Archive name: Theban Magical Library
Trismegistos Archive ID: question mark icon Page on the database Trismegistos Collections for the archive. 363
Date: question mark icon Dates are CE unless preceded by a minus sign <->, in which case they are BCE. 101 – 400
Provenance: Thebes, Egypt
Trismegistos Place ID: question mark icon Page on the database Trismegistos Places for the place of provenance.
Manuscripts: KYP M3 151 152 153 159 160 161 162 163 164
See all manuscripts in this archive.

These manuscripts may comprise an “archive”, meaning that they were brought together and deposited by an ancient person or persons.


Ten magical and alchemical manuscripts acquired by Jean d’Anastasy (ca. 1765-1860) (alternate forms of this name include Ioannis Anastasiou and Giovanni d’Anastasi), consul general of Sweden and Norway or his agents in Thebes between 1828-1846 (see Dosoo 2016).


The manuscripts were sold or donated to European collections in four groups (see Dosoo 2016):

1. Lot of ca. 5,600 items prepared in 1827, sold to the Dutch Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in 1828: PDM/PGM XII, PGM XIII, PDM/PDM XIV (part), P. Leid. I 397
2. Donation to the Royal Museum in Stockholm prior to August 1832: P. Holm. + PGM Va
3. Lot of 1,326 items sold to the British Museum in 1839: PGM V, PGM VI
4. Lot of 1,129 items prepared in 1846 and sold in 1857 in a public auction in Paris and acquired by multiple collections: PGM I, PGM II (Berlin Museum); PGM IV (Bibliothèque Nationale de France); PDM/PDM XIV (part) (British Museum); PDM Suppl. (Musée du Louvre)

All of the manuscripts were assigned a provenance of Thebes in Anastasy’s catalogues, except PGM VI, which was given a provenance in Memphis, but is part of the same document as PGM II. The manuscripts were likely purchased by Anastasy’s agents from Egyptians living in these areas; in a letter of 1828 he describes the purchase of two parts of PDM/PGM XII from “Arabs”.


The earliest text is the Demotic Myth of the Sun’s Eye, which was written on the recto of PDM/PGM XII (M160), and dates to the 2nd century (more likely first than second half). The rolls (M152, M153, M160, M162, M163) date to the second or third century, while the codices (M3, M151, M159, M164, M161) date to the fourth. Note that no dates are preserved in any of the papyri, so that these datings are based on palaeography.


The linguistic and textual contents of the archive suggest that (at least in its early phases) it belonged to an individual trained in the Egyptian priesthood. The oldest layer (including the Demotic Myth of the Sun’s Eye, M160 recto) is a Egyptian mythological text. The Demotic language and demotic and hieratic scripts, in which three late second or early third century manuscripts (M160, M162, M163) are written, were restricted to the Egyptian priesthood in the Roman Period, and the Old Coptic scripts found in the fourth century PGM IV (M3) derive from, and are also most frequently attested in, the same context. The dialect of the Demotic texts suggests an origin in the region of Thebes (Johnson 1977). The Old Coptic contents of PGM IV are more diverse, suggesting texts with multiple dialectal origins being collected from diverse sources (Love 2016).


Five rolls (M152, M153, M160, M162, M163), and five codices (M3, M151, M159, M164, M161), one of which contains a loose sheet (PGM Va, M159).


The earliest text is the mythological text the Myth of the Sun’s Eye (M160 recto). The majority of the archive contains magical texts (M3, M151, M152, M153, M160, M161, M162, M163; M164), although two are alchemical (M159, M164), containing recipes for alloying and colouring metals, creating purple dye, gold and silver inks, and making precious stones from non-precious materials. One of these contains a loose sheet with a magical invocation (PGM Va=M159). PDM/PGM XII (M160) also contains some material which could be considered alchemical.


The coherence of the archive can be hypothesised based on several criteria (cf. Dosoo 2016):

1. All are large complete, magical or alchemical formularies purchased in the same area in a short period of time with similarities of content and format. Very little material with such an internal coherence has been found since.
2. PGM XIII (M161), P. Holm. + PGM Va (M159) and P. Leid. I 397 (M164) are largely written in the same hand.
3. The three bilingual rolls (PDM/PGM XII, XIV, Suppl.) have similar hands, contents, and formats.

Bibliography: Brashear, William M. “The Greek Magical Papyri: An Introduction and Survey; Annotated Bibliography (1928-1994).” In Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II.18.5, edited by Wolfgang Haase. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1995, p. 3402-3404.
Chronopolou, Eleni. “PGM VI : A Lost Part of PGM II.” Symbolae Osloenses 91.1 (2017): 1-8.
de Haro Sanchez, Magali. “Les papyrus iatromagiques grecs et la région thébaine”. «Et maintenant ce ne sont plus que des villages ... » Thèbes et sa région aux époques hellénistique, romaine et byzantine: Actes du colloque tenu à Bruxelles les 2 Et 3 Décembre 2005, edited by Alain Delattre and Paul Heilporn. Brussels: Association Égyptologique Reine Élisabeth, 2008, p. 97-102.
Dieleman, Jacco. “The Greco-Egyptian Magical Papyri.” In Guide to the Study of Ancient Magic, edited by David Frankfurter. Leiden: Brill, 2019, p. 283-321.
Dieleman, Jacco. Priests, Tongues and Rites: The London-Leiden Magical Manuscripts and Translation in Egyptian Ritual (100-300 CE). Leiden: Brill, 2005.
Dosoo, Korshi. “A History of the Theban Magical Library.” Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 53 (2016): 251-274.
Dosoo, Korshi. Rituals of Apparition in the Theban Magical Library (PhD diss., Macquarie University, 2015).
Fowden, Garth. The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind. Princeton University Press, 1993, p. 169-171.
Johnson, Janet H. “The Demotic Magical Spells of Leiden I 384." Oudheidkundige Mededelingen uit het Rijksmuseum van Oudheden 56 (1975): 29-64; 6 pls.
Johnson, Janet H. “The Dialect of the Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden.” In Studies in Honor of George R. Hughes, edited by Janet H. Johnson and Edward F. Wente. Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 1977, p. 105-132.
Love, Edward O. D. Code-Switching with the Gods: The Bilingual (Old Coptic-Greek) Spells of PGM IV (P. Bibliotheque nationale supplement Grec. 574) and their Linguistic, Religious, and Socio-cultural Context in Late Roman Egypt. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2016.
Preisendanz, Karl. Papyrusfunde und Papyrusforschung. Leipzig: Karl W. Hiersemann, 1933, p. 91-95.
Tait, William J. “Theban Magic,” in Hundred-Gated Thebes: Acts of a Colloquium on Thebes and the Theban Area in the Graeco-Roman Period (P. L. Bat. 27), edited by Sven P. Vleeming. Leiden: Brill, 1995, p. 169-182.
Zago, Michela. Tebe Magica e Alchemica: L'idea di biblioteca nell'Egitto romano: la Collezione Anastasi. Padova: edizioni, 2010.
Edit History:

KD (29/9/2020); EL (29/9/2020); KD (28/10/2020); EL (29/10/2020)

How to cite:
Korshi Dosoo, Edward O.D. Love & Markéta Preininger (chief editors). "KYP A1: Theban Magical Library," Kyprianos Database of Ancient Ritual Texts and Objects, Accessed on 28/03/2023

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