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“As Rust Eats Iron”: Envy in Fourth-Century Athens

January 30, 2012 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Monday Seminar:

Esther Eidinow

Ancient Greek History, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom

Solmsen Fellow (2011-2012)


In Athens during the fourth century BCE a number of surprising trials took place that have received little scholarly attention: the defendants were all women, the charges against them included asebeia (‘impiety’) and working with pharmaka (‘spells’ or ‘drugs’). If the Athenian law-courts were an arena for (male) political competition, then why bring these women to trial? If practising ‘magic’ was not illegal, then why condemn these women to death? This paper examines some of the social processes that may help us to understand why and how these trials occurred and their outcome. In particular, drawing on comparative material from other times and places, it focuses on the possible role played by phthonos (‘envy’) in these events, and the developing significance of this emotion for ancient Greek society.


Esther Eidinow is Lecturer in Ancient Greek History at the University of Nottingham. Her research focuses on magic and religion in the ancient Greek world, using an interdisciplinary approach. She is the author of Oracles, Curses, and Risk in the Ancient Greek World (Oxford University Press, 2007) and Luck, Fate and Fortune: Antiquity and Its Legacy (I. B. Tauris, 2011), and has published articles in Past and Present and Classical Quarterly. She is the assistant editor of the fourth edition of the Oxford Classical Dictionary (eds. S. Hornblower and A. J. S. Spawforth; Oxford University Press, forthcoming) and is also co-editing the Oxford Handbook to Greek Religion for Oxford University Press.


January 30, 2012
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States