This article presents a remarkable cache of five Attic curse tablets, four of which are published here for the first time. Excavated in situ in a pyre-grave outside the Athenian Long Walls, the texts employ very similar versions of a single binding curse. After situating the cache in its archaeological context, all texts are edited with a full epigraphic commentary. A discussion then follows, in which the most striking features of the texts are highlighted: in addition to the peculiar “first four-year period” (πρώτη πενθετηρίς) that the curses were meant to outlast, and the unparalleled term κυνωτόν, these texts are unusual in that they preserve over a full line of dactylic hexameter. The metrical formulae, combined with the presence of deictic language, may suggest that parts of the archetype curse underpinning these texts once circulated orally, in performative ritual contexts. The cache affords a singular glimpse into the process of curse-creation around 400 BCE, especially the ways in which a curse-writer could customize a fixed template spell to suit a client’s needs and circumstances. These tablets illuminate the shadowy process behind the creation of Athenian curse tablets, and the growing traffic in “magic” by the end of the fifth century BCE.
Research Article| April 01 2021
Crafting Curses in Classical Athens: A New Cache of Hexametric Katadesmoi
Classical Antiquity (2021) 40 (1): 76–117.
Jessica Lamont; Crafting Curses in Classical Athens: A New Cache of Hexametric Katadesmoi. Classical Antiquity 1 April 2021; 40 (1): 76–117. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ca.2021.40.1.76
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