La magie du naphte ou Comment disculper Alexandre le Grand de l’accusation d’imbécillité

La magie du naphte ou Comment disculper Alexandre le Grand de l’accusation d’imbécillité

ISBN: 978-2-87457-082-7
: 9.50 €
= Article =

G. COURTIEU, « La magie du naphte ou Comment disculper Alexandre le Grand de l’accusation d’imbécillité », Res Antiquae 11, Bruxelles, 2014, p. 27-52.
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According to Strabo and Plutarchus, a very strange and disgusting scene occured in Alexander the Great’s Histories. Just after he arrived in Mesopotamia, Alexander agreed to cover with naphta one of his servant and to burn him alive, for experiment or fancy. It is said that the poor man was finally saved, but Alexander’s behaviour in this episod appears exceptionnaly both as stupid and futile. In what follows, it is argued that this episod, probably taken from Cleitarchus and Deinon, is a pure invention, illustrating an ancient and frequent act of counter-magic in Babylonia. In those rituals, the evil to annihilate is personnified in a fetish, covered with naphta or molded with bitumen, then ignited and thrown in water. In order to present to his audience a more understandable story, an unknown author, at the origin of the tradition, simply changed the fetish to a real man.
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