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Sylloge of Defixiones from the Roman West, Volumes I and II

A comprehensive collection of curse tablets from the fourth century BCE to the fifth century CE

Celia Sánchez Natalías
Publication Year:
600 pages, two-volume set
BAR number:


Defixiones, also known as curse tablets, are one of the most revealing sources for ancient magico-religious practices. Born of rancour, anger, desire, love, envy, or just out of desperation, curse tablets were a strategy for obtaining ‘individual justice’ for those who could not accomplish their purposes through the available means, due to a lack of knowledge, power or legal/economical resources. In this volume, the reader will find a detailed catalogue that discusses 535 curse tablets written in Latin and a wide range of local languages. The catalogue is preceded by a full introduction in which the main features of these inscriptions are discussed together with leading scholarship. Such a detailed yet global study of these texts sheds light on various aspects of curses that vary on a regional basis, thus showing how this magico-religious technology was not only adopted but also adapted in new and creative ways by the local populations throughout the Roman West.

Celia Sánchez Natalías received her doctorate in Ancient History from the Universities of Zaragoza and Verona (2013, in co-tutelle). So far, her research has focused on magical-religious practices in Antiquity and the curse tablets from the Roman West.

‘(A) major work of scholarship which will be an essential resort for anyone intrigued by defixiones and the covert, undercover intelligence they provide of the busy Roman world.’ Roger Tomlin, Arys 21 (2023)

‘Apart from the sheer value of presenting over 520 texts together in one volume, [this book’s] greatest achievement is perhaps the provision of drawings of all the originals, so as to enable readers not merely to check the texts printed … but also to give a better impression of the materiality of these unprepossessing objects. The author has herself inspected many of the tablets in various countries, and provides a number of better readings. … She can be counted one of the three or four leading experts on these Latin texts in the world.’ Prof. Dr. Richard Gordon, University of Erfurt 

‘A precious and fundamental tool for knowledge and research in a complex branch of studies.’ Dr Gabriella Bevilacqua, Sapienza University of Rome

‘There has been growing interest in “defixiones” in recent years, with other books on the subject, but no “Collection” (Sylloge) as comprehensive as this. It is a corpus with a very full introduction and commentary on each item. … It is very wide-ranging and will become an essential work of reference.’ Dr Roger Tomlin, Wolfson College, University of Oxford

‘The inaccessibility of these tablet texts and the impossibility of conducting systematic overviews has been a major hurdle to advancing the scholarly understanding of these materials. This book represents a large advance in the scholarship. … While [it] will be most useful to specialists in ancient Greek and Roman religion and magic, it will be of value to scholars in a variety of other fields as well. Social historians will be provided with a corpus of data that lies well outside the normal materials, allowing insights into the lives of marginalized peoples who would not otherwise appear in the epigraphic record (much less the ltierary or historical one).’ Prof. Radcliffe G. Edmonds III, Bryn Mawr College

Table of Contents (S3077__I__Natalias_9781407359311_-_TOC.pdf, 715 Kb) [Download]

Volume I - Chapter 1 (S3077__I__Natalias_9781407359311_-_chapter_1_-_Vol-1.pdf, 656 Kb) [Download]

Volume II - Chapter 1 (S3077_II__Natalias_9781407359328_-_chapter_1_-_Vol-2.pdf, 668 Kb) [Download]