Over the last 15 years, the study of magic in Greco-Roman antiquity and particularly of defixiones has experienced a boom. In addition to long-term database projects, numerous corpora have been published, which have often been the result of a dissertation or habilitation. There are also large numbers of editions pertaining to new findings, as well as discussions of individual or entire groups of curse tablets, which include issues of content, especially linguistic, and archaeological aspects.
The project embedded into the SFB 933 takes a new approach to the assessment of defixiones. Defixiones have been discussed hitherto almost always within the narrowly conceived research field of magic. This study will explore them through a series of case studies in the context of a much wider frame, which includes aspects of religion, culture and mentalities. This is achieved particularly by comparing defixiones with other written sources and archaeological contexts and findings. The project will at first examine: 1. the characterization and understanding of Proserpina in defixiones and other inscriptions; 2. turning to the gods in defixiones and confession inscriptions as a means of suppression and punishment of petty crime in areas where there are fewer security institutions; 3. magical practices in the Roman army, especially in their use of defixiones; 4. threats as persuasion strategies and punitive measures in communications with the gods; 5. a comparison of different methods of communication with the gods in the form of vows, gifts and curses (vota - dona - defixiones).
The restricted “presence” of the defixiones, the objectives to using them, the intended injury (sometimes even the destruction of a person), the predominant use of lead as writing material as well as the use of specific formulations, offer close connecting factors with the projects A03 UP1 and A03 UP3 . Their discourse aims at a diachronic and intercultural assessment of official religion and practiced “magical” rites. Specifically, we aim to determine which aspects of the defixiones were “magical” and which were common to other forms of ancient “religiousness”.