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Paul Vanderzee
Paul Vanderzee

The Ancient City: A Study Of The Religion, Laws... !!TOP!!

In The WEIRDest People in the World, Joseph Henrich draws on cutting-edge research in anthropology, psychology, economics, and evolutionary biology to explore these questions and more. He illuminates the origins and evolution of family structures, marriage, and religion, and the profound impact these cultural transformations had on human psychology. Mapping these shifts through ancient history and late antiquity, Henrich reveals that the most fundamental institutions of kinship and marriage changed dramatically under pressure from the Roman Catholic Church.

The Ancient City: A Study of the Religion, Laws...

With this influential study, French historian Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges initiated a new approach to Greek and Roman city organization. Fustel de Coulanges' 1864 masterpiece, La Cité antique, drew upon physical evidence as well as ancient documents rather than the usual post-Classical histories. The result is a fresh, accurate, and detailed portrait of the religious, family, and civic life of Periclean Athens and Rome during the time of Cicero. This fascinating sociological account reveals the significance of kinship and the cult of the family hearth and ancestors to ancient Hellenic and Latin urban culture. It chronicles the rise of family-centered pagan belief systems, tracing their gradual decline to the spread of Christianity. Fustel cites ancient Indian and Hebrew texts as well as Greek and Roman sources. The ingenuity of his interpretations, along with his striking prose style, offer readers a vital and enduring historic survey.

The French historian Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges (1830-1889) made a leading contribution to the study of ancient France and to the debate concerning Roman versus German influence on French institutions and society.

Unlike political identity, space has been addressed rather reluctantly and above all as conceptual space (espace conçu) (Lefebvre 1974) in the history of ancient religion. Only very recently has attention been paid to the Roman Empire as a conceptual space of identities and a lived space that informed actual behaviour (Cancik and Rüpke 2009; Hekster, Schmidt-Hofner and Witschel 2009; Rives 2009; Orlin 2010; Mattingly 2011; Price 2012; Ando 2013, 2015; Maier 2013; Collar 2014; Rüpke 2014a; Morgan 2015; Moatti 2017; Arnhold, Maier, and Rüpke 2018). The same holds true for the space of cities in the Mediterranean world beyond the study of urban imaginaries in general; here local studies have begun to take into account space beyond the mere architectural setting of religious rituals (see Edwards 1996; Edwards and Woolf 2003; Nelis 2014), thus opening up new perspectives for research on which further studies can build (Laurence and Newsome 2011; van Nuffelen 2012; Sears, Keegan, and Laurence 2013; esp. Kaizer 2016; Kaizer et al. 2013). Nevertheless, the dominant approach remains synchronic and functional with regard to religion or diachronic and hermeneutic in relation to urban space. Central political agents and administrators and their perception of urban space as well as their use of religious practices and architecture in appropriating and shaping urban space still dominate the study of ancient religious phenomena. In almost all research on cities in the deep past (i.e., prior to the late medieval and early modern period) it is mainly assumed that the task is to illustrate how the viability of the city is grounded in a religious identity that is by the same token also a political one (see the studies in Yoffee 2015; exception: Sinopoli 2015, focused on religion in cities dominated by competing merchants). Beyond this, the intensive research on urbanisation processes in antiquity with its rich observations and theorising about diffusion, geographical location, economic and demographic factors and connectivity has addressed religious practices only occasionally (see Brogiolo and Ward-Perkins 1999; Alston, Van Nijf, and Williamson 2013).

On the hearth of every ancient Greek and Roman home was kept a small, sacred fire. It was the duty of the family to keep it lit night and day. As Fustel de Coulanges argued in his 1864 classic study, \u201CThe Ancient City,\u201D on the religious and civil institutions of ancient Greece and Rome, this vesta or \u201Cliving flame\u201D of the domestic altar was prior to all other devotions to the gods, to such a degree that we might even say that the domestic altar was the common cradle of all natural piety \u2014 for the human soul was forged in a family, and the family was itself was a fit home for the rational, relational, and religious nature of man.

Fustel de Coulanges argues that the patricians of Rome \u2014 called the gens \u2014 and their plebeian imitators, the gentes, are later developments of the domestic religion, and so the classes, that is, every gens and gentes, had religious duties to perform. The ancient city is thus not simply a \u201Cfamily of families,\u201D or associative in nature, but rather the ancient city is seen as itself one, integral, whole and common good united by religion, constituted by its worship and piety at every level of familial, class and civic common life. While it was impossible to join two families into one hearth, Fustel argues that the primitive religion of the ancient city arrived at the religious idea of uniting families by another altar which could be common to them all without sacrificing anything of their devotion to the \u201Chearth-fire.\u201D This required raising an altar, lighting a sacred fire, to a god greater than that of any one household, a god who would bless not just one families, but many families. This is to say that the religion of the city is closely patterned on the domestic religion.

Fustel ends his unsurpassed study with the striking conclusion: \u201Call had come from religion.\u201D Religion was the \u201Cabsolute master\u201D of the ancient social and political system, \u201Cboth in public and private life.\u201D (389) \u201CThe state was a religious community, the king a pontiff, the magistrate a priest, and the law a sacred formula.\u201D (389) Where law and politics had become more independent of religion, more forgetful of its origins, Fustel argues that this was due not to a structural change but because their religion itself had lost power.

The most straightforward reading of Augustine\u2019s City, the reading which inspired more than a thousand years of interpretation, including readers like Charlemagne and other Christian rulers, was that Augustine re-envisioned the ancient city on the hinge of true and false religion, not on the liberal frame of a secular space which was neutral or agnostic about religion. Augustine does have a distinctive understanding of the secular \u2014 thoroughly united to his doctrine of divine providence \u2014but his great contribution to the western understanding of the city is thoroughly centered on religion.

Heimpel (1992) and Selz (1998) based their analyses mainly on a study of the semantics of the words for ruler and concluded that in the early third millennium BCE there were two forms of kingship, one that had its basis in sacred bureaucracy, and another one that was based on the dynastic principle. The dynastic principle then became prevalent with the rulers of Akkad. Steinkeller (1999) assumes that in early Mesopotamia kings drew their power from being priests for female deities. After a male deities became more prominent in the pantheon a split of secular and sacred power took place which led to the invention of the military leader who assumed secular power and became the king. There is, however, no evidence for this reconstruction. Yoffee (2005) embedded his reconstruction of the earliest cities, states, and civilizations in the wider context of a critique of social (neo-)evolutionist theories. While the discussion of power in these earliest cities and states figures as just one of several aspects of an ancient civilization to be taken into consideration, he emphasized that the ancient Mesopotamian state consists of several parts that could exercise power, and that Mesopotamian history is therefore largely shaped by conflicts and struggles between these different entities. Mesopotamian kings are according to him not all-powerful as their influence is sharply curbed by local powers and other institutions that sprang up when the central power was weak. 041b061a72


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