Ephesia Grammata: Magic in Ancient Ephesus

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Ancient and late antique Mediterranean worlds were strange places where magic was a common daily practice believed by millions of people. Believers used several types of magical systems to connect with polytheistic deities. Ephesia Grammata: Magic in Ancient Ephesus was the most popular magical system and it even became the daily word used for any type of magic in the ancient Mediterranean world.

Ephesia Grammata: Magic in Ancient Ephesus
Ephesia Grammata: Magic in Ancient Ephesus

Ephesia Grammata which can be translated as “Ephesian Words” was one of the most popular magical practices in the ancient world. These ancient magical formulas started to appear in the fifth century BC in today’s Ephesus. The earliest forms of Ephesia Grammata inscriptions were found on the holy site of temple of Artemis nearby Ephesus.

A plate covered with blessed words which believed to be bringing prosperity to the owner

Anaxilas Comicus, a fourth century BC poet, speaks about Ephesia Grammata as powerful words which kept the evils away. His words made us to believe that Ephesia Grammata was used in protective ways.

Words cited by the magicians were completely meaningless. They believed the real power of Ephesia Grammata was not in the meaning, it was in the sound of the words. You had to recite the magical words perfectly to benefit from them.

An agate gemstone with a prayer for healing and health engraved on it

Ephesia Grammata belong to a time not just earlier than Christianity also earlier than classic Greek \ Roman paganism as we know it. Magical words were mostly dedicated to goddess Hecate and goddess Diana. Pilgrims who visited the temple could get magical amulets with enchanted words written on them.

A leather piece found with
Ephesia Grammata inscription

ασκι κατασκι αασιαν ενδασιαν
aski kataski aasian endasian

These translated words found on a leather piece has no meaning.

There was a commonly known story of an Ephesian boxer. Ephesian boxer attended the Olympics in Athens and won all his matches without any trouble. Every one was surprised with Ephesian boxers luck. Then they realized he hides an Ephesia Grammata amulet underneath his clothes. He lost 3 consecutive matches after removing his lucky charm.

An ancient curse doll which worked similar to commonly known Voodoo dolls today

Another interesting topic about Ephesia Grammata is that most of the magicians were woman while nearly all the magic users or buyers were men. Many people used magic to resolve their problems with business deals, relationship problems, athletic competitions, legal disputes.

Egyptian magic book giving enchanted recipes about how to cure black jaundice infection

Amulets and tablets were the most common magic items. Especially amulets were everyone’s popular must have magical accessories. Amulets were mostly used for protection, invoking healing powers of Apollo or luck of Nike. Tablets were used for cursing someone. We mostly find them concealed in graves or houses of unknowing victims.

Ephesia Grammata amulet which was used to call Apollo’s help

Magic was common in the antiquity but it didn’t mean it was freely made and commonly accepted by the masses. Witches were disgraced members of the society and especially users of cursing tablets, if it was used on alive people, could face serious punishments.

Hire Ephesus Tour Guide

Ephesia Grammata and magic in ancient Ephesus has always been interesting subject during my Ephesus tours. Contact me to learn more about ancient magic in Ephesus and to hire an English-speaking professional licensed tour guide for Ephesus ancient city in Turkey.

Hasan Gülday

Hasan Gülday. Professional licensed tour guide working in Turkey.

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