Beware the Evil Eye: The Evil Eye in the Bible and the Ancient World (Volume 2: Greece and Rome)

By John H. Elliott

The second in a four-volume series exploring belief in the Evil Eye and the practices associated with it amongst the cultures of the Biblical world.

ISBN: 9780227176139


In Volume Two of Beware the Evil Eye, John H. Elliott addresses the most extensive sources of Evil Eye belief in antiquity: the cultures of Greece and Rome. In this period, features of the belief found in Mesopotamian and Egyptian sources are expanded to the point where an “Evil Eye belief complex” becomes apparent. This complex of features associated with the Evil Eye – human eye as key organ of information, eye as active not passive, eye as channel of emotion and dispositions, especially envy, arising in the heart, possessors, victims, defensive strategies, and amulets – is essential to an understanding of the literary references to the Evil Eye. Elliott here illuminates the context for examining Evil Eye belief and practice in the Bible and the biblical communities.

Additional information

Dimensions229 × 153 mm


Trade InformationJPOD

About the Author

John H. Elliott is Professor Emeritus of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Francisco. He is the author of Conflict, Community, and Honor (2007).


List of Illustrations

1. Introduction

2. Evil Eye Belief and Practice in Greece and Rome
     From Homer to Late Roman Antiquity (800 BCE-600 CE) – An Overview
     Evil Eye Terminology
     Evil Eye Terms from Greek to Latin

3. Salient Features of Evil Eye Belief and Practice
     An Anthropological List of Key Features
     Ancient and Modern Versions Compared
     The Ancient Evil Eye Belief Complex in Detail
          The Eye as Vital and Preeminent Organ
          The Eye as Active Organ and Ancient Theories of Vision
          The Association of an Evil Eye and an Evil Tongue
          The Association of Eye and Heart
          The Association of the Evil Eye with Envy
     Excursus on Envy
          Envy – A Complex of Thoughts, Emotions, and Behaviors
          Envy, Jealousy and Zeal
          Greek and Roman Distinctions of Envy, Jealousy, and Zeal
          Envy and the Evil Eye
          Envy of the Gods
          Envy, the Deplorable Human Vice
          Envy and the Evil Eye in Sum
          The Working of an Evil Eye – Ancient Emic Theories
          The Evil Eye – A Phenomenon of Nature, Not a Vulgar Superstition
          Possessors and Wielders of the Evil Eye
          Victims and Targets of the Evil Eye
          Precautions and Protection against the Evil Eye and Envy – Strategies and Means (Words, Actions, Amulets)
     Excursus: The Apotropaic Expression KAI SY (“You too”)
          Detecting and Curing Injury Caused by the Evil Eye

4. The Transcendental Good Eye

5. Summary and Conclusion



Endorsements and Reviews

John H. Elliot’s Beware the Evil Eye is a monumental achievement. A work of devoted and painstaking research focused on Greece and Rome, Volume Two provides detailed analysis of the ancient folkloric belief in the Evil Eye. This is the work of a brilliant intellect who has given us the last scholarly word on this perplexing ancient belief. The book is essential reading for anthropologists, biblical and classical scholars, medievalists, folklorists, and art historians. No one will have anything to add to this conversation for the imaginable future.
Brenda Deen Schildgen, Distinguished Professor Comparative Literature, UC Davis

Beware the Evil Eye is a wonderful, comprehensive work of scholarship. Easy to read and erudite, Beware the Evil Eye is destined to become the definitive source text for anyone interested in the origins, spread and nature of this widespread human belief complex.
Fiona Bowie, King’s College London, author of The Anthropology of Religion

Elliott’s extensive knowledge of the time period and the cultural context surrounding evil eye belief makes this book an appropriate resource for scholars of religion, classics, or archaeology. However, his writing style and explanations are clear enough that Elliott’s arguments can be followed without extensive previous knowledge of the topic, making it also accessible and approachable for a broader audience outside of academia.
Melody Everest, in Reading Religion, June 2018