Author's Final Manuscript
Greece and Rome
The surprising absence of violent language from classical Athenian curses is best understood as a rhetorical strategy appropriate for getting the divine powers to enact the curser's desire to harm his or her enemies and to gain an advantage in the particular agonistic context. A contrast with the extravagantly violent language of other contemporary curses, which call for unmitigated catastrophe to befall their targets, shows that the fundamental difference between these curses is the audience that they primarily address, which shapes the nature of the request that is made in the imprecation. Whereas contingent curses primarily address the human community with highly intense rhetoric to deter potential violation, these agonistic curses against rivals request assistance in the rivalry from some power beyond the human community, limiting the extravagance of the request to improve the chance of fulfilment.
Edmonds, R. 2022. "Contingent Catastrophe or Agonistic Advantage: The Rhetoric of Violence in Classical Athenian Curses." Greece and Rome 69.1: 8-26.