I consign her wretched walk, her words, deeds, and evil talk: erotic magic and women in the ancient Greco-Roman world
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Magic in the ancient Greco-Roman world has only recently begun to receive attention from historians. Thousands of curses, spells, and remnants of magical practices prior to widespread Christianity have been overlooked in the past mainly because they were seen as unimportant, or at least not appropriate as the focus of proper scholarship. Changing methodologies in history over the past fifty years have allowed scholars to rethink these magical sources. Curses and spells are now seen as significant and vital to understanding the mindset in ancient societies clustered around the Mediterranean. Most scholars who have recently begun to focus on magical sources still retain traditional methods of thinking about the ancient Greeks and Romans as purely rational, which hinders their interpretations of the at times irrational and always emotional sources at hand. By using modern theories of feminism, mentalities, and anthropology from outside of the usual conservative framework, magical sources can be utilized to reveal a more complex relationship between mortals and their gods, and mainly between men and women. One of the most interesting categories of ancient magic involves erotic desire in sexual relationships. Both men and women had the option to create erotic magic in order to arouse sexual attraction in their desired mates. The same type of magic could also be used to separate couples engaged in a romantic relationship, create affairs, or even bring sickness and death to the unknowing victims. At the same time as "rational" philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome were praising stoicism and conventional morality, thousands of magical tools were readily available to whomever could obtain the monetary funds to purchase them. Female-authored erotic magic can be used to further the argument that ancient women expressed agency. Since the feminist movements in 1960's America, scholars have attempted to give a voice to the mostly silent majority of ancient women in Western society. In this thesis, I will attempt to use new methodologies to give ancient women not only voices, but also authentic expressions of emotional and sexual desires through erotic magic.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Erotic magic spells and curses -- Classic literature and magical women -- Christian literature and Erotic magic -- Conclusion