Generative Historiography of Ancient Religions and the Case of Travelling Deities: How to Model the Spread of Cults in the Ancient Mediterranean



Year of publication 2016
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description Early in the Ptolemaic era, the cult of Isis and Sarapis spread successfully to the ports in the ancient Mediterranean (Bricault 2005). However, the reasons standing behind this process are only partially understood. The main hypotheses in the academic discussion see the key factor influencing the spread of the Isiac cults as either the maritime trade network (Fraser 1960) or Ptolemaic political propaganda (Cumont 1911). Both of these claims can find some support in the historical evidence. Ptolemaic Egypt was one of the main exporters of grain, Isis was a patron goddess of sailors and many cities in the ancient Mediterranean had close diplomatic relations with the Ptolemies (Hölbl 2001). We are constructing a model in order to clarify which of these factors could be advantageous for specific locations in the question of the spread of the cult of Isis and Sarapis. Based on environmental and political datasets this model determines the theoretical political and trade attractively of these specific places for potential Egyptian visitors who could bring the cult practice or artifacts with them. The results of this model can be subsequently compared with the distribution of the archaeological evidence connected with the Isiac cults (Tomáš Glomb, in collaboration with Zdeněk Stachoň and Adam Mertel).
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