In 331 BC, something was wrong with Rome. Across the city, swathes of eminent men were succumbing to sickness, and practically all of them were dying. The losses were as baffling as they were alarming.

Then one day, a slave approached a curule aedile – a kind of magistrate – and hinted that she might know why. The girl led a team of investigators to various houses, where she claimed they would find an alliance of upper-class women secretly preparing poisons. They did.

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