Arae: the Curse Poetry of Antiquity
ARCA 26. ISBN 978-0-905205-75-5. Cloth, viii+263 pp. Publ. 1991.
Formally cursing one's enemies was a frequent activity in ancient life and literature. As a result, curse poetry evolved as a significant literary genre, particularly in the Hellenistic and Roman period. Ovid's Ibis is the most extensive example.
Arae, Lindsay Watson's fundamental study of this literary phenomenon, first differentiates the various types of curse found in ancient poetry with an eye to real-life analogues. It next undertakes a chronologically based examination of poetic curses, starting with the archaic and classical Greek periods, and then moving on to hellenistic and Roman curse-poetry. The rich hellenistic material receives especially detailed treatment. The volume concludes first by placing hellenistic curse poetry in its literary context and then relating it to the defixiones, the 'curse-tablets' of antiquity.
LINDSAY WATSON is Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Sydney, Australia.
1. ON CURSES IN GENERAL
1. 'Curse'. Fluchzustand and Imprecation
2. Prayer and Cursing
3. The Execution of Curses
4. Sub-categories of Curses: a)Revenge curses; b)Provisional curses; c)Selbstverwünschung; d)Unprovoked curses
5. The Antiquity of Curses
6. Curses in Greek and Roman Life
7. Belief in the Ineluctability of Curses
8. Circumstances which render a Curse more likely of Fulfilment
9. Curses fulfilled posthumously
10. Standardisation of Themes and Phraseology in Curses
12. Lex Talionis
13. Curses and Abuse
14. Curses, the Gods, Religion, and Magic
2. GREEK AND ROMAN CURSE-POETRY
I Greek Curse-Poetry of the Archaic and Classical Periods
1. The Strasbourg Epode and its Authorship
2. From Homer to the Tragedians: a)Alcaeus frg. 129 L.-P.; b)Theognis; c)'The Oven'; d)Tragic Curses
II Hellenistic Curse-Poetry
1. Mythological Counterparts
2. Paradigmatic Exempla
4. The Catalogue-Form and the Pursuit of Brevity
5. Patterns of Destruction
6. Obscurity and Function
7. The General Section and the Prologue of Ovid's Ibis
8. Abuse in Curse-Poetry: a)The [Greek] Ibis and Alexandrian Literary Quarrels; b)Targets of other Curse-Poems
9. Disproportion and Comic Incongruity
10. Humour in Curse-Poems: a)Greek; b)Roman
III Some Versified Curse-Texts of the Republican and Augustan Periods
1. The Relationship of Latin Curse-Poems to the Hellenistic Arai
2. Three Case-Studies: a)An Ennian Curse; b)Tibullus 1.5.49-58; c)Seneca Phaedra 1201-43
3. THE HELLENISTIC ARAI IN THEIR LITERARY CONTEXT
1. Obscurity and Learning
2. Intractable Material
3. Looseness of Construction
4. THE HELLENISTIC ARAI AND THE DEFIXIONES
Appendix 1 On Euphorion frg. 9 P.
Appendix 2 A Medieval Curse-Poem
Appendix 3 Hellenistic Curse Poetry: The Texts
Abbreviations; Select Bibliography; Index Locorum; Index of Scholars cited; Index of Curse Themes; General Index; Addendum
Journal of Roman Studies 85 (1995) 270-71 (Marco Fantuzzi): "... contradictory issues are natural in the difficult theme which W. has courageously and successfully managed: how one of the commonest speech acts of everyday life could give rise to a variety of the most intellectually refined poetry of Greece."
Anzeiger für die Altertumswissenschaft 47 (1994) 42-3 (Severin Koster)
Gnomon 66 (1994) 1-5 (Christa Waser)
Classical Review 43 (1993) 72-3 (Simon Pulleyn): "meticulously researched throughout ... anyone who turns to this book will find instruction as well as discussion."
Greece and Rome (1992) 246-7 (brief notice)