“Curse of the dancer” reveals backstage backstabbing goes back at least 1,500 years.

LiveScience looks at a lead tablet, translated by a Roman history professor, that consists of a dancer’s curse against a rival:

The curse calls upon numerous demons to inflict harm on a dancer named Manna, who likely performed at the famous Caesarea Maritima theater in Israel, which was built by Herod the Great.

The fact that the tablet was found in the ruins of such a prestigious theater suggests that Manna “must have been a famous artist and therefore the prize would have been considerable, not to mention the fame and reputation that were at stake,” for the winner of a dance competition, wrote Attilio Mastrocinque, a professor of Roman history at the University of Verona, detailing his translation of the Greek curse in an article published in the book “Studies in Honour of Roger S.O. Tomlin” (Libros Pórtico, 2019)

And the person cursing Manna wasn’t messing around: “Tie the feet together, hinder the dance of Manna,” the curse tablet, inscribed in Greek, reads, according to Mastrocinque’s translation. “Bind down the eyes, the hands, the feet, which should be slack for Manna when he will dance in the theatre…”

To do this, the curse asks for the assistance of several gods including Thoth, an ancient Egyptian god of magic and wisdom. It also calls upon the “demons of the sky, demons of the air, demons of the earth, underworld demons, demons of the sea, of the rivers, demons of the springs…” to hurt Manna.

“Twist, darken, bind down, bind down together the eyes…” of Manna the inscription says. “He should move slowly and lose his equilibrium” and “he should be bent and unseemly…”

Taking that period into account, it’s possible that Manna and the curse-writer were from warring factions. In the Byzantine Empire, people competing in dance or other competitions were sometimes part of rival factions — such as the “blue” and “green” factions — and the competition between these factions could be intense, sometimes even resulting in public riots, Mastrocinque wrote.

[via Archaeological News]