Curse tablets and magic spells are not entirely unknown, especially when it comes to the scope of the ancient world. The offended Greeks did it to tavern keepers, while the resentful Romans did it out of jealousy (and love). Well, this time around, we are witness to the earliest known evidence of Jewish ‘hexing’ in sports, pertaining to a rolled-up metal tablet dating from circa 5th – 6th century AD. Originally discovered in Antioch in the 1930s by Princeton University archaeologists, the 9×6 cm tablet was finally unrolled recently (after 1,500 long years). And to their surprise, the researchers came across Aramaic instead of the expected Greek language from ancient Antioch – a major trading hub of the Eastern Romans. Furthermore, the dialect of Aramaic used for the curse was more specific to the Jewish community living in the region.
The research was carried out by the collaborative effort of experts from the Tel Aviv University and the Leiden University, and the project in itself was conducted under the umbrella of a broader scholarly endeavor “Magica Levantina“. As for the hexing part, this particular curse was directed at the participants in ancient chariot racing. Now just to provide a context, chariot racing was a big deal in the Greco-Roman world – so much so that the highest paid athlete in all of history was probably a charioteer named Gaius Appuleius Diocles, who might have boasted a total prize money of around $15 billion (if adjusted to modern-day values).