In the Footsteps of the Gods: network approach to modeling Roman Religious Processions

Posted on 07 February 2017

Talk: Katherine Crawford (Southampton), “In the Footsteps of the Gods: network approach to modeling Roman Religious Processions”.


Date: Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Time: starting at 17:00 c.t. (i.e. 17:15)

Venue: DAI, Wiegandhaus, Podbielskiallee 69-71, D-14195 Berlin (map)


Religion was woven into the fabric of Roman society, its visibility ranging from monumental temples to the practice of festival activity. Religious processions, in particular, were carefully choreographed rituals that linked disparate spaces and people together within the cityscape. Despite their acknowledged regularity within the Roman world, our understanding of religious processional movement remains extremely limited. Studies concerning Triumphal, funerary, and circus processions dominate current scholarship due to their greater documentation by the ancient literary sources. These processions, however, formed only a fraction of Roman processional activity. Recent years have seen an increase of scholarship interested in different aspects of processions and movement within the cityscape. In light of this, a reconsideration of the degree to which we can study processions within the archaeological record is warranted. As the record of the performance of processions was primarily held in the memories of those who took part of heard about them, the ways in which they can be studied is challenging. Adopting a theoretical and computer based approach, a critical analysis of the relationship between a procession’s movement patterns and engagement with the urban environment can be studied.

The previous decades have seen valuable approaches to the study of movement within the ancient city. Notably, space syntax approaches have posited looking at urban landscapes and movement potential. In terms of processional movement, a more rigorous approach is required. Processions were not static events, but constantly changing to adapt to different circumstances. Focusing on the city of Ostia, Rome’s ancient port, this paper will introduce a network and GIS based approach to the study of processional movement. Application of closeness and betweenness centrality measures to both the street network and various social activities presents a multifaceted approach for determining factors that may have have impacted the route chosen for processions. Analysis of the resulting models provides valuable information for understanding how spaces and social activities influenced a procession’s route. The combination of digitald methods of analysis with archaeological material ultimately provides insight into the dynamic relationship that existed between religious spaces and the negotiation of ritual activities.


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