Religious Studies

Richard L. Gordon

Do the 'Vernacular' Curse-Tablets from Italy Represent a Specific Knowledge- Practice?

Volume 5 () / Issue 3, pp. 417-439 (23)
Published 29.06.2020

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A knowledge-practice can be defined as a field, or sub-field, of social action in which complex, systematised or partly-systematised knowledge forms the basis of a regular or intermittent practice. How far is such a model of knowledge applicable to the institution of writing vernacular curse-tablets in the Italian peninsula between the later Republic and the reign of Constantine I? The paper advocates abandoning the usual classificiation by supposed purpose, as well as the notion of 'formulae', in favour of a sliding scale of rhetorical and religious competence displayed. The final section discusses the relation between these factors and the awareness of the need, especially pronounced in vernacular curses (i. e., those not written by ritual specialists), to establish a basis of authority vis-à-vis the other world.