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Daughters of HecateWomen and Magic in the Ancient World$
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Kimberly B. Stratton and Dayna S. Kalleres

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780195342703

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195342703.001.0001

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From Goddess to Hag: The Greek and the Roman Witch in Classical Literature

From Goddess to Hag: The Greek and the Roman Witch in Classical Literature

Chapter:
(p.41) 2 From Goddess to Hag: The Greek and the Roman Witch in Classical Literature
Source:
Daughters of Hecate
Author(s):

Barbette Stanley Spaeth

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195342703.003.0002

This chapter traces images of the witch, such as Circe or Medea, in Greek and Roman literature. By delineating differences between witches in the two cultures and situating the portraits in their historical contexts it illuminates the ideological work that ideas of witches perform. Roman literature, for example, depicts sorceresses with more detail and verisimilitude than Greek literature does, situating them firmly in the real world. Roman witches are not characters from mythology removed from reality by time and divine parentage, but are portrayed as women one might encounter in the market on any day. The witch serves various roles in Greek and Roman imagination: she represents popular fears and fantasies either as a magical helpmate to the male hero in Greek mythology, or as a destructive, emasculating force in Roman literature, where she functions as a negative model for proper female comportment.

Keywords:   Greek and Roman literature, mythology, witch, sorceress, Circe, Medea

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