Bath’s Roman curse tablets have been added to the UNESCO Memory of the World register of outstanding documentary heritage in June 2014.
The 130 Roman curse tablets can be seen at The Roman Baths Museum www.romanbaths.co.uk They are the personal and private prayers of 130 individuals inscribed on small sheets of lead or pewter and cast into the hot spring at Bath. They date from the 2nd-4th century AD and are the earliest known surviving prayers to a deity in Britain. The messages are in Latin to the Roman goddess Sulis Minerva, from people who had suffered an injustice and asking for wrongs to be put right and avenged.
The tablets are difficult to read and translate and some are quite fierce, such as the person who, seeking revenge for theft of a bronze vessel, asks that it be filled with the blood of the thief. One curse was written in British Celtic, the only text known to survive in that language. Another tablet contains the earliest known use of the word ‘Christian’ in Britain.
The curse tablets are the only objects from Roman Britain to have been inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World UK register, which aims to raise awareness of some of the UK’s exceptional documentary riches. They were one of nine new inscriptions to the register and they join the 41 already listed.