Erotic Curse Tablets from the Heroön of Opheltes at Nemea

by Jorge J. Bravo III

Hesperia, Volume 85, Issue 1
Page(s): 121-152
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2972/hesperia.85.1.0121
Year: 2016


Four inscribed lead curse tablets excavated from the Heroön of Opheltes at Nemea are edited and presented here with commentary. The texts of the tablets are erotic in nature, but closer analysis reveals a fundamental ambiguity in the rhetorical force of the anatomical lists and the operative verb apostrephō (ἀποστρέφω) in the curses. The choice of a hero shrine as the place of their deposition is unusual; a deciding factor for this location may have been the presence of the grave of Opheltes, who was believed to have died very young (aōros; ἄωρος) and through violence (biaiothanatos; βιαιοθάνατος), both of which being desirable qualities in the practice of ancient magic.