Ancient Romans held grudges. Archaeological sites unearth many interesting objects but a recent find in Serbia hints at a type of Voodoo.

While recently excavating land adjacent to a power plant 60 miles east of Belgrade that was planning an addition, archaeologists discovered colorful, decorated tomb from the mid 3rd century A.D. to the 5th century A.D. Buried among the skeletons were three rolled up metal sheets. One was gold with Aramaic writing evoking the pagan god Baal and the Christian Yahweh. The other two were silver with astrological and Christian symbols.

Two amulets with rolls of silver and gold  Photo by Djordje KojadinovicReuters
Two amulets with rolls of silver and gold, "curse tablets."

Archaeologists recognized them as Roman “curse tablets,” a rare find in Serbia. These tablets were used to ask the gods to place a curse on a person or object. =They were often buried in the ground, thrown into water pools or tacked on temples. Often, a tablet was found with a small bound doll and a piece of clothing or hair belonging to the one cursed, sort of like Voodoo dolls.

Called “Tabella Defixixionis” in Latin, the small pieces of foil were used by Romans to curse neighbors, relatives or unrequited lovers. Most were made of lead. Gold and silver were extremely rare. The newly discovered tablets were inscribed, “Let all the forces and demons help that …”

However, the town, Viminacium, had been called Moesia Superiori during Roman times. It was the most important city in the Roman empire due to its strategic location on the border with the Goths. With over 40,000 inhabitants of various nationalities, it had a permanent military camp and was a prosperous trading center.

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Miomir Korac, PhD, Chief Archaeologist

Miomir Korac, PhD, chief archaeologist at the Viminacium site says,

This is a very important archaeological discovery because it shows us how luxurious the life in Viminacium was or how much hope they had in the “curse tablets” so that they used precious metals.

According to my knowledge, such tablets have never been found inscribed in gold anywhere. According to Roman customs, gold was never put into graves.

At the site, Korac and his team unearthed an array of artifacts, including the largest amphitheater in the Balkans and the largest Roman cemetery ever discovered. What was interesting about the cemetery were the people buried there.

Korac says,

We found that Christians and pagans were buried together and we can conclude that, at the time, they lived in harmony and tolerance.

The “curse tablets” also reflect this unity. Korac adds,

Opposing deities appear on these tablets, as if invoking both Christ and the Antichrist today, or Christ and pagan gods, and that is weird. This shows us that the process of converting to Christianity was slow.

Interesting enough, within 100 or so years, the Roman city was destroyed by the invading Huns. After, there was an invasion by the Slavs in the 6th century A.D.

To this day, however, people who reside in Viminacium, Serbia are known for being very superstitious.

Nancy Loyan Schuemann

Nancy Loyan Schuemann is a writer specializing in architecture, safes, profiles, histories and a multi-published fiction and non-fiction author and is Nailah, Middle Eastern dancer.

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