Recently Deciphered 1,500-Year-Old Curse Tablet Reveals Curse Calls Against a Dancer
Sat, April 10, 2021

Recently Deciphered 1,500-Year-Old Curse Tablet Reveals Curse Calls Against a Dancer


An Italian archaeological team discovered a 1,500-year-old lead tablet sometime between 1949 and 1954. It was found in the ruins of an ancient theater in Israel, believed to date back to the 6th century. At that time, the Byzantine Empire controlled the city. However, the inscription was difficult to make out. Thus, researchers spent years deciphering the tablet.


Photo Credit: Live Science


Recently, the team finally deciphered the tablet, which apparently was cursed. In the book "Studies in Honour of Roger S.O. Tomlin,” Attilio Mastrocinque, a professor of Roman history at the University of Verona, wrote that the tablet revealed a curse between athletic opponents. The Greek curse was against a dancer named Manna, who likely performed at the famous Caesarea Maritima theater in Israel. It calls upon several demons to inflict harm on her, including the demons of the sky, air, water, earth, sea, rivers, springs, and the underworld demons. 


Photo Credit: Hellenica World


The one who wrote it even asked for the assistance of several gods including Thoth, an ancient Egyptian god of magic and wisdom. According to Live Science, a science news website that features groundbreaking developments in science, space, technology, health, the environment, our culture and history, the curse tablet suggests that Manna "must have been a famous artist and therefore the prize would have been considerable, not to mention the fame and reputation that were at stake.”


Photo Credit: Hellenica World


According to Mastrocinque's translation, the tablet reads: "Tie the feet together, hinder the dance of Manna. Bind down the eyes, the hands, the feet, which should be slack for Manna when he will dance in the theatre…" The researchers suggest that Manna and the curse-writer were from warring factions since people competing in dance or other competitions were sometimes part of those. Often, competitions like this would be intense, resulting in public riots. 

"This [curse tablet] along with many others issued in the late imperial period and the early Middle Ages, confirms that the Christianization of the Roman Empire did not stop the maleficent magical arts… on the contrary, these increasingly spread and became more sophisticated," Mastrocinque wrote. 




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