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Religion in Sicily after the Roman Conquest 3rd to 1st c. BC

Beatrice Lietz

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1My current research is the last stage of a journey, which I embarked on five years ago at the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa. There, I defended a Master’s thesis (now published as a monograph) which already dealt with a Sicilian cult: the goddess (Astarte/Aphrodite/Venus) of Eryx, in Western Sicily.

2During my research on this goddess, worshipped by Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans from the 5th c. BC to the 3rd c. AD, I soon discovered the republican period as the richest of its history. Many sources allowed to show the way Romans made the goddess a symbolic point of their presence on the island. However, this had received little attention from a scholarship more concerned with origins than with historical developments.

3Looking at the island as a whole, the situation is similar. The vulgate scholarly account of republican Sicily describes it as deeply Hellenized region, only partly influenced by conque­rors. Yet Eryx’s case demands this premise to be questioned.

4I decided then to turn to the evidence on religion at this time, in order to identify the transformations in religious life.

5As often in ancient history, the material at hands is heterogeneous both in terms of its nature and for its representativeness and the problems it raises. We are faced with passages from Greek and Latin literature, highly elaborate but partial; with archaeological findings of different date and accuracy; with images and inscriptions, often hermetic to modern readers. Only a thorough analysis of each piece allows us to shed light on the three main issues of the subject: the extent and nature of Roman intervention; the attitude of Sicilian cities; the transformations in individuals’ religious life. The latter point, in spite of the usual lack of sources on private life, has to be addressed, since the traditional scholarly account of Roman religion has recently been criticized for mainly focusing on institutional data.

6Through this framework, I intend to offer a more refined idea of religious change in the first province of the Empire. This issue concerns the history of Sicily as much as that of Roman religion: the way we should look at it, beyond the boundaries of the city of Rome, is now increasingly a topic of discussion.

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Beatrice Lietz, « Religion in Sicily after the Roman Conquest 3rd to 1st c. BC », La lettre du Collège de France [En ligne], 7 | 2015, mis en ligne le 03 novembre 2015, consulté le 17 janvier 2019. URL :

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Beatrice Lietz

Research Assistant, Religion, Institutions and Society in Ancient Rome (Prof. John Scheid)

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