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Trading Worlds at Sea: Transcultural Polytheism and Economy in the Ancient Mediterranean
Barbara Kowalzig
Associate Professor of Classics and History, NYU
23 February 3:30-5:00 PM
In-Person primarily: Mitchell 205
Zoom if necessary: 955 9219 5365 Passcode: UNCRELI
This paper introduces my current project, Gods around the Pond: Religion, Society and the Sea in the Early Mediterranean Economy. The book examines the interaction of religious practices and economic patterns in the Mediterranean from the Late Bronze Age to the early Hellenistic Period (ca. 1250-250 BCE). Proposing that Greek religion formed part of a broader maritime belief-system, emerging from transcultural, economic mobility by sea, it aims to show how religious and economic transformation went hand in hand over the longue durée and that the vitality of Mediterranean polytheism was inextricably intertwined with economic growth. The paper will discuss the conceptual foundations and methodological challenges of this project, such as Mediterraneanism and the ‘Blue Humanities’; approaches to ancient polytheism; the history of thought on the interrelation of religion and economics; how to situate myth, ritual and cult between economic anthropology and economic theory. I shall then explore specifically how a ‘transcultural’ polytheism came to play a key role in cross-cultural trade, off-setting ecological and economic fragmentation, while remaining deeply embedded in the social fabric of Mediterranean communities.

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