Overarching Themes II
Abstracts of Session Papers
Friday 2021-10-15 | 17:00 | 17:40
This paper is about the way the Greek Christian chronographer John Malalas wrote the history of temples in the sixth century. Malalas’ Chronographia has usually been disqualified as a truthful account and the idea that his work is a mere puzzle of data which he (badly) took from many authors has been an obstacle to the study of his work as a whole. In this paper, we shall see to what extent the many mentions of temples throughout his world history are coherent and may reveal the author’s own conception of pagan cult buildings.
Friday 2021-10-15 | 17:40 | 18:20
In the period from the early 4th to the 6th century AD we observe a drastic transformation in the religious identity of the Mediterranean world: also in Greece large sanctuaries were abandoned and declined, and by the end of the theatre and circus program the end of the ancient culture was heralded. With the advent of Christian emperors and the spread of Christianity, the situation has become difficult for the multifaceted compilation of traditional cults referred to as “paganism”. But why should paganism die out in a society dominated by Christian faith when Christianity had flourished under pagan ones, notwithstanding different forms of persecution?
A statuette of Aphrodite, a story in which Achill figures as saviour, Atene depicted on objects of daily use, Artemis in the dining room, a long-living cult festival… all these are signs of continued pagan belief. In some cities like Athens, statues of the old deities were present in public places and thus still formed part of the visual appearance of a late antique town. A necessary premise is the assumption that the material culture of Late Antiquity obviously contains the potential to reﬂect religious belief and practice. The focus of this lecture is the presence and the meaning and significance of depictions of pagan myths and gods in Late Antique Greece.
Friday 2021-10-15 | 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.