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Lived Ancient Religion

Panel Chair: Jörg Rüpke | Thursday, August 27, 9-11 a.m. | LG 1 229

The concept of “lived religion” had been developed in a book published in 2008 in order to describe and analyse contemporary religion by Meredith McGuire, even if the term has been coined earlier, in particular in the context of practical theology. It is the attempt of the panel to employ this concept within the field of ancient religion. ‘Lived religion’ does not ask how individuals replicate a set of religious practices and beliefs preconfigured by an institutionalized official religion within their biography – or, conversely, opt out of adhering to a tradition. Instead, ‘lived religion’ focuses on the actual everyday experience, on practices, expressions, and interactions that could be related to ‘religion’. Such ‘religion’ is understood as a spectrum of experiences, actions, and beliefs and communications hinging on human communication with super-human or even transcendent agent(s), for the ancient Mediterranean usually conceptualized as ‘gods’. Ritualization and elaborate forms of representation are called upon for the success of communication with these addressees, a communication, which at the same time implies the forging or – at times – rejection of human alliances.

Rubina Raja

Lived Ancient Religion and Archaeology

Studying religion through an approach taking a Lived Ancient Religion perspective, where focus is on the lived experience of the individual, has taken center stage within archaeological research projects connected with the Lived Ancient Religion project based at Erfurt University. Within this framework among other things the study of priestly representations in the Roman Near East has been a focus. Such representations are known from a variety of media, including public and private monuments, as well as the funerary sphere, which in many cases was a sphere bordering the public as well as the private sphere. Through a study of such representations within their societal, hereunder also local religious, contexts, we might learn about the individual priest who was represented and through a comparison of the material across these spheres it becomes clear that imagery and depictions were adjusted according to the situation and the presumed viewer; priests in action performing rituals on visual representations are more common in the public sphere, depicted on public monuments and showing the experience of lived religion, whereas in the funerary sphere emphasis was put on depictions of the priestly office itself. This paper will discuss examples of such representations within a lived ancient religion framework.

Jörg Rüpke

Lived religion and the history of the Roman Empire

This paper presents a program of research on ancient religion that draws on the concept of “lived religion”. For antiquity, we use the term to denote an approach which focus on the individual appropriation of traditions and embodiment, religious experiences and communication on religion in different social spaces and the interaction of different levels facilitated by religious specialists. Combining the starting point of individual religious agency with research on religion and empire, that is the largest aggregate of the period, such an approach offers a basis for a review of the history of religion in the Roman imperial period. The paper offers a series of hypotheses, which might guide further research.

Christopher Smith

Lived Ancient Religion and archaic religious practice

This paper will reflect on the relationship between ideas of Lived Ancient Religion and archaic practice as we see it in archaeology. What new insights does LAR bring to the practice of prehistorians, and how might this affect our understanding of the evolution of Roman religion? How do we fit politics into this conception of ritual activity? The paper will focus on some relatively new material from the city of Rome and central Italy.


A response will address the issues raised in these papers.


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Open Sessions

Thematic Outline

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