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date: 17 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The chapter starts by commenting on the precarious relationship between modern and ancient Greek notions of what we generally refer to as ‘prayer’ and ‘curse’. A first section then discusses formal aspects of prayer, the question to which gods a prayer should be directed, and the prevalent benefices for which people asked. Two main types of prayers may be distinguished: that for personal well-being and the (malevolent) prayer for inflicting harm on an opponent. The second section, on curses, starts with some comments on the semantics of the term. It discusses the various forms and concomitant contexts of cursing. Conditional curses (imprecations) to prevent potential offences in the future can be distinguished from non-conditional, retrospective curses concerned with punishing or redressing past offences. I conclude with a discussion of two types of curses dominating current scholarly debate: the so-called ‘prayers for justice’ and the defixio or ‘binding curse’.

Keywords: curse, defixio, prayer, prayers for justice, gods

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