Skip to content

On companions to Roman religion in the Hungarian scholarship

August 5, 2017

We live in an age, when humanities – to survive or just because it is fancy – produces dozens of companions on almost everything. In ancient studies (Altertumwissenschaft) there are companions on personalities (Ovid, Aristotel, Galen, Vergil, Tacitus) and of course, on several aspects of Roman civilization too (sports, medicine, architecture, art, sculpture, army, epigraphy).

In Western literature and in the undergraduate education, the most popular introduction on Roman religion is the two volume seminal work of Simon Price – Mary Beard – John North from 1998, which had a great impact not only on the education of Roman religion, but also on the scholarship itself. Some universities are using also the Companion to Roman religion edited by Jörg Rüpke in 2007 or two of his volumes published till now, Religion of the Romans from 2007 and his From Jupiter to Christ volume from 2011. His latest – and perhaps, the most important book – the Pantheon will be published soon, but not sure if can be used as a guide or manual for undergraduate students or can replace the dominant position of Price-Beard-North 1998.

covers_22509In Hungarian scholarship and university-education none of these books are translated and are rarely used. There are 3 books used as an introduction on Roman religion in Hungary now. The first is the 1975 volume of István Hahn (Gods of Rome), published in thousands of copies is more for the greater public, but written by one of the doyens of Hungarian Altertumwissenschaft and it is a great introduction into the archaic and republican religions. Influenced by the works of Wissowa, Latte and Dumezil, Hahn presents pantheons, gods and festivals, mostly the divine agents and experiences in public spaces focusing exclusively on literary sources. His brilliant style as story teller and his huge knowledge on literary sources makes this small volume – pocket book – still a good guide for the greater public, however it is not enough for students of Roman archaeology, history or classical philology.

The second volume – and after some opinions, the best introduction in Hungarian language on Roman religion – is the book of Thomas Köves-Zulauf from 1995covers_158746 (Introduction into the history of Roman religion and myths). The volume presents in details the history of research on Roman religion, some of the key notions on Roman religious practices (evocatio, dedicatio, precatio, triumphus, etc.) and shortly, the historical aspects of the changes in Roman religious communication. As a phenomenologist, Köves-Zulauf presents the literary sources from the archaic and republican Rome in a unique manner, focusing on the particularities of Roman religious communication. Because it presents phenomena and situations, where religious practices and experiences are emphasized in the communication between the divine and human agency, his book is very close to those written recently by J. Rüpke. However, Köves-Zulauf didn’t focus on the religious changes and transformations of the imperial era and – similarly to Hahn – omits the archaeology of religion.

The last book – used rarely however in university education – is the manual of Gesztelyi Tamás, The history of Roman religion from 1995. His book is the only one, which presents also the religious changes during the Principate and includes the arrival of early Christian groups, philosophies of religion in antiquity, superstitio presenting the key notions very shortly in chronological order. His book – a combination of Hahn’s volume with the 1985 volume of John Fergusson – could be a good starting point to write a new, modern and short introduction on Roman religion(s) for Hungarian students and the greater public too.

None of the above mentioned major volumes on Roman religion from Western scholarship are translated yet.


From → Actualities

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: