Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ancient Curse Tablet from Jerusalem: Nail Down The Tongue!

What comes to mind when you hear curse tablet? Is it an image of a sorceress conjuring a spell over a bubbling cauldron? A magician? A love spell? A cursing spell? How about this, watch a clip from HBO's Rome where a Roman woman is casting a "curse spell" on a tablet ( thus making a curse tablet) to put us in the mood for the following topic




Haven't we all been there? Vengeful, bitter, angry? So, now that we are in the most vengeful of moods, let us take a look at this particular find:



Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists excavated a 1,700-year-old curse tablet from a Roman mansion in the City of David in Jerusalem. In the text inscribed on the lead tablet, a woman named Kyrilla curses a man named Iennys, probably over a legal case.

WHAT, WHEN & WHERE
This particular curse tablet is made from lead, which we saw Servilla in the video also inscribing upon. It dates back 1,700 years ago to a Roman Mansion (363C.E) in Jerusalem. Most authorities believe however, that the curse tablet (as many were) was written by a magician. This may be due to the fact that magicians could write better than those who paid for their services or merely these figures were seen to have an "otherworldly" sense to them.


WHO & WHY
This particular lead tablet, although found in Jerusalem in a Roman Manison, was written in Greek. Greek was somewhat of a universal language during this time; so it is not difficult to discern its use here. The curse is cast against a man named "Iennys" by a woman named "Kyrilla" who invokes 6 gods to do her bidding! (Alas, poor Servilla only invoked 3.)

"I strike and strike down and nail down the tongue, the eyes, the wrath, the ire, the anger, the procrastination, the opposition of Iennys," part of the curse reads in translation. Kyrilla asks the gods to ensure that "he in no way oppose, so that he say or perform nothing adverse to Kyrilla … but rather that Iennys, whom the womb bore, be subject to her..."




WHICH GODS
The Magician invokes for Kyrilla four Greek Gods (Hermes, Persephone, Pluto [curious that the article would say Pluto is Greek when this Hades' Roman name] and Hecate), one Babylonian (Ereschigal) and one Abrasax [ which is a religion connected to early Christianity].

It would seem that this magician and Kyrilla are taking no chances: "Let's cover all the major gods just to be safe!"


WHY USE A CURSE
There is a suggestion in the text of the curse, a word meaning "opposition" that lead authorities to believe that this tablet like others that have been found with similar language were done in spite of a "legal disagreement."


WHERE WAS IT FOUND WITHIN THE MANSION
At the end of the clip that I have provided, Servilla entrusts the curse tablet to her personal slave who delivers it to the house of the "cursed" and shoves it into a crevices in the wall. This, of course, was taken from archaeological evidence that curse tablets were often found in the home, job, or even grave of the "cursed." It was thought that somehow the "cursed figure" must frequent the area of the curse.

This particular tablet was found in the northwest area of the mansion on the second floor. While the 2nd floor is now collapsed; archaeologist have found some clues to the areas uses and purpose nearby where they found the curse tablet.

"Archaeologists Doron Ben Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets, both with the Israel Antiquities Authority, told LiveScience in an email that they discovered the remains of mosaics and frescoes that contain geometric and floral motifs near the tablet, a carved bone fragments from a box that depict the "Triumph of Dionysus," roof tiles with the stamp of the Roman 10th Legion, a unit that, for a time, was stationed in Jerusalem."

The use of the second floor,where the curse tablet was found, is unclear, but assuming that this "Iennys" was a retired soldier, wealthy land owner and probably had some sort of "civil servant job." The archaeologist did discover a small female figurine thought to be used in a "private" shrine/cult area, but none of this can be certain.

WHAT IS CERTAIN

Kyrilla really didn't like Iennys. If it was a legal matter or a love matter or even a jealous matter; it is uncertain. But there was some bitter hate brewing within such a woman who would pay for this magician to make this a tablet and then to somehow bribe a slave to put it in Iennys' household or attempt to do it herself.  Gutsy bitter woman indeed....

 

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