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date: 09 December 2022



  • H. S. Versnel


A curse is a wish that evil may befall a person or persons. Within this broad definition several different types can be distinguished, according to setting, motive, and condition. The most direct curses are maledictions inspired by feelings of hatred and lacking any explicit religious, moral, or legal legitimation. This category is exemplarily represented by the so-called curse tablets (Gk. κατάδεσμος, Lat. defixio), thin lead sheets inscribed with maledictions intended to influence the actions or welfare of persons (or animals). If a motive is mentioned it is generally inspired by feelings of envy and competition, especially in the fields of sports and the (amphi)theatre, litigation, love, and commerce. Almost without exception these texts are anonymous and lack argumentation or references to deserved punishment of the cursed perso (s). If gods are invoked they belong to the sphere of death, the Underworld, and witchcraft (*Demeter, *Persephone, *Gaia, *Hermes, *Erinyes, *Hecate).


  • Roman Myth and Religion

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