Summer School "Ideology, Power and Religious Change in Antiquity"

(20 - 24 July 2015)


In the modern world, political as well as religious leaders make use of ideological messages to legitimize and advertise their power. Especially during periods of transformation and change, it is important for leaders to demonstrate their strengths and capacities in order to unify their subjects. By presenting themselves as the right men in the right place they could win their subjects' loyalty and thus legitimize and safeguard their own positions. This practice is however not a modern invention, it is rooted in ancient traditions and habits.

Our summer school focuses on ideological messages communicated by leaders in the ancient world (Ancient Near East, Greece and Rome, c. 3000 BC - AD 600) during periods of religious change (periods characterized by the rise, expansion or dominance of new religions, specific religious factions, sects or cults that caused changes in or threatened existing social, religious and/or power structures). Which messages were communicated by central and local authorities as well as specific religious authorities in these epochs? What do these messages tell us about the nature of power exercised by leaders?

    Public part:

  • 20 July 2015

    09:00 - 09:30
    Welcome by the President of the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (Ulrike Beisiegel), and the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities (Johannes Bergemann)

    09:30 - 10:15
    Welcome and introduction (Gösta Gabriel and Erika Manders)

    10:15 - 10:45
    Coffee break

    10:45 - 11:45
    Piotr Steinkeller (Harvard) - The divine rulers of Akkade and Ur: toward a definition of the divination of kings in Ancient Mesopotamia

  • 21 July 2015

    10:00 - 11:00
    Eckart Frahm (Yale) - Philology, politics, performance, and natural philosophy: Interpretations of the Babylonian Epic of Creation in the first millennium BCE

  • 22 July 2015

    10:00 - 11:00
    Paola Ceccarelli (Cambridge) - Religion and communication in the Seleucid kingdom

  • 23 July 2015

    10:00 - 11:00
    Olivier Hekster (Nijmegen) - Anchoring religious change: faces of power and problems of understanding

  • 24 July 2015

    10:00 - 11:00
    Carlos Noreña (Berkeley) - Religion, government, and social order in the Ancient World

  • Aims of the summer school:

  • The participants will be made familiar with different types of communication processes between leaders and subjects in the ancient world. Thus, on the one hand, we will discuss theoretical and controversial concepts such as ideology, representation, propaganda and power. On the other hand, we will investigate specific media by which leaders of different ancient cultures communicated with their peoples and the messages that were disseminated by these media.
  • We will address different aspects of ancient religious history. This means that specific religions, religious factions and cults as well as their relation to each other will be attended to.
  • Communication theories and practices will be linked to the history of religion by discussing the interaction between the course of religious history and the creation of ideology and thus the wielding of power at various levels and in different areas.

  • Working method:

  • Keynote lectures: International experts present their work in keynote lectures.
  • Respondenzmodell: The participants hand in papers one month before the summer school starts. They present their papers during seminars to which postdocs, PhD students as well as the keynote lecturers participate. A response to the paper will be given by another participant (Co-Referat).
  • Publication: The papers of the participants will be revised according to the comments made during the summer school and they will be offered for publication to high quality journals. In this way, the summer school also functions as a peer review system for PhD students and postdocs.


Gösta Gabriel

Postdoctoral researcher
Graduiertenschule für Geisteswissenschaften
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Friedländer Weg 2
37085 Göttingen
Tel +49 (0)551/ 39- 21122
Gösta klein

Erika Manders

Postdoctoral researcher
Graduiertenschule für Geisteswissenschaften
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
Friedländer Weg 2
37085 Göttingen
Tel +49 (0)551 / 39- 21126
erika klein