The Public Sacred Identity of Roman Ascalon Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Le Blanc, Robyn
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Classics
  • Memory, a shared sense of the past, and public institutions were three important cultural processes that articulated and perpetuated the collective identity of ancient communities. Civic and cultural institutions in the Roman Empire, particularly those related to civic cults and mythology, often provided the context for the articulation of collective identities within a community, and a negotiation of the community’s identity in a larger regional and imperial context. Ascalon, the best documented city on the southern coast, is an ideal case study for an exploration of the role of memory, mythology, cults, and images of the gods in local discourses surrounding collective identity. I explore how Ascalon’s past as a Canaanite, Philistine, Phoenician, and independent Hellenistic polis influenced the community’s cults, mythology, and the deployment of its deities in public media. I frame a discussion of the late Hellenistic and Roman period cults within their historical contexts, pointing toward the continued association of Ascalon with the Philistines and Phoenicians as a key element influencing the city’s later identity. I provide an overview of the evidence for civic cult at Ascalon, and establish key trends in their presentation that I explore more fully in case studies. In the first case study I discuss how the cult of Astarte Aphrodite Ourania was used to express changing notions about the identity of the city and its connections to the Hellenistic and Greek world. Next, I provide and stories concerning Ascalon, arguing that the Lydian heroes Mopsos and Ascalus, and the local goddess Derceto, reflected the local cultural memory of ancient migrations and connections between the Greek world and the coast of Palestine. I conclude that the ways that the community remembered its past and expressed its public sacred identity were similar to the methods employed by other cities in the Roman Empire. I argue that images of gods and references to local cults were used deliberately in certain significant moments to emphasize the community’s connections to the Mediterranean world, or to emphasize Ascalon’s importance and antiquity within the region.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Grillo, Luca
  • Rives, James
  • Magness, Jodi
  • Truemper, Monika
  • Gates-Foster, Jennifer
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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