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My book presented in Vienna, Szeged and Sibiu

I was lucky, that my book attracted the interest of several scholars from the Central European University, the Archaeological Institute of Belgrade and cultural institutions of Sibiu too. The first book launch was organised at 30th May 2022 by the Center for Religious Studies, Central European University in Vienna, where I had the honour to have as respondents prof. dr. Volker Menze and dr. Gabrielle Kremer from the Archaeological Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

The second book launch was organised at 2nd June 2022 by my current hosting institution, the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Szeged. It was a special event, hosting two books and authors: dr. Nadezda Gavrilovic from the Archaeological Institute of Belgrade and myself. We analysed not only the two books published in the last one year, but also contextualize the role and importance of Central-Eastern European scholarship in the study of Roman religion today.

The third book launch took place on 10th June 2022 organised by the Astra Library from Sibiu, Romania. The book was presented by prof. dr. Radu Vancu followed by a fruitful discussion with archaeologists, students and members of the local intellectual community.

Main results of the project published in Oxbow volume

The main results of the project (2018-2022) were published in March 2022 in a volume at Oxbow Books, Oxford. The book entitled “Roman religion in the Danubian provinces. Space sacralisation and religious communication during the Principate (1st-3rd century AD)” is the first English monograph on Roman religion from this macro-region of the Roman Empire.

You can order the book from Oxbow BooksAmazonWalmartBook Depository too.

Abstract of the book:

The Danubian provinces represent one of the largest macro-units within the Roman Empire, with a large and rich heritage of Roman material evidence. Although the notion itself is a modern 18th-century creation, this region represents a unique area, where the dominant, pre-Roman cultures (Celtic, Illyrian, Hellenistic, Thracian) are interconnected within the new administrative, economic and cultural units of Roman cities, provinces and extra-provincial networks. This book presents the material evidence of Roman religion in the Danubian provinces through a new, paradigmatic methodology, focusing not only on the traditional urban and provincial units of the Roman Empire, but on a new space taxonomy. Roman religion and its sacralised places are presented in macro-, meso- and micro-spaces of a dynamic empire, which shaped Roman religion in the 1st-3rd centuries AD and created a large number of religious glocalizations and appropriations in Raetia, Noricum, Pannonia Superior, Pannonia Inferior, Moesia Superior, Moesia Inferior and Dacia.

Combining the methodological approaches of Roman provincial archaeology and religious studies, this work intends to provoke a dialogue between disciplines rarely used together in central-east Europe and beyond. The material evidence of Roman religion is interpreted here as a dynamic agent in religious communication, shaped by macro-spaces, extra-provincial routes, commercial networks, but also by the formation and constant dynamics of small group religions interconnected within this region through human and material mobilities. The book also presents for the first time a comprehensive list of sacralised spaces and divinities in the Danubian provinces.

New books on Roman religion in 2021

In the second year of the collective madness and pandemic, the academic world produced less books on Roman religion, however some of these books will be important references for future generations.

The most important book probably is a synthesis on Roman religion edited by Greg Woolf and Jörg Rüpke, two of my former supervisors. The book is one of the last volumes – and the best synthesis so far – on lived ancient religion, focusing on the religious life of the Roman Empire. This book is certainly an important one, the first one after decades which will offer a new approach on Roman religion in the imperial period. Another important volume was published by BRILL focusing on the role of senses in ancient religious communication.

This year opened also new and intriguing chapters on the study of Roman Mithras, marked by the fascinating project of the Musee Mariemont, Toulouse and Frankfurt. The scientific group produced several volumes and a monumental catalogue focusing on the cult of Mithras.

Several other works were also published on local sanctuaries or cults (Carnuntum, Güglingen) and global approaches (religious dialectics, divination, egyptionisms, religious mobility, religion, as such).

Several projects focusing on Roman religion are still ungoing, focusing on ancient Urban Religion, sanctuaries in the Danubian provinces or religious mobilities and the cult of Asclepius.

A list of books published in the period of 2013-2020 see HERE.

Religion in the Roman Empire (Die Religionen Der Menschheit, 16): Rupke,  Jorg, Woolf, Greg: 9783170292246: Amazon.com: Books

Sanctuaries in the Danubian provinces: about an important conference

After two years of hard and almost impossible circumstances and organisation we finally had our international conference on Sanctuaries in the Danubian provinces organised. Due to the ongoing and apparently, neverending Covid-phenomena, we organised our conference in the online space. The conference united succesfully researchers representing 7 provinces of the Roman Empire (Noricum, Dalmatia, Pannonia Superior, Pannonia Inferior, Moesia Superior, Moesia Inferior, Dacia) from seven different countries. The case studies were focusing on several new, often unpublished sacralised spaces and new discoveries, but also on the systematic reinterpretation of the old material. The idea of the conference was born in autumn 2018 in Belgrade, during the Limeskongress, where I have initiated my postdoctoral project. We organised there an ad hoc think-tank and it was a pleasure to see most of the participants from that meeting at our conference. The idea get a strong support in 2019 after Christian Gugl and the Austrian Archaeological Institute expressed their participation as co-organisers with the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Szeged. The conference received also a grant from the Thyssen Stiftung just before the pandemic, which unfortunately represented a terrible obstacle for us. After 3 unsuccesful dates proposed for the conference, the event finally took place at 15-16th October 2021 in an online space. The conference had also the keynote lecture of prof. dr. Michael Blömer on the cult of Jupiter Dolichenus and the impact of the central sanctuary from Doliche on the Danubian provinces and beyond.

The conference was an important one also in a historiographic perspective: there were few similar initiatives in the last few decades, focusing on sanctuaries and archaeology of religion in the Danubian area. There were conferences or exhibitions focusing on the cult and archaeology of Mithras (one organised in the late 1990’s in Ptuj and another in Alba Iulia in 2017 – Mccarty-Egri 2020), sanctuaries and religion in Pannonia (Fitz 1998, Humer-Kremer 2011), sanctuaries in Noricum (Leitner 2007) new perspectives in Roman Dacia (Szabó et al. 2016) and general issues of Roman religion in the Danubian provinces (Zerbini 2015). This conference is the first one focusing especially on archaeology of religion going beyond a single divinity or province.

The proceedings will be published in 2023 or 2024.

Keynote lecture of prof. Michael Blömer

Materiality of religion in Central-Eastern Europe

On 24-25th September 2021 the Department of Religious Studies from the University of Szeged organised an international conference on materiality of religion in CEE. The topic has a long history now in Western scholarship, where the major results of the material turn, cultural anthropology and post-processualist archaeology influenced also the works of several scholars of religion already in the 1960’s and 70’s. Ninian Smart was among the firsts, who argued, that materiality is a fundamental dimension of religion. Later, prehistoric archaeologists had an essential contribution to understand the religious communication of the pre-textual human communities. Materiality of religion therefore became not only a topic of archaeologists, but also a methodology for religious scholars. In the recent years, several important books, companions and monographs were published in this field, where “materiality” gained an extremly subjective, versatile and transformative dimension, with several terminological shifts and changes. Notable the book edited by Brent Plate (Key terms in Material Religion). New materialism is also popular now in contemporary religious studies. The journal “Material Religion” is focusing now exclusively on this issue. Materiality of religion now goes much beyond the notion of N. Smart and it discuss not only the role of objects, as tools used in religious communication, space sacralisation, but also the possible agency of materiality in belief, sensescapes, religious media, gender, body, mapping and many other features.

Our conference was the first attempt to open a dialogue in Central-Eastern Europe about this emerging field in religious studies. The participants (archaeologists, historians, historians of art, scholars of religious studies) proved, that this field can be discussed only in an inter- and transdisciplinary approach.

Some of the most relevant publications in material religion, materiality of religion:

Topography of Roman Napoca

The Roman city of Colonia Aurelia Napocensis (founded by Hadrian as Municipium Aelium Napocensium probably from a rural settlement, a pagus or – after some opinions – a military vicus) is lying under the modern city of Cluj (Kolozsvár) in Transylvania, Romania.

The Roman ruins and the Roman past of the city was well known since the 16th century, many of the Roman inscriptions were reused in the latest wall of the city built in the 14-15th century. The identification of the city however occured only in the 19th century, although Szamösközy István, the Hungarian historian from the 16th century presumed already that under the Renaissance city of Kolozsár (Claudiopolis in that time) lies the ancient Napoca known from Ptolemy and few epigraphic sources.

Today, almost a hundred inscriptions and numerous archaeological sites are known from the Roman city, due to the systematic and rescue excavations which intensified after 1990.

This map unites just the major excavations known from the Romanian Archaeological Register (RAN.CIMEC.RO) and several older literature and publications. A comprehensive study on Roman Napoca was never written, the most important studies on the history of the city were published in the 19th century by Jakab Elek and in the 20th century by András Bodor and Constantin Daicoviciu. Several new studies were published in the 49th volume of the Acta Musei Napocensis in 2012.

Space sacralisation in Roman religon: a new space taxonomy

As a result of my PhD and my research experience at the Max Weber Kolleg from Erfurt – one of the most inspiring academic environments for scholars of ancient religions and religious studies – I established in my work focuing on Sanctuaries in Roman Dacia a space taxonomy, which helped me as a methodological guide in analysing the complex process of space sacralisation in Roman times. Space taxonomies in religious studies existed since the so called “spatial turn” in the late 1980’s. This trend however was used especially in urban studies, art history and cultural anthropology. Religious studies used space, as an operative notion only in the recent years, however few case studies we can find already in the 1930’s and 1960’s too. The work of Kim Knott is paradigmatic in this field.

In Roman studies, spatiality, as an important factor (tool, or sometimes even agent) in religious communication arrives only in the recent years, due to the works of Jörg Rüpke and his Lived Ancient Religion approach, although his works are focusing especially on religious individualisation, experience, appropriations and recently, the role of urbanism in religious transformations.

My space taxonomy is based on the notion of space sacralisation: there are no sacred spaces by their own nature. Space became “sacred”, which means that human, divine and material agency are in constant communication and interaction. Spaces where these three agencies are interacting became sacred. Space sacralisation have three major spatial dimentions: micro-spaces (human body, houses, corner shrines, street shrines, etc.), meso-spaces (assembly houses of small group religions, synagoges, etc.) and macro-spaces (public temples, complex-sanctuaries, urban environments). Macro-spaces can have multiple dimensions too, which goes beyond the locality of a settlement however: a province, roads, mountains, rivers and many cultural or financial, military units and supra-provincial clusters.

space taxonomy in Roman religious communication

You can find a more detailed description of this model in the following studies:

New books on Roman religion in 2020

Although this year was about the deepest crisis of our recent history, the academic production of this year was still impressive, although in comparison with the previous years the number of major works on Roman religion published in this year was much more modest. Around 25 major works were published (monographs), focusing especially on general aspects of Roman religion from the French school of religious studies, but also numerous archaeological monographs (especially focusing on the cult of Mithras and Isis). Urban religion and ancient magic is also a booming topic.

Most of these works are the products of the previous years. I am curious, what happened in 2020, without conferences and the necessary mobility for researchers. Let’s hope we will have a much better year for research too in 2021!

The full list of recent books you can download HERE. (last pages are from 2020).

Big projects on Roman religion

The Lived Ancient Religion project (2012-2017) coordinated by prof. Jörg Rüpke was one of the most influential research projects in Roman religious studies in the last few decades, proving the essential idea and aim of the ERC research grants, that of changing disciplines and uniting sub-disciplines long term. The LAR project in its 5 years united hundreds of PhD students, postdoctoral researchers, visiting fellows and senior researchers and well established professors and authorities of the field of Roman religion, classical archaeology, religious studies, philology from the EU, USA and even beyond. The major works of the project (Raja-Rüpke 2015, Albrecht et al. 2018, Rüpke 2018, Gasparini et al. 2020) already produced a significant impact in the field and created several side- or pilot projects in Erfurt, London, Graz, Madrid and many other academic centers. Pilot-projects or methodological continuations of the LAR project we can find also in the Lived Ancient Religion in North Africa Project (LARNA) of Valentino Gasparini, the Sanctuary Project of prof. Greg Woolf or the Resonant Self interdisciplinary graduate school from Graz – just to name a few.

Since the LAR project, numerous other important international collaborations were formed in the EU and USA. The Empires of Faith Project (2013-2017) coordinated by J. Elsner was also a very influential one in the UK especially in visuality and religious communication. Important contibutions were made also by the Votive Project focusing on the great varieties of anatomical and material religious votives, ex votos, religious souvenirs. The GEHIR project (Generative History of Ancient Religions) coordinated by Ales Chalupa focused on religious networks in the Roman Empire. The materiality of early Christianity in the Danubian provinces is also currently re-analysed in a broader, much more interdisciplinary approach by the projects of Levente Nagy, Renate Pillinger and Dominic Moreau and his team. The Open University has a wonderful research center focusing on the materiality of religion, with numerous important studies on ancient materiality of religion. Jaime Alvar Ezquerra has a project in Madrid focusing on the Gens Isiaca in Roman Hispania. The project Synaesthaesia produced also numerous important studies on ancient sensescape.

The ERC Project Mapping Ancient Polytheisms is a monumental, ongoing research coordinated by prof. Corinne Bonnet focusing on the role of divine epithets, names, personifications in the Meditteranean world. The project unites numerous important scholars focusing on the epithets of the gods, an aspect which comes as a useful and essential addendum for the LAR project, which had no similar side-projects. Numerous smaller postdoctoral or international, interregional projects are focusing on Roman or ancient magic and its materiality too. Jörg Rüpke and Susanne Rau’s new project is focusing on urbanity and religion, named by them as citification in religious communication. A new Polish project will focus on Roman republican religion and the collegium septemviri epulones.

The number of relevant projects are certainly much higher and I am sure there are many other important projects in Germany, France or the USA focusing on Roman religion and its aspects.

The final conference of the Lived Ancient Religion project in Eisenach, April 2017

Roman Dacia in the digital era

The province of Roman Dacia is one of the last territories conquered by the Roman Empire and one of the earliest, which was left already in the late 3rd century AD. Still, in less than 170 years, Romans changed the natural environment, built at least 10 urban centers, 100 legionary or auxiliary forts and around 300 other military buildings, more than 4000 inscriptions and thouands of other figurative monuments, small finds and other archaeological material. This huge materiality of Roman presence will mark deeply the history of this area of Europe even after the collapse of the Empire. The Roman heritage marked not only the history of the people from the Balkans – especially the neo-latin speaking Romanians – but also the cultural, economic and political events in early Medieval and also, during the Renaissance period. The Roman heritage was always known in ethongraphic traiditions, foklore, and since the 15th century built and used in the political and cultural narratives and identities in the 19th and 20th century.

The academic study of Roman Dacia produced thousands of articles and books in the last 150 years. Only on Roman religion there are around 1400 titles “produced” in the last two centuries.

However, in the last few years, digital humanities changed also the study of Roman Dacia. There are numerous studies already available online in academia.edu or Sci-Hub. The EDH Epigraphic Database from Heidelberg has now more than 3500 inscriptions of the province, the Clauss-Slaby has 4222 inscriptions online. A complex and interactive population database is available for Dacia on the Romans1by1 project.

More than 2200 figurative monuments were photographed by Ortolf Harl from Roman Dacia and inclued in his amazing lupa.at project. Without the CSIR volumes of Romania – which are still not done – the work of Harl is indispensable. Few objects from Dacia are digitized also in the LIMC and Arachne projects. A part of the Roman bronz statuettes are available online too. Numerous books and articles on Roman Dacia are digitized by the National Institute of Heritage on their CIMEC.ro page too. 3468 arhaeological sites from Roman period are included in the National Archeological Repertory. 12.000 archaeological objects are introduced in the National Heritage, however many of them are without photographic documentation and only a part of them are from the Roman era. The archaeological sites of the Roman Limes are under documentation by the National Limes Comission. A very useful holistic digital map of the Roman Empire you can find also on the vici.org page. Numerous other cartographic representations of the Roman World – the ORBIS, Pelasgios or the Barington map – represents also Dacia.

The coin hoards of the province were systematically published by C. Găzdac. Cities, mines and other economic unites were also included in the various databases of the Oxford Economic Project. The RGZM has also numerous databases on terra sigillata, or Roman provincial archaeology, each with few mentions on Dacia too.

Finally, as part of my project focusing on Roman religious communication in the Danubian provinces, I finished the Digital Atlas of Roman sanctuaries from Dacia.

Annotation 2020-03-24 125758

Sanctuaries of Roman Dacia