The Fate of the Old Gods in Constantinian Messene (AD 300-365)
Nikos Tsivikis, 2021-10-16, Time: 13:20 - 14:00
Messene in the southwestern Peloponnese was one of the most important cities of the region during the Hellenistic and Roman period. Its description by Pausanias in the second century captured the image of an ancient religious center with a multitude of monuments. The fourth century would mark for the city and its inhabitants a series of radical changes and innovations that transformed the city center in the context of new and renewed uses. The distinct destruction layer found across the city, that can be connected with the great earthquake of 365 CE, has allowed us to precisely date many of these changes.
Thus, the archaeological investigation of domestic and public buildings that are altered in order to meet the needs of a shifting society can now shed light on wider changes occurring across the Roman Empire in the first half of the fourth century. In Messene almost at the same time a Christian assembly hall is built downtown, while just a few blocks away new original marble statues are created, both imperial and cultic, to name only a few of the recorded cultic practices. Most of these fourth century religious negotiations are recorded inside the private space of luxurious residences across the city’s center, marking maybe an overall change.
Aim of the paper is to describe and provide a first understanding of this new relationship between Pagans and Christian within the built space of the city of Messene during the time of Constantine and his heirs, and examine how this is reflected in the negotiations of religious practice, mainly Pagan.