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polished paper #3

polished paper #3 - Amelia Frey Polished Paper#3 Political...

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Amelia Frey Polished Paper #3 11/16/07 Political, Theological, and Social Explanations for Magical Accusations The threat of ancient magic caused constant superstition and unrest in the cultures of antiquity. However, one can argue that the cultures themselves created the dark association with the art of magic. Peter Brown argues that there are “political, social, and theological reasons for [the] rise in [magical] accusations.” 1 Through the analysis of primary source documents, one can support Brown’s claim. In Apeleius’ Defense , Apeleius refutes claims of his sorcery and dismisses them as false accusations. Brown’s political explanation for the rise in sorcerous accusations provides a clear window to see the reasoning behind the accusations Apeleius faces. The Acts of Peter provides a similar window to Brown’s theological explanation, as do historical references to the Emperor Nero and his anti-Christian views provide support for the social explanation. Through these explanations, one can see that because Brown offers explanations from many viewpoints, the label of magic has currency for many people because it can be usefully deployed for many reasons—whether it be to discredit another, or for personal gain. Society during ancient times had a very rigid social structure that was not easily penetrable due to the power vested in family blood and birth-rights. However, with the rise in intellectualism came a new class of people, whom Brown bases his political explanation off of. They were between the ruling and working classes, but their intellectual ability arguably over- arched that of the ruling class. 2 This created a desire for social equality. As Brown points out the differences between articulate and inarticulate power, that is, power recognized by all (such as 1 1 Brown, Peter, “Sorcery, Demons, and the Rise in Christianity from Late Antiquity into the Middle Ages,” in Witchcraft Confessions and Accusations (London: Tavistock Press, 1970) 17-45. 2 2 Martin 6.33
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state and church hierarchies) versus personal power (skilled artisans, philosophers, etc.), the gray area between the two powers creates a bed of controversy that lays the seeds for magical accusations, such as in the case of Apeleius. This “gray area” is created by a mix of superior intellectualism and inferior birth, which causes problems in ancient society. Although intellectualism was highly valued, genealogy was also extremely important to social hierarchies.
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