“As Isis Loved Osiris, So Let Matrona Love Theodoros...”: Sympathetic Magic and Similia Similibus Formulae in Greek and Latin Curse Tablets (Part 2)

  • Juraj Franek Czech Academy of Sciences, Centre for Classical Studies at the Institute of Philosophy Na Florenci 1420/3, 110 00 Prague 1, Czech Republic; Masaryk University, Department of Classical Studies Arna Nováka 1/1, 602 00 Brno, Czech Republic
  • Daniela Urbanová Masaryk University, Department of Classical Studies Arna Nováka 1/1, 602 00 Brno, Czech Republic


In this contribution, we present a representative corpus of similia similibus formulae attested in ancient Greek and Latin curse tablets or defixiones. The simile formulae, attested in about 80 tablets in widely differing states of preservation and legibility, are introduced in the context of sympathetic magic and, in contradistinction to literary similes, as performative utterances that are based on a persuasive analogy. This analogy operates in the general form of “just as X possesses property P, so let also Y possess property P”, in which Y is the target or victim of the curse, while X and P are variables that change in accordance with the intended results. We provide a provisional taxonomy of simile formulae, offer new readings and interpretations of some defixiones, and compare Greek and Latin documents. Due to its length, the paper has been divided into two parts. In the first part, presented in the previous issue of Philologia Classica (Vol. 14, Fasc. 1, Pp. 27–55), we introduced curse tablets, briefly discussed the principles of sympathetic magic, and focused on comparata that reference the materiality of the tablet and comparata referencing corpses or ghosts of the dead. The remaining comparata, namely animals, historiolae and rituals, aversus formulae and unusual orientations of the script, “names”, and drawings, are presented in here together with general conclusions.

Ключевые слова:

curse tablets, defixiones, ancient magic, sympathetic magic, Greek and Latin epigraphy, similia similibus, simile formula, animals in antiquity, historiola


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Как цитировать
Franek, J., & Urbanová, D. (2020). “As Isis Loved Osiris, So Let Matrona Love Theodoros.”: Sympathetic Magic and Similia Similibus Formulae in Greek and Latin Curse Tablets (Part 2). Philologia Classica, 14(2), 177-207. https://doi.org/10.21638/11701/spbu20.2019.202
Graecia antiqua