Rituals and Power

Rituals and Power : The Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor

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In his study of the Greek cults of the Roman emperor in Asia minor, Simon Price attempts to discover why the Roman Emperor was treated like a god. He contends that ever since the emergence of Christianity within the Roman Empire the problem has been misinterpreted; a Christianizing distinction between religion and politics has led to the cult being considered simply as a form of political honours. Drawing on anthropology as well as numismatics and archaeology, literary sources and inscriptions, Dr Price offers a fundamentally different perspective. He examines how the Greek cults of the Roman Emperor located the Emperor with their subjection to the external power of Rome. The book falls into two major parts. The first analyses the historical, social and cultural contexts of the Imperial cult, showing that the cult was deeply rooted in the Greek cities. The second focusses on the evocations of the rituals of temples, images and sacrifices. It casts light on the architechural development of Greek Cities, on cult statues in the ancient world and on the vitality and flexibility of the Greek religious system. In his concluding chapter the author draws out some of the general implications of the book; comparative material from Africa and Cambodia help our understanding of the relationship between religious ritual and political power. This book, which assumes no knowledge of Latin or Greek, will appeal to students and teachers of ancient history and archaeology. It will also attract anthropologists, historians and others interested in the interpretation of rituals and in the history of early Christianity.

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Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 152.4 x 223.52 x 22.86mm | 476.27g
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 24 b/w illus. 6 maps
  • 052131268X
  • 9780521312684
  • 416,175

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Review quote

'Simon Price's study of the Roman Imperial cult in Asia Minor is, to my mind, the first wholly successful attempt to blend anthropology with ancient history ... It must be said that on the scholarly side Price commands his vast and difficult material flawlessly ... But that is the least of its merits. A totally original re-interpretation of the imperial cult in the light of anthropological thought and method, it is the first interpretation that really makes sense of this whole bizarre phenomenon. As a former adherent of the political interpretation of the cult, I have to confess that I felt the scales drop from my eyes when I read Price's book, and for the first time understood why the citizens of the Roman Empire did what they did in worshiping their rulers.' G. W. Bowersock, The New Republic 'While the book is based upon a meticulous study of the surviving evidence for the cult in Asia Minor ... likely to satisfy the most demanding empirical researcher, the real excitement and challenge of the book for me lies in its conceptual sophistication and the sustained nature of the argumentatiob ... Not a little of its bite comes from Price's effective command of recent anthropological writing.' C. E. V. Nixon, The Liverpool Classical Monthly 'The combination of detailed scholarship in a particular area with insights which will assist anyone's understanding of religion, and of power, in the ancient world, make this an extremely important book.' T. E. J. Wiedemann, The JACT Review

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