UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Rural religion at rock sanctuaries in Roman Spain : an alternative model McCullough, Kimberly


Rural religion in Roman Spain continues to be misunderstood due to problematic narratives in both ancient and modern sources. In the age of Augustus, the Greek geographer Strabo put forth misrepresentations of the religious beliefs and practices of inhabitants of Hispania as a result of two main problems, the polis-religion model view and idea of acculturation. Strabo and his sources’ shared a lack of familiarity with religious expressions in the rural sphere of Roman Spain due to their narrow view of religious rites. Moreover, writers under the Roman Empire like Strabo tend to emphasize cultural transformations to the “Roman mode of life” as positive and widespread experiences, even if in reality the process was much more gradual and varied. This Strabonian meta-narrative problematizes our understanding of religious change in the region of Hispania. What’s more, this meta-narrative has lived on in modern scholarship as scholars continue to focus their inquiries into religious change largely on the urban centers of society, conceptualize religious and cultural change in terms of acculturation models such as “Romanization,” and treat religious beliefs in isolation from practice by ignoring the spatial context of epigraphic evidence. In response to such problematic frameworks, I propose an alternative model aimed at presenting a more complete picture of religion in Roman Spain. Throughout this framework, I privilege the study of the rural sphere, trace instances of inventing traditions in rural religion, and analyze the epigraphic evidence alongside its spatial context in order to look beyond the narrow range of material covered by past scholars. In the first chapter I apply my alternative model to the sanctuary of Panóias and demonstrate the inability of past approaches to portraying the innovative agency taking place. In the second chapter I test the applicability of interpretations of Panóias to other rock sites in Spain as done by past scholars. I conclude that Panóias is not necessarily applicable as a model to other sites, although interpretations made through the application of an alternative model does drive knowledge forward by helping us understanding individual agency and the invention of tradition in rural religion in Roman Spain.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International