Calamos Supports Greece
GreekReporter.comAncient GreeceThe Ancient Curse Tablets Found in Athens Well

The Ancient Curse Tablets Found in Athens Well

curse tablets athens
Part of a curse tablet against Pytheas, ordered by his opponent in an Athenian court. Photo credit: Dr. Jutta Stroszeck – German Archaeological Institute

A major, and somewhat spine-tingling, archaeological discovery of a trove of ancient curse tablets was made recently in Athens‘ downtown neighborhood of Kerameikos (Ceramicus) by archaeologists from the German Archaeological Institute of Athens.

A total of thirty well-preserved curse tablets dating back to the Classical period (2,500 years ago) were found in an ancient well which was originally discovered back in 2016, when other everyday objects—but not the tablets—were found.

The ancient tablets have curses engraved on them which Athenian citizens would pay to have made against other people, a practice which was relatively common in ancient Greece.

The rocky, muddy opening to the ancient well in Kerameikos, Athens where the curse tablets were found. Photo credit: Dr. Jutta Stroszeck – German Archaeological Institute

Kerameikos full of ancient artifacts

The German Archaeological Institute, which has been conducting continuous research in the broader Kerameikos area since the early 1900s, has discovered more than 6,500 burial sites there, indisputably making Kerameikos the main burial site of ancient Athens.

The curse tablets were accidentally found in 2020 while archaeologists were investigating the supply of water to a 1st century BC bathhouse which was close to the well.

Ancient Greeks were known to use the method of engraving curse tablets and attaching them to wells or tombs in order to put a curse on someone with whom they had serious disputes.

curse tablets athens
Love and Hate: This curse tablet was created against a newlywed woman named Glykera. The curse, which focuses on her vagina, was made by someone who envied the woman’s marriage. Photo credit: Dr. Jutta Stroszeck – German Archaeological Institute

Curse tablets and sorcery in ancient Athens

The tablets would be placed near tombs because they believed that the souls of the dead would carry these curses to the gods of the underworld.

Sorcery was not an accepted practice in Athens, so this was seen as an alternative for any who believed in the power of evil. Namely, the gods of the underworld, who would make the curse a reality, would be invoked.

Normally, people would place curses on people they either hated for personal reasons or with whom they perhaps had legal court disputes.

curse tablets athens
Lead objects found at the bottom of the Kerameikos well dating back to the 5th century. BC. Photo credit: Dr. Jutta Stroszeck – German Archaeological Institute

Apparently, athletes also tended to engage in this unique practice in an attempt to bring bad luck upon opponents.

Merchants were also known to curse the owners of rival businesses in an effort to incite good luck upon their stores while bringing bad luck to their competition.

According to archaeologists, in Ancient Greek curse tablets, the name of the individual who placed the curse was never mentioned; rather, it was only the name of the curse’s victim who was ever mentioned.

See all the latest news from Greece and the world at Contact our newsroom to report an update or send your story, photos and videos. Follow GR on Google News and subscribe here to our daily email!

Related Posts