This paper focuses on three religious processions, in each of which (images of) deities participate in the cortege: the pompa circensis at Rome and processions of the cults of both Mater Magna and Isis. It is not a new study (after many) of these processions as religious facts. The aim of this contribution is to propose to investigate the role music plays in the Latin and Greek narratives that inform us, since we have hardly any other evidence, besides a few images like that of the exergue. My argument is that the musical ambiance depicted in these narratives, each of which stages a different divine figure that has been granted an officially recognised Roman public status, is first and foremost a device for drawing out a particular religious identity through the use of musical signs; thus it has only a tangential concern with the religious specificities of these cults. Music stands as a benchmark, the more so in such subtly rhetorical constructions.
After the Roman conquest of Greece the agones that constituted the archaia periodos underwent a deep transformation, shifting from being rituals solely associated with the Hellenic culture and religion and being characterized as Panhellenic, to a pan-imperial dimension due to the integration of the imperial cult. This work aims to analyze the agones with a major either pan-imperial or Panhellenic characterization in relation to their celebration being carried out either during daytime or during night-time, thus tracing a broad differentiation between 1) the diurnal rituals, the majority of which were integrated into the imperial cult, with a direct link to the sanctuary deity; 2) the nocturnal rituals, which were linked to the Hellenic religious tradition and which typically commemorated the heroes who were regarded as the founders of the games. This work will also focus, as a specific case-study, on the rituals which were celebrated in the sanctuary of Isthmia in Corinth, which included both diurnal and nocturnal rituals. The main lines of research will be: 1) the dual makeup (Greek and Roman) of the population of the Caesarian colony of Corinth, and how this influenced the rituals held in the sanctuary of Isthmia; 2) the role of the city-elites in the introduction of the imperial cult; 3) the efforts of Corinth's Greek population to preserve their Hellenic religious roots; 4) the diurnal agonistic games dedicated to Poseidon and the nocturnal mystery rituals of Melicertes-Palaimon associated to them.
It is known that some defixiones were aimed at blocking or freezing a person’s tongue in order to prevent him from speaking against the practitioner. The opposite phenomenon is less well known, that is rituals which were supposed to give to a human tongue the power of persuading, uttering prophecies, telling the truth, or making other prodigies. In several cases, the tongue itself was magically enabled to utter certain wondrous words, in other cases the whole head or the entire body was supposed to be empowered to perform exceptional deeds, while in yet other cases the magical objects gave power to the soul of a deceased person or even to a sacrificed animal. The mouth and the tongue were objects of different kinds of magic and one cannot simply suppose that they were always manipulated in the same way and for the same purpose. On the contrary, magical enactments concerning these parts of the body were many and various, depending for their goals and means on the different purposes of the practitioners.
One underappreciated way in which De rerum natura “romanizes” Epicurean thought is through its interest in ghosts. At the level of content and at the level of form, ghosts exercise a structuring influence on Lucretius’ argument for atomism. In this paper, I offer an account of why ghosts loom so large in the DRN which centers on problems of perceptual experience and tries to show that even this most “irreligious” of Roman epics shares a substrate of perceptual vocabulary with Roman religion. Writing for a Roman audience, Lucretius needed to address perceptual “facts” that emerged out of religious activity but did not, for all that, seem any real to those who perceived them.
Lucretius confronts ghosts as an obstacle. The rhetorical project that lies behind the DRN is to free its readers from the fear of death. To do this, Lucretius starts by positing sense perception as the criterion by which we should discern true claims from false ones. By this criterion, most representations of the afterlife can be dismissed as fictions that do not correspond to real objects. Ghosts, however, present an almost insurmountable difficulty for this reasoning.
The ghosts of the DRN are first and foremost a perceptual phenomenon, and this is why Lucretius needs to take them so seriously: as perceived evidence for the afterlife, they threaten to undo the connection between Lucretius’ perceptual criterion for truth and disbelief in life after death.
The preeminence of images of the dead in Roman (by contrast especially with Greek) religious practice is well-established. By reading them through Lucretius’ discourse on ghosts, and by comparison with other roughly contemporary Roman ghost stories, I aim to show that these images were perceived by Republican viewers in a way that lent them a certain evidentiary value. In this respect, at least, the perceptual worlds of Roman religion and Lucretius’ anti-religious critique coincided.