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Vol 23 No 8 Aug/Sept 18

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Envy, Poison, and Death: Women on Trial in Ancient Athens

ISBN13: 9780198822585
Published: April 2018
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Country of Publication: UK
Format: Paperback (Hardback in 2015)
Price: £25.00
Hardback edition , ISBN13 9780199562602

Despatched in 5 to 7 days.

At the heart of this volume are three trials held in Athens in the fourth century BCE. The defendants were all women and in each case the charges involved a combination of ritual activities. Two were condemned to death. Because of the brevity of the ancient sources, and their lack of agreement, the precise charges are unclear, and the reasons for taking these women to court remain mysterious.

Envy, Poison, and Death takes the complexity and confusion of the evidence not as a riddle to be solved, but as revealing multiple social dynamics. It explores the changing factors - material, ideological, and psychological - that may have provoked these events. It focuses in particular on the dual role of envy (phthonos) and gossip as processes by which communities identified people and activities that were dangerous, and examines how and why those local, even individual, dynamics may have come to shape official civic decisions during a time of perceived hardship. At first sight so puzzling, these trials reveal a vivid picture of the socio-political environment of Athens during the early-mid fourth century BCE, including responses to changes in women's status and behaviour, and attitudes to ritual activities within the city.

The volume reveals some of the characters, events, and even emotions that would help to shape an emergent concept of magic: it suggests that the boundary of acceptable behaviour was shifting, not only within the legal arena but also through the active involvement of society beyond the courts.

Legal History
List of Figures
List of Abbreviations

1.1 Introduction: Overview and Approach
1.2 The Evidence
1.3 What Charges?
1.4 Conclusion

2.1 Introduction: 'As Rust Eats Iron'
2.2 Defining Emotions
2.3 Narratives as Phthonos
2.4 Phthonos and Misfortune
2.5 Conclusion

3.1 Introduction: 'A Relish for the Envious'
3.2 Identifying Gossip
3.3 Genres of Gossip
3.4 From Gossip to Action
3.5 Conclusion

4.1 Introduction: 'Killed by Idle Gossip'
4.2 After the War...
4.3 Dependence and Vulnerability
4.4 'Dangerous Women'
4.5 Conclusion