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

The weight of ritual matter: Apotropaic and prophylactic functions of funerary stelae at the end of Antiquity

Hélène Bernier-Farella, 2021-06-24, Time: 16:35 - 16:55


In ancient Greek tradition, soul’s journey to the afterlife is supposed to be a particularly risky task which gives rise to many concerns; the dead is thus provided with rituals, apotropaic and prophylactic gestures to avoid bad encounters and failure, layouts that are sometimes materialized in the funerary sema (material device that stands for him in this world), composed by a stele, the signs written on it, and, as we interpret it, some of the artefacts given to him and deposited in its tomb. This ritual apparatus is still attested at the end of Antiquity, form the IVth to the VIth centuries, when Christian faith introduced new funeral arrangements while keeping some of the traditional elements. Instead of examining funerary stelea and its materiality mainly as a social phenomenon, we intend in this paper to analyse apotropaic and prophylactic gestures embedded within material, iconographical and formulary aspects of funerary stelae, in an anthropological perspective. Ritual and religious functions of the setting of the dead’s sema will be studied in the context of christianization, in a corpus of funerary inscription and funerary markers from various sites of ancient Greek world.

About the Author(s)

Mcf en Histoire grecque, Senior lecturer in Greek History, Cergy University (CY- Paris Seine) / Université de Cergy-Pontoise. AGORA Center for Research in Civilizations, History, Literature and Heritage


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