The Curse of Artemisia – Fragment


This ancient curse is one of the earliest surviving Greek documents on papyrus from Egypt. Dating from the late 4th century BC, it comes from the community of Ionian Greeks that was established at that time in Memphis, Lower Egypt. Greek culture came to dominate in Memphis, especially after 332 BC, when Alexander the Great was crowned pharaoh in the temple of the god Ptah. In the document, Artemisia, about whom almost nothing is known, appeals to the Greco-Egyptian god Oserapis to punish the father of her daughter for depriving the child of funeral rites and denying burial. Oserapis was identified with the mummified bull Apis, considered a manifestation of Ptah, and with the Egyptian god Osiris. For her vengeance, Artemisia demands that the man – whose name is not mentioned in the text – be deprived of similar funeral rites for his parents and himself. Her drastic words are a striking example for the great importance of funeral rites in Greek as well as in Egyptian tradition. The papyrus document belongs to the Papyrus Collection of the Austrian National Library, which was assembled in the 19th century by Archduke Rainer. In 1899 he gave it to Emperor Franz Joseph I, who made the collection part of the Hofbibliothek (Imperial Library) in Vienna. One of the largest such collections in the world, the Papyrus Collection (Collection Erzherzog Rainier) was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World register in 2001.

Last updated: May 24, 2017