Appel à contribution – Les sens du rite : encens et religion dans les sociétés anciennes (Rome, 23-24 Juin 2017)

Call for Papers

Sensing Divinity
Incense, religion and the ancient sensorium


Les sens du rite
Encens et religion dans les sociétés anciennes*

An international, interdisciplinary conference

23-24 June 2017, British School at Rome and the École française de Rome


Mark Bradley, Associate Professor of Ancient History, University of Nottingham (

Beatrice Caseau, Professor of Byzantine History, University of Paris-Sorbonne (

Adeline Grand-Clément, Associate Professor in Greek History, University of Toulouse Jean-Jaurès (

Anne-Caroline Rendu-Loisel, Post-Doctoral Researcher in Assyrology, University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès (

Alexandre Vincent, Associate Professor in Roman History, University of Poitiers (


Keynote speakers

Joël Candau (University of Nice)

Esther Eidinow (University of Nottingham)



Summary (*available in French on request)

This conference will explore the history of a medium that has occupied a pivotal role in Mesopotamian, Greek, Roman and Judeo-Christian religious tradition: incense. According to Margaret E. Kenna in her provocative 2005 article ‘Why does incense smell religious?’, this aromatic substance became a diagnostic feature of Greek orthodoxy during the Byzantine period, but it is clear that incense was also extensively used in the rituals of earlier polytheistic societies to honour the gods. Fragrant smoke drifting up towards the heavens emblematized the communication that was established between the mortal and the immortal realms, which in turn contributed to the sensory landscape of the sanctuary.

Although several studies have drawn attention to the role of incense as an ingredient in ritual and a means of communication between men and gods, there remains no comprehensive examination of the practical functions and cultural semantics of incense in the ancient world, whether as a purifying agent, a performative sign of a transcendent world, an olfactory signal to summon the deity, a placatory libation, or food for the gods. Moreover, recent archaeological research has provided evidence (alongside literary, epigraphic and iconographic evidence) that the physical origins and chemical constituents of incense are complex and diverse, as are their properties: resins, vegetable gums, spices, and a welter of aromatic products that could be exhibited and burned before ancient eyes and noses. These were components of a multi-sensory religious experience in which music, colourful costumes, lavish banquets and tactile encounters defined the ritual sensibilities of the community.

During the two days of the conference, incense will be interrogated as a historical phenomenon. We will explore its materiality, provenance and production, as well as the economic and commercial aspects of the incense trade. The conference will also examine the mechanics of incense use and the various ways it was integrated into various Mediterranean rituals (following the lines of enquiry set out by N. Massar and D. Frère), as well as its role within religious topography. The properties associated with the term ‘incense’ will be evaluated in the context of work by M. Detienne on The Gardens of Adonis (1989): what components of incense make them effective and potent within ritual? And what mechanisms and processes are used to release their aromas? And what was the perception of incense by the various participants of the ritual – deities, priests, assistants, spectators? These research questions will be informed by the recent research synergies of the organisers: M. Bradley, whose edited volume Smell and the Ancient Senses (Routledge, 2015) probes ‘foul’ and ‘fragrant’ odours as part of both human and divine social relations; A. Grand-Clément and A.-C. Rendu-Loisel, who lead the Toulouse research project on Synaesthesia that is dedicated to the interdisciplinary and comparative study of polysensoriality in ancient religious practice; and A. Vincent, who is engaged in the study of sensory perception in Roman ritual in his work on the Soundscapes (Paysages sonores).

This conference sets out to compare approaches across a range of disciplines in order to examine the role and significance of incense in ancient religion, and compare it to later aromatic practices within the Catholic Church. By adopting this cross-disciplinary and comparative approach, we hope to move beyond a universalist approach to religious aromatics and reach a more sophisticated understanding of the religious function of incense in the Mediterranean world: we hope to identify continuities in both the practice and interpretation of incense, as well as to identify specific features within individual historical contexts and traditions.

Although the conference is principally concerned with the use of incense in antiquity, we also welcome contributions from Byzantine and Medieval scholars, as well as church historians, to help provide a comparative perspective on the use and significance of incense within the Mediterranean world. We also hope to use the conference’s setting in Rome to examine current practice in the use of incense and aromatics in Roman Catholic contexts and other religious traditions. The conference will also provide an opportunity to examine first-hand the material properties of incense through a practical workshop around incense-production and burning (co-ordinated by A. Declercq, one of the scientific researchers on the Synaesthesia project at Toulouse), which will allow participants to handle a range of aromatic products and experience their various multi-sensory properties. The outcome of this workshop will be presented as the Musée Saint-Raymond at Toulouse in November 2017, as part of an exhibition on ‘Greek rituals: a sensible experience’, currently in preparation.

It is hoped that this conference will be of interest to scholars working in archaeology, anthropology, cultural history, literature, art history, and the history of religion, as well as local artists and members of the public. Papers should last approximately 20 minutes, and may be in English, Italian or French; they should be original and should not have been previously published or delivered at a major conference.

Paper topics might include, but are certainly not limited to, the following themes related to incense:

•           Material and chemical properties
•           Geography and distribution
•           Economics and commerce
•           Production and release
•           Religious topography
•           Transcendence and supernatural experience
•           Transition and rites of passage
•           Incorruptibility and immortality
•           Relationship to perfumes
•           Sacred and profane scents
•           Religious experience and synaesthesia
•           Community and homogenous sensations
•           Concealment of unwashed humanity and smells of sacrifice
•           Fumigation and purification
•           Drama and performance
•           Frankincense and myrrh
•           Censers and censing
•           Judaeo-Christian traditions

Abstracts of approximately 200-300 words should be submitted by 31 October 2016 to Mark Bradley ( or Adeline Grand-Clément ( Successful contributions may be considered for publication in a conference volume.

This conference has been funded with generous support from the École française de Rome, the British School at Rome, the Institut Universitaire de France and the IDEX of the University of Toulouse.

Appel à contribution – Act of the Scribe: Interfaces between scribal work and language use (Athènes, 6-8 avril 2017)

Call for Papers

Act of the Scribe: Interfaces between scribal work and language use

A Workshop

Date: April 6–8, 2017 (+ excursion on Sunday, April 9, to be informed later)

Venue: The Finnish Institute at Athens (Zitrou 16, GR-117 42 Athens)

The project Act of the Scribe (Academy of Finland) organises a workshop for scholars discussing various aspects of scribal work and how these relate to language use and language change in Graeco-Roman Antiquity. Currently, we see a growing interest on scribal practices and their role in language change, and an on-going tradition of (socio)linguistic studies has been established in the field of Classical languages. However, some fields of study are still under-represented and hinder the ability to form a comprehensive general picture of the linguistic situation at hand; for example, studying the multilingual situation in especially Egypt from the Ptolemaic to the Byzantine times continues to be challenging due to a gap between the disciplines of Greek and Latin on the one hand, and Demotic and Coptic research on the other. One of the aims of this workshop is to promote dialogue between the various written languages in Antiquity to be able to enhance the picture of ancient scribal practices. The general focus of the workshop lies in studying the interface between scribal work, including its technical properties, and language use.

Confirmed speakers with provisional titles include

·         Rodney Ast (Heidelberg): Professional Literacy in Late Antiquity

·         Klaas Bentein (Ghent): Documentary papyri as « multimodal » texts: Some observations on the interrelationship between language choice, linguistic register and handwriting in the Nepheros archive (III – IV AD)

·         Jenny Cromwell (Copenhagen): Terminological and palaeographic innovations among scribes in the administration of early Islamic Egypt

·         Katherine McDonald (Cambridge): The goddess Reitia and learning to write in the Veneto

·         Timo Korkiakangas (Oslo):  Relationship between spelling correctness and morphosyntactic conservativeness – a corpus study of early medieval Italian charters

·         Tonio Sebastian Richter: TBA

·         MariaChiara Scappaticcio (Naples): A Babrius’ Latin translation (P.Amh. 26): authors, scribes, and ‘mistakes of mistakes’

·         Joanne Stolk (Oslo/Ghent): Scribal corrections in Greek papyri from Egypt

·         Nicholas Zair (Cambridge): Old-fashioned spelling and sub-elite education in the Roman Empire

We invite interested scholars to submit abstracts (max. one page) by October 31, 2016 at the latest ( Topics that are of interest to the workshop include, but are not limited to, e.g.

•           scribal education in Graeco-Roman Antiquity

•           writing and copying methods affecting linguistic output

•           written standards, substandard and register

•           cross-cultural effect on second language use: transfer of linguistic elements, scribal practices and orthographic conventions

•           the role of the scribe in language change and development

•           the varying treatment of loanwords in contact situations

Organizing committee :
Martti Leiwo – Sonja Dahlgren – Hilla Halla-aho – Marja Vierros

Call for papers – Special session (2), Medieval Congress (Leeds, 3-6 July 2017)

Call for papers

Grey-zone saints in Late Antiquity and early Middle Ages

Medieval Congress – Leeds, 3-6 July 2017

The Cult of Saints is a major five-year research project, based at the University of Oxford, which is investigating the origins and development of the cult of saints in all cultural zones of ancient Christianity up to around AD 700. At the forthcoming Medieval Congress in Leeds (3-6 July 2017) the project-team is organising a strand on grey-zone, or marginal, saints in Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. A limited number of Christian heroes, mostly New Testament figures and martyrs, were renowned across Christendom. Many more struggled hard to gain a wider prominence, or even local recognition, and often remained saints only in the eyes of single partisans or restricted groups. Their sainthood was suggested but not fully accepted, or promoted but contested; their cults almost succeeded, but finally failed. Sometimes their very existence was put into question. Those interested in presenting papers on such saints and their cults, particularly if focused on the period before c.900, are requested to send title and short abstract (c. 100 words) to Bryan Ward-Perkins ( or Robert Wiśniewski ( by 20 September. Please, note that, sadly, the project is unable to fund speakers expenses.

Call for papers – Special session, Medieval Congress (Leeds, 3-6 July 2017)

Call for papers

Session on the income and property of the clergy

Medieval Congress – Leeds, 3-6 July 2017


At the forthcoming Medieval Congress in Leeds (3-6 July 2017) the team of the ‘Presbyters in the Late Antique West’ Project, based at the University of Warsaw, organises a strand on the income and property of clergy. In most literary and normative sources we usally see clerics entirely dependent on diverse types of subsidies related to their ecclesiastical office. But some casual remarks and documentary evidence show that the reality was more complicated. The actual sources of income of clerics were diverse. This session will seek to answer the following questions:

·      How much did the clerics rely on church property and revenues?

·      What were other sources of their income, either those linked with the religious expertise or unconnected with ecclesiastical activity?

·      How the frontiers were fixed between the private property and revenues of clerics and those of the church, but also between the resources of diverse groups of clerics?

Those interested in presenting papers on such topics, particularly if focused on the period before c. 900, are requested to send the title and a short abstract (c. 100 words) to Robert Wiśniewski ( by 20 September. Please, note that unfortunately the project is unable to fund speakers expenses.

Appel à contribution – International Workshop on Platonism and Christian Thought in Late Antiquity, Université d’Oslo

Appel à contribution

International Workshop on  Platonism and Christian Thought in Late Antiquity

Department of Philosophy in the University of Oslo,

Oslo, in December 2-3, 2016

The Workshop is an opportunity especially for early career researchers (PhD, postdocs, young scholars).

The deadline for submitting Abstracts is: August 10, 2016.