1st Edition

Reassembling Religion in Roman Italy

By Emma-Jayne Graham Copyright 2021
    268 Pages
    by Routledge

    268 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book examines the ways in which lived religion in Roman Italy involved personal and communal experiences of the religious agency generated when ritualised activities caused human and more-than-human things to become bundled together into relational assemblages. Drawing upon broadly posthumanist and new materialist theories concerning the thingliness of things, it sets out to re-evaluate the role of the material world within Roman religion and to offer new perspectives on the formation of multi-scalar forms of ancient religious knowledge. It explores what happens when a materially informed approach is systematically applied to the investigation of typical questions about Roman religion such as: What did Romans understand ‘religion’ to mean? What did religious experiences allow people to understand about the material world and their own place within it? How were experiences of ritual connected with shared beliefs or concepts about the relationship between the mortal and divine worlds? How was divinity constructed and perceived? To answer these questions, it gathers and evaluates archaeological evidence associated with a series of case studies. Each of these focuses on a key component of the ritualised assemblages shown to have produced Roman religious agency – place, objects, bodies, and divinity – and centres on an examination of experiences of lived religion as it related to the contexts of monumentalised sanctuaries, cult instruments used in public sacrifice, anatomical votive offerings, cult images and the qualities of divinity, and magic as a situationally specific form of religious knowledge. By breaking down and then reconstructing the ritualised assemblages that generated and sustained Roman religion, this book makes the case for adopting a material approach to the study of ancient lived religion.

    List of figures

    List of tables



    1. Introduction

    2. Reassembling religion

    3. Place

    4. Objects

    5. Bodies

    6. Divinity

    7. Magic

    8. Conclusion




    Emma-Jayne Graham is Senior Lecturer in Classical Studies at The Open University, UK. Her research focuses on aspects of material religion, the archaeology of Roman Italy, mortuary practices, and ancient disability. She is co-founder of TheVotivesProject.org.

    "This is a valuable book for introducing neo-materialist concepts that have been applied to other historical periods. Graham convincingly demonstrates that posthumanist principles help to make the case for how the more-than-human things formed an equally important part of religious experience as the human presence... [I]t is an important, easy read for both the student, who can be introduced clearly to some of the complex concepts involved in the new materialism, and the expert reader, who will find the content excellently structured, also with abundant basic and specialised bibliography." - Bryn Mawr Classical Review

    "True to its title, Reassembling Religion in Roman Italy brings together a novel assemblage of a variety of data types in close coordination with a range of materialist theoretical perspectives focused on assemblage theory, affordances and ‘thingliness’, to show just how we can advance the material-centred approach of lived religion that is so prevalent in current scholarship on Roman religion. While grounded in the evidence of ritual from central Italy in the mid to late Republican and early Imperial periods, the volume will surely serve as a model for future studies of religion that look beyond this geographical and chronological frame." - The Classical Review