ï~~ Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 48 (2011) 289-291 Richard L. Phillips, In Pursuit of Invisibility: Ritual Texts from Late Roman Egypt. American Studies in Papyrology 47. Durham, NC: American Society of Papyrologists, 2009. xvi + 199 pages + 7 plates. ISBN 978-0-9700591-9-2. A compelling question rests at the heart of investigations of invisibility spells: what exactly did such spells seek to accomplish? Did the rituals promise to make their users inconspicuous, able to proceed unnoticed by others, or did they promise them true invisibility, such that their very presence would be erased to the eye of observers? Exploration of these invisibility spells may not only explain the materials themselves, but may also suggest what ancient practitioners and clients of such spells thought such rituals could do and thus offer us a window into the thought-world behind such ritual materials. While the topic clearly invites reflection and has much to contribute to current debates about the nature of so-called "magic," Phillips notes that the idea of invisibility has been generally overlooked in scholarship and that his study fills the gap. This revision of the author's 2002 dissertation (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) presents a thorough study of the motif of invisibility in the Graeco-Roman world, exploring literary context as well as ritual practices that promise the ability to move about unseen by others. The book begins with an investigation of invisibility before delving into sample texts with images, translation, and commentary. In the prolegomena, Phillips situates the study of particular invisibility spells (POxy. 58.3931, PGM I 222-231, PGM I 247-262, PGM VII 619-622, PGM XIII 234-237, PGM XIII 267-269, and PGM XIII 270-277) in recent research on magic and places the texts within their ancient context. Through comparison with literary texts that also depict the human quest for invisibility, Phillips seeks to understand how the literary representation of invisibility relates to the invisibility spells, how these spells imagine invisibility to function, and who would have sought it out. Philips is aware of the problems of using the term "magic" and says that he uses it with caution, foregrounding the Egyptian context in which the word magic (heka) should be understood. Phillips then briefly traces the literary representations of techniques for humans to acquire invisibility in Greek, Roman, and Egyptian literature. He cites recent work by Faraone and Dickie who (even with skepticism) use literature to illumine ritual practice. Phillips argues that this must be done with caution, since it is unclear how reliable literary depictions are when it comes to ritual phenomena. From his survey, he concludes that there is no real match between the literary images (e.g., using tools such as a cap and a ring to acquire invisibility) and the invisibility spells of the PGM (even though rings are used
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