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Cult Places and Cultural Change in Republican Italy

Cult Places and Cultural Change in Republican Italy: A Contextual Approach to Religious Aspects of Rural Society after the Roman Conquest

Tesse D. Stek
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 276
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    Cult Places and Cultural Change in Republican Italy
    Book Description:

    This scholarly study throws a new light on the Roman impact on religious structures in Republican Italy. In the last four centuries BC, Italy went through immense changes. The Apennine and Adriatic areas were originally inhabited by various 'Italic' tribes and characterised by a specific non-urban societal organisation, in which cult places had a pivotal function. From the fourth century BC onwards the area was gradually incorporated by Rome, profoundly altering its geopolitical make-up. The author not only investigates the changing social and political function of cult places in non-Roman Italic society, he also highlights the importance of cult places and religious rituals for new Roman communities in the conquered areas. This research thus opens new perspectives on the issue of the 'religious romanisation' of Italy by arguing for a strong Roman impact also in non-urbanised areas. Tesse Stek bases his study on the analysis of archaeological, literary and epigraphic evidence from rural cult places in Central and Southern Italy, including field work on the Samnite temple of S. Giovanni in Galdo.Amsterdam Archaeological Studies is a series devoted to the study of past human societies from the prehistory up into modern times, primarily based on the study of archaeological remains. The series will include excavation reports of modern fieldwork; studies of categories of material culture; and synthesising studies with broader images of past societies, thereby contributing to the theoretical and methodological debates in archaeology.This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1143-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VIII)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. IX-XI)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. XII-XII)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Central-southern Italy faced immense changes in the last four centuries BC. The areas inhabited by the various ‘Italic tribes’ which are known to us from the ancient sources (fig. 1), were initially characterised by a specific non-urban societal organisation, in which sanctuaries had a pivotal function. From the fourth century onwards, the area was gradually conquered and subsequently controlled by Rome. This profoundly uprooted the geopolitical make-up of Italy. Not only had local communities to accommodate Roman rule, but also new Roman communities were installed in previously Italic territory through colonisation. In this period of change and conflict, religion and...

  6. 1 Rome and Italy: Ideas on Cultural Change
    (pp. 9-16)

    It is under the heading of ‘romanisation’ that the cultural, socio-political and economic changes in Italy from, say the fourth century BC, are often discussed. This concept of romanisation, which was first developed in the 19thand early 20thcenturies, has in turn shaped modern ways of thinking about ancient Italy and has also structured the interpretation of the historical and archaeological data. Clearly, this situation runs the risk of falling prey to circular reasoning. Romanisation has been discussed more than extensively in the last decades,¹ and only aspects that are directly relevant to the next chapters are briefly presented...

  7. 2 ‘Religious Romanisation’ and the Fate of Italic Rural Sanctuaries
    (pp. 17-34)

    Opinions on the religious aspects of the romanisation of Italy have not developed analogously to ideas on the ‘general’ romanisation of Italy. Admittedly, there are some parallels, but the subject has not by far been discussed as explicitly and vehemently as ‘general’ romanisation, and sometimes the discussion has even developed into the opposite direction. This is at least in part due to the fact that the ‘romanisation’ discussion often implicitly encompasses material culture, which is the realm of archaeologists, whereas Italic and Roman religion have traditionally been the field ofReligionswissenschaftler, ancient historians and especially linguists, who have been less...

  8. 3 Samnium: The Sacred Construction of Community and Architectural Forms
    (pp. 35-52)

    In the preceding chapters I questioned the developments in central-southern Italy after the Roman conquest from the perspective of cultural change and noted difficulties with the interpretation of material culture as an indicator of romanisation (Chapter 1). The central importance of religion and cult places for the expression of communal identities has become clear, for example in Capua with Diana’s deer, or with the late Republican RomanCapitoliain urban centres (Chapter 2). Many of these themes of cultural change, material culture, and the role of religious places can be tested, or illustrated in the case of Pentrian Samnium. The...

  9. 4 Location and Function of Italic Sanctuaries in Society: Three Models
    (pp. 53-78)

    As has become clear, knowledge of the social and political context within which sanctuaries were constructed and functioned is crucial for understanding their role in society. In this chapter I will pursue this contextualisation further by examining the local or regional functions of sanctuaries in relation to settlement organisations in Italic society. This provides important information on the groups of people that probably installed and visited the cult places which is essential for a better understanding of their socio-political role as well as the intended impact of architectural and other aspects of the cult places themselves. In addition, it provides...

  10. 5 Landscapes of the Sacred: Contextualising the Samnite Sanctuaryof S. Giovanni in Galdo, Colle Rimontato (CB)
    (pp. 79-106)

    A simple, yet fundamental aspect in interpreting the sanctuaries of central-southern Italy regards their direct spatial context. Knowing more about the local functioning of sanctuaries can help us better understand other processes, such as their monumentalisation (cf. Chapter 3) and their possible function within larger political and/or economical structures (cf. Chapter 4), as well as possible relations between them. Generically, we define the Italic sanctuaries found dotted over the landscapes of central-southern Italy as ‘rural’. But what does that mean? Were sanctuaries located in isolation from domestic and other sites? Do we have to envisage long processions from the places...

  11. 6 Roman Sacred landscapes? The Pagus-Vicus System Revised
    (pp. 107-122)

    This cautious question posed in 1997 by Letta, himself one of the most influential advocates of thepagus-vicussystem, indicates a growing discomfort with the system. It can now be answered in the negative. As I show in this chapter, there are strong reasons to abandon the traditional scheme. The consequences of the ‘deconstruction’ of thepagus-vicussystem are manifold. First, its ubiquitous application to sanctuaries in virtually all areas of Italy lacking strong urban development should be abandoned. The model has been used more often than not in contexts lacking actual epigraphic evidence for avicusorpagus(let...

  12. 7 Cult and Colonisation: Pagi, Vici and Sanctuaries
    (pp. 123-170)

    How does the “deconstruction” of thepagus-vicussystem affect our understanding of rural sanctuaries in ancient Italy? In Chapter 4 I showed how the role of sanctuaries was derived from preconceptions on the settlement organisation of the Italic peoples. Following the basic notion of an ethnic or national group (nomen,populus, ortouto) subdivided intopagithat in turn were made up of severalvici, it was assumed that sanctuaries served these different organisational levels accordingly. Usually, a remarkable continuity of the system is presupposed. It is assumed (whether implicitly or explicitly) that this organisation originated in prehistoric times and...

  13. 8 Roman Ritual in the Italian Countryside? The Paganalia and the Lustratio Pagi
    (pp. 171-186)

    Notwithstanding the difficulties with thepagus-vicussystem outlined above, it is clear that bothpagusandvicuswere at some point important for the organisation of the territory. To summarise, the main problems with thepagus-vicussystem are 1) the presumed pre-Roman date and ‘Italic’ nature of both institutions in Italy outside Rome, which are difficult to support; and 2) the presumed hierarchical relationship betweenpagusandvicus, viz. the idea that apaguscontained one or morevici. Be that as it may, epigraphic and literary sources indicate clearly that bothvicusandpagusperformed specific functions at least...

  14. 9 Roman Ritual in the Italian Countryside? The Compitalia and the Shrines of the Lares Compitales
    (pp. 187-212)

    What thePaganaliawere to thepagi, theCompitaliawere to theviciof Rome. The festival is the clearest religious aspect connected to the institution of thevicusand therefore will be discussed in some detail. The religious festival of theCompitaliaor ‘crossroads festival’¹ was celebrated in both city and countryside. Even if clearly a Roman festival and best known from urban contexts, it is usually assumed that it originated as a rural cult which was later incorporated in the city, where it became the principal festival of thevicior urban quarters. Arguably, this idea of a...

  15. 10 Conclusions
    (pp. 213-222)

    Cult places played a central role in the widespread political, social and cultural changes in central-southern Italy in the last four centuries BC. It has been seen that Italic sanctuaries were evoked by Roman historians as loci for resistance or ideological battle during the various wars resulting in the conquest of Italy. The Samnites swore secret oaths against Roman power and Rome summoned the tutelary deities of enemy cities. Once Italy was conquered, Roman attention shifted to other areas and we hear little or nothing about what happened subsequently to Italic sanctuaries and religion. The literary information we do have,...

  16. Abbreviations
    (pp. 223-226)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 227-256)
  18. Index
    (pp. 257-264)