The representation of Kalasiris as a priest, and Egyptian magic in the Aithiopika of Heliodoros

Marina Escolano-Poveda

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The Egyptian priest Kalasiris of Heliodoros’ Aithiopika is one of the most complex characters in the ancient Greek novels. While many studies have been devoted to him from the fields of classics and ancient philosophy, no in-depth analysis of Kalasiris has been pursued from the field of Egyptology so far. In this paper I analyze two passages of the Aithiopika: Kalasiris’ description of the two types of Egyptian wisdom in 3.16.3–4, and the necromantic ritual of the old woman of Bessa in 6.14–15. I compare the presentation of Egyptian magic and necromancy in these passages with two descriptions of necromancy in Demotic literature: the reanimations of the scribe of the divine book in the beginning of the Fight for the Armor of Inaros, and of the wife and son of Naneferkaptah in Setne I. By means of this comparison I demonstrate that the difference in Kalasiris’ dichotomy between the two types of Egyptian wisdom does not reside in the magical practices themselves, but in the degree of initiation of their practitioners and the nature of their motivations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAblanathanalba
Subtitle of host publicationMagia, cultura y sociedad en el mundo antiguo
EditorsEmilio Suárez de la Torre, Isabel Canzobre Martínez, Carmen Sánchez-Mañas
Place of PublicationMadrid
Publisher Clásicos Dykinson
ISBN (Electronic)978-84-1324-682-6
ISBN (Print)978-84-1324-639-0
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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