In this paper, I am going to deal with illocutionary intensification, one of the specific features of curse texts, and the role prefixes play in it. Illocutionary intensification operates at the discursive-pragmatic level, modifying the illocutive act through strengthening and modal reinforcement, and is typically applied to verbs and verbal modifiers. Latin curse tablets evidence various linguistic peculiarities. They are highly formulaic and contain features related to the category of language for special purposes. These texts often employ peculiar textual rules which reflect the magical ritual accompanying the text and are focused on the supposed effect on the curse victim. In many of these texts, we can observe various strategies of illocutionary intensification, such as word repetition, which is relatively rare in literary texts, and the use of evaluative prefixes.
There are altogether about six hundred Latin curse texts, most of which are inscribed on lead tablets. The extant Latin defixiones are attested from the 2nd cent. BCE to the end of the 4th and beginning of the 5th century. However, the number of extant tablets is certainly not final, which is clear from the new findings in Mainz recently published by Blänsdorf (2012, 34 tablets),1 the evidence found in the fountain dedicated to Anna Perenna in Rome 2012, (26 tablets and other inscribed magical items),2 or the new findings in Pannonia (Barta 2009).3 The curse tablets were addressed exclusively to the supernatural powers, so their authors usually hid them very well to be banished from the eyes of mortals; not to speak of the randomness of the archaeological findings. Thus, it can be assumed that the preserved defixiones are only a fragment of the overall ancient production. Remarkable diversities in cursing practice can be found when comparing the preserved defixiones from particular provinces of the Roman Empire and their specific features, as this contribution wants to show.