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Alison Ewins

Member of the Department of Classics and Ancient History


Religious terminology in the Roman Near East, 63 BC – 284 AD

My thesis aims to study the role of terminology in the creation of local and regional religious identities within the Roman Near East, and will focus on the question of to what degree cultic vocabulary and formulations contribute to the apparent variety in worship between the different communities. Previous work on the religious life of the Roman Near East has investigated areas such as the distinct local pantheons, divine iconographies, ritual practices, and the architecture of religious buildings to determine the extent of variation between different settlements in terms of their religious activities. However, the variety between the cult centres of the region has not yet been explored through a methodical and comprehensive re-evaluation of the relevant religious terminology. My project will attempt to fill this gap by investigating the ways in which religious terminology could serve to construct religious identity at both a local and a regional level. As well as a comparison of the terminology used by the different communities and cult centres, the project will involve an analysis of the effects of attempting to translate religious terminology into a new language. Other potential areas of investigation include: the ways in which different languages co-existed at cult centres (was there a ‘hierarchy’ of languages, and is it possible to detect a one-to-one correspondence of religious terminology in multiple languages?); the extent to which Greek served as an intermediary language between Latin and indigenous languages, not only in economic and social life, but also in religious activities; and the role of the army in changing the linguistic and religious landscape of the Roman Near East.