Award Date

5-1-2013

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

First Committee Member

Andrew Bell

Second Committee Member

David Holland

Third Committee Member

Paul Werth

Fourth Committee Member

William Jankowiak

Number of Pages

83

Abstract

One of the most fascinating entities of religious thought is the demon, which is still pervasive in both religious and popular culture today. The demon is something that is present not just in various religious texts, but is also a staple of the modern horror film. The question at hand in this thesis is whether or not the demon was always considered to be synonymous with evil. The demon itself has existed in religious culture and magic practice since antiquity, but most scholars tend to either ignore the entity, or conflate it with ghosts or minor gods. This thesis traces the evolution that the daimon takes to eventually become the demon we know today. At the same time, it postulates that the most important change to take place occurred with Augustine of Hippo's The City of God, which ultimately gives the demon the negative characteristics that it still has today. This is the first time that this has been posited, as most historians have previously said that the point in which the daimon becomes demon is with the writing of Xenocrates in the 4th century B.C.E.

By looking at both the literature of the Greek and Roman worlds, spells and incantations that were used in antiquity, and also texts relating to Judaism and Christianity, there is a sense that the evolution culminates in the work of Augustine, and that this is the most momentous change for the entity. This is significant, as it illustrates the influence of Christianity on the religious cultures of antiquity, and how monotheism played a large role in the evolution of the demon. As the demon is something that is prevalent still today, not only in our own popular culture but also in religious realms as well, it is important to understand the background and history of the entity, and not merely hold the assumption that it did not "exist" prior to Christianity.

Keywords

Antiquity; Christianity; Daimon; Demon; Demonology; Good and evil; History; History, Ancient; Judaism; Mythology, Greek; Mythology, Roman; Religion

Disciplines

Ancient History, Greek and Roman through Late Antiquity | Comparative Methodologies and Theories | History | Religion

Language

English