Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean

The Basics

The 'Where and When': Mediterranean, 2700 BCE - 900 CE

Mediterranean Map

The 'How': Coursework and End Product

  • Weekly Readings/Prompts
  • Course Discussion
  • Leading Discussion/Crafting Prompts
  • Grad Student Requirements
  • Office Hours
    • End Product
    • Collaboration
    • Final Paper
    • Milestones
    • Source Analysis
    • Proposal/Bibliography
    • Rough Draft

Approaches, Scales, and Themes

Myths and Beliefs

Egyptian Book of the Dead

Defining Ancient Religion...

The entirety of the religio of the Roman people is divided into rites and auspices, to which is added a third thing, namely whatever warnings the interpreters of the Sibylline books or haruspices issue for the sake of foreknowledge on the basis of portents and omens. I hold that none of these religiones should ever be neglected, and I have persuaded myself that Romulus and Numa laid the foundations of our state by establishing the auspices and rites, respectively, and that our state could never have become so great without the greatest appeasement of the immortal gods.

Public Ritual

The Procession

Archaic procession
Panathenaic procession

The Snackrifice

Sacrificing a B to Asclepius
Individual Sacrifice

Votive Dedications

Votive Dedications

Religion: High and Low


Philosophy - Epicurus

Thus that which is the most awful of evils, death, is nothing to us, since when we exist there is no death, and when there is death we do not exist.


Philosophy - Xenophanes

Homer and Hesiod have attributed to the gods everything that is a shame and reproach among men, stealing and committing adultery and deceiving each other.

But mortals consider that the gods are born, and that they have clothes and speech and bodies like their own. The Ethiopians say that their gods are snub-nosed and black, the Thracians that theirs have light blue eyes and red hair.

But if cattle and horses or lions had hands, or were able to draw with their hands and do the works that men can do, horses would draw the forms of the gods like horses, and cattle like cattle, and they would make their bodies such as they each had themselves.


Defixio, Curse Tablet


Amulets and Ma'at Fiture
Magic Amulets


Sacred Shovel
Votive Tablet with Foot Impressions


Tribute Lists

Athenian Tribute Lists

The Colosseum

The Colosseum
Colosseum dedicatory inscription as reconstructed by Géza Alföldy Alfody




Persecution: Similarities

Table of the Marytrs
Senatus Consultus de Bacchinalibus


Greeks in Egypt

Greek Grave in Egypt from the Archaic period
Later Greek Grave in Egypt

More Greek Graves

Later Greek Grave in Egypt
Later Greek Grave in Egypt

Symbols: Isis and Mary

Isis and Horus contrasted with Jesus and Mary

Symbols: A Grave

Christian grave marked with Dis Manibus

Symbols: Halos

Sol Invictus
Jesus as Sol Invictus

Roman Catacombs

Rome, Jesus as Orpheus

Brazier from Alexandria

Brazier with inscribed in Hebrew with Greek letters

A Local Example: Dura-Europas


Dura-Europas, Mithraeum
Dura-Europas, Mithraeum, Close Up

The 'Church'

Dura-Europas, Bapistry Diagram
Dura-Europas, Church Diagram


Dura-Europas, Baptistry
Dura-Europas, Baptitry, Close Up


Dura-Europas, Mural from Synagoge


Dura-Europas, Saul annoints David wearing togas