Georgia Petridou is a Senior Lecturer in Ancient Greek History at the University of Liverpool.
I work on Classical literature, history of Greek and Roman religion, and ancient medicine in its socio-cultural context. My work on Greek and Roman religion has focussed on the areas of divine epiphany, mystery cults, lived religion, religious professionals, religious innovation and appropriation, material culture (esp. anatomical votives and inscriptions), and has embraced multiple strands of socio-anthropology. In the field of social history of medicine, I have a special interest in the lived experience of pain, patient history, and cultural framings of health and disease.
I am the author of Divine Epiphany in Greek Literature and Culture (OUP, 2015) and the editor of a special issue of the journal Religion in the Roman Empire (3.2, 2017): ‘Embodying Religion: Lived Ancient Religion and the Body.’ I have also co-edited Homo Patiens. Approaches on the Patient in the Ancient World (Brill, 2016 with C. Thumiger) and Beyond Priesthood. Religious Entrepreneurs and Innovators in the Imperial Era (DeGruyter, 2017 with R. L. Gordon and J. Rüpke).
Anchoring innovation in the cultic cosmos of the imperial era: Alexandros and Aristeides as religious moderators and modernisers
Research Project (Mercator Fellowship 2020)
The ‘Lived Body’ in Pain: Embodiment and Religion in their Socio-Cultural Contexts
The ‘Lived Body’ is a line of inquiry inspired by the ‘Lived Ancient Religion’ (henceforth LAR) approach, which foregrounds the lived, material, and embodied dimensions of religious practices. The LAR approach has been much enriched by its close engagement with post-humanist conceptions of objects or containing agency and offers a framework for approaching the body from the same methodological perspective. These modes of inquiry come as a response to previous approaches that tended to privilege consciousness and subjectivity and, as such, were failed to do justice to the complexities of twenty-first century biopolitics and political economy. The LAR approach critically evaluates these methodologies and raises fundamental questions about the place of ancient individual agents as embodied humans living in a material world, and about the ways in which such agents experience, produce, and reproduce their material environment. LAR’s emphasis on embodiment and the entanglement of the individual agents with the material environment was timely but not an entirely new departure; in many ways, it serves as a response to an earlier call in the social sciences of religion for a deeper and more fruitful engagement with the material body.
The argument in a nutshell is that pain, both physical and mental, is the tertium comparationis in the cultural conception of illness as initiation that runs through Aelius Aristides’ Hieroi Logoi. Aristides describes his own physical and mental constitution using mystery terminology and imagery. In the Hieroi Logoi, Aristides appears to conceptualise illness in general and his two-year period of incubation (145-147 AD) at the Pergamene Asclepieion in particular—a period which he refers to as the cathedra—as a dangerous and, at times, extremely painful initiatory process into a mystery cult of the type which has have been extremely popular in the imperial era. The perception of extreme physical pain and anguish as an initiation rite may not make immediate sense to the clinician, or indeed the patient, of the twenty-first century. However, this view of pain did resonate with the ‘lived’ bodies of members of the socio-political elite in the Antonine period. This resonance is manifested clearly in the pairing of medical and mystery terminology and imagery in some of the most emblematic narratives of the time, such as Lucian’s Alexander the Pseudo-Prophet (Petridou 2017) and Podagra (Petridou 2018). In fact, this conception was, I maintain, rather common in authors of the second century CE.
Raising awareness of this culture-specific cognitive process is, thus, a sine qua non for our understanding of the ‘lived’ body in that era. My current project will illuminate and contextualise analogous modern advances in medical anthropology (Sullivan 2008), anthropology of pain (Throop 2010), and the medical humanities (King 2018), which place additional emphasis on the portrayal of bodily suffering and pain in terms of life-altering religious experiences.
1 - Books
(2015) Divine Epiphany in Ancient Greek Literature and Culture, Oxford University Press.
The Mysian Patient: Medicine and Mysteries in Aelius Aristides’ Hieroi Logoi
Edited and co-edited Volumes
(2017) Embodying Religion: Lived Ancient Religion and the Body, guest-editor of Religion of the Roman Empire 3.2.
(2017) Beyond Priesthood: Religious Entrepreneurs and Innovators in the Roman Empire, De Gruyter, Religionsgeschichtliche Versuche und Vorarbeiten 66 (co-edited with R. L. Gordon and J. Rüpke).
(2016) Homo Patiens: Approaches to the Patient in the Ancient world, Brill, Studies in Ancient Medicine 45 (co-edited with Ch. Thumiger).
Contracted and in preparation
(2021) Religion in Context, eds. J. N. Bremmer, G. Petridou, and J. Rüpke, Der Neue Pauly Supplementband, Mezler (in German) and Brill (in English).
2 - Articles
In peer-reviewed journals
(2018) ‘Laughing Matters: Chronic Pain and Bodily Fragmentation in Lucian's Podagra', Illinois Classical Studies 43, 488-506.
(2018) ‘Religion in the Making: The Lived Ancient Religion Approach’, Religion 48, 1-26. (co-authored with J. Albrecht, Ch. Degelmann, V. Gasparini, R. L. Gordon, M. Patzelt, R. Raja, A.-K. Rieger, J. Rüpke, B. Sippel, E. R. Urciuoli, and L. Weiss).
(2018) ‘Making Contact with the Divine Other: Means and Meanings’, Archiv für Religionsgeschichte 20.1, 183-183 (co-authored with V. Platt).
(2018) ‘“One has to be so terribly religious to be an artist”: Divine inspiration and theophilia in Aelius Aristides’ Hieroi Logoi’, Archiv für Religionsgeschichte 20.1, 253-268.
(2017) ‘Introduction: Lived Ancient Religion and the Body’, Religion in the Roman Empire 3.2, 137-142.
(2017) ‘What is divine about medicine? Mysteric imagery and bodily knowledge in the Second Sophistic’, Religion in the Roman Empire 3.2, 242-264.
(2017) ‘Speaking Louder with the Eyes: Eye-shaped Ex-Votos in Context’, Religion in the Roman Empire 2.3, 372-390.
(2017) ‘Poésie pour l'esprit, rhétorique pour le corps: Remèdes littéraires et cautions épistolaires dans les Hieroi Logoi d’Aelius Aristide’, Mètis 15, 69-94.
(2015) ‘Emplotting the Divine: Epiphanic Narratives as Means of Enhancing Agency’, Religion in the Roman Empire 1.3, 321-342.
(2013) ‘“Blessed is he, who has seen”... the power of ritual viewing and ritual framing in Eleusis’, in S. Blundell, D. Cairns and N. Rabinowitz (eds.) Vision and Viewing in Ancient Greece. Helios 40.1-2, 309-341.
(2009) ‘Artemidi to ichnos: Divine Feet and Hereditary Priesthood in Pisidian Pogla’, Anatolian Studies 59, 81-93.
In peer-reviewed edited volumes
(2020) ‘Divine Epiphany in Homer’, in B. Lamberton and C. Due, S. Lupack and C. Parche (eds.), The Cambridge Guide to Homer, Cambridge University Press, 325-329.
(2020) ‘The ‘Lived’ Body in Pain. Illness and Initiation in Lucian’s Podagra and Aelius Aristides’ Hieroi Logoi’, in V. Gasparini, M. Patzelt, R. Raja, A-K. Rieger, J. Rüpke, and E. Urciuoli (eds.), Lived Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World, DeGruyter, 237-259.
(2020) ‘From Tomb to Womb: Adoption and Mimetic Re-birth in a Golden Leaf from Thurii (A1 Zuntz)’, Pregnancies, Childbirths, and Religions. A Cross-Cultural and Interdisciplinary Perspective from Antiquity to the Present, Eds. Helga Di Giuseppe e Giulia Pedrucci, Scienze e Lettere, series: Sacra publica et private, 165-184.
(2019) ‘Literary Therapies and Rhetorical Prescriptions in Aelius Aristides: Medical Paradoxography or Common Practice?’, in: G. Kazantzidis (ed.), Medicine and Paradoxography in the Ancient World, De Gruyter, series Trends in Classics 10, 183-197.
(2019) ‘The curious case of Aelius Aristides. The author as sufferer and illness as “individualizing motif”, in Eve-Marie Becker and Jörg Rüpke (eds), Autoren in religiösen literarischen Texten der späthellenistischen und der frühkaiserzeitlichen Welt. Zwölf Fallstudien, Mohr Siebeck, 199-219.
(2018) ‘Resounding Mysteries: Sound and Silence in the Eleusinian Soundscape’, in Graham Harvey and Jessica Hughes (eds.), Sensual Religion: Religion and the Five Senses, Equinox, 153-174.
(2017) ‘Introduction’ (co-authored with Richard Gordon and Jörg Rüpke) in Beyond Priesthood: Religious Entrepreneurs and Innovators in the Roman Empire, eds. R. L. Gordon, G. Petridou and J. Rüpke, De Gruyter, 5-12.
(2017) ‘Contesting Religious and Medical Expertise in the Hieroi Logoi: The therapeutai of Pergamum as religious and medical entrepreneurs’, in Beyond Priesthood: Religious Entrepreneurs and Innovators in the Roman Empire, eds. R. L. Gordon, G. Petridou and J. Rüpke, De Gruyter, 183-208.
(2017) ‘Demeter as an ophthalmologist? Eye-shaped votives and the cults of Demeter and Kore’, in J. Draycott and E.-J. Graham (eds.), Bodies of Evidence: Ancient Anatomical Votives Past, Present and Future, Routledge, 95-111.
(2016) ‘Healing Shrines’ (Asclepius and others; including healing miracles at Christian shrines) in G. Irby (ed.), Companion to Greek Science, Medicine, and Technology, Wiley – Blackwell, 434-449.
(2016) ‘Crossing Physical and Cultural Borders in the Battlefield: Amorphous Epiphanies and Divine Bilingualism’, in Borders: Terms, Ideologies and Performances, ed. A. Weissenrieder, Mohr Siebeck, 155-172.
(2016) ‘Becoming a Doctor, Becoming a God: Religion and Medicine in Aelius Aristides’ Hieroi Logoi’, in A. Weissenrieder and G. Etzelmüller (eds.), Religion and Illness, Cascade Books, 306-335.
(2016) ‘Introduction: Towards a History of the Ancient Patient’s View’ (co-authored with Ch. Thumiger), in G. Petridou and Ch. Thumiger (eds.), Homo Patiens: Approaches to Patient in the Ancient World, 1-20.
(2016) ‘Aelius Aristides as informed patient’, in G. Petridou and Ch. Thumiger (eds.), Homo Patiens: Approaches to Patient in the Ancient World, 451-470.
(2014) ‘Asclepius the Physician, Asclepius theos sotēr: Epiphanies as diagnostic and therapeutic tools’, in D. Michaelides (ed.) Medicine and Healing in the Ancient Mediterranean, Oxbow, 297-308.
(2004) ‘Adopted by Persephone: Adoption and Initiation Ritual in Zuntz A1-3 and Pelinna 1-2’ , in D. Naoum, G. Muskett, and M. Georgiades (eds.) Cult and Death, Proceedings of the Third Annual Meeting of Postgraduate Researchers, Liverpool Interdisciplinary Symposium in Antiquity 2002, BAR 1282, 69-75.
(2020) ‘People and Competencies’ (co-authored with J. Rüpke), for Religion im Römischen Reich/Lived religion in the Roman Empire, ed. J. Rüpke, Kohlhammer Verlag, Religionen der Menschkeit Bd 17.
(2020) ‘Texts’ (co-authored with J. Rüpke), for Religion im Römischen Reich/Lived religion in the Roman Empire, ed. J. Rüpke, Kohlhammer Verlag, Religionen der Menschkeit Bd 17.
(2020) ‘Resonant Mysteries: Illness as Initiation in Aelius Aristides' Hieroi Logoi’, in N. Belayche, Ph. Massa, and Ph. Hoffmann (eds.), Les « mystères » au IIe siècle de notre ère: un ‘mysteric turn’?, Bibliothèque de l’École des Hautes Études, Sciences religieuses, Brepols.
(2020) ‘Religion and Democracy’, in C. Atack and P. Cartledge (eds.) A Cultural History of Democracy in Antiquity, Cambridge University Press, vol. 1 of the multi-volume series A Cultural History of Democracy, general editor: E. Biagini.
(2020) ‘‘There is a pain - so utter – ̓ Narrating Chronic Pain and Disability in antiquity and modernity’, in E. Adams (ed), The Forgotten Other: Disability Studies and The Classical Body, Routledge.
Contracted and in revision
(2021) ‘Epiphany and Divination Reconsidered: the curious case of Aelius Aristides’, in Elsa G. Simonetti (ed.), Ancient Revelation: Divination, Prophecy, Epiphany, Cambridge University Press.
(2021) ‘Podagros’ “Lived” Body. Pain and Initiation in Lucian’s Podagra’, in H. Baltussen, J. Clarke, and D. King (eds.), Narrating Pain in the Greco-Roman World: Hippocrates to Augustine, Brill.
1 - Grants and Research projects (PI)
2019-2020 'De/Constructing the Body: Ancient and Modern Dynamics
Wellcome Trust, Small Grant in Humanities and Social Sciences (£23.754), University of Liverpool; Co-I: Prof. Esther Eidinow, University of Bristol.
2020The ‘Lived Body’ in Pain: Embodiment and Religion in their Socio-Cultural Contexts,
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), Mercator Fellowship (€30.000), Max-Weber
Kolleg, University of Erfurt.
2018Resonating Mysteries-Resonating Medicine: Medicine and Mysteries in Aelius Aristides’Hieroi Logoi, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), Mercator Fellowship (€30.000), Max-Weber Kolleg, University of Erfurt.
2 - Grants and Research projects (Co-I)
2017-2022 International Research Training Group. Resonant World Relations in Ancient and Modern Socio-Religious Practices (Stumme und resonante Weltbeziehungen in sozio-religiösen Praktiken der Antike und Gegenwart); Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and FWF der Wissenschaftsfonds (€2.500.000), Grant Agreement No. GRK 2283/1; Dates: DFG: 01.03.2017 – 01.09.2022; FWF: 01.03.2017 – 01.03.2021
PIs Jörg Rüpke and Hartmut Rosa (Max-Weber Kolleg, University of Erfurt, Germany) and Wolfgang Spieckerman and Irmtraud Fischer (Karl-Franzens University, Graz, Austria)
2018-2020 Access Paths to the Divine: Appealing to the Gods, Offering the Bodies, Giving the Life (Vías de acceso a lo divino: apelar a los dioses, ofrecer los cuerpos, entregar la vida); Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness Program of Research (MINECO) (€33.880), PROJECT HAR2017-84789-C2-1-P.
PIs: Anton Alvar and Clelia Martínez-Maza (University of Malaga and Carlos III University at Madrid)
3 - Other Awards and Prizes
2018 Nominated for the Philip Leverhulme Prize (£100.000), Leverhulme Trust, ACE, University of Liverpool, UK.
2015 Nominated for the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize (€20.000), Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), Germany.
Max-Weber-Kolleg für kultur- und sozialwissenschaftliche Studien Universität Erfurt Postfach 90 02 21 99105 Erfurt