Dr. Eidinow's project starts from a number of trials that took place in fourth-century BCE Athens: the defendants were all women, the charges against them included asebeia (‘impiety’) and working with pharmaka (‘spells’ or ‘drugs’). This study explores the social processes that may have led to these trials, including jealousy, gossip, and gender relations, but also attempts to set these events in their historical context as both effect and catalyst of cultural trauma. It argues that these trials raise questions about the long-term impacts of the Peloponnesian war, draw our attention to the powerful role of the supernatural in Athenian society and as a historical force, and, finally, may set the stage for the formation of modern concepts of ‘magic’ and ‘the witch’.
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.