‘Bind His Hands’: Curse Tablets and Charioteer Magic in Ancient Sports

Over on the Forbes blog this week, I wrote a bit about how social anxiety can be viewed through magic. In the case of curse tablets involving charioteers, we see an incredible amount of energy invested in sports. The culture of athletic competition and rivalry in chariot racing is not all that different from the seriousness with which Red Sox fans curse the Yankees or Green Bay Packers fans scream at the Minnesota Vikings–but the use of magic is something a bit different from the modern day. Fans, factions managers, and even the charioteers themselves often engaged in the writing of curse tablets later buried in graves, wells, on boundary zones, or on the outskirts of the hippodrome itself. They reveal a society that put at least some stock in the potency of magical practices like curses and apotropaic amulets, but also demonstrate the long history of people attempting to seize agency within athletic competitions. For fans and bystanders who felt so much emotion connected to the circus factions, magic was an outlet for fear and angst that gave them at least a modicum of perceived control. Read more over at the blog! 

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