Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods


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Its scholarly literature— spanning anthropology, history of religions, theology, history, archaeology, art history, and literary criticism—admits of no uniformity and no little contradiction. On the other hand the very diversity and rich ethnography of pilgrimage experience, 23 perhaps not susceptible to simple generalization p. Likewise, from a literary point of view, the typologies, tropes, and genres of pilgrimage-writing from outside antiquity may offer fruitful parallels to the ways ancient pilgrimage texts map sacred space into actual terrains and tie local landmarks to religious or mythological narratives.

The pilgrim p. Ultimately, the pilgrimage question puts us in the happy place of all being ideologically invested whether we like it or not, whether we acknowledge this self consciously or not whatever position we decide to uphold. If we deny pilgrimage to antiquity or ignore it, which is simply a less explicit form of denial we invest in one kind of model of ancient religion to suit our particular prejudices.

If we affirm pilgrimage, then we invest equally in a different model, bringing with it a range of different problems. So it must be with the study of religion—especially religions p. Pilgrimage is by no means unique as an ideological problem for the study of religion— recent scholarship has found itself fundamentally sceptical about such long- held certainties among ancient religious categories as initiation.

For the question of whether we adopt the category or not, should not turn on issues of truth or an excess of refinement in matters of definition, but on whether it is useful and for what purpose. This is, we submit, both a pragmatic and a strategic matter. The concept of pilgrimage may indeed create wrong expectations in certain aspects of our assumptions about antique religion and the expectations it carries may indeed map only clumsily onto the range of evidence from antiquity, but it may also allow the opening for a discussion of other aspects of ancient religion than those usually stressed.

These include some issues that have been wrongly suppressed for too long —questions of locality and space, of movement and identity, of individual and collective investments in religious ideals as embodied in material culture within the landscape. And, strategically, the employment of the concept allows the introduction of comparability between ancient religions and others, including their most direct successors, Christianity and Islam.

Whatever choice we make about the adoption of the notion of pilgrimage, we will certainly be to some extent wrong. Its denial has for too long lost us the space it opens; its affirmation is certain to lead to excess perhaps even in this volume! Typology of Ancient Pilgrimage The papers in this volume cover forms of pilgrimage in the Graeco-Roman period, roughly from the fifth century BCE till the maturing of p. But it is as well to be aware that pilgrimage did not begin with the Greeks: as early as the third millennium BCE, in the land of Sumer, Gudea of Lagash recorded a journey he made from his home town to the sanctuary of the goddess Nanshe some distance away at Isin.

And when the sacred city of Nerik was captured by Kaskan enemies, the main concern of the Hittites seems to have been that the transport of sacred offerings there would not be obstructed. Pilgrimage up mountains—which were important in Hittite religion—was common; one text records a sequence of songs performed by a chorus of girls as they ascend a mountain; another describes how the king, having made an ascent, offers food to a herd of stags.

For example, clay balls from Thebes seem to indicate that offerings were brought to the Theban capital from neighbouring settlements, including Karystos and Amarynthos. Rather, there are a very large number of types, attested at different times and in different areas. It may be helpful at the outset to provide a rough typology of these types. Again, in some cases a pilgrim moves from sanctuary to sanctuary in an unlimited itinerary.

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The identity of the pilgrims: are they ordinary people, or official representatives of a community, or members of a specific cult? How long does the pilgrim stay at the sanctuary in the limiting case the stay could be indefinite: cf. Activity at the sanctuary: is the purpose to attend a festival, to consult an oracle, to make a dedication, to seek physical healing, to undergo an initiation, to visit a place of religious or cultural significance, or perhaps something else?

Divine and Human Feet: Records of Pilgrims Honouring Isis

Motivation: is the pilgrimage voluntary or mandatory, and, if mandatory, is it required by tradition, or by a religious code to which the pilgrim subscribed? In doing this, we will divide the typology into three sections, corresponding to forms of pilgrimage attested in classical and Hellenistic Greece, forms attested mostly in the Roman empire both West and East , and Jewish and early Christian pilgrimage. The significance of this terminology may be that delegates from one city do not share fully in a festival or ritual staged by the city that controls the sanctuary but witness it.

They would participate in rituals and sacrifices taking place at the sanctuary and, usually, arrange for a sacrifice to be performed on behalf of their own city. In general, the practice of sending delegations to the same sanctuary was a factor which expressed and fostered a degree of common identity among the cities involved, including panhellenic identity in the case of the national festivals. The official delegations to these festivals were no doubt accompanied by large numbers of private citizens who wanted to experience the festival.

In the limiting case, some sanctuaries came to be panhellenic in scope, attracting delegations from all over Greece.

These were the great festivals at Olympia, Delphi, Nemea, and the Isthmos, which were not only athletic competitions, but also religious occasions with great symbolic significance. In the case of the panhellenic athletic competitions it would be open to us to see the athletes themselves as pilgrims, especially since the athletic competition itself seems to have had a religious dimension.

In some cases, a city-state might send a delegation to a remote sanctuary, even though there was no festival scheduled there. For example, the city of Thebes regularly sent a delegation bearing a dedication of a tripod to the oracle of Dodona. Oracles also attracted pilgrims in the Roman period, for example, the oracle of Apollo at Claros, and the oracle of Alexander at Abonouteichus in Paphlagonia whose foundation Lucian parodied. The best direct evidence for both forms comes from lead tablets found at Dodona, most of them still unpublished, dating between and BCE, which record oracular enquiries.

They existed in many ancient cultures, for example probably ancient Israel. Other well-known amphictionies controlled Delos at least at certain phases of its history and the Panionion at Priene. A particularly well-documented case is the amphictiony around the sanctuary of Athene Ilias at Troy in the Hellenistic period, comprising cities in the Troad. Speaking generally, an amphictiony is a tighter organization, with a fixed number of members sharing control of the sanctuary and mandatory participation in the ritual or festival. In some cases making a dedication was the main point of a journey: the Spartan king Agesilaos went to Delphi to dedicate a tithe of the booty from his campaign;58 and Hyperides 4.

A special type of dedication takes place in the context of a power-relation holding between a more powerful city and less powerful cities. A powerful city might require subordinate cities to send it token offerings on the occasion of festivals, as, for example, Athens required its subject allies to send aparkhai in the late fifth century BCE.

Similarly, colonies were required to send symbolic offerings to their mother cities, as, for example, Athens required its colony Brea to send a phallos to the festival of Dionysus and an ox and a panoply to the Panathenaia. The comedian Aristophanes fifth century BCE already assumed that Athenians seeking healing would cross to the island of Aegina to visit the Asklepieion there. But healing-pilgrimage becomes much better attested p.

The enkatokhos permanent resident was a common feature of Egyptian shrines as well.


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However, a few sanctuaries offered their clientele a special sort of experience which represented an initiation into a secret rite, with the promise of salvation in this world or the next. The best known of these were the sanctuary of Demeter at Eleusis, probably from the sixth century BCE, and the sanctuary of the Great Gods on the island of Samothrace, attested mostly during the Hellenistic period. Candidates for initiation came from all over Greece to these sanctuaries, and they seem to have engaged in the ritual in an individual capacity, not as representatives of their city.

The content of the Mysteries remains elusive, but an enhanced existence after death is likely to have been a major focus. Ought we to class as pilgrimage comparatively short journeys—perhaps 20 or 30 miles, a journey of a day or two at most, and within the territory of a singlepolis? There is no clear answer, but certainly these were longer journeys than people would normally make in the course of their lives.

Kithairon to be in the company of the young Dionysos; old Kadmos wants to make the p. Kasion in north-east Syria was visited by Roman emperors. Kithairon to commemorate the Battle of Plataea in Boetia. From the Hellenistic period we have evidence that the Athenian ephebes visited a number of sanctuaries within the territory of Attica, including the island of Salamis, where they celebrated the festival of Ajax the Aianteia. In the Roman period, the sanctuary of Claros received hundreds of sacred delegations from towns, mostly in Asia Minor, and choruses of young men and women were central in these.

Early Christian: Dura Europus and Roman Catacombs

It is possible that in some of these cases pilgrimage by young people to a sanctuary and back could be understood to amount to a sort of initiation-ritual. Some forms are much better attested in later periods e. But in other cases, the participants in a common festival are city-states which belong to a common political federation. This pattern, though perhaps not new, tends to be attested better in the Hellenistic period.

King's College London - 7AACK Sacred Tales and Pilgrimage in the Graeco-Roman World

A good example is the Boeotian Federation, which had several federal festivals, including the Pamboiotia held at Koroneia,81 and perhaps also the Daidala festival held at Plataia where different communities presented ceremonial logs. In the Hellenistic period p. This sounds to a modern mentality like sightseeing, but it is worth observing that the preparations for the visit included materials for sacrifice.

Honorific inscriptions from Delphi and other sanctuaries thank poets and musicians for their presence there. Many of these figures were members of the Artists of Dionysus, a professional organization which comes into being in the Hellenistic period. Herodotus 2. To what extent pilgrimage is characteristic of earlier phases of Egyptian culture is uncertain, though some festivals probably drew visitors from a wide area, such as the festival of Osiris at Abydos. As early as the sixth century BCE soldiers, tourists, and pilgrims left graffiti in Greek and other languages on the walls of Egyptian monuments, such as the Memnonion at Abydos.

Both Egyptians and Greeks visited sanctuaries for the sake of healing. There was a popular healing-shrine at Deir el Bahari in Upper Egypt, a temple of Imhotep identified by the Greeks with Asklepios and Amenhotep, built into the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut.

Other parts of Deir-el-Bahari had been centres of healing pilgrimage from the period of the New Kingdom. Among the Hittites we know that in the thirteenth century it was the custom for the king, sometimes accompanied by the queen, to visit towns to take part in festivals in honour of various deities. This is a complex form of activity, combining aspects of earlier forms of p. And in the early second century CE the emperor Hadrian established a new league in Athens based round the Panhellenion, a shrine linked to the temple of Zeus Olympios, all members of which sent delegates, the Panhellenes, who performed religious rites both at the Panhellenion and at Eleusis.

My profile My library Metrics Alerts. Sign in. Get my own profile Cited by View all All Since Citations h-index 24 16 iindex 47 University of Reading. Articles Cited by. Mediterranean Historical Review 22 1 , , Studi e materiali di storia delle religioni 61, , Articles 1—20 Show more. Help Privacy Terms. Tourism and the Sacred. Encounter: The mosaics in the Monastery of St. Relic, icon, and architecture: the material articulation of the holy in east christian art. Late antiquity: a period of cultural interaction.

Introduction Elsner, Jas.

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Image and site: Castiglione Olona in the early fifteenth century. Beyond compare: pagan saint and christian God in late antiquity Elsner, Jas. La prima arte cristiana Elsner, Jas. Physiognomics: Art and Text Elsner, Jas. L'arte etrusca e romana Elsner, Jas. The symbolic world. The changing nature of Roman art and the art-historical problem of style Elsner, Jas. El primer arte cristiano Elsner, Jas. Perspectives in Ar Elsner, Jas. Robin Cormack Elsner, Jas.

Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods
Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods
Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods
Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods
Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods
Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods
Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods
Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods
Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods

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