Vol. 47 (2011)

Sequences of charakteres in some circus defixiones in Latin from Hadrumetum

Published August 1, 2020
György Németh
Budapest, ELTE – Debreceni Egyetem


Németh, G. . (2020). Sequences of charakteres in some circus defixiones in Latin from Hadrumetum. Acta Classica Universitatis Scientiarum Debreceniensis, 47, 95–111. Retrieved from https://ojs.lib.unideb.hu/classica/article/view/8019

A peculiar feature of a series of curse tablets from Hadrumetum, published by Audollent in his Defixionum tabellae (1904) and in a further study dated 1906, is that they contain four recurring sequences of magical charakteres. One of the sequences occurs on a single tablet, another on three tablets, the third in five, and the fourth is found 34 times on ten tablets. In each case the context is a curse against chariot-teams, i.e. charioteers and horses. Since the names of some charioteers show up on nearly all the tablets in the group, we may assume that the series was written over a relatively brief number of years. This inference is supported by the fact that the appearance and physical size of the tablets differ considerably. From these data we can conclude that there was a circle of magicians, using the same handbook and specialising in chariotracing, who invented the recurring sequences of charakteres, though – as far as we know – their innovation was not adopted in other regions.