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(542 words)

Author(s): Cancik-Lindemaier, Hildegard
[German Version] 1 The Greek ritual of theoxenia (ϑεοξένια/ theoxénia; “hospitality to a deity”) was staged as a banquet: a table (τράπεζα/ trápeza; Lat. mensa) set with food was placed before representations of deities (statuettes, dolls, symbols); like guests at a banquet, these representations were crowned with wreathes and laid out on couches (κλίνη/ klínē; Lat. lectus, pulvinar) – hence the idiom “prepare a couch” (στρωμνὰς στρωννύναι/ strōmnás strōnnýnai; lat. lectum sternere, lectisternium). An inscription recording a cultic ordinance of the Anatolian city of…

Vestal Virgins

(312 words)

Author(s): Cancik-Lindemaier, Hildegard
[German Version] The group of six Vestal virgins was responsible for the cult of Vesta: they watched over the “eternal” fire in her sanctuary, the public hearth, in the Roman Forum (Cic. De legibus 2.8.20 and 2.12.29) and prepared the mola salsa, a salted flour mixture sprinkled on sacrificial victims. They were present at major ceremonies (as depicted, e.g., on the interior of ¶ the Ara Pacis Augustae) and led the private nocturnal cult of the Bona Dea (Cic. De haruspicum responso 37; Plut. Cicero 19.3; Plut. Caesar 9f.). The group was directly under the authority of the pontifex maximus, wh…

Seneca, Lucius Annaeus

(555 words)

Author(s): Cancik-Lindemaier, Hildegard
[German Version] (c. 4 bce, Córdoba – 65 ce, Rome), Roman philosopher, politician, and tragedian, the second of three sons of the rhetor L.A. Seneca the Elder, a member of the equestrian order in Hispania Baetica. His elder brother Novatus is better known under his adoptive name, J.A. Gallio; his younger brother Mela was the father of the epic poet Lucan; other members of the family were high provincial officials. Seneca grew up in Rome. Under the emperor Claudius, his political career was interrupted by banishment to Corsica in 41; Claudius’s second wife, the you…

Symbols/Symbol Theory

(9,049 words)

Author(s): Berner, Ulrich | Cancik-Lindemaier, Hildegard | Recki, Birgit | Schlenke, Dorothee | Biehl, Peter | Et al.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies Use of the Greek word σύμβολον/ sýmbolon in a sense relevant to religious studies is attested quite early in the history of European religions; Dio of Prusa (1st/2nd cent. ce), for example, used it in his speech on Phidias’s statue of Zeus in Olympia ( Oratio 12.59). In this context, the Greek term reflects the problem posed by images of the gods: what is intrinsically inaccessible to human vision (Vision/Intuition) is somehow to be represented visually. In religious studies, especially in the phenomenology of religion, the concept of sy…


(284 words)

Author(s): Cancik-Lindemaier, Hildegard
[German Version] is the theory that the gods are human beings deified on account of their merits. It remains unclear when and how the term originated. In myths – “When the gods were human beings…” (Old Babylonian Atrahasis Epic) – and as an exegetical schema (Greek Sophistic School), Euhemerism antedates the eponymous Euhemerus of Messene, an adviser to King Cassandrus of Macedonia from 311 to 298 bce. In his (lost) utopian novel ῾Ιερὰ ἀναγραφή/ Hierá anagraphḗ, the human genealogy of the gods and their cults is revealed as a “sacred inscription…


(324 words)

Author(s): Cancik-Lindemaier, Hildegard
[German Version] (first half of the 1st cent. ce), Roman fabulist. Phaedrus was born in Macedonia (Book III, prologue), freed by Augustus, and persecuted by Sejanus. He made the fable (Gk λόγος/ lógos, μῦϑος/ mýthos, Lat. fabula, fabella) into an independent literary form. He wrote his (short) stories (not only about animals) in iambic trimeters, and collected them into five books, each with a prologue, and Books II-IV with an epilogue. Phaedrus’s fables (and the slightly later Gk fables of Babrios) are examples of popular wisdom l…

Interpretatio Romana/Graeca

(422 words)

Author(s): Cancik-Lindemaier, Hildegard
[German Version] 1. Latin interpretari means, similar to Gk ἑρμηνεύω/ hermeneúō, “to interpretet, to translate, to make understandable.” Interpres (translator, mediator, exegete) and interpretatio are technical terms of exegesis in jurisprudence, literature, and religion. Interpretatio Romana/Graeca are not used technically in classical antiquity; interpretatio Graeca is a modern expression coined in analogy to Tacitus's singular statement ( Germania 43) that two Germanic deities are to be identified with Castor and Pollux “according to Roman interpre…


(174 words)

Author(s): Cancik-Lindemaier, Hildegard
[German Version] (Salustios). There is no direct evidence for either the identity or the dates of Sallustius. His work – ¶ given the title περὶ ϑεῶν καὶ κόσμου/ perí theṓn kaí kósmou (“About Gods and Cosmos”) in the 17th century – shows that he was Neoplatonist and a contemporary of the emperor Julian the Apostate (cf. Julian Oratio IV and VIII). Sallustius did not write for other philosophers (ch. 13): his purpose was a philosophical “general education.” Its simple principles – the gods are eternal, incorporeal, not spatially confined, and not separ…


(4,529 words)

Author(s): Friedli, Richard | Cancik-Lindemaier, Hildegard | Bosman, Hendrik | Söding, Thomas | Plathow, Michael | Et al.
[German Version] I. Religious Studies Certainty is a fundamental human need. The answers given by religions to unsettling experiences cover a broad cultural spectrum. The issue is (1) to foresee fate as much as possible, (2) to integrate it into a cosmology, and (3) thus to master it. In general terms, we can identify four ways of containing the unforeseeable. 1. Being at the mercy of natural events. When they are powerless, people feel at the mercy of a powerful, threatening fate. Archaic forms of religion and shamanistic experiences (Shamanism) document how t…

Dead, Cult of the

(2,817 words)

Author(s): Neu, Rainer | Podella, Thomas | Cancik-Lindemaier, Hildegard
[German Version] I. Religious Studies – II. Old Testament – III. Classical Antiquity I. Religious Studies Nearly all societies view death as a transition from one mode of existence to another. To enable the departed or his or her soul to complete this transformational process successfully, the survivors must perform certain rituals, referred to collectively as the cult of the …


(308 words)

Author(s): Cancik-Lindemaier, Hildegard
[German Version] Vesta, Roman goddess. Her name was felt to be Greek, and her sphere – hearth and altars, protection of “the innermost things” – led her to be identified with the Greek goddess ῞Εστία/ Hestía (Cic. Nat. d. 2.67). The etymology of her name is still debated. Her sanctuary, aedes Vestae, a rotunda in the Roman Forum, was part of an ancient complex beside the via sacra, which included the house in which the Vestal virgins lived (Rome: II, 2.b). Although she was a virgin, she bore the honorific title Mater. Her cult was associated with the preservation of the Roman state. H…