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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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Magic Accusations against Women in Tacitus’s Annals

Magic Accusations against Women in Tacitus’s Annals

Chapter:
(p.183) 6 Magic Accusations against Women in Tacitus’s Annals
Source:
Daughters of Hecate
Author(s):

Elizabeth Ann Pollard

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195342703.003.0006

In the Annals, Tacitus recounts the trials of nine aristocratic women accused of magic in combination with either sexual misconduct or treason during the reigns of Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero. While other scholars have analyzed Tacitus’s account in terms of literary tropes and Tacitus’s own social commentary, this chapter draws on Mary Douglas’s theory that magic accusations serve to regulate ambiguous competitive relationships, or to realign factional hierarchies between competing groups, to explain the political dynamics of these accusations. In the context of the early Principate, the claim to imperial power was easily threatened by the prestige and influence of venerable patrician families. Magic accusations against women of these families served as attacks against the families themselves and participated in the negotiation of authority and legitimacy during this period of political change.

Keywords:   Tacitus, magic accusation, treason

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