoneria e culti agrari tra Cinquecento e Seicento Einaudi 2002 lettura facoltativa
Norman Cohn I demoni dentro: le origini del sabba e la grande caccia alle streghe UNICOPLI 1994 o l'originale: Norman Cohn, Europe's inner demons: an enquiry inspired by the great witch-hunt, Brighton: Sussex Univ. Pr., 1975 Studio obbligatorio
Giulia Sfameni Gasparro Introduzione alla storia delle religioni Laterza 2011 studio obbligatorio
Fritz Graf La magia nel mondo antico Laterza 1995 lettura facoltativa

Assessment methods and criteria

oral exam. Questions will be posed in order to ascertain what learning and knowing level is reached. Eventually, the questions could go further in deep by focussing on texts and/or documents, and images discussed during the course.