After what has felt like months of writing my probation report, preparing presentations and stressing over my upgrade mini-viva I have finally got back to what I love most about doing a PhD – researching!
Yesterday I went to the Bodleian library in Oxford to read a book that few other university libraries have – Auguste Audollent’s 1904 collection of curse tablets. It’s probably the founding work in my subject area, because it was one of the first attempts to collect together all the known curses in one volume so they could be easily interpreted as a whole body of evidence. He was the first to group curse tablets based on motive, and over 100 years later we still use his five categories of legal, erotic, competition, commercial and prayers for justice. He also organised his collection by geographical location, making it nice and easy for me to get to the ones from Germania, Gaul and Britannia.
In particular, I was looking for the curses found in a graveyard in Kreuznach in the 19th century, which haven’t really been published since these early scholars collected them together. This one in particular struck me, and will probably be curse tablet of the month this month!
Above is how it appears in Audollent – the text of the tablet as read by him. There are no images in his book, for those I cross-referenced with the CIL, which is another late 19th-early 20th century corpus of Latin inscriptions.
My ability to read cursive Latin is really improving, and I can mostly identify and agree with the words that those older scholars read. Of course, I’d love to read the original tablets, and I’m certainly planning to get some site visits in sometime this year to try to get my hands on the real things.
It felt great to be back in the library yesterday. I didn’t realise how much I had missed researching. Finding curses I haven’t seen before and giving myself new things to think about is still the real draw of this project for me, and it’s something I will have a hard time stopping when it comes time to start writing up! From what I’ve gathered from lecturers, post-docs and other PhD students, I’m not alone in this. There’s always something more to read, another avenue to explore or idea to think about. My reading list only gets bigger every time I finish a book, and yesterday was no exception. Audollent collected a few curses written in Celtic alongside the Latin ones, so I have a few books on my list of later academics who have translated and interpreted those. Going into the Celtic curses is a more daunting prospect for me because I have absolutely no knowledge of the language, unlike the Latin which I can just about translate for myself. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to getting started – on I go!