Friday, January 06, 2012

Reaching Back 2,000 Years to Unravel a Curse

A vegetable seller named Babylas was the target of an alarming curse nearly 2,000 years ago. Written on a lead tablet found in Antioch, one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire, the curse calls on the gods to tie up the hapless greengrocer, then "drown and chill" his soul.

The curse is described in the German journal Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik by Alexander Hollmann, a classicist at the University of Washington who studies Greek and Roman magic.

The curse was written on both sides of the tablet. One side calls upon the god Iao to bind Babylas; the other side addresses multiple gods and calls for the tablet to be thrown down and "killed" in a well — followed, in the same way, by Babylas….