5 Ancient Roman Curses You Might Find Useful in Modern Times

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Have you ever felt the need to curse someone, but weren’t sure how to go about such an antiquated ritual in your modern life? Well, if you don’t have a voodoo doll handy, I have a solution for you — ancient Roman curses.

The ancient Romans were good at many things — engineering, warfare, politics, finding new and ingenious ways to murder their friends and family. Unfortunately, they also had an Achilles heel — they were deeply superstitious. On the plus side, that superstitiousness came the proliferation of some super fun curses.

In the Republic-turned-Empire, curses were written on tablets (known as defixiones) and stored with people in their tombs to protect them in the afterlife. If the curse worked, a god or goddess would grant them the favor of enacting torture, death, or destruction on a still-living foe back in the land of the living.

And since people haven’t changed all that much in the past two or three thousand years, there’s a good chance that ancient Roman revenge is still useful today. Here are 5 handy Roman curses to use on your enemies.

They’ll never see it coming, unless they’re a Roman historian.

#5. Make them unable to chain bears.

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In LatinInplicate lacinia Vincentzo Tzaritzoni, ut urssos ligare non possit, omni urssum perdat, non occidere possit in die Merccuri in omni ora iam iam, cito cito, facite!

Translation: “Entangle the nets of Vincenzus Zarizo, may he be unable to chain bears, may he lose with every bear, may he be unable to kill a bear on Wednesday, in any hour, now, now, quickly, quickly, make it happen!”

This curse was aimed at a gladiator who, unsurprisingly, fought bears. So it might not be so applicable to modern life, unless your sworn enemy works at a zoo or, like, Yellowstone. You could use it metaphorically, though, because everyone has a theoretical bear they need to chain every once in awhile.

#4. Lose their minds and eyes.

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In Latin: Docimedis perdidit manicilia dua qui illas involavit ut mentes suas perdat et oculos suos in fano ubi destinat

Translation: “Docimedis has lost two gloves and asks that the thief responsible should lose their minds and eyes in the goddess’ temple.”

Apparently bathhouse thefts were rampant, and poor Docimedis lost his favorite gloves while taking a soak. They must have been pretty nice for him to ask for this kind of eternal payment.

#3. Be struck dumb.

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In LatinQui mihi Vilbiam involavit sic liquat comodo aqua. Ell[…] muta qui eam involavit

Translation: “May the person who carried off Vilbia from me become liquid as the water. May she who has so obscenely devoured her be struck dumb.”

Even people disappeared from Roman baths, apparently, and this curse asks that the person who stold Vilbia (lover, wife, slave…no way to tell) be struck dumb and also be liquid(?).

#2. May the worms, cancer, and maggots penetrate.

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In LatinHumanum quis sustulit Verionis palliolum sive res illius, qui illius minus fecit, ut illius mentes, memorias deiectas sive mulierem sive eas, cuius Verionis res minus fecit, ut illius manus, caput, pedes vermes, cancer, vermitudo interet, membra medullas illius interet

Translation: “The human who stole Verio’s cloak or his things, who deprived him of his property, may he be bereft of his mind and memory, be it a woman or those who deprived Verio of his property, may the worms, cancer, and maggots penetrate his hands, head, feet, as well as his limbs and marrows.”

This curse is particularly heinous, given that the worm part meant an undignified death. Also, the fact that the worst of the punishment was reserved for a female culprit highlights the long-ago roots of patriarchy and misogyny in society.

#1. Never do better than the mime.

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In LatinSosio de Eumolpo mimo ne enituisse poteat. Ebria vi monam agere nequeati in eqoleo

Translation: “Sosio must never do better than the mime Eumolpos. He must not be able to play the role of a married woman in a fit of drunkenness on a young horse.”

This boils down to wanting a performer to crash and burn (the drunk woman on a horse was a common joke), so if you’re at war with an actor, musician, or comedian, this one is definitely for you.