Abstract: Sammi Richter 2019

The Power of a Hero: Placement of Erotic Curse Tablets in Nemea, Greece



             Hero shrines (heroöns), a common phenomenon throughout Ancient Greece, were most often dedicated to a hero of local origins and importance, becoming legitimized through local customs and acts of cult reverence. The hero shrine to Opheltes in Nemea is no exception. As an essential hero in the creation of the Nemean games to honor Zeus, Opheltes is also intriguing because of the discovery of four erotic curse tablets found within his shrine, an extremely rare occurrence in the archaeological record. There is only one other instance where a curse tablet has been found in a hero shrine, namely that of Pankrates and Palaimon in Athens.[1] Because the shrine of Opheltes is an unusual place for the deposition of such curse tablets, this paper aims to illuminate the possible reasons behind choosing this specific location, and ultimately what this evidence can tell us about the shrine to Opheltes. Such evidence will come to show that the shrine of Opheltes is indeed an excellent location for the deposition of curse tablets within a tradition of child hero cults. This claim will become apparent when analyzing the archaeological remains of the structure, the artifacts found within, the traditions of both hero cult and curse tablets, the circumstances surrounding Opheltes’ death, the chthonic nature of his shrine, and the comparison of his shrine to that of Pankrates and Palaimon.



[1] Bravo, Jorge Jose, I.,II. "The Hero Shrine of Opheltes/Archemoros at Nemea: A Case Study of Ancient Greek Hero Cult." Dissertations & These Global, (2006).