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Lead curse (defixio)

British Museum

British Museum

The wishing of ill-health, or worse, on a person is typical of many Roman curses.
This example from Roman London, scratched in Latin on a fragment of lead sheet, translates as:
'I curse Tretia Maria and her life and mind and memory and liver and lungs mixed up together, and her words, thoughts and memory; thus may she be unable to speak what things are concealed, nor be able...'.
Curses were sometimes rolled up, hidden under floors or in wall cavities, or nailed up. After this example had been inscribed it was pierced by seven holes driven through from the back of the sheet, a procedure perhaps intended to increase the power of the curse.

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  • Title: Lead curse (defixio)
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 220.00mm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Registration number: 1934,1105.1
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Telegraph Street
  • Period/culture: Romano-British
  • Material: lead
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Lawrence, George Fabian

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