1 INTRODUCTION For more than one hundred years, cursetablets have been representing one of the main direct sources of Vulgar Latin. Besides being essential for scholars in field of ancient magic and religion, these small sheets of metal usually
I would like to express my thanks to the Director of BTM Aquincum Museum, dr Paula Zsidi, leader of the excavation at issue and to dr Gábor Lassányi, the archaeologist responsible for the complex examination for assigning the curse
On most cursetablets the name of cursed person is written out. On a few of them, the name of one of the parents is specified to ensure the gods or daemons hurt the right person. In antiquity it was quite common to use patronyms on
A lead tablet recently discovered in the eastern cemetery of the Aquincum civil town is of much interest. The tablet which can be dated on archaeological grounds to the late 2nd-early 3rd centuries AD seems to be a binding curse of a group of men against another group, written in Latin. This curse tablet is especially significant because only five more Latin curses had previously been found in the territory of Roman Pannonia and it supports the inferences that can be deducted from this small collection.
The recently published curse tablets from the sanctuary of Magna Mater in Mainz, from the hero shrines of Opheltes and Palaimon, and from the sanctuary of Demeter and Kore, as well as a single curse tablet from late Roman Antioch invoking the “secret names” of the Samothracian deities, all suggest some connection between mystery religions and cursing. Two possible explanations are explored: (i) because initiates had special access to divine powers, their curses were thought to be especially powerful; or (ii) because these new discoveries fit two traditional types of defixiones: those placed in or at the graves of those violently killed, like Opheltes, or those placed in sanctuaries of female divinities, like Demeter, whose myths focus on the loss and return of a loved one from Hades.
included some 26 cursetablets. As Urbanova notes, the fountain dates back to the 4 th century BCE, and two inscriptions found there, dedicated to Nymphis sacratis Annae Perennae, have been dated to the 2 nd century CE,
; ligo – obligo – perobligo . The supercomposed verbs mentioned here are attested almost exclusively in cursetablets. 15 Defixiones also contain many prefixed verbs, which are used in accordance with the aforementioned development and can be
or curse tablets give evidence of a magical practice — widespread in ancient Greece and Rome — that was “intended to influence, by supernatural means, the actions or welfare of persons or animals against their will.” These curse inscriptions are an important written source for linguists, since they document an everyday non-literary language use; at the same time they can provide direct information about the verbal elements of an ancient magic ritual. The purpose of my study on the Latin
, that I collected into an electronic database, is to analyze the magical spells from a pragmalinguistic point of view. This approach considers language within its context, i.e. it does not only concentrate on grammatical structures but views language as a functional whole within a special communicative setting.
During rescue excavations between 2009 and 2013 carried out at the periphery of the vicus at Kempraten (municipality of Rapperswil-Jona, St. Gallen, Switzerland) a Gallo-Roman sanctuary, dating from the second quarter of the 2nd to the end of the 3rd century AD, was unearthed. The excavation included intense sampling for geoarchaeology and archaeobiology, which prompted the Archaeology Department of Canton St. Gall (KASG) to launch an interdisciplinary project. Four curse tablets attest to the cult of Magna Mater in the sanctuary at Kempraten.
This paper presents the first results of the interdisciplinary study and compares them to the Magna Mater sanctuary at Mainz (Germany), focusing on 1. the layout of the sanctuary, 2. sacrificing, 3. feastings and 4. cursing. The comparison between both sites showed that there was no strict setting of rituals in the cult of Magna Mater, but the importance of cursing and of burnt sacrifices is characteristic for both sites. Summing up: The temple precinct at Kempraten had a specific setting, which showed on one hand local and regional influences, for instance in terms of the temple architecture and the choice of food offerings. On the other hand, distinct differences between the Kempraten sanctuary and local Gallo-Roman sanctuaries can be observed, for instance in relation to cursing, the composition and the importance of the burnt offerings.
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.