Université d'Erfurt

Csaba Szabó

Oktober 2014 bis März 2017 ehemaliger Gastkollegiat am Max-Weber-Kolleg


Sanctuaries in Roman Dacia. Materiality and religious experience

My current research project is part of the „Sanctuary Project” coordinated by Prof. Dr. Jörg Rüpke and Prof. Dr. Gregory Woolf with a joint agreement of the University of Pécs, Hungary. This work was begun in 2012 as a Ph.D. research project at the University of Pécs, Hungary with the supervision of dr.habil. Ádám Szabó, focusing on the religious life of Apulum (Alba Iulia, RO).  In the recent project, beside the sacred spaces, sanctuaries and their materiality in Apulum, I deal also with some further Roman sanctuaries of Dacia from the 2-3rd centuries A.D.
Sanctuaries and generally, the archaeology of the sacred became a very popular discipline of the Roman religious studies. The reinterpretation of Roman sanctuaries, as sacred spaces and their materiality usually happened from a single point of view or from cognitive archaeology or from religious studies. My thesis will use an interdisciplinary methodology, following the methodological framework of the ERC LAR Project and the Sanctuary Project – in line with the possibilities of a peripheral province and the available archaeological sources.
The first part of the project is focusing on the sacred spaces of Apulum as the most relevant analogy from the province for urban religion, collecting all the votive materials (more than 600 artifacts) of the conurbation, focusing mainly on the materiality of the existing and presumed sanctuaries and sacred spaces. This study will be the first synthesis on the religious life of a Roman city from Dacia which presents a holistic view, focusing not only on the sacral architecture of the city or on the social relationships between the worshippers, but introducing new approaches. Apulum as a case study has many specific aspects. The very short period of its existence (106 – 271) as a Roman city gives us the possibility to analyze the contrast with other Roman cities from the Empire in term of the longue durée and short term evolutions of religious phenomena in the sacred landscape of the city. The important economic role of this city within the province (which later even was called Chrysopolis, “city of gold”) and the dual – civilian and military – nature of the society were a magnet for all kind of small ethnic, religious and economic groups, creating thus a perfect environment to analyze the network system of these groups and multilayered “role identities”. The apparent absence of the Dacians and the lack of evidence for Christianity represent also a particularity of this city. The short period of the Roman presence and the monopolized nature of the economy (salt and gold trade, internal roads and custom system), however, rendered Apulum’s high elite in fact the elite of the province. Workshops (votive reliefs, local pottery and terra sigillata copies, glass) and the legio XIII Gemina became the ways of communication with other cities of Dacia – which connected also the religious communities with other cities in and even outside of the province. The second part of my research is focusing on a selection of Roman sanctuaries from urban (Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa), rural (Mehadia), military (Porolissum) and natural contexts and spaces (Germisara). All of the selected analogies and the materiality of the sanctuaries will represent a prove for the relativity and flexible nature of Roman sanctuaries as sacred spaces in provincial and periphery context. The current reinterpretation of religious communication through epigraphy, altars and votive small finds will shape also our knowledge on the role and nature of sanctuaries as architectural and religious spaces in different contexts. A comparative study of them –within and outside the province of Dacia – will give as a holistic view on the religious experience of the Romans.

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