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HOME : Classical Antiquities : Classical Masterpieces : Greek Lead Tablet with Magic Spell
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Greek Lead Tablet with Magic Spell - X.0298
Origin: Mediterranean
Circa: 4 th Century AD
Dimensions: 4.625" (11.7cm) high x 3" (7.6cm) wide
Collection: Classical
Medium: Lead


Location: Great Britain
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Description
The following translation and analysis was kindly provided by R.S.O Tomlin, Wolfson College, Oxford.

This magical tablet is of rectangular form with rounded corners, cut from sheet lead. Slight corrugation and differential corrosion on the back suggest that it may once have been rolled or folded, but the surface has not been stressed or cracked. It is largely complete and most of the missing text can be restored. Overall this is very well-preserved and there are few difficulties. It consists of 33 lines of minute but well-formed Greek letters which can be dated to the fourth century AD.

The inscribed text is an elaborate binding spell repeated with variations four times, with intervening sequences of magical words. It is directed against three named athletes, Antiokhos, Hierax and Kastor, evidently runners, whose feet, sinews, and other attributes are ‘bound’ so as to ensure their failure ‘in the stadium.’

Translation:

‘-magical words Abrasax- Hold back the feet and sinews and the impetus of Antiokhos whom Tabekh bore, and of Hierax whom Tamin bore, and of Kastor also called Dioskoros whom Tekosis bore. Hold back their feet and sinews and impetus and strength, that they be not able to proceed in the stadium, that not even one of the aforesaid be crowned, I ask. – magical words- Bind, bind back, hold back their purpose and their strength, their sinews, their feet, their legs, and the three hundred and sixty-five limbs of their bodies, that they be not able to proceed in the stadium in the hour of necessity of the crown.-magical words- Hold back the spirit, the purpose, the sinews of the aforesaid Antiokhos and Hierax and Kastor, that they do not take a crown in the stadium, but bind them entirely, that they be not able to proceed in the stadium in the hour of necessity of the crown, as the great god may direct. – magical words Abrasax- Bind, bind around, bind back, hold back the running, the spirit, the legs, the sinews, the feet of Antiokhos whom Tabekh bore, and of Hierax whom Tamin bore, and of Kastor also called Dioskoros whom Tekosis bore. – magical words- Bind, bind back, bind together, hold back Antiokhos and Hierax and Kastor also called Dioskoros. Bind their feet, sinews, legs, spirit, excellence, the three hundred and fifty-five limbs of their bodies and souls, that they be not able to proceed in the stadium, but remain like stones, unmoving, un-running. By force, by force, by force. Bind, bind the aforesaid, as I asked, by force.’

Published: R.S.O. Tomlin, ‘‘Remain Like Stones, Unmoving, Un-Running’: Another Greek Spell Against Competitors in a Foot-Race,’ in Zeitschrift Für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, Vol. 160, 2007. - (X.0298)

 

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