Urban and Rural Christianity – Religious Transformations in Late Antique Pannonia and Dalmatia

<div style='font-size: 0.8em; padding: 4px;'>"Israel crossing the Red Sea"; marble sarcophagus, Archaeological Museum Split, Inv. D 175. – Christian sarcophagus of uncertain provenance within the city of Salona/Dalmatia, 4th century. The soldiers of the Pharaoh are depicted in roman military cloth. </div>

The characteristics and development of late antique religious space are examined within the roman provinces of Pannonia and Dalmatia. The concept of the geography of religions is understood as the perception of the religious landscape and the shapes of cultic representation that takes place within the provinces. The social structure of Dalmatia qualifies this province in particular for exemplary research. On the one hand, the system of Salona as urban centre with its provincial periphery reflects the relation of Rome to the provinces; on the other hand it represents itself in the correlation to the minor provincial centres and their respective urban hinterland. The character of the Pannonias as provinces on the frontier of the Roman Empire effectuated a unique interdependency between the pivotal power of the empire and the provincial cultural situation.

  • Thus transformation expresses the differences of religious representation of power within dissimilar social spaces: at the provincial capitals, the power of Rome and the empire is present in the form of the cultic acts performed by the roman citizens, the governors, certain bishops or, as in case of Sirmium or Carnuntum, the emperors themselves. The project investigates the specific way, in which standardized religious practice – pagan and then Christian – is adopted in the province. Again, the shapes of religious representation at the provincial capital radiate on to the minor provincial centres, where by way of selection and assumption another transformation of roman religion takes place.
  • Within the provinces, further indigenous but long since Hellenized or Romanized cults shape the cultural and religious space. Likewise, religious acts within supraregional religions of non-roman origin are found, e.g. Christianity or the "oriental cults". Therefore, transformation also expresses the development of regional particularities inside of global religious systems. Consequently the project inquires processes of change and cultural adaptation, with the stress on late antique Christianity as the promulgated religion of the empire.
  • Finally, transformation expresses the shift of religious loyalties and the change of cultic practice inside of social groups. In antiquity Christianization represents the most far-reaching example of such a shift. The project seizes this process as a transformation of religious representation. The constants within the changes, for example cultic spaces and participants of religious acts, are examined as well as the struggle for balance between standardization and adaptation inside the theological discourses of late antique Christianity.

For the roman provinces of Dalmatia and Pannonia the project in hand therefore analyses the different dimensions of religious transformation, especially the Christianization of the province as reorganisation of the religious landscape. For the purpose of that analysis archaeological, particularly epigraphical sources are interpreted as well as literary testimonies in relation to the history of religions and of Christianity regarding the treated region.

<div style='font-size: 0.8em; padding: 4px;'>Limestone lintel, Manastirine near Salona/Dalmatia, FS II 152. – Lintel of the main portal of the cemetery church at Manastirine, 5th/6th century. "Our God, be well-disposed towards the Roman state."</div>


Henrik Hildebrandt