Friday, 12 May 2017

Anna-Katharina Rieger is going to present a working paper on 'Division of labor or excess supply? Water, healing and oracles in temples of Roman Syria'

The majority of inhabitants of the Roman Empire lived in villages, living off the agricultural capacities of the land around. In this, the Roman Western Asian Provinces are not different to other parts of the Roman Empire. However, even if not based on counted numbers, the density of religious institutions in and around villages, in the open land between them, seems to be extremely high in the areas of the Eastern Mediterranean. But why? What are the religious needs and demands that are reflected in the many architecturally structured places, the objects offered and in use there? How regional, then, are certain developments, manifestations and their material outcomes – how are general trends of the wider Mediterranean / Roman Empire taken over into a local tradition?
In particular, I look at oracular and healing services, offered in sacred places along the ridge of the Libanon and on Mount Hermon as well as in the Syrian steppe – taking this as a point of distinction of the numerous sacred places.[1] With a choice of several sanctuaries (Niha, Hosn Niha, Temnine el-Fouqa, Afka, Banias, Baitokaike, Isriye and Ain el-Fije) whose phases correspond roughly to a Hellenistic foundation and one or two Roman rebuilding phases (with a peak in the 2nd c. CE) I revise certain takes on the sanctuaries and their functions by applying a spatially oriented methodology, and offer new interpretations of how they were embedded into a social topography in the rural areas of the Lebanon mountains and Mount Hermon, acknowledging their relatedness to the urban places like Sidon, Berytus, Tyros, Baalbek, Damascus or Palmyra, as well as their independent social and spatial position. The consolidation of the Roman administration in the 2nd c. CE as the political background in the region as well as the cultural backdrop of the 2nd c. CE in the wider Mediterranean allows for the questioning their impact on the appearance and activities reflected in dedications by visitors or neighbours, in rebuilding measures by religious specialists, or reshaping entire places by civic authorities.

[1] Other features one could look for to have a closer perspective are f. e. dedicants and their offerings, relation of elite people to other agents in the sanctuaries, on the way gods are conceptualised at the sites etc.pp.

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