Epochalisation and religious innovations in pre-Augustan and Augustan Rome

Organised by Professor Rubina Raja (Aarhus University) and Professor Jörg Rüpke (University of Erfurt)

Joint workshop between UrbNet (the Danish National Research Foundation), Elite Research Prize 2015 and Lived Ancient Religion: Questioning “cults” and “polis religion” (ERC) 

Date Wednesday 6 April
Time 8:30-18:30
Location Studenterhuset Aarhus, Frederik Nielsens Vej 2-4, 8000 Aarhus C, Richard Mortensen Stuen


The Augustan period is possibly the most historicized period in history. The period from the Battle of Actium to the death of Augustus has been intensively studied, written and rewritten from an archaeological as well as historical point of view where sources, written as well as material, have been taken as a point of departure. Nonetheless there are still things to be said about these years, which had such a profound impact on the development of Europe, the Mediterranean regions and beyond.

We accept that the terms “period” and “periodization” are necessary terms in order for us to cope with developments and trends in history. However, we also see a need to critically approach these terms in order to revise the ways in which they are applied in scholarship. Epochalisation or periodization is ever present in our ways of viewing history. We divide things into epochs – pre- and post- and transitional periods. While this is necessary in order to cope when discussing development and make developments comprehensible and comparable, it is also something which hampers the ways in which history is viewed and indeed written. With this workshop we propose to focus on the period between 45 BC to AD 15 (the institution of the Sodales Augustales) in order to recapitulate and revise the ways in which the (trans)formation of religion in the time of Octavian and later Augustus are perceived. How were these years perceived within their time? Are trends possible to pick up on and how was “history” used by Octavian, later Augustus in order to shape the religious ideas and paradigms of his time and reign?

In the proposed workshop we would like to ask contributors to view the period around the time of Octavian and later Augustus through the lens of revision of the concepts of epochalisation or periodization of those years and in particular to examine how strategies within the religious sphere might be viewed in a new light, if using such a lens to view these years. Three central levels might be distinguished: 1) a critique of periodization, 2) innovation and tradition of religion, 3) politicalisation of religion.

To these levels the following questions are closely tied: How did history happen and how did the happenings of the time of Octavian and later Augustus impact the way in which Roman religion developed in these years? In which ways were actions past and present drivers for religious innovation and change in the pre-Augustan and Augustan period? What were the conditions that gave politics the chance to change and use religion to a much higher degree as a central factor? Other central themes which should be considered include the interplay between historical events and religious change and innovation, the shaping of religious representation, the power of marginality as a religious driving force, traditions and innovations in group constructions as well as the shaping of memory. Sources through which such themes might be explored include written sources, epigraph material as well as archaeological evidence, such as monuments and objects.

We would like to invite you to present a paper at the workshop of about 30 minutes followed by 30 minutes of discussion. We would like to leave ample time for discussion, since it is important to discuss possible new directions in which research might be taken based upon viewing events through the suggested lens.

Travel expenses and accommodation for two nights are covered for invited speakers. The workshop is a joint undertaking between the ERC Advanced Grant project “Lived Ancient Religion” based at Erfurt University, Germany and the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre of Excellence Centre for Urban Network Evolutions based at Aarhus University, Denmark.

Confirmed speakers

  • Christpher Hallett, UC Berkeley
  • Françoise van Haeperen, Université Catholique de Louvain
  • Jesper Majbom Madsen, University of Southern Denmark
  • Jörg Rüpke, University of Erfurt
  • Karl Galinsky, University of Texas at Austin
  • Katharina Rieger, University of Erfurt
  • Roberta Geremia, Istituto Nazionale di Archeologia e Storia dell’Arte
  • Rubina Raja, Aarhus University

Practical information for speakers

Please make your own travel arrangements to/from Aarhus. After your visit, your travel expenses will be reimbursed (only economy class). 


We have organised the following accommodation:

Hotel Comwell (5-7 April 2016):  Christopher Hallett, Françoise van Haeperen and Roberta Geremia
Hotel Comwell (5-8 April 2016): Karl Galinsky
AU Guesthouse (4-8 April 2016): Jörg Rupke
Private accommodation: Katharina Rieger

Hotel Comwell

Værkmestergade 2
8000 Aarhus C
Phone: +45 8672 8000
Web: www.comwellaarhus.dk
See map

The hotel is located just a couple of hundred metres from the railway station. If you are arriving to Tirstrup Airport, take the airport bus (there is one for each arrival) to Aarhus and get off at the railway station (‘Banegårdspladsen’). The easiest thing is to walk straight through the railway station and the attached shopping centre (Bruuns Galleri), turn left at the Johan Bülow LAKRIDS stand and walk out a swing door and down a flight of stairs (see map below). 

AU Guesthouse

Otte Ruds Gade 67
8200 Aarhus N
Phone guesthouse administration: +45 8715 3910
Web: www.studenterhusfonden.dk/gaestehusguesthouse/guesthouse.aspx
See map

If you arrive to Aarhus by plane, you can get off the airport bus at Ndr. Ringgade/Randersvej, and then it’s only a 500 m walk to the guesthouse (see map). On the corner of Ndr. Ringgade and Aldersrovej, you’ll see a small shopping centre (Løvbjerg) where you can buy groceries if you want to cook during your stay (I have marked Løvbjerg on the map as well).

Transport to conference venue

To get from Hotel Comwell to the AU Conference Centre, you can catch Bus 100, 117, 118, 200 from the bus terminal (directions from hotel), or you can backtrack your way from the railway station and take Bus 1A, 14 or 18 (14 and 18 leave from Park Allé). Get off at Aarhus Universitet, Randersvej/Nordre Ringgade (right at the Nobel Park). Cross Randersvej (the one leading to downtown Aarhus), walk 200 m, turn right into a cul de sac, and you are at Studenterhus Aarhus.

From the AU Guesthouse, it is a 10-minute walk along Nordre Ringgade (see map).

Dinner and diet

A speakers’ dinner has been organised for 6 April at 19:00, and of course, we will cater for you during the workshop. If you have any dietary restrictions (e.g. allergies), please let me know as soon as possible.


If you wish to use powerpoint, we would very much appreciate it if you could forward your slides by Tuesday 5 April 2016.