Sappho Curse Poetry

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The link between magic and song was widely recognized in antiquity. Besides the fact that several literary texts, from Homer’s time and on, can enrich our knowledge of ancient Greek magical practice, there are also fragments of literary texts which contain a specific kind of magical language, the language of curses. Curses (ἀραί or κατάραι) were utterances consigning, or supposed or intended to consign, (a person or a thing) to the spiritual and temporal evil, the vengeance of a deity, the blasting of malignant fate. The main medium of cursing was always language, and sometimes even poetic language. Many archaic poets seem to have used traditional formulae of cursing, thus to have composed poetic curses. Although curses are encountered in …show more content…
More specifically, Cameron has proved that the sixth stanza of fragment 1 V has many affinities with magical papyri from a much later date. Nevertheless, the affinity of Sappho’s poetry with curses has only been implied in some cases and was never fully explored. What I will try to suggest is that some of her fragments belong -to a certain extent- to poetic curse-poetry (or, in other words, are literary curses) along with the Stasburg epode and other fragments of archaic lyric poets. This can be argued by a careful examination of these fragments along with other literary curses and some of the curse-tablets. More specifically, I suggest that Sappho inscribed her poetry in the context of the tradition of curses and that she blended this tradition with other elements coming from epic poetry, iambos, and the funerary epigram, thus that she composed literary curses. I propose that the understanding of the magical/curse context of some of her fragments provides us an insight into the relationship of her poetry with earlier, mainly or even exclusively oral material, and, eventually, into her …show more content…
These curse-tablets were inscribed pieces of lead, usually in the form of thin sheets, intended to bring supernatural powers to bear against persons and animals. The great majority or early tablets come from Attica. Nevertheless, they were found everywhere, including Lesbos. The more early examples come from the 5th and 4th century B.C. and are quite simple in form. It is almost certain that these tablets were accompanied by oral prayers, incantations and invocations. These tablets contained highly formulaic language. Some of the linguistic features exhibited in the extant tablets are: repetition, pleonasm, metaphor and simile, personification, rhythmic phrases, exaggeration, threats, promises, prayers and formal appeals. They were usually deposited in special locations where their powers were supposed to be more effective such as wells, anywhere near water, and graves. Their aim was to bring other persons or animals under the clients’ power, against their will and, usually, without their knowledge. The client usually wanted to cause harm to the victim such as: death, illness, loss of memory, mental suffering, loss of family and fortune, public humiliation, defeat in war or in court, denial of an afterlife and general lack of success. One of the most common reasons behind the commission, or the composition and construction, of a curse-tablet in ancient Greece was

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