Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Project title: Man – Nature – Religion: A study concerning development, form and perception of sacred landscape in Asia Minor.
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Heide Frielinghaus, Prof. Dr. Jochen Althoff, Prof. Dr. Marion Gindhart
All things are full of gods, wrote Thales from Milet. But obviously their presence has not been apparent and permanently certified everywhere. This dissertation project aims to compile a chronological, geographical and contextual differentiated concept of the link between nature and religion in Hellenic Asia Minor. Based on the archaeological as well as the literary evidence, the main focus lies on considering the questions of why and how geogenic nature has been charged with sacrificial meaning and so became an important sign for the presence of gods in classical antiquity.
The cultural landscape of Asia Minor is especially suited for such an investigation of prerequisites, developments and forms of semata-announced Topoi in an epoch-spanning context, since it displays processes of transformation in which indigenous nature deities were morphed into gods of the Hellenic pantheon.
Starting point for further inquiries is to establish a catalogue of the archaeological evidence. Subsequently, the question which features distinguish sacred landscapes – such as peaks, caves, rocks, springs or rivers that were selected as special sites of communication with the gods – shall be considered. Furthermore, possible factors like observable extraordinariness, usefulness (resources, security), a topographical reference to human settlement or territory, an event or immemorial traces of cult attestation shall be examined, labeled and evaluated.
In addition to the archaeological evidence, a compilation of literary sources concerning 'sacred landscape' is intended. Especially the ancient poetry may cast light on which places in nature and how gods can be witnessed by (what kind of) worshippers and whether these sacred places are ascribed with specific characteristics. In addition, pictorial media such as vase paintings and reliefs may hold enlightening insights regarding this question.
The final aim is a synthesis of the archaeological and the literary apparatus that conceptualizes factors of sacralization of nature elements, and to cast light on the complex of 'sacred landscape' in Asia Minor in its entirety.