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Durham University

Durham Centre for Roman Cultural Studies

Cities and Gods Abstracts

CLIFFORD ANDO (University of Chicago)

Diana on the Aventine

Law and religion are two cultural elements that might have been expected always to disjoin, never to unite the empire. This is true for law because public and administrative law was, at Rome as elsewhere, one tool among many by which the central government sought to create and control subjects of empire, while civil law by definition governed relations only between citizens.  Where religion is concerned, this is so because the state cult was, in important respects, a polis-religion--concerned with the space of the city, ritually defined, and the citizen body, and practiced by its magistrates.  Other theoretical trends urge us likewise so to view and study it.  Recent years have seen important revisions to our understanding of the history of Roman law, not least in its consolidation as a practice and system of knowledge and in details of its role in the articulation of the empire.  I hope to bring some of these insights to bear upon the nature of religious law at Rome, to ask what light it might shed on Roman understandings of the imperial city as a city, and upon provincial communities of different legal status as sites for the practice of cult. 


Strutture e paesaggio urbano nell’età della cristianizzazione: il caso di Gortina

La persistenza di forme cultuali pagane fino alla seconda metà del IV secolo e la rapida trasformazione cristiana tra V e VI secolo accentuano l’importanza di gortina di creta come caso emblematico dei fenomeni generali di trasformazione delle città tardoantiche di area mediterranea.
L’integrazione tra documentazione archeologica e fonti storico-epigrafiche permette di ricostruire i passaggi di questo complesso processo, che interessa tutta l’estensione del centro di età classica ed imperiale, ma la cui dinamica tende nello stesso tempo a modificarne profondamente  la struttura e i riferimenti interni. Viene progressivamente creato un insieme sociale diverso, che riutilizza i monumenti e le aree precedenti adattandole ad istanze funzionali e rappresentative nuove.
Alla base di questa trasformazione è un cambiamento del sistema culturale di riferimento della città, che adatta l’immagine urbana ai nuovi modelli.

MARTIN BOMMAS (University of Birmingham)

Temples for Egyptian Gods within urban landscape: the Roman Iseum Campense and the Red Hall of Pergamon as case studies

Isis and Serapis were true city-gods. Never having received cultic worship in rural areas during pharaonic rule, their sanctuaries were equally built within cities when the Egyptian gods spread to Greece in the late 4th century BC and Italy after 168 BC. This paper discusses textual and archaeological evidence to find possible reasons for this tradition and the ways these foreign gods inculturated in the urban landscape of the Mediterranean. The key positions of the Iseum Campense in Rome and the Red Hall in Pergamon will be used to examine the pattern of this development both marked in the capital of the Roman empire and in its provinces.

ALLAN DOIG (University of Oxford)

Christian ceremonial and the earthly city

Christan ceremonial was used in markedly different ways to negotiate the relationship between the Christian church and the city. In the fourth century in Jerusalem, the peripatetic liturgy was used to bring its participants into the very presence of the events of scripture within their original sacred geography. In Constantinople, the ceremonial passage of the emperor through the palace and into Hagia Sophia in the company of the bishop, presented the city and the empire as the icon of the rule of God and his Christ in the Heavenly Kingdom. The fall of Rome in 410 precipitated (in the West at least) the re-thinking of the nature of what that city represented, and Augustine’s City of God is fundamentally different from any earthly city. In Rome, the Pope’s Stational liturgy, with its military procession from the Lateran to the Stational Church of the day, almost took on the aspect of a ‘skirmish’ against the earthly city, which was even then still pagan at heart; the Heavenly City of the eschaton was breaking in on the fallen city.
‘Jerusalem’ provided an elision between what is and what is to come; Constantinople was the most elaborate out-working of a vision of the Kingdom of God; and Rome provided the pattern for ceremonially binding isolated sacred spaces together in a liturgical lattice. An ancient ceremony that was ‘baptised’ into the service of the Church was the adventus and, correspondingly, the old established forms of basilica and city gate became powerful symbols in the architectural language. Historical and political developments, theological shifts taking account of those developments, and an architectural and ceremonial language expressing different attitudes to the City and its sacred spaces, all come together to articulate a troubled relationship that reveals an image of the city that vacilates between ‘Jerusalem the Golden’ and Babel.

PENNY GOODMAN (University of Leeds)

Temple architecture and the urban-rural divide in Britain and Gaul: two worlds or one?

One of the most distinctive religious outcomes of the conquest of northern Gaul, Germany and Britain by Rome was the emergence of the ‘Romano-Celtic’ temple (or fanum): a new type of sacred building which drew on and combined indigenous and Mediterranean architectural traditions.
In Gaul and Germany, the Romano-Celtic temple was primarily a rural phenomenon. However, it also appeared alongside Classical-style temples in the provinces’ new cities. Here, though, the two architectural forms occur in different spatial contexts. Distribution patterns reveal a consistent preference for locating Classical temples within city limits, but their Romano-Celtic equivalents in the urban periphery.
What can we make of this apparent spatial divide? Who was involved in creating it? And is it merely an architectural issue, or does it indicate the deliberate separation of different spheres of religious belief and behaviour: urban and Roman on the one hand, and rural and Romano-Celtic on the other? A dearth of epigraphic or iconographical evidence makes the latter question difficult to answer, but two further considerations suggest that a stark division may not in fact have been intended.

Firstly, the degree of architectural difference between Romano-Celtic and Classical temples in fact varied, to the extent that some examples are difficult to categorise definitively as one or the other: and this applies particularly in or near cities. It is thus more helpful to conceive of an architectural spectrum than a binary division. Secondly, in Britain, where true Classical temples were altogether rare, Romano-Celtic temples were regularly built within the centres of cities.

It appears too simplistic, then, to see the distribution of Classical and Romano-Celtic temples in Gaul and Germany as a spatial indicator of separate religious ‘worlds’. This paper will consider other possible reasons for the pattern: particularly the intended spheres of application for each type of temple and elite efforts to maximise the impact of their euergetism.

WENDY PULLAN (University of Cambridge)

Jerusalem and the reorientation of urban order in late antiquity

Although its impact was initially slow, by the fourth century Christianity began to make itself felt in cities of the Greco-Roman world; we can speak not of abrupt change, but of a reorientation. With Christianisation, Jerusalem was not just part of this process but, as the location of the holy places and the terrestrial embodiment of the Heavenly City, it served as a paradigmatic role in the new urban order.
This paper will consider how the architecture and ritual topography of Jerusalem manifested the reinterpreted content. Particularly significant is the relationship between the individual churches and their role in the wider urban fabric and natural environment. Initially, three Constantinian churches formed a structure, through which different parts of the city became aligned with certain scriptural meanings; this was reinforced by later ecclesiastical foundations, in what might be termed as an ‘expanding mythology’ of the early Christian city. As part of this phenomenon, narratives of incarnation and eschatology became embodied. Yet, at the same time, certain demands of praxis required articulation of what can be described as an ongoing and everyday form of Christian life; this too found its place within the Jerusalem topography. The significance of the pragmatic in this most paradigmatic of cities offers a particularly explicit representation of reciprocities that appear to be inherent in fundamental urban conditions.

RUBINA RAJA (University of Hamburg)

Changing spaces and shifting attitudes: the sanctuary of Zeus in Gerasa

Monumental sanctuaries in the Decapolis region dating to the first and second centuries AD are often presented as being based exclusively on Roman architectural models, which in turn is interpreted as implying that religious beliefs and ritual practices changed with the increasing presence of Roman culture and religion. Was this really the case? A closer look allows a nuanced picture of sanctuaries becoming multi-functional, religiously speaking. This paper explores this process in the sanctuary of Zeus in Gerasa, modern Jerash in Jordan.
I investigate to which degree the development of the sanctuary related to various religious practices and how it came to accommodate a variety of cultic functions. I assess the level to which religious belonging was expressed through the architecture, beginning a critical re-examination of cultural and religious processes in a region experiencing strong influences from East and West. The results show that a refined syncretism acted as an impetus to the religious life in the Decapolis region in the first centuries AD and that many sanctuaries came to symbolise the highly diverse cultural and religious heritage of the Near Eastern societies while bearing a firm imprint of Roman cultural ideas.

LOUISE REVELL (University of Southampton)

Defining urban space? Temples and towns in Roman Britain

The role of religion and religious space has tended to be underplayed in discussions of urbanism in Roman Britain. However, more recent work has argued that religious space shapes the layout and urban experience of some important towns within the province, most notably Verulamium (St. Albans). However, for the secondary urban centres, so-called small towns, military and economic interpretations still dominate. This problem is compounded by lack of synthetic research into these, despite a number of important excavation projects in the last two decades. This is compounded by a lack of clear definition of what a ‘small town’ was and the tendency to treat them as a homogenous group in spite of the clear variability between them, in terms of size, organisation and function.

This paper will raise the question of whether in fact some of these can be seen as quasi-urban sanctuaries, analogous to those elsewhere in the empire. The most famous, and the clearest example of this, is at Bath, but paper explores whether in the light of more recent excavations, this site is not unique for Britain, but one of a group of urban sanctuaries. As these do not seem to have been formally chartered as political centres, this paper will also ask how far they become a focus for some of the socio-political activities which took place in the more formalised chartered towns.

MICHAEL SOMMER (University of Liverpool)

Creating civic space through religious innovation? The case of the post-Seleucid Beka‘a valley

The religious topography of the Beka‘a valley is striking. Wherever the visitor goes, sooner or later he will happen upon a Roman temple. The ruins of Baalbek are among the most impressive material relicts of the Roman empire, but there is fare more: from Hosn Suleiman to Qalaat Faqra, from Niha to Bziza, from Bekka to Qasr Nimrud the mountain ranges of Mount Lebanon, Antilebanon and Hermon which surround the valley are covered with sanctuaries. The paper attempts to investigate the Beka‘a valley’s religious topography from an anthropological point of view, taking into account the demographic, social and political realities of the post-Seleucid power vacuum and the period when Rome gained control over the region.

CLAIRE SOTINEL (François-Rabelais University Tours)

Over the walls of Aquileia: religious perception of the city in periods of crisis

The paper considers the role played by Gods in the defence of the city in dangerous times. The history of Aquileia in Late Antiquity is rich in episodes of crisis, running from its siege by the army of Maximian in 238 to the Exodus of its population, led by Bishop Severus, to the promised safety of Grado in 568. Not often are Gods mentioned by historians as actual protagonists, as it is the case of Belenos in 238, fighting among the defenders according to the Greek historian Herodian, but a religious view of the events is seldom lacking. A careful study of such instances helps to understand the changing role of religion in lying down the image of the city. It will raise questions about the connections between the role played by religion in the history of the city and its place in the urban landscape and civic life.

LUCREZIA SPERA (University of Rome Tor Vergata)

Caratteri della cristianizzazione degli spazi urbani nella Roma tardoantica: nuove riflessioni a trenta anni dalla Roma Christiana di Charles Pietri

Nel 1976 la “Roma Christiana” di Charles Pietri delineava un quadro esemplare e definitivo della configurazione generale dell’Urbs, progressivamente segnata nel paesaggio urbano, entro la fine del V secolo, dall’emergere del cristianesimo negli spazi intra ed extra moenia. A oltre trenta anni l’opera dello storico francese si può ritenere per molti aspetti insuperata e insuperabile. Tuttavia, numerose acquisizioni dalle indagini archeologiche degli ultimi decenni e, soprattutto, l’elaborazione di analisi topografiche che non si limitano ad estrapolare dal tessuto urbanistico gli insediamenti cristiani, ma  li leggono nelle profonde interrelazioni con i contesti di afferenza, contribuiscono alla formulazione di nuove riflessioni sulle dinamiche di cristianizzazione degli spazi urbani nella Roma tardoantica.
Alcune aree della città si prestano particolarmente alla lettura di tali fenomeni e permettono di evidenziare i caratteri dislocativi delle varie tipologie di edifici religiosi, i rapporti le tra fondazioni titolari e l’abitato, la straordinaria compresenza, per tutto il IV secolo, degli insediamenti cristiani con luoghi di culto connessi ad altre religioni, contribuendo a definire in modo efficace la facies effettivamente variegata della città tardoimperiale. Una documentazione più significativa in tal senso è offerta dalle zone dell’Aventino, del Celio e del Campo Marzio, nelle quali sarà possibile porre a confronto, definendone modalità e tempi, la definizione di spazi propriamente cristiani sia in ambiti urbani connotati prevalentemente da presenze abitative (i primi due settori), sia in comparti publico-monumentali di prolungata sussistenza quale si profila essere appunto il Campo Marzio.
Traguardando l’altomedioevo, poi, l’immissione delle presenze cristiane nel tessuto urbanistico tradizionale si rivelerà capace di svolgere un ruolo determinante per la definizione di alcune tendenze peculiari degli assetti urbani, non solo nell’ottica di forme di sostanziale continuità, evidente ad esempio nella sussistenza di assi viari, ma anche nella possibilità di indurre sostanziali trasformazioni della configurazione topografica originaria.

JOHN STAMPER (University of Notre Dame, Indiana)

The Capitoline temples of Rome and its colonies: Cosa and Pompeii

This paper analyzes the way three Roman temples, dating from the Early and Late Republic, helped shape the urban spaces around them and formed a common religious and political bond between Rome and its colonies on the Italian peninsula. The temples being considered are those dedicated to the Capitoline triad in Rome and two of its colonies: Cosa and Pompeii. Representing distinctly different periods of time in the Republic and diverse regions with varied cultural and political backgrounds, each temple served an important symbolic role in forming the political and religious link between Rome and its expanding territories.
This paper looks at three aspects of these temples: their architecture, the urban setting in which they were located, and the historical context of their construction. While it is often suggested that the architecture of temples located in colonial cities were modeled after Rome’s Temple of Capitoline Jupiter, this paper reveals that this venerable monument was just one of many models architects in colonial cities looked to for inspiration. They found distinct ways to accommodate the three deities inside the cella and they looked closely at the stylistic and technical details of numerous temples in Rome besides the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter. In addition, they responded to the architectural traditions in their regions. Non of the colonial temples were direct copies of Rome’s Capitoline Temple, rather, they were scaled down versions, with different plans, fewer columns, different orders, and different materials.

In terms of their setting, the earliest Capitoline temples were relatively isolated, standing apart from their cities’ civic and commercial center, often located on a promontory some distance from the city’s principal forum. As time went on, they came to be increasingly integrated into formal, monumental civic settings. This coincided with the design of forum spaces with surrounding colonnades that were increasingly refined and monumental in scale. The Capitoline temples in these cases served as an integral focus of the formal architectural setting of the city’s civic, religious, and commercial center.

Finally, in analyzing the political and religious context of the Capitoline temples we see differences between the patronage of a Senate commission in the case of Cosa and, in the case of Pompeii, a locally initiated project that was eventually taken over by Roman magistrates.

This study reveals much about the diverse range of architectural types and styles employed by the Romans and their colonial administrators in the process of unification and assimilation that was carried on throughout the Republic and into the Empire.

PIER LUIGI TUCCI (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa)

Living under the same sky, sharing the same land: gods and citizens in Rome's cityscape

The cityscape of Rome was conditioned by visible and invisible religious restrictions, such as the pomerial line and the augurs' field of vision: houses and temples could even be demolished if they obstructed the taking of auspices. In addition, many sites of the City occupied by temples and public buildings were inaugurated areas (templa); however, despite their special status, these places were not 'untouchable', and a number of religious buildings were demolished and buried in order to give way to major urban projects. I shall also discuss the distribution of temples within the fourteen regions of Rome, the reasons behind the selection of their site and the introduction of new cults.

ANN MARIE YASIN (University of Southern California)

The new euergetism: churches as commemorative landscapes

Building on recent scholarship on the shifts in patterns of civic patronage and philanthropy in the late antique period, the current study investigates the means by which acts of benefaction were monumentally commemorated.  In broad terms, it is argued that changes in the direction in which elites channeled their wealth, from public works and civic structures such as theaters and gates, to church buildings, monasteries, xenodochia, alms and charity, went hand in hand with the development of new forms of memorialization.  With the shift in what was donated, in other words, we also see fundamental transformations in where and how the euergetistic act was commemorated. 

Specifically, while the erection of honorific inscriptions in their traditional venues—public, civic spaces—began to wane from the third century and had declined to a mere trickle by the fifth, the surfaces of newly constructed churches across the Mediterranean became increasingly exploited vehicles for the display and performance of one's public identity.  Monumental writing covered church entranceways, pavements, walls, columns, chancel screens, vaults and even roof beams.  Ecclesiastical structures and furnishings served as visible canvases for the public declaration both of one's membership in the group of elite donor Christians and of one's praiseworthy virtues of generosity, piety and occasionally also humility or erudition. 

This paper focuses on fourth- to sixth-century examples largely from North Africa in order to investigate the spatial and social rhetoric of such epigraphic displays.  Examination of the form, location and textual content of a number of carved and tessellated inscriptions reveals both the way they negotiate between traditional categories of votive offering and honorific memorials and the critical role played by the viewer in activating prayerful commemoration on the donor's behalf.