Abstract of Fowlkes, Isabel Blair. “The Cults of Syrian-Phonecian Gods in Rome: Archaeology, Topography, and Connections to the Roman East.”

Fowlkes, Isabel Blair.   “The Cults of Syrian-Phonecian Gods in Rome: Archaeology, Topography, and Connections to the Roman East.”   diss., New York University, 2012. [Near East/Rome]

Abstract:  This dissertation provides an in-depth analysis of the evidence for the cults of Syrian-Phoenician gods in Rome, and contributes to an understanding of their significance as “alternative” religions within the urban culture of the city during the imperial period. The introduction includes descriptions of the gods and a review of the historical-religious issues and previous scholarship as part of an intellectual history sparked initially by Franz Cumont’s category “Oriental religions.” Jupiter Dolichenus’ role as an “elective” cult that appealed to diverse civilians as well as members of the military contrasts with the “diaspora” cult sites of other gods that reflect the importance of ancestral gods among communities linked to their cities/region of origin.

The three main chapters demonstrate that Syrian-Phoenician gods played a substantial role in the religious life of imperial Rome, brings Jupiter Dolichenus to the forefront as well as Jupiter Heliopolitanus and other Phoenician gods, Bel and the Palmyrene gods, Dea Syria, Elagabalus and several others, and offers new analyses and interpretations of their sanctuaries, shrines, dedications and related material evidence.

Chapter Two evaluates the evidence for the sanctuary of Jupiter Dolichenus on the Aventine, reinterprets the cult site based on architectural and epigraphic evidence, and highlights the roles of equites Romaniand cult members and officials without apparent links to Syria. Chapter Three argues that rather than one or two sanctuaries on the Caelian and Esquiline as typically suggested, the extant evidence indicates that three separate cult sites probably existed, and were used and administered by civilians as well as by soldiers/sailors affiliated respectively with the castra priora equitum singularium , the statio of the second cohort of vigiles on the Esquiline, and most likely also at/near the castra praetoria . Chapter Four evaluates the evidence for the temple of Bel and Palmyrene gods and the sanctuary of Jupiter Heliopolitanus and Phoenician gods, as well as the cult sites of Jupiter Dolichenus in Regio XIV, and concurs with proposals for the locations of Dea Syria’s sanctuaries in Regio III and at the slave market (venalicium) and the suburban Elagabalum at the Sessorium palace, rather than in Regio XIV.

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