Curses in Classical Literature

The following curses are found in works of classical literature:

Catullus, Carmen 8

scelesta, vae te! quae tibi manet vita!
quis nunc te adibit? cui videberis bella?
quem nunc amabis? cuius esse diceris?
quem basiabis? cui labella mordebis?

In this poem, Catullus comes to terms with his unrequited love for his muse Lesbia. Deciding once and for all to leave her, he wishes woe upon her and elaborates upon all the bad things that will come to her in his absence.

Homer, The Odyssey, Book 10

In this book of The Odyssey, Odysseus and his crew take shelter on an island named Aeaea, which inhabited by a goddess named Circe. Circe turns Odysseus’ shipmates into swine, but when Odysseus proves immune to her curses, she is compelled to restore his crew back to form and help them on their journey.

Plato, Republic 364b-c

This section of the Republic discusses popular belief about the gods. In this passage, “Beggar-priests and soothsayers” are pejoratively depicted as itinerant religious professionals who will come to your home and curse your enemy for a small fee.

Sophocles, Antigone 426-428

οὕτω δὲ χαὔτη, ψιλὸν ὡς ὁρᾷ νέκυν,
γόοισιν ἐξῴμωξεν, ἐκ δ᾽ ἀρὰς κακὰς
ἠρᾶτο τοῖσι τοὔργον ἐξειργασμένοις.

Having buried her brother,  Antigone returns to the scene of the crime and finds that guards have laboured to ensure that the body of Polynices is kept bare, as per Kreon’s orders.  A guard reports this event, saying that, while Antigone was re-burying the corpse  she uttered curses upon the ones who uncovered him.

Sophocles, Antigone 1017-1021

Having buried her brother Polynices against the decree of Creon, Antigone is sentenced to death and enclosed in a tomb. As she is carried away by guards, Antigone asserts the justness of her actions and curses her accusers to suffer similar misfortunes.