In the light of present-day urbanization the paper takes a fresh look at religion in the cities of the ancient Mediterranean work. The widespread model of “polis” or “civic religion” is checked against its origins in Numa Fustel de Coulange’s La cité antique of 1864. The re-reading of this work lays open the deficit in the widespread model of coextension of political dominion and identity with religious practices and identity. Fustel offers a much more complex model of multiple layers and divergent directions of religious communication and loyalty. The critical review will try to generalise these insights and proposals on the basis of lived religion approaches. Based on a quick comparison with present narratives on the role of religion in ancient cities all over the world two types of narratives will be distinguished, assigning religion a role in the establishment of hierarchies and power relations on the one hand and a role in enabling and stabilising diversity on the other. Against that backdrop a new concept of “urban religion” will be proposed.
Professor Rüpke received his degrees from the universities of Bonn, Lancaster (GB), Tübingen, and University of Constance. He was a Professor of Classical Philology (Latin) at the University of Potsdam between 1995-99. He served as a chair of Comparative Religion at the University of Erfurt between 1999-2015, as a dean of the Faculty of Philosophy between 2004-7, and an interim president Erfurt University in 2008. He was the coordinator of the Research Program “Roman Imperial and Provincial Religion “between 2000-8, and from 2008 onwards the co-director of the Research Group “Religious Individualization in Historical Perspective.” He was the director of the ERC Advanced Grant “Lived Ancient Religion” between 2012-17. Since 2013, he is the vice-director of the Max Weber Centre. Professor Rüpke was a guest professor or lecturer at the Sorbonne and the Collège de France Paris, Stanford, Aarhus, Chicago, Princeton, Cornell Universities.