Sacred place: contextualizing non-urban cult sites and sacred monuments in the landscape of Lusitania from the 1st to 4th c. AD
Richert, Elizabeth Anne
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This thesis is a study of the religious life of the rural inhabitants of one peripheral Roman province, Lusitania. From archaeological, epigraphic and literary evidence it uncovers a wide array of cult spaces and monuments. These range from sacred springs, mountain shrines, rock inscriptions and sanctuaries, to temples, votive deposits, and clusters of altars. Together, they pertain to the countryside environment and date to between the 1st and 4th centuries AD: a period when the Romans were securely established in this corner of the Iberian Peninsula. The aim of this thesis is to contextualize these cult spaces and monuments by grounding them within the broader historical evolutions of the period, as well as the natural and man-made landscape of which they were a part. More specifically, this work sheds light on certain important patterns in rural Lusitanian worship. Chief among these are the observations that this worship was primarily small scale and private in nature, intimately associated with idealized natural settings, yet indivisible from the rural territorial infrastructure of its day. Rural cult spaces were not immune to historical developments affecting the province. The 1st to 4th century sacred rural landscape differed profoundly from that of the preceding, and following, periods. Finally, it is shown that the cult spaces and monuments in question, as well as the dedications and votive offerings associated with them, were incredibly varied. Their differences reflect a deep cultural rift between the northern and southern halves of this province. These assorted findings do not together furnish one cohesive picture of ‘rural religion’ as a single phenomenon divisible from ‘urban religion’ and homogenous throughout the province. Instead, the patchwork they create reiterates the diversity and varying levels of cultural interaction that existed throughout this provincial countryside.