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Subproject B2

Ritual and Communication in the Greek Urban Communities

Department and Research Field: Ancient History
Subproject B2 has been concluded June 30, 2009.


Subproject Management

Prof. Dr. Christian Witschel

Department of Ancient History and Epigraphics
Marstallhof 4
69117 Heidelberg  

Phone: +49 (0) 6221 - 54 22 31
Fax: +49 (0) 6221 - 54 22 34

Prof. Dr. Angelos Chaniotis
Head of Subproject B2 until May 31, 2007


PD Dr. Eftychia Stavrianopoulou
Péter Kató M.A.

Project Program

The project examines the communicative function of rituals in Greek cities, in the period from approx. 3rd century B.C. to approx. 3rd century AD. Its core aspects comprise the role of rituals in identity construction, the characteristics of hierarchic systems, and the legitimating of leadership and the integration of youth. Furthermore, it investigates the negotiation of changes (Agency), the perception of rituals and their transfer into new areas or socio-political contexts (ritual transfer).


The main topic "Analyzing Epigraphic Testimonies of Normative Interventions in Rituals" (B2.2) continues the research of the first funding phase. As part of this project, we establish a database using specially developed parameters to analyze the relevant inscriptions with regard to the respective socio-historical contexts and to the ritual dynamics. The parameters comprise e.g. abolishment, differentiation, invention, transcription into writing, recursivity, executive authority, ritual experts, aestheticization, and staging.


The main topic "Petitions as Legal Ritual" (B2.4) examines the asymmetric communication between parties of different status: supplicating a deity and entreat of a higher ranking authority in order to have a request granted. Throughout the project, we focus on the development of petitions as legal ritual as a transfer from the sacred ritual of praying. We investigate its parallelism to a particular category of magical texts ("prayers for justice"), the characteristics of constitutive verbal acts in the course of the ritual (the sender-receiver-dialogue, the forms of its ritual execution, and the variation between semantics and performance of the text). Furthermore, we research the function of petitions as rituals with a particular regard to conflict reconciliation and reestablishment of the social order.



The main topic "Ritual Dynamics and War in the Hellenistic Era" (B2.5) of the proposed project aims to gather and systematically analyze the source material treating the multifaceted relationship of ritual and war. Among others, we take the following phenomena of ritual dynamics into account:

  • the introduction of "alternative rituals" (such as human gods) with regard to doubts about the existence of gods,
  • the enhancement and increased embellishment of old or introduction of new festivities on the occasion of divine assistance during a war,
  • the ritual criticism and doubt about the effectiveness of rituals,
  • the tension arising from the obligation to perform old rituals and the surrounding conditions,
  • the reshaping of old rituals as a defensive measure during wartime,
  • the ritual transfer through soldiers, and
  • the role of traditional, life-cycle-related rituals in the creation of aggression and rituals of commemoration.

Main Topics

B2.1 Rituals in the Public Discourse of Greek Poleis during the Imperial Era (Researcher: Stephan Hotz, M.A.). Main topic to be concluded until 06/2005.

B2.2 Analyzing Epigraphic Testimonies of Normative Interventions in Rituals (Researcher: PD Dr. Eftychia Stavrianopoulou). Main topic to be concluded until 06/2005.

B2.3 Sacred Room and Ritual in the Hellenism and in the Imperial Era: Normative, Ritual-determined Interventions in Functionality, Equipment and Composition of Greek Sanctums (Researcher: Dr. Joannis Mylonopoulos). Main topic to be concluded until 09/2003.

B2.4 Petitions as Legal Ritual (Researcher: Prof. Dr. Eftychia Stavrianopoulou)  

B2.5 Ritual Dynamics and War in the Hellenistic Era (approx. 323 - 30 B.C.) (Researcher: cand. phil. Péter Kató)