Defixio against Pheronika


Trismegistos ID: 738932

Source Description


Lead tablet, unrolled after discovery (dimensions unknown).


Inscribed on one face in 10 lines.


Height unknown; still slightly slanting mu and sigma, xi with central hasta.

Place of Origin



Probably third century B.C. (lettering)


Found in 1930 at Cyrene : in the excavations of the Fountain Terrace .

Present Location

Probably lost.

Text constituted from

Transcription from previous editors.


SECir , 193; Pugliese Carratelli, 1963 ; Gallavotti, 1963 , pp. 450-454; Dobias-Lalou, Bulletin Épigraphique , 1964.574; Pugliese Carratelli, 1964 , pp. 102-105; Faraone, 1995 , pp. 6-8, whence SEG , 45.2168. Cf. Jordan, 1985 , p. 187; L. Gasperini in Bonacasa-Ensoli, 2000 , p. 34 (Italian translation), whence SEG , 50.1635; Pocetti, 2007 , whence SEG , 57.2027; Luni, 2014 , p. 133 (report of the 1930 excavations); Dobias-Lalou, 2014 , pp. 322-323 (French translation).


| Δεῦρ[ο] Τύχαν καλέω· νῦν δὴ | τύ τῆδε παρῆμεν

σύν | τε Ζηνὶ σύν τε δυοῖσ<ι> Χά|ρισ 'σ' ιν· ( vac. )

| (5) Πραξιδίκα κώρα μεγαλή[το]ρ̣ο[ς] | Ἀ 'γ' λαοκάρπου,

δῆσόν μοι | Φερονίκας γλῶσ<σ>αν χῆρας | τε πόδας τε {πόδας τά}·

5 ταῦτα δὲ | ἐγὼ ἐρησῶ

| (10) ἐν βοέωι κέρατι πολιᾶς ὑπένερθέ τε γαίας.


2 τύ : Gallavotti, 1963 , Faraone, 1995  τύ <γα> : SECir , Pugliese Carratelli, 1963  τ⸢οι⸣

3 SECir  Ζηνὶ σύν τε : Gallavotti, 1963 , Faraone, 1995  Ζηνί, <Τύχα>, σὺν <καί> τε || Gallavotti, 1963  δυοῖσ<ι> : SECir  δυοῖς

4-5 Gallavotti, 1963  Χά|ρισ 'σ' ιν : SECir  Χά|ρισσιν

5 Pugliese Carratelli, 1964  μεγαλή[το]ρ̣ο[ς] : Gallavotti, 1963  μεγαλήτο<ρος> : SECir  μεγάλη το͂

9 Faraone, 1995  [τὰ γράμματα?  ˉ  ˘  ˘  |  ˉ  ± ]  (suggested as possibly 'lost', but there is no gap on the tablet)

French translation

J'invoque ici Tychè : toi, sois maintenant présente ici,

en compagnie de Zeus et des deux Grâces !

Praxidika, fille d'Aglaokarpos au noble coeur,

lie pour moi la langue, la main et les pieds de Phéronika !

Quant à moi, ces (mots), je les glisserai à l'intérieur d'une corne de boeuf et au tréfond de la terre blanchissante.

English translation

I summon Tyche hither: you, come here right now

with Zeus and the two Graces.

Praxidika, daughter of great-hearted Aglaokarpos,

bind for me the tongue, hands and feet of Pheronika!

I shall deposit these (words) in an ox-horn and beneath the hoary earth.

(C.A. Faraone's translation with slight changes)

Italian translation

Invoco qui Tyche: tu, vieni qui ora

con Zeus e le due Grazie!

Praxidika, figlia di Aglaokarpos dal nobile cuore,

lega per me la lingua, le mani e i piedi di Pheronika!

Quanto a me, depositerò queste (parole) dentro un corno di bue e al di sotto della terra biancastra.


The Report on excavations of 1930, now published by Luni, mentions this tablet amongst the finds of that summer, during which due to lack of funds the fieldwork consisted only in excavating the area between Apollo's temple and the Fountain, i.e. mainly the Fountain Terrace. Oliverio's interpretation on the spot is somewhat puzzling: «un singolarissimo piombo inciso contenente il giuramento a Persefone fatto da un condottiere che si accingeva a un'impresa bellica». In his papers, only a photograph and a drawing were found, upon which Pugliese Carratelli's first publication and all further commentaries rely.

In order to summarize developed commentaries given by Gallavotti, Pugliese Carratelli, Faraone and Poccetti, it should be stressed that this has not the plain structure of an ordinary curse. It is made of three parts: 1) an invocation to propitious deities (Tychè, Zeus and the Charites); 2) a prayer addressed to Persephone asking her with the imperative to 'bind' a certain Pheronika with the formula of a defixio ; 3) an assertion at the performative future of the rite of digging the rolled up tablet. The poem consists of a mix of traditional epic formulas and features typical of the (hardly contemporaneous) Orphic hymns, with an evident dialectal flavour.

Praxidika, 'Justice-maker', is a name of Persephone in the Orphic Hymns. Aglaokarpos 'Bearing beautiful fruit' is a clear designation of Demeter.

The poem was probably composed with some care, but cut in a haste, whence a number of errors, some of which only were corrected by the writer. However it seems excessive to follow Faraone in supposing that a full hemistich was dropped at verse line 5. We prefer to think that this one was deliberately shorter.

The form ἐρησῶ at line 5 remains problematic; the photograph, as dark and unclear as it is, shows two hastae much near to one another. The drawing (plausibly made by Oliverio) gives an eta. It would be desirable to have epsilon + iota, for the context induces to find here the verb ἐρείδω, also used in a similar context at IGCyr016700, ll. 120-121.

Poccetti produced for lead introduced into oxen horn (l. 6) a convincing parallel from Iliad 24.80-82 and other literary descriptions of angling. This might explain the adjective 'hoary', which is formulaic for sea whitening with foam, but strange for earth. Pocetti's supposition about a desertic place where the roll would have been buried is no longer acceptable, as we now know the provenance of the find.

Metrical analysis: the metre is mainly dactylic but offers some difficulties. Lines 1, 3 and 6 are normal hexameters, with the final vowel of κέρατι as a long at the caesura. Line 4 would be a hexameter, but for the supplementary syllable due to the personal name. Line 2 has 5 dactyls or spondees but its structure is not that of a pentameter. Line 5 is a hemistich which might belong either to a pentameter or to a hexameter; however it is very awkward, with two hiatuses: the first one is only graphic and easily avoided through elision, the second one (ἐγὼ ἐρήσω) can only be reduced through synaeresis .

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