Apotropaia and Phylakteria

Conference Paper

Archaeological evidence: 2. On apotropaic rituals and practices in burial contexts
Thursday 2021-06-24
13:50 | 16:55
Place: Swedish Institute at Athens & Zoom

Things jingling from beyond: Bells and bell-shaped amulets in Roman Greece

Dimitris Grigoropoulos, 2021-06-24

Abstract

Bells and bell-shaped objects of presumed amuletic function are known from Greece since at least the Early Iron Age. Similar objects are also mentioned in ancient literary sources in a variety of contexts from the Classical and Hellenistic period, suggesting that they were used for apotropaic purposes. Less well-known is the fate of these practices in Greece during Roman times, a period when, nevertheless, such objects occur increasingly and in various material arrangements in many provinces as wide apart as Britain and Palestine. Based upon the occurrence of such objects in the archaeological record and drawing upon relevant references in contemporary textual sources, this paper considers the cultural role and potential apotropaic qualities of such objects in Roman and Early Byzantine Greece. More specifically, it wishes to explore the extent to which a critical transformation in the perception of these objects occurred in Roman times, given the fact that a significant majority seems to be associated with burials, especially those of children. Comparisons with the evidence from other provinces suggest an empire-wide phenomenon, for which several explanations may be sought.

About the Author(s)

Dr., Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Abteilung Athen

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