HSRS 345: Pagans and Christians: Ancient Mediterranean Religions

Instructor: Alessandro Celani - Ph.D.
Credits: 3
Course/Lab Fee: 55€ (course reader fee will be announced by the Print Shop)
Prerequisite: None
Cross-Listing: Classical Studies, History, Religion & Philosophy

This course provides a social and cultural history of Ancient Mediterranean religions, with a special focus on Greece, Rome and Christianity. The course is divided into three parts: the first part will review the concept of religion as documented by the ancient Mediterranean societies, the second part will consider Stoicism and Epicurean and Platonic philosophy in relation to their role as pioneers of new concepts, while the third part of the course will deal with the construction of the Christian individual as a type, first classified as illegal, then tolerated within society, and finally seen as one with power.
The three major religious systems will also be approached thematically, focusing on some of their major aspects, such as:

    • places: temples, shrines, churches and basilicas
    • ritual: Greek and Roman sacrifices vs. Christian liturgy
    • myth: the Greek epic, the Roman oral tradition, the Christian gospels
    • other central religious experiences in life: birth, initiation, rites of transition, death
    • beliefs and conceptions of afterlife

Course Objectives

    • acquire a sophisticated and in-depth understanding of the history of Ancient Mediterranean Religions
    • gain knowledge of the principal religious and philosophical concepts
    • acquire familiarity with and be able to analyze different kinds of documents: images, inscriptions and literary texts

Course Materials

Mandatory course reader.


Field Trip

Students will take a day trip to Spoleto, where they will visit the duomo and San Salvatore. They will then stop by Assisi, where they will explore the Basilica of San Francesco.