Carnal, bloody and unnatural acts: religious pollution in ancient Rome

Lennon, Jack (2011) Carnal, bloody and unnatural acts: religious pollution in ancient Rome. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The aim of this thesis is to define and explore the nature of pollution and purity in pre-Christian Roman religion, focussing particularly on the late Republic and the early Principate. In spite of the established position of these themes in studies of Greek religion, there remains no comprehensive treatment of pollution and purity in Roman religion. The thesis exploits the approaches established by modern anthropology and classical philology to examine several aspects of religious pollution, focussing primarily on the role of the human body within religious activity.

Chapter One examines the wide-ranging vocabulary of impurity in the Latin language, and identifies the main linguistic registers in which pollution and purity featured. The second chapter explores the various dangers posed to religious procedures by sexual acts and emissions. Chapter Three continues this theme, considering blood as a polluting and purifying agent in the context of Roman law, sacrifice and warfare. Chapter Four focuses on death pollution, in particular the removal of the corpse, the status of those who worked constantly around death, and the annual rites of propitiation and the subsequent purification of the city. These various strands are drawn together in the fifth chapter, which explores their use within the oratory of Cicero as a weapon to discredit the religious authority of his opponents.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Bradley, M.A.
Drinkwater, J.F.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Item ID: 12550
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 03 May 2012 12:34
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2017 04:41

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