Religious Studies

Attilio Mastrocinque

Cursing Dancers in the Roman Levant: A Forgotten Text in Milan

Volume 7 () / Issue 1, pp. 78-95 (18)
Published 04.08.2021

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This paper is to be read in conjunction with Robert Daniel's introductory account of the somewhat earlier curse against the pantomime Porphyrios found by Barbara Burrell and Kathryn Gleason in a well in a courtyard of the Promontory Palace at Caesarea Maritima (Israel). Its limited aim is to complement my recently-published commentary on the sixth-century CE curse against the pantomime dancer Manna, son of Rufina, which had been recovered in Italian excavations of the theatre of Caesarea in the period 1949–54 but has only recently been re-discovered in the Civico Museo Archeologico of Milan. The present article reprints a translation of the curse and then focuses more closely on the figure of Petbe, 'the Requiter', the main god invoked, than was possible in the original commentary, and explores the influence of late-antique 'Orphic' cosmological myth on the text. Further sections discuss the relation between the Milan text and a pair of related curses from Apheca (Afqa, Mt. Lebanon) against a dancer who was a member of the Blue faction, and the intermittent attempts by the imperial authorities to control the spectacles, including theatrical performances.

Attilio Mastrocinque Born 1952; 1975 Master; since 2002 Full Professor of Roman History at the University of Verona; 2008–10 president of Cultural Heritage courses at the University of Verona; 2005–15 Director of the Archaeological Mission at Grumentum (Lucania).