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Religious Individualisation (Hardback)

Archaeological, Iconographic and Epigraphic Case Studies from the Roman World

Ancient History > Rome & the Roman Provinces > Roman Archaeology P&S History > Archaeology > Ancient Religions, Ideology & Funerary Practice P&S History > Theology & Religion > Christianity

Edited by Ralph Haeussler, Edited by Anthony King
Imprint: Oxbow Books
Pages: 336
Illustrations: B&W images
ISBN: 9781789259650
Published: 15th February 2023
Casemate UK Academic



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The Roman world was diverse and complex. And so were religious understandings and practices as mirrored in the enormous variety presented by archaeological, iconographic, and epigraphic evidence. Conventional approaches principally focus on the political role of civic cults as a means of social cohesion, often considered to be instrumentalised by elites. But by doing so, religious diversity is frequently overlooked, marginalising ‘deviating’ cult activities that do not fit the Classical canon, as well as the multitude of funerary practices and other religious activities that were all part of everyday life.


In the Roman Empire, a person’s religious experiences were shaped by many and sometimes seemingly incompatible cult practices, whereby the ‘civic’ and ‘imperial’ cults might have had the least impact of all. The authors rethink these methodologies, arguing for a more dynamic image of religion that takes into account the varied and often contradictory choices and actions of individual, which reflects the discrepant religious experiences in the Roman world. Is it possible to ‘poke into the mind’ of an individual in Roman times, whatever his/her status and ethnicity, and try to understand the individual’s diverse experiences in such a complex, interconnected empire, exploring the choices that were open to an individual? This also raises the question whether the concept of individuality is valid for Roman times. In some periods, the impact of individual actions can be more momentous: the very first adoption of Roman-style sculpture, cult practices or Latin theonyms for indigenous deities can set in motion long-term processes that will significantly influence people’s perceptions of local deities, their characteristics, and functions. Do individual choices and preferences prevail over collective identities in the Roman Empire compared to pre-Roman times? To examine these questions, this volume presents case studies that analyse individual actions in the religious sphere.

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About Ralph Haeussler

Ralph Haeussler is a research fellow at Winchester University. Having completed his PhD at University College London in 1997, he taught at the universities of Oxford, Osnabrück and Lampeter. He is a specialist in ancient religions, cultural interactions and ‘globalisation’.

About Anthony King

Anthony King is Emeritus Professor of Roman Archaeology at Winchester University. He completed his PhD at the Institute of Archaeology, London, and is a specialist for Romano-Celtic temples and religion, Roman villas, Samian ware and animal bones.

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