Medieval Studies Faculty Colloquium: “The Return of the Magus: Theurgy in Safavid Iran”
Program in Medieval Studies, Daniel Sheffield 209 Scheide Caldwell House
November 29, 2022 · 12:00 pm—1:20 pm · 209 Scheide Caldwell
Daniel Sheffield (Near Eastern Studies) will present this lunchtime talk on Tuesday, November 29.
In the mid-fifteenth century, the late Byzantine Platonist Georgius Gemistus Pletho produced a commentary on ancient theurgical verses preserved in Greek known as the Chaldaean Oracles which he attributed to “the magi of Zoroaster” (Magika logia ton apo tou Zoroastrou magon), penning a treatise known as a “Summation (sygkephalaiosis) of the Platonic and Zoroastrian dogmas” as part of a lengthy work on theurgy known as The Laws (Nomoi). A few decades later, another book, claimed as divine revelation, appeared in Safavid Iran, also entitled The Laws (Dasātīr), attributing to Zoroaster a similar series of theurgical invocations preserved in the language of heaven itself. Both works subsequently became important loci in the memory of Zoroaster in the European and Islamic traditions, but was their contemporaneous appearance mere coincidence, or the result of a connected tradition in the reception of Late Antique Platonism? In this talk, we will attempt to answer this question on the basis of new readings of the surviving Arabic translations of the works of Pletho produced for the Ottoman court, together with a reevaluation of the Dasātīr in light of newly discovered manuscript evidence.