Université d'Erfurt


Dr. Valentino Gasparini

Post-Doktorand am Max-Weber-Kolleg
von April bis Juli 2017


Introducing new, re-interpreting old gods. Religious pluralism and agency in Africa Proconsularis and Numidia (146 B.C. - 235 A.D.)

The project analyses the way how new deities were introduced in Africa Proconsularis and Numidia from the end of the Third Punic War to the end of the Severan dynasty (146 B.C.–235 A.D.) and how the old local deities were re-interpreted: indeed, the African, Phoenician and Punic gods were integrated and reshaped in a Roman version and, at the same time, they enriched the profile of the traditional Roman Gods, by producing new iconographical attributes, new theonyms and new epiclesis.
The study of these „cults in motion“ requires the analysis of the possible relation between the features of the different social components involved and the degree of Romanization of the contexts they belonged, claiming to understand how these cults were experienced by the social fabric. Through an interdisciplinary approach involving ancient literature, numismatics, epigraphy and archaeological evidence, the target consists in showing how the gradual enrichment of cultic options reflected and conditioned the multiplication of individual and collective identities and the shifting social networks influenced the religious preferences and interests of the individual actors.
The three main working hypotheses are: the phenomenon of religious appropriation in North Africa is more varied and individual than has been theorized; at the same time, the personal cultic options were substantially conditioned by social status and collective identities; finally, in a general perspective, important changes in the religious interests were influenced, even if not determined, by the cultural and political context.
The strategy adopted in this study is based on a sociological and „culturalist“ approach, the starting point of which lays in Foucault and de Certeau’s reflections about resistance, domination and self-determination (of particular relevance dealing with North African cultic dynamics), about the processes of translation between everyday religious praxis and social-historical transformation, and about the role of pluralism for the identity formation. Concretely,the Beard-North-Price’s religious „market-place“ theory has been combined with Bourdieu’s notion of „distinction sociale“: though by accepting the first model of variety, individual creativity and religious multiplicity, this project (and in this lays its main distinctiveness from previous studies) claims to show how the social status shaped the religious preferences: who changed the gods? In which places and times did changes take place first of all? Who benefited from changing gods? Who lost out? The networks where individual actors were embedded influenced and guided, but did not determine their cultural standards and their cultic everyday life personal tastes and interests.

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