Twilight of the Gods: Greek Cult Places and the Transition to Late Antiquity

Conference Paper

Overarching Themes II
Friday 2021-10-15
17:00 | 19:00
Place: Swedish Institute at Athens & Zoom

Fons et Origo: Water and the End of Greek Pagan Cult Sites

Dylan Rogers, 2021-10-15, Time: 18:20 - 19:00


The use of water in religious practice is ubiquitous across the globe and over time. As such, water has the potential to unlock meaning for past peoples, especially as it “symbolizes the whole of potentiality; it is the fons et origo, the source of all possible existence,” to borrow a phrase by Mircea Eliade. Thus, water by its very nature has an inherent sacrality that leads to its devotion by humans—which has been termed hydrolatry by modern scholars. Further, the materiality of water, beyond its physical properties, can make connections across different groups of people over time—and gives water its own agency in its relationship with humans. In addition, the lived religion of actions surrounding water veneration is important for our conceptions of the use (and thus inherent meaning) of water. With all of this in mind, this paper aims to explore examples of the use of water in religious spaces around Greece between the transition of pre-Christian and Christian religious practices, especially at the sites of Corinth and Athens. Themes that will be explored include the translation of the sacred properties of water between the two groups, in order to illustrate the impact that water had on everyday practices—especially through the purificatory nature of water, whether in a basin at the entrance to a Greco-Roman sanctuary or through Christian baptism. Finally, attention will be paid to the healing qualities of water that provided a great deal of continuity between the two groups, particularly at natural holy springs that gave rise to the agiasma and cults like the Zoodochos Pege. The translocative symbolism of water when it is bottled from a holy source and transported elsewhere is a powerful element in the religious conceptions of water—even today.

About the Author(s)

University of Virginia

Rogers Dylan
Rogers Dylan

We use cookies to enhance your online experience.
By browsing our site, you agree to our use of cookies.

Read More