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Religious Space and Boundaries in Roman Imperial Times and Late Antiquity

Panel Chair: Marlis Arnhold | Thursday, August 27, 3:30-5:30 p.m.

Religion in the city of Rome and its immediate surroundings was a subject for study in many works from various disciplines. Most of these are marked by a strong focus on monuments, buildings, and actions, that is, specific locations and what happened in and around them. Space, and this also applies to religious contexts, cannot simply be imagined in terms of sites and function only. Spaces are always determined by sensually perceivable boundaries which implies not only a physical presence of the latter (for instance in form of walls and built structures) but is valid for any presence perceivable through senses such as sight, hearing, and smelling. Focusing on the boundaries of spaces in regard to sites, monuments, and actions generally connoted as religious, the panel asks in how far such a shift of attention can contribute to our understanding of religion – and particularly the embeddedness of religion – in the urbs and the towns in its vicinity in Roman Imperial times.

Marlis Arnhold

Viewing and Communicating the Roman triumph

The paper focuses on the emergence and temporality of sacred spaces outside of sanctuaries by means of processions moving through the city according to pre-set routes. Not only did the processions cross various boundaries on their way, for instance when leaving or entering a sanctuary, but they also formed boundaries towards the spectator. This is particularly evident in case of Roman triumphal processions which among others included theaters in their route that allowed for a strict separation of participants and spectators, whereas in other cases, the in- and outsides of the processions were more fluid. Given the variances in the availability of space at various points of the routes and changes within the way the processions moved (even which elements they included) both their appearance and the relation to the spectators were under constant transformation. Where one stood and what one saw was crucial for the way in which the actions were perceived and experienced.

Kristine Iara

Invisible boundaries between urbs Roma and its suburbium

The proposed paper deals with the existence and the crossing of boundaries between urbs and suburbium within religious festivals in Imperial Rome. Although immaterial, these boundaries were nevertheless highly important in religious terms. Using the example of the festivals of Magna Mater, of Dea Dia and the Transvectio equitum, the paper will focus on the role of boundaries in these festivals. Their particular developments in the course of time on the one hand, specific cultic requirements on the other resulted in differences in significance, perception and handling of the aforementioned boundaries.

By not dealing with built structures but rather with the space between, in particular, on reasons and consequences of these differences regarding the boundaries within these festivals, the paper will shed light on the tight interdependence of urbs and suburbium concerning Rome as one coherent space of ritual activity.

Johanna Stöger

Space Designated to Memory: Ritual Depositions in Urban Contexts

The proposed paper is concerned with 'ritual deposition' in urban contexts and concentrates on the space, the material culture and the labour dedicated to the production of specific places of memory. Two case studies from Ostia will be closely examined to address the spatial significance of such instances of private devotion and commemoration. By critically examining the material evidence for intentional deposition, the spatial parameters and the archaeological contexts, the paper aims to shed new light on an area of religious practice which is hardly ever associated with Rome's principal port city. The paper will focus on the 'conservative currency' these designated spaces had in antiquity and how their 'preservation' had influenced the development of urban neighbourhoods in the long-term.

Juraj Sarkisjan

The Utilization of Bulk Finds for a Better Understanding of the Mysteries of Eastern Cults

The fact that the main part of the rituals of Eastern cults was performed behind the closed doors puts the scholars, who try to reconstruct the mysteries, to a very difficult position. This paper therefore stresses out the importance of re-evaluations of the bulk finds with the sufficient technical support from the ceramicists, data miners and experienced archaeozoologists. The area of the re-investigation was set to the Upper Danubian Roman provinces, which had very different geographical and demographical settings. This selection was especially beneficial for the cults of Jupiter Dolichenus and Mithra. The pottery shards were analyzed directly from the excavation reports and compared with a similar temples in their proximity. This comparison was based on the similar principle which was used by Will Heisey from Oxford who specializes on the francophone area and province Britannia. This paper also introduced the possibility of data mining usage on a huge amount of rims of pottery, especially the Karasik and Smilansky method and their predicative module which could improve the results of the ordinary pottery analysis based on the comparison.


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