Rezension über:

Delphine Ackermann / Yves Lafond / Alexandre Vincent (Hgg.): Pratiques religieuses, mémoire et identités dans le monde gréco-romain. Actes du collque tenu à Poitiers du 9 au 11 mai 2019 (= Collection "Histoire"), Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes 2022, 314 S., zahlr. s/w-Abb., ISBN 978-2-7535-8609-3, EUR 25,00
Buch im KVK suchen

Rezension von:
Arnau Lario Devesa
Departamento de Historia, Universidad de Barcelona
Redaktionelle Betreuung:
Sabine Panzram
Empfohlene Zitierweise:
Arnau Lario Devesa: Rezension von: Delphine Ackermann / Yves Lafond / Alexandre Vincent (Hgg.): Pratiques religieuses, mémoire et identités dans le monde gréco-romain. Actes du collque tenu à Poitiers du 9 au 11 mai 2019, Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes 2022, in: sehepunkte 23 (2023), Nr. 2 [15.02.2023], URL:

Bitte geben Sie beim Zitieren dieser Rezension die exakte URL und das Datum Ihres Besuchs dieser Online-Adresse an.

Delphine Ackermann / Yves Lafond / Alexandre Vincent (Hgg.): Pratiques religieuses, mémoire et identités dans le monde gréco-romain

Textgröße: A A A

'Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.' Just as George Orwell did, the relation between religion, memory (or tradition), and identities and its potential for community-building was understood by Greeks and Romans, as a sense of belonging was useful in order to build cohesive, functional and potentially expansionist states. Albeit a subject of study with a long trajectory, cultural memory [1] [2] and Greco-Roman religion [3] [4] [5] [6] have thrived especially during the last three decades. However worn religion might be as a subject, its complexity and its infiltration within all layers of Ancient societies leave ample space for new contributions, such as the object of this review.

Closely linked to the work carried out by the research group Hellénisation et Romanisation dans le Monde Antique (HeRMA), this volume aims, according to its own words, to 'apporter une contribution aux travaux menés sur les liens du fait religieux avec le social et les conduits de vie' (33). Its chapters are, thus, a representation of the different lines of research on Greco-Roman religion, memory and identity and their nuanced inter-relations within the sphere of influence of the University of Poitiers (and beyond).

Before the book proper begins, P. Brulé presents in his foreword the main subject of the former: the divine. Far from being a short and easy answer, he dissects all the possible meanings and interpretations of the Greek concept "hieros": Nature can be sacred, an assembly can be sacrosanct, a god can be divine and a priestess can be holy. Once the nature of the divine is established, a volume on religion and its use to build memory and identities can begin.

The introduction by Y. Lafond puts the reader into context and justifies the need for the publication of the researches below by showing their integration into current archaeological or historiographic trends and their respective fields of study. This section proves itself rather useful to the novice reader despite occasionally having a loose discursive structure. However, it perfectly complements the foreword in giving the reader all the basic knowledge on the main subject and the particular ones treated in each chapter.

The first four chapters have religious memory as their main subject. J. Y. Carrez-Maratay (L'île Sacré des rois Ptolémées, un lieu de mémoire oublié) dissects this particular case of the use of landscape as a place for praising dynastic memory and examines Ancient and modern sources in order to propose a location for this "Sacred Island". S. Fogliazza and E. Mazzetti (Les mécanismes de définition des identités culturelles dans une zone frontalière) present the cultural porosity and religious landscape of western Emilia through the study of nine archaeological sites and their material culture. A similar approach is undertaken by R. Golosetti (Mémoire(s) d'oppidum en Gaule narbonnaise), who analyses the processes of preservation and reconstruction of the Iron-Age past in sanctuaries of Roman imperial-period south-eastern Gaul. Finally, M. Girardin (La mémoire magnifiée du culte dans les judaïsmes d'après 70) presents the situation in which the Jews, now without their religious and symbolic core (Jerusalem and its temple), had to devise new strategies of resilience and resistance against a pagan and ever-Christianising Roman world.

The second section is dedicated to the expression of individual and collective identities. In it, V. Gasparini (La mémoire dans la peau. Les vestigia entre identité du «je» et pratiques religieuses collectives dans les provinces romaines d'Afrique du Nord) interprets vestigia as remains and metaphors of personal experiences with the divine. Likewise, he reflects on the importance of space as a participant of the religious experience, as access to certain spaces is key to determine the role of the devotee. In the next chapter (Mémoire royale et identité héroïque dans les épitaphes théréennes aux époques hellénistique et impériale), X. Mabillard presents an otherwise typical study of social dynamics in a local community, but with the particularity of insularity (the island of Thera), a factor that strongly influences political careers and the construction of a common identity. As it happened with "hieros"¸ the word "eusebeia" carries a lot of implicit meanings, and L. Pop (« Eusébéia piété et statues ». Les bases de statues de Délos à l'époque hellénistique) determines with which personal traits and values worshippers wanted to identify themselves in votive inscriptions. G. Perrot (Genio uici canabarum et uicanorum canabensium. Pratiques religieuses et constructions identitaires autour des castra de Strasbourg) closes this section with a reflection on how the choice of gods and epigraphic formula, together with material culture, can shed light on the geographic origin and military status of the inhabitants of the castra and its surroundings.

The third and last section of the book focuses on civic piety and political strategies. It is inaugurated by R. Roy (Damia et Auxésia à Égine ou l'art de (bien) voler des statues. L'anamnèse, un déchiffrement de l'invisible), who thoroughly analyses written sources such as Herodotus in order to determine how the memory of two minor local deities can help at building a sense of community and how possessing their statues becomes a way to "own" a long-gone past. S. Lebreton (Épithètes divines et enjeux mémoriels dans l'Athènes classique et hellénistique) shows how the epithets of gods serve in Athens as preservers of civic memory of past hegemony and thus become justifications for political claims of the present. Finally, A. Mayorgas (Rituel et mémoire féminine à Rome. Le cas d'Acca Larentia et de Tarpéia) presents a rather undefined perception of two famous Roman women who were simultaneously revered and disgraced by the man-centered and politics-oriented Roman culture.

The conclusions of this volume, written by D. Ackermann and A. Vincent, make a brief but accurate summary of the chapters above and their relevance for the studies on their respective fields, but they also leave the door open for other works on religion, which still offers many opportunities for future research.

This book, although lacking the thematic homogeneity of ever-disappearing monographies, and taking into account that it represents the proceedings of a conference, knows how to maintain a relatively cohesive discourse on a large subject throughout its entirety. The short extent of the chapters surely leaves much unsaid from the authors' exceptional individual researches, but the general picture, that of a wide Mediterranean with very diverse cultures and, therefore, many different community- and tradition-building solutions, becomes clear by the last chapter.


[1] J. K. Olick / J. Robbins: From "Collective Memory" to the Historical Sociology of Mnemonic Practices, in: Annual Review of Sociology 24 (1998), 105-140.

[2] J. Assman: Cultural Memory and Early Civilization. Writing, Remembrance, and Political Imagination, Cambridge 2011.

[3] W. Burkert: Greek Religion. Archaic and Classical, Cambridge, MA 1985.

[4] M. Beard / J. North / S. Price: Religions of Rome. 2 volumes, Cambridge 1998.

[5] J. Rüpke: A Companion to Roman Religion, Malden, MA 2007.

[6] B. S. Spaeth: The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Mediterranean Religions, New York 2013.

Arnau Lario Devesa