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The Women of Larzac

Bernard Mees

The final plea of the curse written on a tabella defixionis found in the nine-
teenth century on the Greek island of Amorgos (IG XII.7, no. 1) has supplied
the title of a paper by Hendrik Versnel 1999 on Schadenfreude in ancient
imprecations. The now lost tablet was probably of second-cen­tury BC date
and its κατάδεσμος appears to belong to a comparatively late expres­sion of the
clas­sical tradition of binding spells that in light of a 1991 study of Versnel’s
is now usually dis­tinguished as judicial prayers; cf. Faraone et al. (2005).
This type of ancient curse has much in common with the older handing-over
(παραδίδωμι, κατατίθημαι, mando, dono) form of defixio or binding spell – i.e.
those where the victims are presented to the underworld gods (or their at­tendant
infernal powers) for binding; see Kagarow 1929, Preisendanz 1972, Faraone
1991, Graf (1997: 118–174), Ogden 1999. Judicial prayers, on the other hand,
are typified by their more obviously invocatory, prayer-like quality as well as
the sites in which they are most often found. Unlike the older type of binding
spells, judicial prayers are especially well represented at late classical votive
sites. In fact over a hundred judicial prayers are now known from Romano-Bri-
tish contexts alone (although many are quite fragmentary), the finds from Bath
and Uley contributing the lion’s share of the most recently discovered examp-
les; see Tomlin 1988 and 1993; and cf. Marco Simón & Velázquez 2000 and
Lambert 2004 for similar finds from France. The comparatively early sentence
focussed on by Versnel in the Am­orgos κατάδεσμος, however, is particularly
interesting because it is a type of justification that is not precisely parallelled
in similar finds:
Βασίλισσα, ἐπάκουσον ἡμῖν παθοῦσι, κολάσαι τοὺς ἡμᾶς τοιούτους ἡδέως βλέποντες.
‘O Queen, hear us who suffer (and) punish those who rejoice in our misery!’

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KF 3 · 2008, 169–88
Bernard Mees

The final line of the Amorgos inscription features a call on the chthonic god-
dess Demeter to punish victims of the curse, justifying this call rhetorically
through reference to the suffering that the caster (and his wife Epiktesis) felt
at the misfortune brought upon them after their slaves had been induced to
run away. Rather than just a reference to economic loss, this suffering has
been thought to have been the public shame associated with the loss of the
slaves: the curse ear­lier recounts that a certain Epaphroditus had seduced one
of the curser’s maids, convinced his slaves to leave him and that they had since
been seen in public wandering about the local marketplace; cf. Gager (1992:
166–167), Ogden (1999: 43–44). Usually classical magical expressions such
as curses are comprised of or otherwise reflect rhetorical formulas, although
in this case it has been difficult to pin down precisely what formula or stock
style that may have been. The Amorgos text features several common forms of
magical rhetoric, but in many ways it is not as stereotypical as are most other
defixiones. It includes a series of oppositional state­ments (‘may [Epaphroditus]
not be served […] either by the great or the small […], may he sow but not reap
[…]’ etc.), much as similar oppositional statements appear on the Chamalières
tab­let (RIG L-100.8 ff.: meíon, ponc sesit, buetid ollon ‘little, when sowed, may
it thus be great’, etc.), and ancient funerary imprecations often feature clauses
such as ‘may the earth not bear fruit for them’: the difficult oppositional pas-
sage at Chamalières appears to be a very loose ad­aptation, using rhetoric very
much like that employed at Amorgos, of a tradition of justifications of calls for
revenge in clas­sical defixiones, one especially obvious in those which Versnel
(1991: 70–72) has connected with the vengeful prayers which sometimes ap-
pear on Greek tombstones; see Strubbe (1991: 37–39), Mees (2007: 12–13).
The style of the oppositional passages and the last line at Amorgos is similar
to that of conditional curses, i.e. the common and often archaic Mediterranean
im­prec­ations of the ‘whosoever […], may he be accursed’ type which were
used in ancient oaths, laws, to ward off thieves and so on (and cf. the similar
con­tingency curses of Hittite), although whether (and how) this may represent
the influence of such curses on the more complex tradition of binding spells
is not immediately clear; see Watson (1991: 1–53) and cf. Reichardt (2000:
119 ff.) and Versnel 1985, pace his acceptance of Rudolf Egger’s odd Latinate
interpretation of the Rom defixio (RIG *L-103). The similia similibus quality

 Egger’s 1962a,b (= 1962–3: II.348–360) reading has also been included in the collection
of Gager 1992: no. 16. The sequence te uoraiimo, repeated twice at Rom, however, is pre­
sum­ably a regular late Gaulish expression of the handing-over variety, i.e. ‘tibi donamus’;

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of the last sentence of the Amorgos find (a magical style also found in Hittite
curses) is also reminiscent of a thievery defixio found at Wilten (ancient Veldi-
dina) in the 1950s where the curser commands (mandat) Mercury and the Cel-
tic god Moltinus to have the fiery Roman monster Cacus ‘remove’ (ablatum)
the thief (i.e. to Hades), just as the victim had deprived (auferat) the curser of
two of her necklaces. Similarly, a more regular judicial prayer found in the
Hamble estuary in 1982 addressed to Neptune (but also to the non-classical
figure Niskus), calls on the aquatic gods to ‘take away’ (decipias) the blood
(i.e. life) of a culprit who has stolen money (involavit, decepit) from the curser;
see Franz 1959, Egger 1964, Versnel (1991: 83), Gager (1992: no. 101),
Tomlin (1997: no. 1). But perhaps more obviously (and less lethally), the final
request of the Amorgos text seems particularly similar to the last sen­ten­ce of
the Gaulish Larzac inscription (RIG L-98.2b10–13) which opens with a term
that appears to be related to παθοῦσι (cf. Latin patior, OIr. césaid, Lith. kentù
‘suffer’, W arbedu, OIr. ar·cessi‘pity’ < *ke(n)th2- ‘suffer’):
peti sagitiontias Seu[er]im Tertio(nicnim) lissatim [(..).]s anandogna[m (.)..]ictontias [---]

Several expressions known from Greek and Roman defixiones seem to be re-
flected in Old Celtic curse texts, ranging from what appear to have been precise
translations, e.g. Lezoux’s poṇ[---]… gab{x}sịṭụ ‘qui(cumque) […] involav-
erit’ (RIG *L-101.A2–3), to freer Celti­fica­tions such as Larzac’s [i]n eianom
anuan[a] san’anderna (1a1–3; with in + acc. signifying ‘into, upon’: i.e. ‘upon
their names, these (here)under’) of Latin expressions such as a nominibus in­
fra­scriptis, ‘from the names written below’ (mirrored by brixtía anderon ‘by

cf. MIr. éraid ‘refuses’ (< *eks-rāi-), W. rhoi, Corn. ry, Br. reiff ‘give’ (< *roh1-i‑), Lat. rēs
‘thing’ (< *reh1-i-s), Skt., Av. rā- ‘give’ (< *reh1-) and the plural subjects of the Amélie-les-
Bains tabellae de­fix­io­num (RIG *L-97). Indeed if Meid’s 1996b: 123 connection of oipom-
mio to Gk. οἴφω ‘fuck’ (com­parable, e.g., to the appearance of fututor in the Latin defixio
from Maar; CIL XIII 10008.7) can be main­tained, the Rom spell may have been an erotic
binding charm, perhaps given the mention of pura (pre­sum­ably) ‘fire’ (or ‘fever’, Gk πῦρ,
and cf. Homeric πυρά ‘watchfire’), one of the ἔμπυρον ‘inflaming’ variety; see Winkler
1990: 86–87 (= 1991: 224–225).
 �����������
As Roger Tomlin notes (1997: 456, n. 8), the figure Niskus mentioned in the Hamble find
seems likely to be related to the nymph-like Niskae of the difficult Amélie-les-Bains defix-
iones, although the name seems unlikely to have had much to do with Germanic Nix, Nixie
< OHG nihhus, nicchessa < IE *neig- ‘wash’ as he claims; cf. Lecouteux 1984.
 ������
See Mees forthc. on De Bernardo Stempel’s 2005: 195 dismissal of Fleuriot’s 1986: 65
reading (exiatiso) gabxsitụ as a ghost form in her attempt to reconcile Celtiberian KaPiseTi
with a meaning ‘soll geben’.

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Bernard Mees

magic, the (here)­under’ from the third line at Chamalières). Formulaic expres-
sions of these types are particularly common in ancient curses and are found
on examples unearthed from most reaches of the Graeco-Roman world; see
Kagarow (1929: 28–34, 41–49), Tomlin (1988: 63–68), Mees (2007: 17). Sim-
ilarly, the appearance of a reference to petidsiont sies at the end of the pen­ultim­
ate Larzac sentence, the pronominal use mirroring earlier passive nitixsintor
sies (1a7 and 2a4–5, each time followed by the expected instrumental agents),
makes it fairly clear that peti is a verb which has something to do with the
women (the sies) referred to at the very outset of the spell. What appears to be a
Gaulish cognate of παθοῦσι here is probably semantically a caus­a­tive, though,
i.e. peti < *ket-e/o‑ (cf. Latin patior), with analogically restored e-vocalism
(whereas the previous sentence’s petidsiont is presumably a dental-enlarged
3rd pl. future pet-it-so-nt, with -ds- a tau Gallicum spelling); cf. Meid (1992:
46).
Much as at Amorgos, the (vocative) subject of imperative peti is also clearly
the goddess called upon from the very outset to effect the defixio, i.e. Adsag-
sona (< *ad-sag- ‘seek, pursue’) the figure who is (similarly) mentioned in the
previous sentence as adsaxs, much like Tertio(ni­cnim), on first acquaintance
apparently an abbreviated form. After autopsying the inscription, however,
Wolfgang Meid (1996a: 42) assures us that following adsaxs an ọ “ist auch tat­
säch­lich, wenn­gleich nur schwach, auf dem Original zu erkennen”, although
he relinquishes his cor­rected reading adsaxọnadoṣ (putatively a collective to
Adsaxsona; cf. 1a9 andernados) later on in his paper. Given the propensity
for Gaulish theonyms to be formed with -on-, Adsagsona seems literally to
have been a supernatural Celtic persecutrix, an Erinys, Nemesis or Praxidike
(‘exactor of justice’), specifically called an antumnos nepon, like Demeter
(and most of the other divinities called upon in defixiones) a chthonic power
(καταχθόνια), in the lesser or n-hand section of the spell; see Lambert apud
Lejeune et al. (1985: 159), Hamp 1991, Meid (1996a: 43–44), Mees & Nicho-
las (forthc.), and cf. the as(s)ach of Welsh legal tradition, the name given to
a type of compurgation (which according to a statute of Henry V required “le
serement de CCC hommes”); see Maitland (1911: 1.228–229).
The phrase which comes between the theonym and the last sentence, doc̣ suet
petidsiont sies, however, appears to represent a single clause, seemingly part
of a more formal similia similibus with both it and the previous, evidently
formulaic expression biontutu se mnanom (variants of which are repeated sev-
eral times in the spell) headed by terms featuring a root su-. Given the sim­ilar
suetị on the Lezoux plate (RIG L-66.4bis), the second of these presumably

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The Women of Larzac

coordinating ex­pressions might consequently be read as sū ‘thus, so’ (< instr.


*s()ū) suffixed with -et, probably a contraction of eti ‘also’; cf. Goth. swa ‘so’
< *soh1, Gk. ἔτι ‘also’, the use of Celtic eti seem­ingly where Latin texts have
item at La Graufesenque (RIG II.2, p. 120) and Ziegler (2004: 292). Moreover
doc̣ similarly looks as if it may be a connective comparable to subject-connect-
ing Gaulish duci (RIG II.2, p. 121 and L-65), which was interpreted by Thur-
neysen (1927: 287 and 1946: 506) as du-ci ‘and’ < ‘to this’; cf. Eska (1990:
153), Lambert (2003: 67). We appear to be dealing with an expression ‘and
so too will they suffer’ (or perhaps a fu­ture perfect ‘will they have suffered’),
i.e. what appears to be a regular ‘(just) as …, so too ...’ formula (cf. Gk. ὥς …
οὕτως …, or ὥσπερ … οὕτω …; Lat. quomodo … sic …, and ut … sic …), the
first section feat­ur­ing the apparently formulaic phrase biontutu se mnanom, the
second clause more clearly main­taining that the women’s fate is that they will
suffer; cf. Kagarow (1929: 31–32), Watson (1991: 213).
The verb biontutu (and its singular variant biietutu) features more commonly
in the section which immediately follows on from the list of names. Each time
it also appears in what seems to be the company of a determiner and a mention
of women. Indeed the (alliterating) variations biontutu indas mnas (1b6–7),
biietutu se mn[as] (1b9) and biontutu se mnanom (2a7–8) suggest a similar
demonstrative + ‘(of the) women’ expression is to be restored for the frag-
mentary form biontutu s[---] (1b11). In this way the expressions also seem
stylistically to parallel the key allit­er­ating phrase se bnanom bricto[m] (1a1)
from the opening line of the spell. The full pen­ultim­ate statement that biontutu
se mnanom heads, however, is not quite the same as a typical similia similibus
as it does not seem to accord with the factual claim + maledictory wish style
(e.g. ‘just as this lead is useless, so too may the words and deeds of those listed
here be useless’) typically found in defixiones; see Kagarow (1929: 31–32),

As it is common for future perfects to appear in the concluding phases of defixiones, the
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‑it- suffix in petidsiont would appear to have been perfectivising (rather than frequentive or
iterative as in Latin, or habitual as with the Insular imperfect); cf. Watkins 1962: 107 ff.,
Fleuriot apud Lejeune et al. 1985: 149, Tomlin 1988: 69–70. Indeed in light of the use of
reduplicated forms such as δεδε (< *dedheh1-), ieuru (< *epi-pe-porh3-) and auot (< *au-e-
udh-) in similar contexts, the widespread use of -it- extended roots in Gaulish (and Italian
Celtic) memor­ials (and cf. Lezoux gab{x}sịṭụ ‘involaverit’) suggest that these formatives
can serve to indicate perfectivity, i.e. as Gaulish (i)t-preterites.
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This would appear to be an older formation (cf. Gk. ὥς < *sō-) than the common Insular
‘(same) as’ expressions represented by OIr. amal … da(nau) …; cf. Hamp 1979: 345–346.
The first form, which has been read as both suạ and suạṣ, is mirrored by suạ at Châteaubleau
and Rom, and given sū-et(i), it seems likely to be a cognate of OLat. suad ‘so’.

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Bernard Mees

Faraone (1991: 6–7, 13). Instead it seems rather more definite a statement
than is usual in classical curses which, in keeping with the notion of persuasive
analogy or magical sympathy epitomised in similia similibus expres­sions, tend
to prefer indirect and imploring language rather than commands.
Nonetheless, this insistent tone (a directive style somewhat more akin to that of
the Wilten rather than the subtler Amorgos find) can also be seen in the section
which immediately follows the long enumeration of names. It features several
stipulations, including injunctions where Sev­era ‘ensures’ (ratet, 1b10) some-
thing concerning the women or enacts some sort of ‘purchase’ (tio-pri-tom,
1b9) ‘by them’ (eíabi); see Meid (1996a: 46–47). These expressions also ac-
cord with the future imperative readings usually afforded biontutu and biietutu,
i.e. as equivalent formations to Umbrian fututo; see Lejeune et al. (1985: 138,
141), Eska 1989, Schmidt (1990: 22), Meid (1996a: 46) and Rubio Orecilla
(1999: 114–116). The reading ‘strike’ often favoured for these forms, howev-
er, would be quite unparalleled in ancient cursing; pace Meid (1992: 46; 1993:
105; 1996a: 43–44), ‘striking’ is usually restricted to references to the tablets
themselves having been ‘struck’ in defixiones (e.g. μολυβδόκος ‘tablet-maker’,
literally ‘lead-striker’; IG III 100.A14). Instead the first clause seems to be re-
ferring to how things (in­junctively) ‘shall be’ (biontutu < *bhuh2-o-nt-u-tōd)
for Severa’s victims, presumably in ac­cordance with the earlier stipulations of
the spell, the suffering being effected through the in­fernally binding power of
the ‘this’, i.e. the brictom, the defixio; cf. the appearance of biiete on the Ancy
glassware (RIG L-132) where other members of the local (love-cup) genre to
which it clearly belongs feature typical benedictory ex­pressions such as vivas;

 �������������������������������������������������������������������������������
Despite the lack of comparable desinences in Celtiberian (cf. Botorrita I.A8 & ��� TaTus
�� 10
‘he shall give’, Old Latin datōd), the Gaulish forms have generally been taken as repre-
senting archaic (uncontracted) forms < *-(n)tu-tōd similar to those recorded in Italic; see
Forssmann 1985. The following se would then necessarily seem to be an in­flected (rather
than an apophonically variant) form, i.e. a dative / locative ‘for this’ (cf. 1a1 in sinde se ‘in
this’), the deixis presumably being performative. The earlier forms in lunget|utonid (1a6–7)
and ạcolụṭ|utanit (2a10–11), however, suggest we may be dealing with archaic pronominal
cliticisation, i.e. biontu-tū se ‘shall be for it, this’; cf. Lejeune et al. 1985: 161–62, Faraone
1996: 95–96 and the apparently anticipatory ạcolụṭu- for expected *acoletu-. The assump-
tion that independent forms utonid and utanit should be read here (and cf. buetid and legasit
for the endings; Hamp 1979: 345–346 for their Insular re­flections) seems quite unlikely
given that the subject of lung- is clearly the neuter brictom (hence -ton-) and that of acol- (cf.
Latin accolo) can scarcely be anyone other than the feminine ‘stranger’ Severa Tertionicna
(-tān-).

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The Women of Larzac

cf. CIL XIII 10025.189 ff. In fact such sympathetic or analogical lan­gu­age
seems to be particularly in keeping with the reiterative (or ringing) nature of
the Larzac curse, the first clause of the stipulative similia similibus reprising
a formulaic ‘shall be … women’ expression, the second instead anticipating
more clearly the avenging similia similibus of the final sentence of the spell.
The form following peti, however, also appears to be a 3rd pl. verb, although
probably an iter­ative (cf. petidsiont) present construction, i.e. sag-it-o-nt, with
Severa Tertionicna as its object. Unlike the final form [..]ictontias (presumably
derived from brict- ‘enchantment, charm, spell’ as a comparable form to line
1a4’s tigontias), sagitiont- seems to be suffixed by a fem­inine plural relative
subject pronoun ‑ias ‘they / the ones who’, its use here precisely reprising an
earlier em­ployment of the alliterating expression sagitiontias Seuerim (2a8–9).
After all, the verb persequor is often used in judicial prayers, although it is
usually the supernatural powers which are called upon in such charms to ‘track
down’ a wrongdoer in revenge; see Versnel (1991: 82–83), and cf. the sequence
ṣọnit- on the Lezoux lamella connected by Meid (1992: 47) with OIr. sennid
‘chases, hunts’; see Mees forthc. Instead, the Amorgos κατάδεσμος suggests
that it is the women who are the victims of the spell that Severa Tertionicna is
lunget- ‘laying’, ‘imposing’ or ‘com­mitting’ (cf. OIr. ·loing ‘lay, put’, Gaulish
lilous, luxtos ‘oneratus’, and the common use of τίθη­μαι in κατάδεσμοι) that
had been causing suffering through their per­sec­ution of the caster. The open-
ing line of the spell clearly indicates that she is a uidlua or ‘seeress’ (cf. the
Táin’s pro­phetess Fedelm) who is also identified alliteratively as eianom ‘their’
lissatim and liciatim, the former presumably indicating a ‘cunning woman’

The irregular development of bi- < *buh2-i- appears in other WIE forms, and given they
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mostly appear in ‘either … or …’ (or ‘neither …, nor …’) expressions, the morphological
ac­cus­atives which are used earlier on in the text in conjunction with instances of this verb
seem to have a referential role (i.e. as accusatives of reference), rather than an objective one
(accusatives of direct object); see Lühr 1984: 31 & 57, n. 41, Mees & Nicholas forthc.
Such stylisation also probably explains the unusual nature of the formal similia similibus.
 ���������������������������������������������������������������������������
Cf. the Chagnon defixio’s inverted sic traspecti sin[t], quomodi ille (the participle presum-
ably to be read/understood as transfecti given that the tablets were pierced with a nail) which
also appears in connection with several more regular statement + wish quomodo …, sic …
expressions (Audollent 1902: nos. 111–112).
 �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������
I.e. presumably ‘putting’ or ‘placing’ in the contractual sense typically taken by OIr. ·loing
(in·loing ‘enter (a plea), occupy, possess’, fo·loing ‘support’) in legal contexts; cf. the use of
an oblique verbal noun luge at Cham­alières and luciu- at Bath to ḷog̲itoị ‘posuit’ from Néris-
les-Bains (RIG L-6), and the ‘laying’ (laigi […] -lige) of the charm of Serglige Con Culainn
(Dillon 1953: l. 317).

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Bernard Mees

or ‘diviner’ (cf. Gothic lists ‘craftiness’, OE, OHG list ‘skill’, Botorrita I.A7
liśtaś, Umbrian disleralinsust ‘voided the div­ination’, Lat. dēlīrus ‘crazy’, to
*leis- ‘able to follow a track’), the latter more simply a ‘re­strainer’ or ‘binder’,
a de­fig­ens (cf. Lat. līcium, Gk κάταχος); see Benveniste 1947, Lejeune et al.
(1985: 161), Markey & Mees (2003: 128, n. 4), Mees & Nicholas (forthc.,
n. 2) and cf. Meid (1993: 97) and also Mac Cana 1995 for instances of simi-
larly stylised complemen­ta­tion in Welsh and Irish. Given the appearance of the
(also) reprised (and presumably legally sig­nificant) description anandogna[m]
‘stranger’ (cf. Audollent 1902: no. 25: εἴτε ξένοι εἴτε ἐντόπιοι), the final sen-
tence’s reference to a lissatim […]s is plausibly to be restored com­par­ably, then
(perhaps as lissatim [eia]s, in parallel to both anandogna[m br]ictontias and ll.
1a3–4’s uidlu[a] tigontias ‘the seeress of the binding’). It seems that Adsagso-
na is being called upon to cause the women of Larzac, the victims of the curse,
to suffer just as the one they have been persecuting, the defigens, the stranger,
has been suffering in this the closing section of the difficult sepulchral spell.
Rather than a struggle between two groups of witches, though, the earlier ref-
erences to barn­aunom ‘judgement’ (2a4) and both incors onda [bocca] ‘shut
their mouths!’ (1b13) and senit conectoṣ onda bocca, ‘holds their mouths tied’
(2a1–2) clearly indicate that the suffering the women are causing has to do
with litigation, one of the commonest subjects of the older sorts of defixiones;
see Kagarow (1929: 53–54), Faraone (1991: 15–16), Gager (1992: 116–150),
and IGF 70 and Audollent (1902: nos 111–112) for similar binding spells from
Hyères (Var) and Chagnon (Charente-Maritime), and cf. also the Paris pillar’s
senant ‘erected’(?) (RIG L-14), OIr. sennid < IE *senh2-, *sneh2- ‘achieve,
attain’.10 The mention of incarata ‘inimica’ at the end of the most fragmentary
section of the inscription (at the end of side 1b) brings to mind the hostiles
linguas inimicaque vinximus ora of the defixio-using hag of Ovid’s Fastes (ii
581), on which most re­cent­ly see McDonough 2004, and cf. Hamp 1976 on
cara(n)t- ‘friend’. But the tying and twist­ing, es­pecially of tongues (and also
of words, souls, mouths and speech) is often referred to in classical litigation
curses as such magical rhetoric was supposed to render ad­voc­ates and wit­nes­
ses in­cap­able of giving testimony against the commissioner of a curse at court:

10 ��������������������������
In fact the partial [..]a which opens this side of the tablet might plausibly be restored as [su]a
and the following ex­pression consequently read as another stipulative similia similibus: ‘Just
as she is holding their mouths tied, so are their mouths not bearing (nene [be]rionti onda
bocca) judgement on anyone’; cf. Markey 2006: 5–6 on the Celtic semantics of ‘bearing’
and ‘judging’.

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from the ‘tongue silent in the mouth, from which no-one heard a word or an
accusation’ on an inscribed pillar from Delos, to the tongues ‘twisted to the
point of uselessness, the tongues of the foreign witnesses’ of a (more regular)
κατάδεσμος from Selinus, Sicily (and cf. the il[o]s [in]imicos and the inimico-
rum nomina (data) ad inferos of the Chagnon and Kreuznach de­fixiones); see
Audollent (1902: nos 96–102, 111–112), Faraone 1989, Gager (1992: nos 51
and 53). There is no clear identification of any of the people mentioned in the
Larzac spell with juridical-sounding titles as occurs at Cha­ma­lières (i.e. with
line four’s adgarion ‘advocatus, συνάγορος’; cf. Chagnon’s advocati eorum)
and also seemingly at Les Martres-de-Veyres (RIG L-102) with its partial (or
perhaps abbreviated) advoc (recto 7) and more clearly Celtic litution to *li-
tu- > OIr. liud ‘imputation’ (verso 3), com­parable to liíumi at Châteaubleau
(RIG L-93). But the list of names (of enemies) in the Larzac de­fixio is a typical
feature of classical binding spells: cf. se bnanom bricto[m] (1a1) to in eianon
anuan[a] esi andernados brictom (1a8–9); i.e. ‘this enchantment of women’,
the one ‘upon their names, the enchantment of this group (here)­under’; and see
Cubera 1999 and Mees 2004 on the (also typically magical) matronymic nam­
ing in the Larzac list. In fact it is quite common for de­fixiones to feature little
more than names, whether listed plainly, linked by conjugations or con­nectives,
or with more sophisticated ex­planations such as titles or verbal descriptions;
see Gordon 1999. The Larzac names also (mostly if not all) seem to consti-
tute three extended family groups, much as the great κατά­δεσμος from Selinus
lists 17 men from seven families in a manner which suggests a dispute over
an inheritance. The names of women are typically absent from Greek cur­ses
of this sort (as women were considered poor witnesses in Attic law), and, for
example, some of the lists of names of inimici which feature in the Kreuznach
defixiones continue this gender imbalance; see Audollent (1902: nos 94–96,
98), Calder 1963, Faraone (1991: 30, n.73) and Gager (1992: no. 50). But
this was not always the case in the Roman west as the Kreuznach defix­iones
which also curse hostile wives (and the like) attest; see Audollent (1902: nos
100–101), and compare the gender mix in the group imprecation against per-
jury from Bath (Tomlin 1988: no. 94).11 In contrast, the evidence of the simi-
lar medieval Irish alliterative phrasings brechtaib ban mberar ‘taken by the

11 �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������
The suggestion that the familial relationships indicated on the Larzac tablet are metaphorical
seems unduly spec­u­la­t­ive – a list of fictive magical ‘sisters’ or the like would be unparalleled
in classical defixiones; cf. Lejeune et al. 1985: 132–133, Lambert 2003: 171, Stüber 2005:
56–57.

131
Bernard Mees

spells of women’ in the Adventures of Connla or the comparable ex­pression fri


brichtu ban & gobann & druad ‘against the spells of women and smiths and
druids’ from the Lorica of St. Patrick looks more to reflect the masculinist Eu-
ropean (and literary) witch-figure stereotype (as well as the metrical nature of
all three texts) than a particularly long-lasting (or even real) indigenous aspect
of Celtic magical praxis; cf. Ogden (1999: 60–67) and the similar upthai ban
‘charms of women’ (2×) of the Klosterneuburg lorica; see Stifter (2007: 521).
The pre­ponderance of female agents and other figures at Larzac (including the
ap­parent goddess Ad­sag­sona) does appear to represent a different gendering
than that evident in the Chamalières find, however, which in contrast seems
predominantly to concern masculine divinities and mortal men.12

������������������
Auciticna [Abesia]
| |
Vlatucia Adiega [Valens] Potita — Prima
| | | |
Rufena Casta — Banonia Aia Cicena Severa — Paulla

Caius Vlationicnos (related to Vlatucia?)

Table 1: The familial relationships of the women of Larzac

Hence the old Rouerguian text seems to be a common-enough (albeit remark-


ably gendered) type of funerary defixio – it was found, after all, in the very
same circumstances, i.e. atop a funer­ary urn, as was the barely comprehensi-
ble Paris tablet (RIG *L-105). The inhabitant of the grave was presumably an
ἄωρος, one of the ‘untimely’ or restless dead, perhaps even an ἀτέλεστος (‘un-
fulfilled’ – i.e. not buried in accordance with the proper rites) or a βιαιοθάνατος
(‘violently slain’), a term which usually indicated a suicide (but could also
signify the ghost of a murder victim, a soldier or an executed criminal). Curse
tablets were deposited at such sites in classical tradition in the hope that a resi-
dent ἄωρος, ἀτέλεστος or βιαιοθάνατος (the de­sig­nations actually appearing in

After all, Larzac brictom and OIr. bricht (u-stem) appear to be different words, even granted
12 ��������������������
the tenuous con­nection often claimed between ancient defixiones and the early-medieval
Irish tradition of loricas (i.e. as counter-defixi­ones); see Campanile 1964: 90–92, Herren
1987: 26–31, Gager 1992: 78, although cf. De Bernardo Stempel 1999: 92 on the prehis-
toric productivity of Irish u-stems.

132
The Women of Larzac

some κατάδεσμοι) would take the curse down into the underworld to present
to the infernal gods; see Ogden (1999: 15–23), Johnston 1999a and 1999b,
and Garland 2001. If the name inscribed on one of the ceramics in the tomb is
any guide, the shade was probably that of Gemma, although, unlike in several
Graeco-Roman funerary defix­iones, she does not appear to be mentioned spe-
cifically (even as an ἄωρος or the like) on the Larzac lamella.
The often contorted (and clearly alliterating) phrasing of the Aveyronian in-
scription appears to be a sign that the curse it represents is metrical, however,
much as the Chamalières and Rom defixiones seem to be; see Mees & Nicho-
las forthc. and cf. Olmsted 1988, 1989, 1991 and Mees (2007: 17 ff.). Metri-
cal curses are usually restricted to funerary-stone finds (and not de­fixiones) in
classical epigraphy, but the repetition of sounds, phrases and patterns at Larzac
even suggests features such as chaining and ringing should be recognised in
the Gaulish curse. There is a genre of alliterating hymn-like defixiones repre-
sented by single finds from Mainz, Trier, Mérida and Rome, but nothing quite
as stylistically sophisticated as the Larzac text is known among classical finds;
see Audollent (1902: no. 122), Besnier (1920: nos 31 and 33), Blänsdorf
2004 and cf. Corell 1993, Marina Sáez 1999 and Blänsdorf (2005: nos 5 and
10–11). For example, the opening Larzac phrase in sinde se bnanom bricto[m],
(which seems structurally to represent three accen­tu­al measures), appears to be
linked to the logical third, brictom uidluias (1a3), by a chaining style akin to
medieval Irish conachlonn; yet metrically it is closer in form to the interven-
ing ex­pres­sion’s similarly beginning and more clearly trimetrical [i]n eíanom
anuana san(a) ander[na] (1a1–3). This second phrase in turn seems to pro-
vide the phonological model for Adsagsona (i.e. the theonym alliterates and
seemingly even shares initial consonance with anuana and an­der­[na]), and
the alliterating pair lids{s}atim liciatim that immediately follows (1a5) also
seems to be the model for uodui uoderce (1a6), which itself ap­pears also to
echo (i.e. be consonant with) the similarly stylised pairing uidluias uidlu[a]
(1a3). A further chaining seems to link the alliter­ative pair of the fifth line to
the final term of the sixth (lunget|utonid), whereas the less obviously linked
phrase which follows rounds out the opening sentence expressing the key se-
mantics of nitig- ‘binding’ and duscelinat- ‘(song of) male­dic­tion’; cf. Lejeune
et al. (1985: 143, 150, 163–65). The whole line appears to be summarised
again in the last expression to appear before the listing of names, rounding out
an opening sec­tion, the phrases of which seem to sort themselves out readily
enough into roughly isosyllabic, rosc-like, often even quite obviously trimetri-
cal, dithyrambic lines:

133
Bernard Mees

in sinde ⋅ se ⋅ bnanom bricto[m] (8)


[i]n eíanom anuana san(a) ander[na] ⋅ (11)
brictom ⋅ uidluias uidlu[a] tigontias ⋅ so ⋅ (12)
Adsagsona ⋅ Seue[rim] Tertionicnim ⋅ (11)
lids{s}atim liciatim eianom ⋅ (9)
uodui uoderce lungetutonid (10)
ponc ⋅ nitixsintor si[es] duscelinatia (11)

And the recapitulation:

in eiano〈m〉 anuan[a] esi andernados brictom (7 + 8)

Although mostly only ever seeming to be loosely structured and often prone
to some (pre­sum­ably intentional) stylistic variation, similar patternings recur
throughout the spell, from the repeti­tion of key phrases such as lissatim licia-
tim or ponc nitixsintor sies, even to the apparent ringing of the names of the
victims: Bano[na] Flatucias […] Vlatucia ṃat[ir] Banonias. The confusing
nominal stylisation lissinaụ[e] Seuerim licinaue ⋅ Tertioni[cnim] eíabi tiopri-
tom (1b7–9) is pro­bably to be understood in this light, then, even if on first
impression it looks as if two defigentes are indicated here – i.e. these expres-
sions seem to represent two lines of word-foot (and hendeca­syllabic?) trimetre,
orthographically separated out by the punctuation and pho­nologically marked
out by (line-)framing alliteration. A broader external ring whereby a series of
references to the divine agency of the spell (Adsagsona […] uodui uoderce
[…] nitixsintor sies) appear in the re­verse order towards the end the of the
curse (nitixsintor sies […] uode […] uodercos […] Adsagsọna) also seems to
hold together smaller units, each of which are ringed or rounded out by reca-
pitulations such as in eiano〈m〉 anuan[a] esi andernados brictom (1a8–9) and
ne incitas biontutu […] (1b11); cf. Blänsdorf (2004: 57–58) on the similar co-
lometry attested in a defixio from Mainz, and Watkins (1995: 33 ff., 214–216
and 451–453) for com­parable examples of ring­ing in Greek. The reprising and
similia similibus rhetoric appears to represent a more sophistic­ated recapitulat-
ing style, then, one which produces repetition of a se­lection of key terms from
both the beginning and most of the intervening sections of the spell at its very
end:

134
The Women of Larzac

1. Invocation: … bricto[m] … Adsagsona … uodui uoderce … nitixsintor … brictom.


2. List of names –a) main: Bano[na] …
–b) supplementary: etic eiotinios … diligentir … Banonias
�������������������
3. Stipulations (contractual): ne incitas biontutu … ne incitas biontutu …
4. Stipulations (silencing): onda ḅ[occa] … nitixsintor … [on]da bocca …
5. Supplementary stipulation (n-hand): … uode … uodercos …
6. Similia similibus: … Adsagsọna … [br]ictontias.

The funerary find site alone brings to mind the name-damning litigation curses
found in the ancient graveyard at Kreuznach, if not the similar mentions of
names, enemies and the under­world. Much as at Chamalières and Lezoux,
however, the Larzac spell is more clearly articul­a­ted in supplicatory terms.
References to mouths, binding and laying are not characteristic of the late
de­velopment of the defixio tradition distinguished especially for its prayer-
like quality by Versnel. Yet binding spells of the ‘handing-over’ variety share
much in common with judicial prayers, and similia similibus expressions are
common in all types of classical binding curses. Indeed much as the Amorgos
inscription seems to call itself a defixio (καταδε{ε}σμὸ(ς) αὐτοῦ τὴν οἰκίαν
λάβοιτο ἔχ[ο]ι), considerable intertextuality is a feature of all sorts of classical
charms. The intertextuality at Larzac even extends to the manner in which the
second hand of the spell clearly repeats expres­sions used in earlier sections of
the first, much as if the binding spell is a joint composition (the second hand
being less Latinised in its orthography than the first), just as some of the Bath
charms seem to be (and much as appears also to be the case with the great
defixio from Selinus). Moreover, the Gaulish spell evidently features several
loans and calques of typical Greek and Latin defixio terminology, and such
interlingual intertextuality seems to be represented (or re­flected) in phrases
similar to the stock expressions known from classical curses as well. In fact in
light of the last line of the Amorgos κατάδεσμος, a restoration of the whole last
section of the Larzac defixio might even plausibly be thought to be:

suạ biontutu se mnanom, (7) Adsaxsọna, (4)


doc̣ süet petidsiont sies. (7)

peti sagitiontias (6) Seu[er]im Tertio(nicnim), (7)


lissatim [eia]s, (5) anandogn[am br]ictontias. (7)

‘So shall they be for this (the enchantment) of these woman, Adsagsona,
and so too will they have suffered.’

135
Bernard Mees

‘Bring suffering on the ones who are persecuting Severa Tertionicna,


the diviner of it (i.e. the binding), the stranger of the enchanting!’

Rather than the idiosyncratic and typologically irregular expression it is often


treated as, then, the Larzac defixio seems to be a regular-enough binding charm
cast by Severa Tertionicna upon her legal adversaries, the matronymically
named group (mostly) of women described at the end of side 1a which is con-
tinued (etic) at the beginning of side 1b. It does retain some Celtic particular­
ities, perhaps most notably in the metrical form of the text, as well, of course,
in terms of its non-classical language. But the dependence of the Larzac defixio
on Graeco-Roman forms is not restricted to the influence of an avenging si-
milia similibus of a type found in an ancient Greek judicial prayer: the Gaulish
spell tablet displays all the physical, situational as well as verbal and thematic
features typical of a sepulchral curse of the classical handing-over variety.
Moreover, just as Severa Tertionicna is clearly relying on the intercession of a
chthonic goddess to effect her judicial charm, so too the Larzac inscription be-
trays the influence of com­mon defixio rhetoric of the victim-listing, adversarial
tongue-tying and slight-avenging types.

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Bernard Mees
School of Historical Studies
University of Melbourne
Parkville VIC 3010
bmees@unimelb.edu.au

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