International Conference Cultic Graffiti across the Mediterranean and Beyond
Bari, 27th – 29 September 2017
Antonio Enrico Felle (Department of Humanities – University of Bari “Aldo Moro”, Italy)
Bryan Ward-Perkins (Faculty of History – University of Oxford, UK)
The ‘Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity’ is a major five-year project funded by the European Research Council and based primarily at the University of Oxford. The project, which runs until December 2018, is investigating the origin of the cult of saints across all the languages of early Christianity (Latin, Greek, Syriac, Coptic, Georgian and Armenian), from its very beginnings in around AD 300 to c. AD 700, by which time almost all the practices we associate with saintly cult were firmly established. Epigraphic evidence, as much as literary, is central to the project, and is included in the database of all early evidence for the cult of saints, which the project is assembling, and which will be made available (in a preliminary form) on 1 November this year, for all to consult and use freely.
The Cult of Saints project has close ties with the University of Bari ‘Aldo Moro’, through the Epigraphic Database Bari (www.edb.uniba.it), with its unique expertise in Early Christian epigraphy and in digital epigraphic scholarship. It therefore seemed natural to run a joint conference exploring an aspect of cultic epigraphy. The theme we have chosen is cultic graffiti, the informal scratchings or writings of individual devotees, almost always travellers or pilgrims, which are known from all over the late antique world. These constitute a unique first-hand testimony to devotion, which we can normally only access through much more formal documents.
In order to explore these graffiti in their fullest possible context, the conference, while focused primarily on the Christian graffiti of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, will also examine earlier ‘pagan’ practice, and the very active cultic graffiti of early Islam.