Researchers have discovered five tablets contained in a 2,400-year-old grave of an ancient Greek woman. They were first discovered in 2003 during an excavation, but recently they were part of a study that was published in the journal Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik. The tablets were found buried near Piraeus, Greece and have been approximately dated to the fourth century BCE. But the most interesting part about these tablets is that they actually contain curses.
The primary author on the study is Jessica Lamont and her belief is that the curses were written by an angry tavern owner, directed towards another tavern owner. All of the tablets are similar both in style and appear to be directed towards the same victim. The study focused on a single tablet that appears to be directed at a tavern in Athens owned by a couple, Demetrois and Phanagora.
Translated from the ancient Greek, here is what the tablet reads:
“Cast your hate upon Phanagora and Demetrios and their tavern and their property and their possessions. I will bind my enemy Demetrios, and Phanagora, in blood and in ashes, with all the dead…”
As the writing continues, the tablet calls upon Hermes, the god of trade, Artemis, the goddess of the wild and Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft. Due to the skill of the writing and the style in which the sentences are written, one can deduce that a professional wrote the text, most likely someone that the tavern owners hired. In the study, Lamont also mentions that the iron nail that was found in each of the tablets had an almost ritualistic intent: "physical act of hammering a nail into the lead tablet would have ritually echoed this wished-for sentiment." One of the tablets, however, was actually left blank; thus, they have concluded that a spell was actually recited over it rather that hammered into it.
One interesting fact is that the woman buried in the grave in which the tablets were found seems to be completely unrelated to the incident. Lamont feels that burying those tablets with her just happened to be the easiest way of getting them underground, which gives easier access to the tablets for the gods of the underworld. “The deities that the curse commissioner chose are significant. Hecate, Hermes, and Artemis are described as 'chthonic,' which means that they are being channeled in the specific role of sub-earthly underworld deities,” Lamont explained. “Curse tablets are not rare during this period – that's what's so fascinating about them! Around this time, there are curse tablets emerging across the Greek world – in Sicily, Athens, Macedonia. During later periods, they emerge from all across the Mediterranean.” Let’s just hope the curses have since worn off!