Probably the culprit was the lawsuit.
Archaeologists have discovered a jug and a coin under the floor of a classic Agora commercial building that was used by ancient craftsmen. “The pot contained the dismembered head and legs of a young chicken,” wrote Jessica Lamont, a professor of classical sciences at Yale University, in an article published in the magazine Hesperia.
At that time, around 300 BC, the people who put the curse also pierced the vessel with a large iron nail.
“All the outer surfaces of the jug were originally covered with text; it once had more than 55 names written on it, dozens of which have now survived only as scattered, floating letters or faint strokes of the stylus, ”wrote Lamont, noting that the Greek script contains words that could mean“ we bind ”. Parts of the nail and chicken probably played a role in the curse. Nails are commonly found with ancient curses and “have a restraining power and symbolically immobilize or restrict victims’ abilities,” the expert explained.
The killed chicken was no more than 7 months old, and the people who created the curse may have wanted to convey the chicken’s “helplessness and inability to defend itself” to the people whose names are written on the can, Lamont explains. The presence of the chicken’s head and drumsticks in the jar suggests that by twisting and piercing the chicken’s head and drumsticks, the curse writers tried to incapacitate the same body parts of their victims.
“The ritual assembly belongs to the realm of the Athenian binding curses and is aimed at“ binding ”or suppressing the physical and cognitive abilities of the named people,” the professor explained. The jar was placed next to several burned fires, in which the remains of animals were kept – which, according to Lamont, could increase the power of the curse.
Why was the curse created?
According to Lamont, the style of handwriting on the bank suggests that at least two people wrote the names on the bank. “It was certainly composed by people who know how to cast a powerful curse,” Lamont told Live Science. It is unknown why they took the trouble to create such a complex curse, but it may have been related to a legal case.
The sheer number of names makes an impending trial the most likely scenario, Lamont said. She notes that “curse writers can invoke every conceivable opponent in their curses, including witnesses, families and opposition supporters.” Lawsuits were commonplace in Athens at the time and excited many people, Lamont said.
The location of the pitcher – a building used by artisans – suggests that the lawsuit could be related to a labor dispute. “The curse could have been created by craftsmen working in the industrial building itself, possibly in anticipation of a workplace conflict trial,” she said.
Another possibility is that the curse is related to the strife in Athens some 2,300 years ago. After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. his empire collapsed, and his generals and officials fought for power. Historical records show that several factions fought for control of Athens at that time. It was a period of war, siege and change of political alliances.
The curse jar was excavated in 2006 and was recently analyzed and deciphered by Lamont. The pitcher was excavated by Marcy Handler, who was a doctoral student in classics at the University of Cincinnati at the time.