Ritual and the Many Faces of Power


CAS is pleased to announce the latest in its ongoing series of free online seminars designed to offer a friendly and accessible introduction to ancient topics to a global audience. On Saturday 27th February, we will be sharing a fascinating examination of ‘power’ in antiquity. Moving beyond the self-evident constructs of violent authority or bribery, these sessions examine how ritual behaviour can achieve a mode of ‘soft power’ that we find surprisingly commonly in our own 21st century society.

Session 1: The Basics of Power (2pm-3pm)

In this session, we consider different manifestations of power. Firstly, we will set out the traditional view of power as wealth and military resources. Hereafter, we will venture into more sophisticated models of ‘soft power.’ Building on this, and using varied case studies, we will consider how more sophisticated models can allow us to appreciate the power of rituals both in antiquity and modernity.

Session 2: The Admission Ritual in the Roman World (3pm-4pm)

In this session we will explore how the admission, traditionally seen as an unimportant ceremony from the days of the Roman Republic, played an active role in the construction of imperial power and legitimacy. For example, early emperors presented themselves as ‘first among equals’ in their use of the admission, but this changed markedly in Late Antiquity, with the appearance of innovations such as bejewelled clothes and kneeling. This change prompted monarchic and divine qualities of the emperor to be emphasised which, in turn, transformed the public narrative justifying imperial power.

Session 3: Modern Rituals and their Significance (4pm-5pm)

In our final session, we will use insights gained about the significance of rituals to explore more modern ritual behaviour. While we could easily explore ceremonies connected to the British monarchy or parliament, Ritual Studies have recently moved away from seeing ritual merely as grand state events and has instead emphasised the ritual aspects of, for example, sporting matches and everyday life. Thus, attendees will be challenged to consider the significance both of large state sponsored rituals and of the small ‘rituals’ in their everyday lives. Our hope is that this will give them a better appreciation of the soft power that is constantly influencing them from numerous different sources.

The seminar will take place on Saturday 27th February 2021 (2-5pm) and will be delivered via Zoom.

The session will be led by Dr Mads Lindholmer (University of St Andrews). As with all of the CAS Online Seminars, these sessions will be free to attend, but registration will be required. To register your place on this seminar, please contact Dr Alex Imrie ([email protected]).