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Subproject B10

Political Rituals of the Late Antiquity (4th – 6th century)

Department and Research Field: Ancient History

Subproject Management

Prof. Dr. Kai Trampedach

Prof. Dr. Christian Witschel

Centre for Ancient Studies
Department of Ancient History and Epigraphics
Marstallhof 4
69117 Heidelberg
Phone: +49 – (0) 6221 – 54 – 22 32 (Trampedach)
+49 – (0) 6221 – 54 – 22 31 (Witschel)
Fax:     +49 – (0) 6221 – 54 – 22 34


Marco Mattheis M.A.

Johannes Wienand M.A.

resigned Sep. 30. 2011


Matthias Aulenbacher M.A.

Project Program

Subproject B10 researches the political function and semantics of public rituals in the Roman Empire during Late Antiquity. Consequently, its core topic revolves around the Christian adoption and “overforming” of traditional symbolic acts – a process that affected and reshaped the urban as well as the imperialistic and monarchic structures since the Constantinian shift. The political rituals of the late Roman Empire will be examined in view of the transformation of a precarious order, which – to ensure its survival – exacted an intensified communicative effort that indirectly thematized the power relations.

Within this scope, the latent dysfunctionalities of the system – as expressed through conflict-laden or even failing rituals – and options for their symbolic stabilization will be defined more precisely. Furthermore, we will elaborate on the relations between the above-mentioned political structures (city, empire, monarchy) and their development in the context of their respective ritual dynamics. Main topic B10.1 (Mattheis) investigates the dynamic change of the morphology, meaning and function of rituals in the cities of the Roman Empire in the course of the Christianization during the Late Antiquity. Main topic B10.2 (Wienand) explores the structures, functions and developments of the performative communication involving representations (statues, pictures) or representatives (proconsuls, military leaders) of the sovereign in a public ritual communication. Based on coronations, circus games, victory celebrations, repentance walks, and church feasts in the East-Roman Empire’s capital, main topic B10.3 (Trampedach) researches the effects of the Emperor’s Christianized image and the consolidation of Constantinople as the imperial residence on the development of new forms of symbolic communication.

Main Topics

B10.1 Between consistency, transformation and substitution. The Christianization of urban rituals in the Late Antiquity (Researcher: Marco Mattheis M. A.)

B10.2 The dynamics of decentralized rituals of power in the Late Roman Empire (Researcher: Johannes Wienand M.A.)

B10.3 Staging of theocracy. The ritual communication between the emperor and the people in Constantinople (5th – 6th century) (Researcher: Prof. Dr. Kai Trampedach)



Data Archive

This subproject has archived data in the course of their research and is making them available online.

Archive page of the subproject >>>