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Come and dine with us: Invitations to ritual dining as part of social strategies in sacred spaces in Palmyra

New publication by Professor Rubina Raja.

Raja, R. (2020). “Come and dine with us: invitations to ritual dining as part of social strategies in sacred spaces in Palmyra”, in: Gasparini, V., Patzelt, M., Raja, R., Rieger, A.-K., Rüpke, J. & Rubens Urciuoli, E. (eds), Lived Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World: Approaching Religious Transformations from Archaeology, History and Classics, Berlin & Boston, 385-404.


This article investigates social and religious networks in urban contexts through the so-called banqueting tesserae from Palmyra. The tesserae were used to gain entrance to religious banquets in Palmyra. In antiquity, banquets, ritual dining and sacred meals were pivotal societal practices through which groups and individuals could situate and regulate themselves and others within broader complex societal settings. Banquets functioned as a cultural practice, which would have been learned and which certain segments of society would certainly have become accustomed to from childhood. Such learning processes would have been part of the general socialization of children in order to shape them into individuals who could participate in the overall range of activities required by adults in order to form part of a broader community. For sure, dining practices would have been important to learn in the Greek and Roman cultural spheres if one belonged to the higher layers of society, where joint meals in domestic, public and religious contexts were a way of practicing accepted social behaviour. In the context of this paper, the Palmyrene material is reassessed and examined in order to unlock these tiny items as pivotal objects in broader social strategies in Roman Palmyra.

The article is based on research conducted by the Palmyra Portrait Project funded by the Carlsberg Foundation since 2012. You can find more information about this project and the new related project Circular economy and urban sustainability in Antiquity funded by the Carlsberg Foundation and Augustinus Fonden here: