The single curse tablet known from Caerleon (Isca), Gwent, was found during excavations of the amphitheatre (ST339906) by Sir Mortimer Wheeler in 1926 and 1927. The amphitheatre was built in AD 80, south-west of the legionary fortress at Caerleon. The Second Legion Augusta garrisoned the fortress from the late first to the fourth centuries AD, inscriptions demonstrating the soldiers also to be the builders of the amphitheatre.
The amphitheatre was elliptical in plan. Stone walls and buttresses retained a bank of earth on which the timber grandstand was set. This bank enclosed the sand-floored arena. Where legions were garrisoned for several decades or centuries, amphitheatres were often constructed, in Britain for example also at Chester. They perhaps accommodated military training and assemblies of troops, but undoubtedly also accommodated the combats and other spectacles associated with Roman amphitheatres.
In Britain curse tablets have also been found in association with the London amphitheatre. However their association with spectacle monuments, especially circuses, is much more common in the North African and eastern Mediterranean provinces of the Roman empire. Here they often aimed at influencing the outcome of a chariot race or combat, but the Caerleon and London examples, like others from Britain, sought redress for petty theft.
The curse tablet was found in the sand of the arena. It is addressed to the goddess Nemesis, to whom a chamber built over one of the minor entrances to the arena may have served as a shrine. In the rear wall of the chamber was a brick built niche, perhaps housing a statue of the deity. Nemesis, a goddess of fortune, is frequently attested in Roman amphitheatres: dedications to the goddess have survived at Chester, for example.
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