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The Materiality of Graeco-Roman Festivals

This research project, generously funded by the Leverhulme Trust, asserts the vital role that visual material culture played in the experience of civic festivals in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire.

Religious festivals were times when the civic community came together to present an image of itself to outsiders, but they also reflected the hierarchies which existed within the city itself. This project will examine for the first time the active roles played by coins, inscriptions, art and architecture in asserting and negotiating communal civic identities and social hierarchies. Past studies have primarily used material culture as evidence, from which to reconstruct the details of individual festivals. The time is now ripe for a reassessment, recognising the agency of visual media.
This project comprises an interdisciplinary team with specialist skills in epigraphy, numismatics and art to provide a holistic view of the ways material culture created meaning in ancient Graeco-Roman festival culture.

Project Team

PI and Researcher of Art/Architecture: Professor Zahra Newby

Research Fellow (numismatics): Dr Dario Calomino

Research Fellow (epigraphy): Dr Naomi Carless-Unwin

The reliefs above the porta regia of the theatre at Hierapolis, advertising the city's major festival (plaster casts of originals).
Reliefs from the theatre at Hierapolis

(Photo: Carole Raddato, CC BY-SA 2.0)