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Perception et construction du divin dans l’Antiquité

Reviewed by Aikaterini-Iliana Rassia

The volume Perception et construction du divin dans l’Antiquité grew out of a two-day International colloquium, entitled “Perception des dieux, émotions, maîtrise rituelle: corps divins, corps humains” which was held at the University of Geneva in March 24-26, 2011.

The contributions of the volume, all written in French, are introduced by the editors Philippe Borgeaud and Doralice Fabiano, who outline the overarching goal of the Geneva conference: the investigation of the “corporeal” contact between humans and gods (‘la perception sensible de la présence divine et …les émotions qu’elle dégage’, p.10). Classified thematically, the individual papers are divided into three parts: the first deals with the gods and their statues (pp.19-87), the second focuses on regional cases of epiphany of gods (pp.121-211), and the third on the politics of emotions (pp.237-293).

The first part opens with a brief essay on “Voir les dieux à Rome” by Anne Dubourdieux who builds her argument on the basis of Estienne’s contention (Ph.D. thesis) that both ‘signum’ and ‘simulacrum’ are preferred nouns for designating a divine representation. Dubourdieux’s argument that there is a symbolic tension in the function of Roman divine statues is certainly correct. As she nicely argues, the statues could reflect both the presence (signum), and the absence (simulacrum) of a god. In the following essay, Corinne Bonnet and Adeline Grand-Clément examine how the emotional attachment towards divine statues was a vital feature in distinguishing ancient communities (Greeks, Romans and Barbarians) on the basis of their reverence. Their basic argument is formulated around two case-studies: the exile of the statues of Apollo of Gela and Artemis of Segesta. Next, we turn to Collard’s paper on Les dieux et leurs statues dans la céramique grecque, which is a part of a doctoral thesis under preparation. Collard investigates two different groups of red-figured vases (Attic and South-Italian) that depict divinities right next to their statues. As she correctly argues, this iconographic pattern is not arbitrary, for the artists express different modes of divine representation, and this doubling ought to be further examined (pp.81-83). Finally, the first part closes with Anne-Catherine Gillis’ paper on the piety of artisans as reflected in the evolution of the artistic representation of Hephaistos.

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