EXC 2060 B3-41 - Ephesus and its Cult Spaces: Projections of Political and Religious Practice

in Process
Funding Source
DFG - Cluster of Excellence
Project Number
EXC 2060/1
  • Description

    Ephesus provides unique evidence for the comprehensive study of cult activities in an ancient city, both in terms of time and space. Against the background of the methodological concepts of "cult space" and "locality", the project seeks to record, define and analyse the pagan and Christian cult spaces in the Ephesian urban area. In this way, the cult spaces are to be harnessed from a political and religious perspective for a better understanding of the history of the city of Ephesus while making visible their embedding in a broader regional and universal political-cultural network of relations in the Mediterranean region.
    The specific aim is to work out patterns and interdependencies that arise when looking at Ephesian cult spaces and to address the question of a longue durée, which is also reflected in the spatial presence of Christian places of worship following the pagan tradition. Is it perhaps even possible to locate something like Ephesian cult landscapes in the individual time horizons, in which the cults and sanctuaries are performatively linked with each other? Do cult networks exist and if so, how do they function? No basis has yet been established for answering such questions, which aim at a better understanding of the cult dynamics within an ancient city. It is therefore time to make use of the potential inherent in Ephesus as a research object due to its wealth of sources and the importance of the city that goes far beyond the local context, and to examine the attested pagan and Christian cult practices in a comparative diachronic analysis for the first time. A study of this kind will introduce the ancient historical examination of Ephesus to debates that are currently of particular interest in the field of Classical Studies and relate to spatial concepts and questions of the interweaving of the ancient world.
  • Persons

  • Dissertation

    Jonas Derichs, M.A. | M. ED.


    Doctoral Thesis

    Cult Places in Hellenistic and Roman Ephesos (3rd cent. BCE – 4th cent. CE): A Case Study on Urban Growth and Religious Change

    Prof. Dr. Patrick-Antoine Sänger
    Doctoral Subject
    Alte Geschichte
    Targeted Doctoral Degree
    Dr. phil.
    Awarded by
    Department 08 – History/Philosophy
    In the beginning of the 3rd century BCE, when Lysimachos gave up the old dwelling area of Ephesos towards a new city centre between Panayır Dağı and Bülbül Dağı, this, necessarily, had an effect on age old religious traditions: the new city of Ephesos required new gods/goddesses, sanctuaries, and meaningful narratives about the changed local topography and its (remote) past. During the Hellenistic and Roman periods, Ephesos, which is located at the western coast of Asia Minor, grew to be an antique ‘megacity’ and the administrative centre of the rich province of Asia. Undeniably, these processes led to adjustments of religious infrastructure and cultic practices. This reciprocal relationship between ‘urbanization’ and ‘religion’, which is taken from the model of ‘urbanizing / urbanized religion’ (Rüpke 2020), is the key interest of my Ph.D.-project. For such questions, Hellenistic and Roman Ephesos represents a unique field of research, because, firstly, it is one of the few ancient ‘megacities’ that did not become modern living areas and, secondly, over the course of more than hundred years of archaeological research by the Austrian Archaeological Institute it is particularly well documented.
    Under the premise that places are not only products of individual and societal actions, but also producers of such actions themselves, it seems plausible to focus on Ephesos’ archaeologically, epigraphically, numismatically, and literarily documented topographically and socially defined cult places (definitions in Wiemer 2017) as indicators of urbanistic and religious dynamics. To what extent were they separated from their immediate environment or other cult places through architecture or the use of media? Or is it possible to discern entanglements, which indicate the creation of, at times, supra-local cultic landscapes? With what degree of intensity were they sacralized and, therefore, potentially withdrawn from ‘profane’ actions? Last but not least, how were they used by ‘private’ individuals, magistrates, groups, and the polis for cultic or eventually other purposes? By identifying and interpreting as comprehensively as possible these cult spaces, the project aims at understanding more thoroughly, to what extent religion, on the one hand, was shaped by changeable urban manifestations, networks, and life styles, and, on the other hand, was itself a decisive factor in the development of the urban area as well as the penetration of the rural hinterland. Finally, the case study will hopefully lead to an increased knowledge of Greek religion in the post-classical polis.