Initiatives & Events

Classical Dialogues

In Blood and Ashes: Curse Tablets and Binding Spells in Ancient Greece

  • In Blood and Ashes: Curse Tablets and Binding Spells in Ancient Greece
    Jessica Lamont Yale University
    October 6, 2023 - October 6, 2023
    11:00am - 1:00pm -

    Columbia University
In Blood and Ashes
Jessica Lamont
Yale University

As part of its Classical Dialogues series, the Classical Studies Graduate Program at Columbia University is pleased to welcome Jessica L. Lamont, Assistant Professor of Classics at Yale University. On October 6, from 11am-1pm, Jessica L. Lamont will discuss her book In Blood and Ashes: Curse Tablets and Binding Spells in Ancient Greece (Oxford UP, 2023), which offers "the first historical study of ancient Greek curse rituals, binding spells, and incantations" while uniting "epigraphic, historical, literary, archaeological, and material evidence to expand understandings of daily like in ancient communities." Introduction by Sailakshmi Ramgopal (Columbia University) with commentary by Giovanni Lovisetto (Columbia University). Location: Room 509 Hamilton Hall

From binding spells and incantations to curse-writing rituals, magic pervaded the ancient Greek world. In Blood and Ashes provides the first historical study of the development and dissemination of ritualized curse practice from 750-250 BCE, documenting the cultural pressures that drove the use of curse tablets, charms, spells, and other private rites. This book expands our understanding of daily life in ancient communities, showing how individuals were making sense of the world and coping with conflict, vulnerability, competition, anxiety, desire, and loss, all while conjuring the gods and powers of the Underworld.

Bringing together epigraphic, literary, archaeological, and material evidence, Jessica L. Lamont reads between traditional histories of Archaic, Classical, and early Hellenistic Greece, drawing out new voices and new narratives to consider: here are the cooks, tavern keepers, garland weavers, helmsmen, barbers, and other persons who often slip through the cracks of ancient history. The texts and objects presented here offer glimpses of public and private lives across many centuries, illuminating the interplay of ritual and conflict-management strategies among citizens and slaves, men and women, pagans and Christians. Filled with new material and insights, Lamont's volume offers a groundbreaking perspective on ancient Greek social history and religion, highlighting the role of ritual in negotiating life's uncertainties.

In its Classical Dialogues series, the interdepartmental Classical Studies Graduate Program CLST at Columbia University invites authors of recent work in ancient studies that is exemplary for the kind of study that CLST aims to foster. All faculty and students at Columbia and beyond are cordially invited. CLST students are required to read carefully at least one chapter or article in advance and prepare questions and comments for discussion.