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Oracles, Curses, and Risk Among the Ancient Greeks$
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Esther Eidinow

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199277780

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199277780.001.0001

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(p.139) 7 Curses!
Oracles, Curses, and Risk Among the Ancient Greeks

Esther Eidinow (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter turns the reader's attention to binding spells, or curses (katadesmoi or defixiones). It examines the scanty literary evidence for the practice of creating these curses, and describes the development and spread of this practice across the Graeco-Roman world. It examines the language of binding spells; the gods, and other supernatural entities invoked; the shapes of curse tablets (including ‘voodoo dolls’ in miniature coffins); and the motivation behind their creation. The texts in the corpus of ancient Greek curse tablets (6th-1st centuries BCE) show individuals seeking to bind or restrain an imminent danger, often a person or people in particular circumstances. The chapter introduces the categories usually used to describe these circumstances and theories used to describe the motivation behind curse-writing (in particular, the theory that they were used in situations of competition), and why and how this study suggests a re-examination of both.

Keywords:   Greek curse tablets, binding spells, katadesmoi

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