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.

Conférence « Fortune et Réception des textes oraculaires dans l’Antiquité tardive et le monde médiéval » – Université libre de Bruxelles

Conférence « Fortune et Réception des textes oraculaires dans l’Antiquité tardive et le monde médiéval » – Université libre de Bruxelles


Two-days conference, sponsored by the U.L.B. (Chancellor and Faculté de Philosophie et Sciences sociales) and the FNRS, to be held on Monday 5 and Tuesday 6 September at the Université libre de Bruxelles, Campus Solbosch, salle AY2 107 (free access). The programme is the following:


Presentation, Aude Busine (Université libre de Bruxelles)

Introduction, Lucia Maddalena Tissi (Université libre de Bruxelles)

Chair: Aude Busine  (Université libre de Bruxelles)

9.30-09.55 Crystal Addey (University of St. Andrews, U.K.), Oracles of the Fire: the   Ritual Formation of the Chaldean Oracles

09.55-10.05 Discussion

10.05-10.30 Helmut Seng (Universität Konstanz), Editorisch-kritische Überlegungen zu den Chaldaeischen Orakeln: Die  Sammlung des Psellos

10.30-10.40 Discussion

10.40-11.00 Coffee break

11.00-11.25 Nicoletta Brocca (Università Ca’ Foscari, Venezia), Fortuna e ricezione dell’acrostico sibillino in Occidente tra tarda antichità e medioevo

11.25-11.35 Discussion

11.35-12.00 Chiara Ombretta Tommasi Moreschini (Università degli Studi di Pisa), Greek Oracles in Latin world. Three late-antique cases

12.00-12.10 Discussion

12.10-12.35 Angel Ruiz Perez (Universitad Santiago de Compostela), Rebukes in Oracles in Late Antiquity

12.35-12.45 Discussion

12.35-14.15 Lunch

Chair: Alain Delattre (Université libre de Bruxelles)

14.15-14.40 Regina Fichera (Università degli Studi di Firenze), Le θεῖος φιλόσοφος et les oracles dans les Vies de philosophes et de sophistes par Eunape de Sardes

14.40-14.50 Discussion

14.50-15.15 Sara Lanna (Università degli studi di Roma “Tor Vergata”), Alexander the Great and the oracle of Ammon: philological and historical-religious remarks

15.15-15.25 Discussion

15.25-15.50 Claudio Schiano (Università degli Studi di Bari), Oracoli pagani e predizione del futuro: un tema scomodo nell’Alessandria del VI secolo

15.50-16.00 Discussion

16.00-16.20 Coffee break

16.20-16.45 Christine Hecht (Universität Tübingen), Eusebios liest Porphyrios. Fragmentierung und Kontextualisierung der « Orakelphilosophie »

16.45-16.55 Discussion

16.55-17.20 Giovanni Serafini (Università degli Studi di Firenze), Piero della Francesca and the Holy Cross : a patristic reading of the frescoes in Arezzo

17.20-17.30 Discussion



Chair: Regina Fichera (Università degli Studi di Firenze)

9.30-09.55  Gianfranco Agosti (Sapienza University of Rome), The Context and Reception of an oracle in Socrates of Constantinople

09.55-10.05 Discussion

10.05-10.30 David Hernández de la Fuente (UNED, Madrid), Greek Poetry in Oracular Style and Politics in Late Antiquity: some case studies

10.30-10.40 Discussion

10.40-11.05 Laura Carrara  (Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften / Karls Eberhard Universität Tübingen), Excerpts from (Christianized) Pagan Wisdom : the Tübingen Theosophy

11.05-11.15 Discussion

11.15-11.35 Coffee break

Chair: Lucia Maddalena Tissi (Université libre de Bruxelles)

11.35-12.00 Enrico Magnelli (Università degli Studi di Firenze), Crooked oracles or naive inquirers? Theodore Prodromus, RD 9.184-240

12.00-12.10 Discussion

12.10-12.35 Giulia Maria Paoletti (University of Oxford), Between Vergil and Metaphrastes: the fate of a collection of oracles

12.35-12.45 Discussion

12.45-14.00 Lunch

14.00-14.25 Georgios Tsiaples (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), Oracles and Prophecies connected with the pagan remains of Constantinople

14.25-14.35 Discussion

14.35-15.00 Chiara Garganese (Università degli Studi di Firenze), Sculpting oracles, an initiatory path in Siena Dom

15.00-15.10 Discussion

15.10-15.30 Conclusions et discussion, Aude Busine et Lucia Maddalena Tissi

We invite anyone who is interested to join the conference. Please do not hesitate to contact Lucia Tissi if you have any further questions: OR


Colloque – Controverses religieuses en syriaque

                                                                                                                                 13e Colloque de la Société d’études syriaques

Controverses religieuses en syriaqueUntitled

vendredi 13 novembre 2015

Le 13e colloque de la Société d’études syriaques sera consacré aux controverses religieuses en syriaque et visera à rassembler des spécialistes de littérature et d’histoire afin d’offrir une vision d’ensemble encore inexistante des débats et des relations que les chrétiens syriaques ont entretenus au cours des siècles avec d’autres communautés côtoyées dans les aires où ils évoluèrent (païens, juifs, manichéens, musulmans, zoroastriens, etc.). Elle traitera aussi des controverses au sein même des communautés chrétiennes, entre des courants qui se considéraient mutuellement comme antagonistes ou déviants (chalcédoniens/syroorthodoxes/ syro-orientaux, etc.). La structure de la table ronde mettra en valeur ces deux « lieux » de la controverse, et traitera par conséquent de « controverses externes » et de « controverses internes ». Il s’agira d’étudier non seulement les controverses littéraires, et donc la part jouée dans les débats par l’écriture (le style, la rhétorique, les genres littéraires, les topoi polémiques, etc.), mais aussi de retracer autant que possible la réalité historique des rapports interreligieux en monde syriaque. Toutes les sources susceptibles de renfermer des enseignements à ce sujet seront sollicitées : littérature de controverse (traités polémiques, etc.), chroniques, textes apocryphes, textes liturgiques, actes de martyrs, etc. Chaque contribution abordera les multiples aspects d’une controverse particulière et montrera comment celleci s’articule souvent avec une ou plusieurs autres, comment les arguments mis au point dans un contexte peuvent être repris, comment par exemple les controverses avec les juifs refont surface dans les controverses avec l’islam.

Comité scientifique :
Muriel Debié (LEM-EPHE)
Flavia Ruani (Université de Gand)

Programme ici.

48th Spring Byzantine Symposium

48th Spring Byzantine Symposium

Whose Mediterranean is it anyway? Cross-cultural interaction between Byzantium and the West 1204-1669

The Open University, Milton Keynes
28th-30th March 2015


Saturday 28th March

Registration and Welcome – Berril Building

09.30-10.15: Registration / coffee

10.15-10.30: Angeliki Lymberopoulou (Milton Keynes) – Welcome

Morning Session – Berril Building

Chair: Liz James

10.30-11.00: Angeliki Lymberopoulou (Milton Keynes) – Framing of the 48th Spring Byzantine Symposium

11.00-11.40: Jane Baun (Oxford) – Whose Church is it anyway? Mediterranean Christianities in cross-cultural context

11.40-12.00: Discussion

12.00-13.30: Lunch (Berril Building)

Saturday 28th March

Afternoon Session – Berril Building

Chair: Leslie Brubaker

13.30-14.10: Liz James (Sussex) – Made in Byzantium? Mosaics after 1204

14.10-14.50: Stefania Gerevini (Rome) – Beyond 1204? The Baptistery of San Marco, the chapel of St Isidore, and the meaning of Byzantine visual language in fourteenth-century Venice

14.50-15.30: Michele Bacci (Freiburg) – Enhancing the Authority of Icons: Italian Frames for Byzantine Images

15.30-15.55: Discussion

16.00-16.30: Coffee / Tea (Berrill Building)

16.00-17.30: SPBS Meeting (Hub Theatre)

(Coffee / Tea for those attending this meeting will be served at the Hub Theatre)

Open Lecture – Berrill Building

Chair: Angeliki Lymberopoulou

17.45-19.00: Leslie Brubaker (Birmingham) – Space, place and culture: processions across the Mediterranean

19.45 Symposium Feast – Hilton Hotel

Sunday 29th March

Please note: British Summer time begins on Sunday 29th March – clocks go forward one hour


Morning Session – Berrill Building

Chair: Rembrandt Duits

9.00-09:40 Diana Newall (Kent) – Artistic and Cultural Tradition through Candia in the 15th century

09:40-10.20: Maria Constantoudaki (Athens) – Aspects of Artistic Exchange on Crete. Remarks and Question Marks

10.20-10.50: Coffee / Tea (Berrill Building)

10.50-11.30: Sharon Gerstel (Los Angeles) – Between east and West: Locating Monumental Painting from the Peloponnesos

11.30-11.55: Discussion

12.00-13.30: Lunch (Berrill Building)

12.45-13.30: SPBS AGM (Berrill Building)

13.30-15.30: Communications – Two Parallel Sessions (please see additional programme)

Session A: Berrill Building – Chair: Diana Newall

Session B: Hub Theatre – Chair: Tony Eastmond 

15.30-16.00: Coffee / Tea (Berril Building for all)

Sunday 29th March

Afternoon Session – Berrill Building

Chair: Dionysios Stathakopoulos

16.00-16.20: Ioanna Christoforaki (Athens – in absentia) – Crossing Boundaries: Colonial and Local Identities in the Visual Culture of Medieval Cyprus

16.20-17.00: Tassos Papacostas (London) – Where Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance architecture crossed paths: Cyprus under Latin rule

17.00-17.15: Discussion

Open Lecture – Berrill Building

Chair: Angeliki Lymberopoulou

17.30-18.45: Dionysios Stathakopoulos (London) – ‘Latin basillisses’: transcultural marriages in late medieval Greece

18.45: Reception – Berrill Building: Sponsored by Ashgate

Monday 30th March

Morning Session – Berrill Building

Chair: Tassos Papacostas

09.00-09.40: Tony Eastmond (London) – Contesting Art in the Thirteenth Century

09.40-10.20: Hans Bloemsma (Middelburg) – The changing meaning of Byzantine art in the context of early Italian painting

10.20-11.00: Rembrandt Duits (London) – Byzantine Influences in the Iconography of Last Judgment in Late Medieval Italy

11.00-11.30: Tea / Coffee (Berrill Building)

11.30-12.10: Francesca Marchetti (London) – O insignis Graecia, ecce iam tuum finem. Illustrated medical manuscripts in Late Palaeologan Constantinople and their fortune in Sixteenth Century Italy

12.10-12.45: Discussion and Closure of the 48th Spring Byzantine Symposium

12.45-14.00: Lunch (Berrill Building)



  Sunday 29th March 2014, 13.30 -15.30

**Please Note: The allocated time per communication is 12 minutes plus 3 minutes for questions – a total of 15 minutes per communication. The 20 minute allocation in the programme is provided for those who would like to move between the Berril Building and the Hub Theatre in the Open University campus to attend different communications. Chairs are advised to be ‘Bryer’-ruthless in their time keeping. Thank you for your co-operation.**


Session A: Berril Building – Chair Diana Newall

13.30-13.50: Livia Bevilacqua (Venice) – Venice in Byzantium: Art and Patronage in the Venetian Quarter of Constantinople (13th-15th centuries)

13.50-14.10: Matthew Kinloch (Oxford) – Shared Cultures of Power: Cities and power in Byzantium and Italy

14.10-14.30: Christopher Wright (London) – Prizes or prisons: the Latins and power over islands in the Palaiologan Byzantium

14.30-14.50: Anestis Vasilakeris (Istanbul) – The Drawing Process in Byzantine and Italian Painting around 1300

14.50-15.10: Andrea Mattiello (Birmingham) – The elephant on the page: Ciriaco de’Pizzicolli D’Ancona in Mystras

15.10-15.30: Maria-Vassiliki Farmaki (Athens) – Theatre Arts and Life in Byzantium: the Connection between Byzantine and Latin Theatre


Session B: Hub Theatre – Chair Tony Eastmond

13.30-13.50: Dion Smythe (Belfast) – New Mediterranean Cooking? “Oil and Water in the Same Cup”

13.50-14.10: Leonela Fundic (Brisbane) – Epiros between Byzantium and the West in the Thirteenth and Early Fourteenth Centuries: Visual Evidence

14.10-14.30: Prodromos Papanikolaou (Athens) – A Marble Relief Icon of the Crucifixion; Sculptures and Styles in Hospitaller Rhodes

14.30-14.50: Teodora Konach (Cracow) – The gesture of Dessislava – Byzantine and Western contexts at the Cultural Crossroads

14.50-15.10: Agnes Kriza (Cambridge) – The Royal Deesis: an anti-Latin imagery of Late Byzantine Art

15.10-15.30: Alex Rodriguez Suarez (London) – Bell-ringing in Byzantium during the late Byzantine period: an introduction

All relevant information – invited papers, communications, registration form and general information – can be viewed at: