Ancient inscription hurls damnation at greengrocer

Last Updated: Dec 23, 2011, 20:21 PM IST

London: A text inscribed on a 1,700-year-old tablet discovered in the 1930s has finally been deciphered to be actually hurling damnation on a greengrocer called Babylas.

The text on one side reads: "O thunder-and-lightning-hurling Iao, strike, bind, bind together Babylas the greengrocer As you struck the chariot of Pharaoh, so strike his (Babylas`s) offensiveness."

The curse demands that Iao, which is Greek for the god Yahweh of the Old Testament, strike poor Babylus, explains Alexander Hollmann, professor at the University of Washington in the US, who deciphered the text.

Curses were normally reserved for more important people, such as kings or gladiators. Hollmann said: "There are other people who are named by occupation in some of the curse tablets, but I haven`t come across a greengrocer before."

The motive of the curse remains a mystery, but Hollmann speculates that it may have been cast by a rival businessman.

"It`s not a bad suggestion that it could be business-related or trade-related. With any kind of tradesman they have their turf, they have their territory, they`re susceptible to business rivalry," he says.

The tablet was discovered in a well, on a site of Antioch, a key city of the Roman Empire in Turkey.