(C2) Partisan Gods – Competing Gods: The Role of Cults and Shrines in Ancient International Treaties

In thought and action, the world of ancient city-states was unalterably oriented towards maxims of honour, revenge, and retaliation. International relations were thus in a permanent state of precariousness. The guarantee of a regulated international coexistence required the enforcement of behavioural norms that worked towards the restriction and control of violence. The mutual acceptance of such norms alone was, as a rule, not sufficient; it was necessary to anchor them in a collective context of meaning, one that religion and cult could offer especially well, since even within the conditions of polytheistic societies, religion and cult were indispensable for a recourse that could justify and secure these norms.

The planned investigation aims at determining the importance of religion and cult in securing the acceptance of international agreements. The initial focus will be on the world of ancient Greek city-states in the eastern Mediterranean from the Archaic to the Roman imperial period. The contractual practice is very illuminating here because – above all when the sphere of the polis religion was exceeded – religious recourse was tied up in very complex conditions. The Greeks were well aware of their essentially common religion and knew a pan-Greek pantheon, which was, however, filled with Gods who were in conflict with one another. The circumstances became even more complex when, in cases of international agreements, a common frame of reference in religiosis did not only have to be found within the Greek realm, but also had to be settled in relation to foreign religions. The point of departure shall be international treaties which survived in inscriptions or literary texts and whose publication in Antiquity was frequently so regulated that these were displayed not only at specific cultic sites belonging to the respective treaty partners, but also at the great shrines of “third-party places.” The practice and meaning of these rules will be analyzed just as the treaties’ basic forms of oath and malediction with their respective appeals to the gods (even in treaties with non-Greek states). Here the problem of exclusion and inclusion in polytheistic religions also plays an important role as does the question of mutual tolerance and acceptance. In addition it will be necessary to describe the instruments used in these treaties in dealing with violence with recourse to cult and religion (e. g. Asylie, Ekecheiria).