Academic Year 2022-23
Sacralizing the City in Late Antique Christianity and Early Islam, May 20-21, 2022
Martyrs and holy men in late antique Christianity, like the conquest warriors and religious scholars of early Islam, are not only key figures for the intellectual history of the two religious traditions. The memory of their presence also played an important role in the sacralization of the urban landscape, imbuing built structures with a specific religious significance and thereby inscribing a Christian or Muslim identity into the material form of the city.
This workshop, which is organized jointly by RomanIslam Center and Radboud University Nijmegen, investigates the processes of sacralizing built landscape through textual tradition, sound and material culture. We investigate the way that religious authority associated with key Muslim or Christian individuals was transferred to places of burial, worship, charity or religious education, and how this in turn, strengthened the Christianization or Islamization of urban space. Participants are invited to focus on various processes of sacralization of space, or to consider a built structure that commemorates a key individual in the religious tradition of the region. As this workshop is particularly focused on dialogue between the Islamic and Christian traditions, the conveners welcome papers that enable a discussion of this aspect.
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Valles fluviales de Hispania en perspectiva diacrónica - Interdependencia entre hombre y medio ambiente desde la República hasta la ‚long Late Antiquity‘ (ss. III a.C. – IX d.C.), Oct. 20-22, 2022
El objetivo del congreso internacional es explicar el papel de los valles fluviales en el desarrollo espacial y la interacción entre cultura y paisaje en el largo plazo entre el siglo III a.C. y el siglo IX d.C. Los valles fluviales fueron constitutivos de la génesis y desarrollo de la Hispania antigua; en muchos aspectos, los paisajes fluviales ofrecían condiciones favorables para la colonización y la agricultura. Su particularidad era consecuencia, por un lado, de la ubicación geográfica de la Península Ibérica entre el Mediterráneo y el Atlántico con sus condiciones climáticas e hidrológicas. Por otro lado, los valles de los ríos determinaron la distribución topográfica de una amplia variedad de recursos naturales (agua, metales, cultivos, sal) y, por lo tanto, también dieron forma a las rutas de transporte, los flujos comerciales y los patrones de asentamiento urbano desde época prerromana, lo que, a su vez, llevó a la formación de identidades específicas relacionadas con los ríos. Culturalmente, esto se puede ver, por ejemplo, en representaciones artísticas de deidades fluviales, en cultos y santuarios o en mitos antiguos. Además, los ríos moldearon significativamente las fronteras políticas y crearon unidades culturales (el llamado Tratado del Ebro entre Roma y Cartago).
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Shifting Cities in the Iberian Peninsula, III BC-IX AD, Nov. 24-26, 2022
Shifting cities is a little known, but surprisingly frequent phenomenon throughout the history of urbanisation on the Iberian Peninsula during the first millennium. Physical displacement of urban centres often implies not only a discontinuity in terms of location but also a change in the layout, i.e. the infrastructure of the city. The ex novo foundation requires its inhabitants to adapt to new ways of intramural and extramural life, due to a new definition of public and private spaces, and to a different perception of the territory. Who is responsible for these changes? Is it a decision taken at the local level or by political powers? What are the reasons behind these dramatic changes? When they occur, are these changes related to the conquest of a territory? What do we know about how the population perceives these displacements? Are there structural differences between shifting cities in Roman times and in the Andalusian period? The aim of this international colloquium is to approach this phenomenon in a cross-cultural way, taking as references the ancient and medieval eras, as well as historical and archaeological data to facilitate the debate from a multidisciplinary perspective.
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Reuse in Post-Roman societies: Christian and Islamic attitudes towards ruins and spolia, Dec. 5-6, 2022
The study of recycling and reuse in Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages has been a subject of long-standing enquiry. Throughout the decades, traditional approaches have been reconsidered and recycling and reuse of Roman material are no longer seen as passive responses to lack of resources and a declining economy, but rather characterized by a high degree of organization, with power, skills, knowledge and legal concerns also playing a role. Scholars have also stressed that reuse implies sometimes a process of appropriation, conversion or reidentification that turns ancient and foreign objects into attractive, valuable and meaningful vestiges in the present.
In this workshop we would like to discuss theoretical as well as practical aspects of reuse and perception of ancient ruins in Post-Roman societies, attending to cases of reuse and spoliation across the Mediterranean Sea, both in Christian and Islamic context, bringing together comparative and transcultural studies into a broader historical and more contemporary perspective.
The conferences would be related and considered topics such as:
- Context of reuse. Analysis based on the origin of the artefacts and materials, their location and display, their circulation and transport. Papers regarding the purpose and meaning of the pieces set in a new political, religious or cultural context are also most welcome.
- Object of reuse. Material, pieces and artefacts recycled and reused. Considerations regarding the criteria for selecting the material, its transformation and reuse. Fakes antiquities and fake spolia.
- Agents of reuse. Hunters of treasures, skill workers, interpreters, cultural-brokers who discovered, locate and mediate in the appropriation, reuse and display of ancient artefacts and ruins.
- Practices of reuse. Pragmatic or ideological uses of spolia. Repair, relocation, collection, display. Also mutilation and destruction.
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Roman Continuity and Discontinuity in the Vandal Kingdom, Dec. 7-8, 2022
Of all the Germanic invasions that plagued the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, the migration of the Vandals was the longest: they came from Central and Eastern Europe via Gaul (406) and Spain (409) to North Africa (429), where they founded a kingdom that survived for almost a century. This long “journey”, which brought the Vandals into contact and confrontation with very different regions and peoples within the Western Roman Empire, sanctioned the distinctiveness of this people: an open and ill-defined identity, as if this Germanic group were experiencing a perpetual process of ethnogenesis. This phenomenon is particularly evident after the occupation of the North African provinces, when the Vandals were more receptive to the assimilation of romanitas, to such an extent that a distinction between Vandal and Roman identity became increasingly difficult.
The workshop is the first in a series of meetings focusing on the Vandals. The objective of this first meeting is to study the Roman elements of continuity and discontinuity during the Vandal migration and domination, with the further goal of trying to delineate - if possible - a clearer Vandal identity.
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Still Caput Mundi? The Role of Rome between Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages in the Mediterranean area. Part 2: Different forms of urban competition, Feb. 15-17, 2023
Rome's fortunes have always been closely linked to the fortunes of the Roman Empire: a city flourishing during the period of expansion and at the apogee of the Empire, a city in decline during the disintegration phase of the Roman Empire, particularly the Pars Occidentis. It was precisely the crisis of the Western Roman Empire that slowly marked a turning point in the history of Rome, as, in the various dioceses, some cities gradually assumed a leading role in the Mediterranean area, clearly challenging the hitherto undisputed primacy of the ancient capital city.
Following in the footsteps of the March 2022 meeting, in which the role of Rome in the context of its transition from the city of the emperor to the city of the pope was discussed, this conference aims to investigate the development of all those urban realities that, for various reasons and in different ambers, entered in competition with Rome. Unlike the 2022 meeting, which focused exclusively on the Western Mediterranean, this workshop also looks to the Eastern Roman Empire, where the evolution of certain cultural, political, and religious phenomena entails the rise of as many cities, primarily Constantinople, that are bidding for the role of caput mundi.
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Episcopal Leadership. Shaping Power in Gaul and Hispania (IVth-VIIth centuries), March 6-8, 2023
During the Christianization of the Western Roman Empire, bishops established themselves in prominent positions in the cities from the 4th century onwards. They looked after the poor, acted as judges, were responsible for “construction booms”, and negotiated with duces, kings, or the emperor, not least when it came to ransoming prisoners. According to the communis opinio, we find this urban episcopal leadership particularly in Gaul, but research with a view to the late antique urban world of Hispania also states this phenomenon.
This international and interdisciplinary conference aims to explicitly compare episcopal rule in both regions through archaeological and thematic approaches. The case studies of paradigmatic cities will allow an analysis of the material manifestations of episcopal leadership. At the same time, the thematic approaches enable us to discuss the same process from diverse perspectives: administrative, political, economic, civic, literary and liturgical. Concerning these, how does the urban episcopal leadership differ in both regions? Is it the same
type of phenomena? Did it happen simultaneously? Last but not least, to what extent did Rome continue to function as a paradigm for Gaul and Hispania?
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Academic Year 2021-22
How to read late antique inscriptions in North Africa?, May 6, 2021
The epigraphy of late antique North Africa provides an unique opportunity to gain a deeper insight into the religious life from the 3rd century onwards. Hence the extremely prosperous phase that North Africa experienced in this period is strongly reflected in a vibrant Christian environment including the building of basilicas and other monuments. Therefore the workshop focuses on the reading of inscriptions in various parts of Roman North Africa, with a strong focus on Carthage as the most influential city. The three lectures will examine the epigraphic evidence from different angles in order to show the function of inscriptions in religious practice. The materiality as well as the display will be the subject of investigation. One of the central question to be answered is without question how (and by whom) the late antique inscriptions were read.
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New Perspectives on Christianity in Late Antiquity, May 12, 2021
It is inconceivable to understand Late Antiquity without appreciating the central role that Christianity played in the different aspects of the historical development of the period. Whether at the political, social or cultural level, among others, it knew how to make its way, permeating every aspect of life, which is why the historiographical interest it has aroused is not surprising, being one of the most fruitful fields of research in recent years. Particularly noteworthy are, on the one hand, the advances in literary research on the Christian sources of the period and, on the other, the strong incursion of social theory, which has opened up new ways of understanding a phenomenon that still raises many questions. RomanIslam invites you to reflect on the main perspectives and the main challenges facing historians in tackling the history of Christianity in Late Antiquity through a round table discussion with three renowned scholars in the field.
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Noheda. The big villae in late antique Hispania, July 7-9, 2021
The recent archaeological excavations on the site of the Roman villa of Noheda (Prov. Cuenca, Spain) have unearthed large-scale floor mosaics in a sensational state of preservation, quality and iconography, mostly of a mythological character. These will be the focus of a concentrated discussion dedicated to this site: On the one hand, the opulent mosaic imagery of the villa floors of Noheda, which has enormously enriched our knowledge of monuments, will be compared with the panorama of the late Roman examples discovered previously. Most of these are located in the western Mediterranean and western European area from Britain to North Africa and the Middle East and Italy, and a comparison with this background will offer insights into the function and role of the monument at the centre of the dedication - namely into the intellectual world of the time and the unbroken significance of the paideia. On the other hand, Noheda can also be taken as the starting point and key element in a reascertainment regarding the late Roman villa system in the Occident, the corresponding monument topography in Hispania and the development of rural residences in this region until the rise of the Umayyad al-munya.
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Bishops under Threat, June 24-26, 2021
The late antique and the early medieval periods witnessed the flourishing and consolidation of episcopal powers in the West. The episcopate thus become an actual factual power, alongside the secular aristocracy and the rulers. This influential position exposed them to various threats, both political and religious. Our main goals in this conference are to present a typology of the different threats bishops confronted in the exercise of their episcopal ministry, to address the influence of a given political, social or religious context and, finally, to analyse the different strategies they developed to confront this situation of adversity and which allow us to understand to some extent the shaping or reinforcing of ecclesiastical hierarchies in a more effective manner. The proposed study framework covers the late antique and the early medieval periods in the West, offering different thematic and regional case studies from Italy, Gaul, Spain and Germany, among others, with the aim of obtaining as global a view as possible. These spaces experienced the same processes of the disintegration of imperial structures, the making of new political realities and the rise of the ecclesiastical structures as vital articulators of social life. However, such phenomena occurred at different rates and according to the particularities of each territory on different scales, from regional to local, which allows a comparative exercise in which similarities and differences will be presented in a balanced way.
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Why can the dead do such great things? The making of saints in late antique North Africa, Sep. 22-23, 2021
Christian saints and their veneration took on a particularly high significance in late antique North Africa. Although the most famous martyrs, such as the bishop Cyprian or Perpetua and Felicity originated from Carthage, cults of saints can be found almost in every province. The international conference wants to reopen the debate about the saints and discuss questions about the role and social function of the veneration, to answer questions like: By whom were modifications made? When did they appear? For what purpose did they occur? For this reason, both written evidence (sermons. actae and passiones) and archaeological material (tombs, inscriptions basilicas...) will be considered. The first panel deals with the hagiographic narrative and its different ways of representing the martyrs. Whereas the second panel focuses on the architectural staging of the saints.
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El ejército y la romanización: Hispania y Germania en comparación, October 7-9, 2021
El objetivo de este coloquio internacional es el ánalisis comparado de los procesos de conquista militar, provincialización y romanización de las provincias hispanas y germánicas, teniendo en cuenta tanto la evidencia material como la literaria. Además, se propone tomar en consideración los resultados de las corrientes de investigación alemanas y españolas.
La cuestión decisiva será si las experiencias hechas durante la conquista, la romanización y provincialización desde la Segunda Guerra Púnica en la Península Ibérica pudieron emplearse en tierras germanas; o, dicho en otras palabras, si Roma había aprendido algo útil a la hora de conquistar tierras “bárbaras” que no estaban helenizadas, e integrarlas en el Imperio Romano. La lucha contra la resistencia, la destrucción o la perseverancia de los asentamientos indígenas, la refundación de centros militares y civiles y la puesta en marcha de la infraestructura de una nueva provincia son elementos de semejantes procesos. En tanto que la Hispania pacata, en época imperial, no tenía que temer ningún peligro desde fuera, y por ello tampoco tenía presencia militar, las provincias germánicas seguían acuñadas por la presencia del limes. A pesar de esta diferencia crucial, habrá que estudiar las similitudes y las diferencias en el desarrollo de ambas regiones.
Ziel der internationalen Tagung ist es, die Prozesse der militärischen Eroberung, Provinzialisierung und Romanisierung in den hispanischen und germanischen Provinzen vergleichend zu analysieren, und zwar unter Berücksichtigung der materiellen wie der literarischen Evidenz. Dabei sollen Fragestellungen wie Ergebnisse der spanischen wie der deutschen Forschung zusammengeführt werden.
Im Zentrum der Überlegungen steht die Frage, ob und inwieweit Lehren und Erfahrungen bei der militärischen Eroberung, der Romanisierung und Provinzialverwaltung Hispaniens seit dem zweiten Punischen Krieg in Germanien umgesetzt wurden, ob es also Lerneffekte Roms für die Durchdringung und dauerhafte provinziale Eingliederung ‚barbarischer‘, nicht hellenisierter Räume in das römische Reich gegeben hat. Die Niederschlagung von Widerständen, die Zerstörung bzw. das Weiterbestehen einheimischer Siedlungen, die Neugründung von militärischen und zivilen Zentren bis zur Infrastruktur einer funktionierenden neuen Provinz sind die Stationen solcher Prozesse. Während das befriedete Hispanien in der Kaiserzeit keine Gefahr ‚von außen‘ zu befürchten hatte und daher weitgehend ohne Militärpräsenz auskommen konnte, blieben die germanischen Provinzen von ihrer Lage am Limes geprägt. Trotz dieses markanten Unterschieds sollen also Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede in der Entwicklung beider Regionen herausgearbeitet werden.
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Religious Networks as a Catalyst for Commercial Renewal? The Western Mediterranean in the Long Eighth Century, Oct. 28, 2021
The 7th and early 8th centuries trade across and around the western Mediterranean saw a decline. A range of written and archaeological evidence has led historians of both the northern and southern Mediterranean region to agree that a steady fall in exchange and trade took place during this period, while there is less consensus regarding the factors that caused this phenomenon.
The workshop will address questions such as the role of political, and religious change, such as the beginning of Islamic rule over the African shores of the Mediterranean and the Iberian peninsula, as well as the rise of the new Christian Carolingian empire. First of all what evidence indicates a regeneration of the changing western Mediterranean economy from the mid-8th century onwards? If it is possible to identify an increase in commercial exchange around this time, to what factors can this be attributed? Had the fragmented and mutually adverse but stable entities contributed to it? These entities came into being through migration and association and built on religious and political commonality. Were there new industries, or new demands mobilizing the movements of goods? How did transport change during the century? Were there networks outside the view of the literary sources? How did these contacts impact diplomatic rituals?
The close working environment of the workshop will enable productive discussion of how to connect a range of different factors, religion, ethnic, policies, transport, that affected western Mediterranean exchange networks in the long 8th century. A key focus of the discussion is the entanglement between the Islamic southern and the Christian northern regions of the western Mediterranean, an aspect that is often neglected in studies of this period. We are interested in understanding the level and nature of commercial and religious exchange between North Africa and other Mediterranean regions and in relating this to the wider studies of economic and cultural growth.
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De Gades a Tánger Med: el futuro de la tradición en el estrecho de Gibraltar, Nov. 11-12, 2021
El objetivo del coloquio internacional, transversal y diacrónico es cuestionar la previsibilidad de los desarrollos económicos en ambas regiones, tanto en el sur de España como en el norte de África, en el contexto de las más recientes evoluciones en el estrecho de Gibraltar, tomando como ejemplo las ciudades portuarias: obviamente, Marruecos tiene un plan para desarrollar esta región, persigue un decidido crecimiento económico y busca establecer relaciones con España orientadas a la colaboración. ¿Qué planes tiene España, que se da a conocer a sí misma como “puerta de Europa para África”? ¿Cómo evalúan actualmente ambos países el estado y las perspectivas de su cooperación económica, cultural y política? ¿Qué posibilidades tendría así esta zona situada “en el fin del mundo” de convertirse en una “puerta de entrada al mundo”? El análisis de esta región en la “longue durée”, es decir, atendiendo desde la Antigüedad, debe dejar claro que la situación actual es solo una de las muchas posibles, y lo que puede significar la planificación bien calculada —deberes y privilegios— para las ciudades portuarias, su entorno, así como una región o todo el país.
Con este fin entablarán conversación arqueólogos, historiadores, economistas, politólogos, sociólogos y urbanistas. Partiendo de la base de que la historia comparada tenga utilidad, se analiza las bases sentadas en la Antigüedad romana y la situación en la temprana Edad Moderna, pasando por el Medievo. A continuación, se discuten el impacto actual de los puertos de importancia en esta región a distintas escalas y las perspectivas que ofrece la cooperación entre ambas orillas.
Dans le contexte des dernières évolutions survenues dans les villes portuaires de la région du détroit de Gibraltar, l’objectif de ce colloque international, transversal et diachronique est de s’interroger sur la prévisibilité des développements économiques sur les rives espagnole et nord-africaine. Il est évident que le Maroc a un projet d’exploitation de cette région pour relancer sa croissance, tout en cherchant à établir avec l’Espagne des relations de collaboration. Quels sont alors les projets de l’Espagne, qui se revendique être « la porte de l’Europe sur l’Afrique » ? Comment les deux pays évaluent-ils actuellement l’état et les perspectives de leur coopération économique, culturelle et politique ? Quelles sont les possibilités pour ce finis terrae de devenir une « porte sur le monde » ? L’analyse de cet espace sur la «longue durée», c’est-à-dire en partant de l’Antiquité, devrait faire apparaître clairement que la situation actuelle n’est que le résultat de l’une des nombreuses possibilités et ce qu’une planification bien préparée peut signifier pour les villes portuaires, leurs environs, ainsi que pour une région ou l’ensemble du pays.
À cette fin, des archéologues, des historiens, des économistes, des politologues, des sociologues et des urbanistes ont été conviés à réfléchir, à l’aune de l’histoire comparée, sur cette zone stratégique atlantico-méditerranéenne, dont les bases de fonctionnement ont été posées dès l’Antiquité romaine et se sont poursuivies dans les siècles suivants. L’impact actuel des ports majeurs de cette région à différentes échelles et les perspectives offertes par la coopération entre les deux rives seront également discutés.
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Not the Conquerors’ Religion: Local Beliefs vs. Imperial Religion, Feb. 10-11, 2022
The conquests of the Arab armies in the seventh and eighth centuries made Islam the dominant force in a region that extended from the Iberian Peninsula as far as the Tarim Basin. However, it has increasingly been recognized that this dominance was political and administrative rather than demographic.
Conversion by the native populations was a slower process and it often took centuries before Islam became the majority religion. The Arab historical sources convey the political domination of Islam, suggesting that Islamization met little resistance from the indigenous population, and that social and political advancement was contingent upon conversion to Islam. We invite participants to look behind this depiction in two ways.
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Still 'Caput Mundi'? The Role of Rome between Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages in the Western Mediterranean, March 3-5, 2022
The decline of the Western Roman Empire is often accompanied by the decline of the city from which it all sprang: Rome. The city, the historical and moral center of the empire, had long since lost its role as capital city, yet it retained its symbolic and traditional authority as caput mundi, recognized and felt by everyone in the world. The Late Antique period and the early Middle Ages witnessed the gradual evolution of Rome from the city of the emperor to the city of the pope, on the one hand rising to the role of the center of Christianity, and on the other preserving the memory of its former status as the fulcrum of the imperial world.
The aim of this conference is to present in multiple aspects (literary, historical, archaeological) this transformation of Rome, particularly at the religious level. The proposed framework of study covers the late ancient period and the early Middle Ages (4th-7th centuries) and intends to offer a case study of thematic and regional studies, with the clear aim of obtaining a comprehensive overview of this phenomenon and paying particular attention to the role of Rome as perceived in the individual sociocultural and socio-religious realities of the Mediterranean area.
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Academic Year 2020-21
The Umayyads from West to East: New Perspectives, March 22-23, 2021
The focus of the workshop is the relationship between the two Umayyad caliphates in the East and the West. Although eastern Umayyad rule was supplanted by the Abbasids in 132/750, religious-cultural motifs and political structures that had developed under the Umayyads remained in evidence after their fall, particularly in the West of the Islamic world. In al-Andalus, the Umayyad caliphate continued until 422/1031 and survived as a political and cultural reference well beyond this date. In the Abbasid East, nostalgic stance towards the Umayyads continued for a long time, particularly in Greater Syria where the historical memory of the Umayyads played an important role for the regional identity.
Papers in this workshop will explore:
- How perceptions and memories of one Umayyad caliphate influenced the culture, religion and politics of the other, and how these Umayyad memories rebounded to the East;
- How the political relationships between the two Umayyad caliphates affected the movement of ideas, and what role the common Roman Late Antique context played in the development of both;
- What were the ideological, discursive and rhetorical tools for legitimation of the Umayyad caliphate(s);
- How all these different realities and approaches to the Umayyad legacy, both East and West, was reflected in the material culture.
In this sense, this workshop aims to to shed new light to the Umayyad world looking from West to East.
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New Perspectives on Romanization and Islamication, September 29 - October 1, 2021
With the international workshop "New Perspectives on Romanization and Islamication" the RomanIslam – Center for Comparative Empire and Transcultural Studies presents itself officially to the big audience. This "kick-off" aims also to focus the goal of RomanIslam, which is to investigate the cultural assimilation's processes called Romanization and Islamication in the western Mediterranean, specifically on the Iberian Peninsula and in North Africa.
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