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Pella curse tablet

The Pella curse tablet is a curse or magic spell (Greek: κατάδεσμος, katadesmos) inscribed on a lead scroll, dating to the 4th or 3rd century BC. It was found in Pella (at the time capital of Macedon) in 1986 and published in the Hellenic Dialectology Journal in 1993. It is possibly the only attested text in the ancient Macedonian language (O. Masson).

It is a magic spell or love charm written by a woman, possibly named Dagina, whose lover Dionysophōn (i.e. "Voice of Dionysus") is apparently about to marry Thetima (i.e. "she who honors the gods"; the standard Attic form would be Theotimē). She invokes "Makron and the demons" (parkattithemai makrōni kai [tois] daimosi, Attic would be para-kata-tithemai) to cause Dionysophon to marry her rather than Thetima, and never to marry another woman unless she herself recovers and unrolls the scroll.

Katadesmoi or defixiones were spells written on non-perishable material, such as lead, stone or baked clay, and were secretly buried to ensure their physical integrity, which would then guarantee the permanence of their intended effects.

The language is a harsh but distinctly recognizable form of North-West or Doric Greek, and the low social status of its writer, as evidenced by her vocabulary and belief in magic, strongly hint that a unique form of Doric Greek was spoken by lay people in Pella at the time the tab was written (see below, Dating and Significance). Brixhe and Panayotou (1994:209) think a Macedonian origin of the text probable, but they suggest that the population of Pella was not homogeneously autochthonic, and they prefer to wait for a second find before making a definitive statement.

Before the publication of the Pella katadesmos' findings in 1993, it was proposed that Doric Greek may have been spoken in pre-Hellenistic Macedon as a second dialect in addition to a Macedonian dialect (Rhomiopoulou, 1980).

Text and Translation

1. [ΘΕΤΙ]ΜΑΣ ΚΑΙ ΔΙΟΝΥΣΟΦΩΝΤΟΣ ΤΟ ΤΕΛΟΣ ΚΑΙ ΤΟΝ ΓΑΜΟΝ ΚΑΤΑΓΡΑΦΩ ΚΑΙ ΤΑΝ ΑΛΛΑΝ ΠΑΣΑΝ ΓΥ
2. [ΝΑΙΚ]ΩΝ ΚΑΙ ΧΗΡΑΝ ΚΑΙ ΠΑΡΘΕΝΩΝ ΜΑΛΙΣΤΑ ΔΕ ΘΕΤΙΜΑΣ ΚΑΙ ΠΑΡΚΑΤΤΙΘΕΜΑΙ ΜΑΚΡΩΝΙ ΚΑΙ
3. [ΤΟΙΣ] ΔΑΙΜΟΣΙ ΚΑΙ ΟΠΟΚΑ ΕΓΟ ΤΑΥΤΑ ΔΙΕΛΕΞΑΙΜΙ ΚΑΙ ΑΝΑΓΝΟΙΗΝ ΠΑΛLΙΝ ΑΝΟΡΟΞΑΣΑ
4. [ΤΟΚΑ] ΓΑΜΑΙ ΔΙΟΝΥΣΟΦΩΝΤΑ ΠΡΟΤΕΡΟΝ ΔΕ ΜΗ ΜΗ ΓΑΡ ΛΑΒΟΙ ΑΛΛΑΝ ΓΥΝΑΙΚΑ ΑΛΛ Η ΕΜΕ
5. [ΕΜΕ Δ]Ε ΣΥΝΚΑΤΑΓΗΡΑΣΑΙ ΔΙΟΝΥΣΟΦΩΝΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΜΗΔΕΜΙΑΝ ΑΛΛΑΝ ΙΚΕΤΙΣ ΥΜΩΝ ΓΙΝΟ
6. [ΜΑΙ ΦΙΛ]ΑΝ ΟΙΚΤΙΡΕΤΕ ΔΑΙΜΟΝΕΣ ΦΙΛ[Ο]Ι ΔΑΓΙΝΑΓΑΡΙΜΕ ΦΙΛΩΝ ΠΑΝΤΩΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΡΗΜΑ ΑΛΛΑ
7. [....]Α ΦΥΛΑΣΣΕΤΕ ΕΜΙΝ Ο[Π]ΩΣ ΜΗ ΓΙΝΕΤΑΙ ΤΑ[Υ]ΤΑ ΚΑΙ ΚΑΚΑ ΚΑΚΩΣ ΘΕΤΙΜΑ ΑΠΟΛΗΤΑΙ
8. [....]ΑΛ[-].ΥΝΜ .. ΕΣΠΛΗΝ ΕΜΟΣ ΕΜΕ ΔΕ [Ε]Υ[Δ]ΑΙΜΟΝΑ ΚΑΙ ΜΑΚΑΡΙΑΝ ΓΕΝΕΣΤΑΙ
9. [-]ΤΟ[.].[-].[..]..Ε.Ε.Ω[?]Α.[.]Ε..ΜΕΓΕ [-]

1. On the formal wedding of [Theti]ma and Dionysophon I write a curse, and of all other
2. wo[men], widows and virgins, but of Thetima in particular, and I entrust upon Makron and
3. [the] demons that only whenever I dig out and unroll and re-read this,
4. [then] may they wed Dionysophon, but not before; and may he never wed any woman but me;
5. and may [I] grow old with Dionysophon, and no one else. I [am] your supplicant:
6. Have mercy on [your dear one], dear demons, Dagina(?), for I am abandoned of all my dear ones.
7. But please keep this for my sake so that these events do not happen and wretched Thetima perishes miserably
8. and to me grant [ha]ppiness and bliss.

Dating and significance

The tab has been dated by the original publishers to the "Mid-4th century BC or slightly earlier (letter forms, spelling)". Prof. Edmonds of Bryn Mawr College prefers a 3rd century BC date.

The former opinion is supported by the Oxford Classical Dictionary, in which Olivier Masson writes: "Yet in contrast with earlier views which made of it {i.e. Macedonian} an Aeolic dialect (O.Hoffmann compared Thessalian) we must by now think of a link with North-West Greek (Locrian, Aetolian, Phocidian, Epirote). This view is supported by the recent discovery at Pella of a curse tablet (4th cent. BC) which may well be the first 'Macedonian' text attested (provisional publication by E.Voutyras; cf. the Bulletin Epigraphique in Rev. Et. Grec. 1994, no.413); the text includes an adverb "opoka" which is not Thessalian." (OCD, 1996, pp 905, 906).

Of the same opinion is James L. O'Neil's (of the University of Sydney) presentation at the 2005 Conference of the Australasian Society for Classical Studies, entitled "Doric Forms in Macedonian Inscriptions" (abstract): "A fourth‐century BC curse tablet from Pella shows word forms which are clearly Doric, but a different form of Doric from any of the west Greek dialects of areas adjoining Macedon. Three other, very brief, fourth century inscriptions are also indubitably Doric. These show that a Doric dialect was spoken in Macedon, as we would expect from the West Greek forms of Greek names found in Macedon. And yet later Macedonian inscriptions are in Koine avoiding both Doric forms and the Macedonian voicing of consonants. The native Macedonian dialect had become unsuitable for written documents."

(External links below)

See also

References

  • "History of the Greek Language". Greek Literary and Historical Archive. Athens 1999. ISBN 960-201-122-X
  • C. Brixhe and A. Panayotou. Le Macédonien in: Langues indo-européennes. ed. Bader, Paris, 1994, p. 205–220.

External links

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