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Ritual Dynamics

Session Chair: Celia Schultz | Monday, August 24, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

Ludivine Beaurin

Studying an ancient religious ceremony: the example of the isiac ceremonies

Heart of the ancient religious practice, ceremonies raise quickly a methodological problem to whom wants to study them. How to restore a phenomenon of which we can’t make the experience anymore? Contrary to the ethnologists who attend and record the progress of a religious ceremony, it is unfortunately impossible to apply here the method of the participating observation: the historian of religions has to content himself with indirect sources. This contribution proposes to consider new coherent interpretative frames for the ancient ceremonies. Through the isiac example, subject of my thesis, we have to wonder what a religious ceremony is in the Antiquity and we may propose a key for reading which can be applied to other cults. For that purpose, it is necessary to try and combine the approaches of the human sciences (anthropology, sociology…), of the archaeology of the ritual but also of the individualization of the religious practice.

Renata Salvarani

Preserving and changing to survive: Jerusalem Christian liturgies in XI and XII centuries

Christian liturgies development in XI century Jerusalem outlines how continuity and discontinuity can combine and alternate to ensure religious community’s survival, even in deeply modified contexts. In 1009, when fathimid caliph al-Hakim ordered Holy Sepulcher’s total destruction, architectural space for worship disappeared. Thus celebrations continued as in the past (Anastasis Typicon swears to this persistence) and allowed the building reconstruction. In the meanwhile Christian communities identified in the same worship could survive as religious group during Islamic rule, keeping frequent external contacts, mostly with greek world (mid XI century). From 1099 latin conquerors introduced prominent discontinuity’s elements in the city life and in Christian liturgy itself (regular canons and latin hierarchy had predominant roles and positions and brought their language, hymns and chants). Crusaders yard at Holy Sepulcher got a general rebuilding in the area. Nevertheless some continuity with agiopolite liturgy has been ensured by specific worship, especially during Holy Week and paschal triduum: processional liturgies performed across the whole city became place for common worship of different and antagonist but coexisting Christian communities (Greeks, Armenians, Siri, Ethiopians, Coptic, monks, hermits). If latin liturgies became prevalent, christian non latin liturgies had their parallel persistence (antique et nova consuetudo), allowing the whole cosmopolite population to take part in celebrations and ensuring Christian worship continuity longer crusader kingdoms fall and after latin and “western” inhabitants banishment, in 1187.

Frederick Brenk

Adaptation and Transformation. Animal Worship and the Temple of Isis at Pompeii

The community of Roman Isis worshippers was embedded within a complex culture characterized by social change (hostility, then acceptance) and intercultural exchange. This involved extensive adaptation. Animal worship was not viewed favorably by most Greeks and Romans authors. Yet, hybrid human-animal creatures were common in Greek religion, some Greek philosophers attributed a sort of reason to animals, and some historical authors treated Egyptian animal cult sympathetically. No statues of sacred animals were found in the Pompeian temple. However, depictions of clearly sacred animals, do receive some prominence, particularly in the “Sacrarium”. The depictions involved a very artistic Roman style of painting, as in the main meeting room, depicting the animals only obliquely as sacred, and cruder paintings, more directly presenting the animals as sacred, in the “Sacrarium.” Thus, animal worship was “negotiated” so as to maintain something of the essentials of Egyptian animal worship without offending Graeco-Roman sensibilities.

William van Andringa

Gods Changing in the Roman West (IIIrd-IVth cent. AD): Archaeology and Religious Changes in Late Antiquity

The aim of this paper is to re-evaluate the fundamental problem of religious transformation in Late Antiquity. The starting point is based on a series of recent excavations in the western provinces of the Empire, particularly in Gaul, showing that a certain number of great civic sanctuaries, built at great expense by the local élites in the first and second centuries, were dismantled or abandoned in the second half of the third century. This phase of abandonment reveals an essential change in the organization of local religious systems and practices, occurring even before the conversion of Constantine and the rise of Christianity to official religion.


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