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Ancient Magic -- in Aramaic -- at the Racetrack

Submitted by Anonymous on May 29, 2018 - 9:47pm
ancient curse tablet in Aramaic from Antioch

Prof. Alex Hollmann is working with Robert Daniel of the University of Cologne on a two-volume edition, translation, and commentary of lead curse tablets in Ancient Greek from ancient Antioch and Caesarea. So far all of the tablets have been in Greek, but when one of the tablets from the circus in Antioch was opened a few years ago, Prof. Hollmann was surprised to find that it was written in Hebrew script.

Although Jews certainly practiced magic, as did most peoples living around the ancient Mediterranean, this was the first time an actual text in Aramaic of a curse against charioteers and their horses had been found. Because neither Prof. Hollmann nor Prof. Daniel read Aramaic, the tablet was entrusted to Margaretha Folmer, an expert on Aramaic at Leiden University, and Rivka Elitzur-Leiman, a PhD student at Tel Aviv University writing a dissertation on magic.

Rivka Elitzur-Leiman has deciphered part of the text, which calls upon the angel who stopped Balaam’s ass (Numbers 22) to stop the horses of one of the opposing teams. You can read about this here in a report of a public talk she recently gave at Tel Aviv University.

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