College Honors Program


The Witch in the Roman Imagination

Date of Creation


Document Type

Campus Access Only

First Advisor

Dominic Machado


In this thesis, I explore the figure of the witch in Roman imagination and how it appears in fictionalized accounts of witchcraft. The first chapter explores Horace’s Epode 5 and the story of Canidia. The second chapter analyzes Seneca’s Medea. The final chapter considers the folk story of the strix, a sometimes witch, sometimes animal, sometimes monster that was closely associated with witchcraft. These stories share common themes of scorned love, motherhood, foreignness, and violence, which come together to villainize those with non-normative identities such as women and foreigners. The goal of this thesis is not to make definitive claims about the reality of female magical practice in ancient Rome. Instead I hope to interrogate how the predominantly male writers of witchcraft stories crafted a boogeyman in the form of a witch and to explore what conclusions those writers wanted us to draw about their society.


Reader: Daniel Libatique

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