A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!

ancient tablet

(Courtesy Earle McBride, University of Texas)

The ancient Romans were a vindictive bunch. They regularly called on the gods to harm those they perceived had wronged them, sometimes recording their curses on thin lead tablets that were usually rolled up and deposited inside graves, temples, and shrines. While examining two such tablets recently rediscovered in the City Archaeological Museum of Bologna—their provenance is unknown—researcher Celia Sánchez Natalías of the University of Zaragoza in Spain found two particularly nasty examples. "Destroy, crush, kill, strangle Porcello and wife Maurilla. Their soul, heart, buttocks, liver..." says part of a tablet dating to the fourth or fifth century A.D. Sánchez Natalías believes this is a curse directed at a veterinarian and his wife, perhaps for the death of an animal. The second curse, one of the only known examples directed at a Roman senator, reads, "Crush, kill Fistus the senator.... May Fistus dilute, languish, sink, and may all his limbs be dissolved." One can only imagine what Fistus must have done to engender such vitriol.

Share