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Roman Power and Greek Sanctuaries, by Marco Galli (ed.)

Forms of Interaction and Communication

Reviewed by Rocío Gordillo Hervás

This volume represents the crowning of four years of work by the members of the project “Formation and transformation of religious identities in the Roman Empire” (2003-2007) and of the outcome of the meeting “Religion as communication: Ritual networks in traditional Greek sanctuaries under the Roman domination” (2008). It is edited by Marco Galli, a scholar well known for his work on Greek religion under the Roman Empire. The book contains ten chapters: eight in English, one in Italian and one in German. They are preceded by an introductory chapter written by the editor (also in English), which undertakes a journey through the evolution of Greek ritual from the third century B.C. to the second century A.D., providing a framework for the main concepts developed within the subsequent chapters.

The first chapter, by Bonna D. Wescoat, analyzes the traces of Roman interaction with the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace from the late third to the first century B.C. The author offers a comprehensive study which explores the relationship between Rome and Samothrace, focusing on the literary and historical sources that emphasize ethnic and religious connections with the founding of Rome. The author first analyzes those passages which describe the Roman visitors to the sanctuary, devoting special attention to the passage where Plutarch describes M. Claudius Marcellus’ dedication of part of the Syracusan war-booty to the sanctuary, and where Plutarch also argues that the shrine was chosen because of the ancestral connection between Aeneas and Dardanos, and between Samothrace and the Penates and the Lares Permarini. The analysis of the epigraphic evidence, especially the lists of Roman initiates and dedications, shows that the majority of them refer to members of the Roman elites who visited the island for official or business matters. Finally, the archaeological analysis focuses on the most important architectural changes taking place in buildings such as the Faux-Mycenaean Niche, Theatre Complex and adjacent Dining Rooms, and three late Hellenistic building on the western hill. The chapter represents a definite advance in the studies of the integration between the Greek and the Roman world during Republican times, an oft-neglected period.

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