The archeologists made a startling discovery when they dug up a young woman’s grave in Athens, Greece. The archaeologists unearthed five lead tablets that cursed the tavern keepers 2400 years ago.
Ancient tablets reveal that four pairs of husband-wife who were tavern keepers were cursed in the curse tablet while the fifth tablet was left blank presumably filled with oral incantations or spells.
Out of the five, four lead tablets are inscribed with curses that implore the underworld Gods(Chthonic) to target four different husband-wife tavern keepers in Athens. The fifth tablet probably had a spell or incantation and was left blank by the writer.
The five tablets were pricked with an iron nail. They were then folded neatly and placed in the grave. The graves are regarded as the pathway to the Gods. Depositing the tablets in the grave give the tablets easy access to Gods. The ancients believed that the Gods would be forced to do the person’s bidding once the tablet reached the Gods domain.
Cast your hate upon Phanagora and Demetrios goes the curse invoked upon one of the hapless tavern owners.
“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…”
“I will bind you in such a bind, Demetrios, as strong as is possible, and I will smite down a kynotos on tongue.”
One of the curses targeted a husband-wife couple Phanagora and Demetrios. The curse asks the gods to cast their hate upon the two and on their tavern, property and possessions as well. The wrath of the curse does not decrease even after seeking the destruction of Phanagora and Demetrious property.
It targets Demetrios and promises to bind him and strike him with a kynotos on his tongue (The word “kynotos”means dog’s ear, a slang for a low throw on a dice roll).
Jessica Lamont, an instructor at John Hopkins university in Baltimore wrote in an article (published in the journal Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik.) that the hammering of the nail into the lead tablet was a symbolic echoing of this wish fulfilment.
The word kynotos throws light on the social structures of Greece.Taverns weren’t just a watering hole but was buzzing with gambling and other anti-social activities.
A woman’s grave complete with ritual libations yields the five cursed tablets. The woman may not be connected with the curse tablets. The grave was discovered northeast of the Piraeus.
The five tablets were found in a woman’s grave. The grave was located northeast of the Piraeus, the port of Athens. The grave contained the cremated remains of the woman and displayed few signs of ritual libations. The archaeologists associated with Greece’s Ephorate for Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities excavated the grave in 2003.
Speaking about the significance of the tablet inside the grave, Lamont says that the curse tablets are supposed to be buried in a subterranean location such as a grave or well. The ancients believe that the underground locations acted as a bridge through which the curses reached the underworld Gods. The woman who was found with the curse tablets may not have had anything to do with the tablet. Unscrupulous elements could have used her grave as an accessible spot to bury the tablet.
The eloquent writing on the tablet indicates that a professional curse writer created these curse tablets. Other services of the curse writer could include casting charms, spells or incantations to fulfil the wishes of their customer.
Shedding light into another facet of the Greek society, the tablet reveals that it was written by a professional curse writer well versed in eloquent prose.
The tablets with it’s eloquent and well-structured prose could only have been written by a professional curse writer. It is perhaps shocking to realize that curse writing flourished as trade. The services of a professional curse writer included casting spells, charms or uttering the incantation that ensured the fulfilment of the purchaser’s wishes.
Lamont, who examined the tablet kept in Piraeus museum believes that the curse may have been placed by a rival tavern keeper.