CFP: Meet the New Gods, Same as the Old Gods?

Call for papers: Ruler Cult Panel at the 8th Celtic Conference in Classics, Edinburgh, 25-28 June 2014

Meet the New Gods, Same as the Old Gods? Formulary, Ritual and Status in Hellenistic Ruler Cult

Organisers: Stefano G. Caneva, J.M. (Mat) Carbon (University of Liège)

Contact: s.caneva@ulg.ac.be, jmcarbon@ulg.ac.be

Deadline for contributions: October 31st.

Despite recent and widespread interest in Greek hero and ruler cult, evaluating the processes that lead to the bestowal of cultic honours on Hellenistic sovereigns still remains a controversial matter. Political readings of cultic honours within the framework of contemporary international diplomacy and euergetic discourse have picked up on polarities widely discussed by previous bibliography, such as ‘dynastic vs. civic’, ‘living vs. posthumous’, etc. Yet the main focus is still limited to a ‘top-down‘ perspective, which leaves aside the fascinating dialectics between ‘private’ and ‘public’, or to perhaps phrase this more accurately, between ‘institutional’ and ‘non-institutional’ actors. As useful as it is, attention centered on the occasional political purposes for founding new cults risks disregarding processes of longue durée that involve the renegotiation of perceived boundaries between the divine and the human spheres in religious practice. In this regard, continuity and ruptures between pre-Hellenistic and Hellenistic times still stand out and constitute a primary field for research. Finally, scholarly attempts at the systematisation of the religious status conferred upon honorands have tended to generalise the field of application of some formulae well beyond the contexts in which they appear (e.g. isotheoi timai, in fact an extremely rare phrase).

There is therefore a risk of simplifying the variety of multifaceted evidence. Only by zooming in on the inner elements and functions of cult practice as well as on the vocabulary employed by cities and worshippers can we begin to envisage the status of rulers as gods and heroes. Considering the diversity inherent in Greek communities and in Greek polytheism itself, the relevant ritual terminology and praxis were inevitably quite varied, a fact which has been underplayed and which should urge caution against overly generalising theories. Indeed, rulers and cities experimented together, developing different honorific registers and forms of cult which were new yet still traditional.

Accordingly, the panel proposes to explore a series of practical starting-points, for the period running roughly from the fourth to the first century BC. Papers are invited to examine the following topics, from a philological and/or an archaeological standpoint, *by using concrete case-studies*:

  • the specific titulature of rulers, as kings, saviours, heroes, gods, etc.
  • tangible precedents for ruler cult, and also historical developments;
  • comparison with other processes of heroisation or divinisation for prominent individuals;
  • the distinction between living and funerary cult, in relation to the wider herostheos dialectic in the Greek world;
  • formulaic invocations for rulers in ‘institutional’ and ‘non-institutional’ dedications;
  • the vocabulary of honours (timai) for rulers and its relationship to cult;
  • the integration (or not) of ruler cult within an existing sanctuary or civic pantheon, and the political and social networks networks involved;
  • rituals such as festivals and sacrifice that were performed in honour of rulers and their normative characteristics (or not). 

These heuristic categories will help to establish a more careful and comprehensive assessment of the heroic and divine status of Hellenistic rulers, and in turn lead to a fruitful reevaluation of the place of ruler cult in Greek religion as a whole.

Papers offering comparisons between different case studies and geographical areas are particularly welcome. Contributors will have 30-35 minutes plus discussion (a total of 50 minutes) to present their findings and perspectives. The languages of the Celtic Conference in Classics are English and French.

Please send to both addresses above an abstract of no more than 2 pages along with a cv by October 31st. Submissions will be evaluated by November 15th. Please also note that the Celtic Conference is self-funding and all speakers must arrange and bear the cost of their own travel and accommodation.


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