A collection of curse
s inscribed on lead tablet
s, found in Rome
in the 1860's on the former Via Appia
, near a section lined in antiquity with tomb
s and mausolea
. Published in 1898, they were probably deposited around 390/410, during the reign of Theodosius II
, based on internal evidence of names linked with names on coins and amulets of more certain date. The first 10 or so are written in Latin
, though they contain much gibberish
and very little actual text. The remainder are written in a late Greek miniscule
, in a very illiterate
common Greek dialect
Most refer to curses against charioteers, contestants of the Circus Maximus located a little over a mile away from the tomb/burial site. They were clearly copied from a larger handbook; most have the prefatory remarks inscribed on the tablet:
To you, Phrygian goddess and goddess-bride Eidonea, newly laid to rest I invoke by your names...that you aid in restraining and binding Kardelos, whom Phlegentia bore, and make him bed-ridden and make him suffer and pay the penalty of a wretched death and come to his end in a bad way...
Mind, the translation is my own, and incorporates my own zany theories about who the initial addressed spirits are. Grain of Salt.
They were called Sethian by the original editor, based on an image of a horse/donkey, holding some sort of staff/whip and circle/wheel. This is generally discounted, though nobody seems to know quite what's going on, or how the images (the horse thing, usually over what looks like a mummified man with antennae wrapped in serpents, next to what look like heads on the tops of trapezoids) fit in with the text. There are parallels between these texts and the ones in the Greek Magical Papyri, as well as certain other things. The horse iconography fits in with certain images of Hecate, but who knows.
Again, these texts are remarkable only because they are so thoroughly ordinary.