Workshop: Meet the New Gods, Same as the Old Gods?: Roman Religion, Mass Media and Imperial Power

Call For Papers

Workshop: “Meet the New Gods, Same as the Old Gods?: Roman Religion, Mass Media and Imperial Power”

29 April 2023

University of Newcastle (NSW)

The death of Queen Elizabeth II, head of the Church of England and “defender of the faith”, reminds all Australians of the links among religion, imperial politics and mass media expressed in coins, processions, and public statues. Scholars have long recognized the continuities of time and space across the Roman empire of all these mechanisms of imperial power and communication, from the formation of Rome’s overseas empire in the 3rd century BCE into Late Antiquity. However, the conversion of emperors and their mass media to Christianity has been seen as a watershed break with centuries of tradition, with the gods, rituals and hence mass media of Roman and Hellenic religion wholly replaced or displaced within the course of the 4th and 5th centuries. This workshop aims to recover and restore nuance to the continuities across the centuries of Roman imperial power and its religious expression in the ancient mass media.

Titles and short abstracts (250 words max) of research papers of 10 to 20 minutes are invited by email to Deadline for Submissions is 31 March 2023.

The organizers encourage submissions from Australia- and New Zealand-based scholars at all stages (including postgraduates) on topics including, but not limited to: coinage before or after Constantine; the new cults of the Tetrarchs; the role of personifications in Roman imperial media; the changing role of portrait statues of emperors in the 4th century; the use of incense in imperial and Christian ritual; the titles of the emperors, and how those were announced; the development of imperial ceremonial; or the Christianization of weddings, funerals, or other public ceremonies.

Confirmed speakers/organizers:

Dr Ryan Strickler (Newcastle)
Prof Bronwen Neil (Macquarie)
Dr Amelia R. Brown (UQ)
Dr Estelle Strazdins (ANU)

Keynote Lecture by Associate Professor Tom Stevenson (UQ)

‘Popular responses to the assassination of Julius Caesar (44-42 BCE): Media, religion, emotion’

Abstract: In the months following Caesar’s assassination on 15 March 44 BCE, it seems that the tyrannicides Brutus and Cassius, and their followers, were surprised by the depth of popular feeling in favour of Caesar. They were surprised by the people’s use of violence, but more fundamentally by their acceptance of Caesar as father and god. The aim of this paper, in light of recent influence from media studies, is to investigate with fresh eyes some of the means by which the Roman people experienced these ideas, some of the ways they acted on them, and some of the reasons why they accepted them as strongly as they did. Elements of the people seem to have been invested in Caesar’s divine status far more than they were ever invested in any political offices or legal powers he held during his career. The attraction of the charismatic or ideological or divine aspects of his power continues to demand our attention.

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