Cursing the Government is Nothing New (ca. 350 AD)

By: The Scribe on Friday, December 28, 2007

Someone in Rome wasn’t happy with the Emperor – so they hammered a coin with the Emperor’s image into a piece of lead, effectively ‘cursing’ the Roman ruler.

It was somewhere around 1,650 years ago that someone living in the Roman Empire became more than a little ticked off with how things were going – and so they committed a small act that could probably be called ‘treason.’ Or blasphemy, for that matter… not to mention that they were criminally defacing state coinage.

The ruler of the Roman Empire at this time was the Emperor Valens, and Roman Britain was experiencing a period of extreme turmoil and unrest – and it didn’t help that an exiled Roman aristocrat named Valentinus was trouncing around the British countryside and stirring up trouble in the form of negative attitudes toward the Roman leadership.

And while curse charms are nothing unusual – Greek and Roman curse objects and tablets are fairly common finds, usually consisting of a curse scrawled on a piece of lead and then thrown into hot springs, or with a hole punched into the lead to hang it up somewhere – a curse object against an Emperor is more than unusual… it’s absolutely unheard of.

Absolutely no curse objects or tablets against an Emperor have been found from Roman times until now, as such an act would have been extremely dangerous. The item which changes all that, is a piece of scrap metal that was found in a Lincolnshire field: whoever cursed the Emperor hammered a coin with an image of the Emperor’s face into a piece of lead, and then folded the lead overtop his face. The piece of lead would have then been taken into a temple and hung up, where the curse could be enacted through the power of the gods.

Since Roman Emperors were often treated as god-like figures – in fact, many were deified after their death – anyone who was discovered cursing an Emperor would have likely suffered extreme torture and death, and their families would have faced possible exile or imprisonment.

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Tomorrow: More Ancient Standard


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