El desvanecimiento del politeísmo romano en Hispania: las transformaciones religiosas en el siglo III

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Cartagena, Murcia, España
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The topic of the slump of the Imperial religious system in Hispania has been mainly approached through the study of councils’ proceedings, martyrial acts, Imperial or Visigothic laws (e.g. the Codex Tehodiosanus or the Lex Visigothorum), and a bunch of Christian texts written during the 5th and 6th centuries CE by Hydatius, Orosius, Saint Martin of Braga and few others. Since these sources present an unstructured and very simplified image of what is basically reduced to the category of “paganism”, the actual features of polytheism in 4th century Hispania has remained mostly unexplored. The silence of “pagan” sources has led to the assumption that religion did not substantially change until the end of the 4th century, when Christianity was consolidated into the State religion, political power ordered the closure of the temples and the prohibition of sacrifices. Likely this large due to the fact that, as Javier Arce warned more than a decade ago in his book Bárbaros y romanos en Hispania (2005), archaeological studies mainly focused on the phenomenon of urban Christianisation rather than on the “depaganisation” of public and religious buildings (p. 248). However, during the last two decades, the intensification of archaeological excavations in numerous Spanish sites has provided new data that allow us to approach the process of religious change in Hispania from a new perspective. The aim of this study is to shed light on this debate through the examination of the disappearance of polytheism in different regions of the Iberian Peninsula by analysing the conditions of discovery and the circumstances of abandonment of sanctuaries and related epigraphic sources in Hispania Citerior Tarraconensis. A further study of 10 cities from Baetica and 8 from Lusitania has been intended to offer a wider vision of this process. In addition, comparative analyses have been also carried out in Roman Britain, Gaul and North Africa. The most important finding to emerge from this study is that in 80 % of the cities that provided enough information to establish reliable chronologies of the process of abandonment of temples, sanctuaries were derelict between the end of the 2nd and the end of the 3rd centuries. Imperial religious system seems to have survived until the 4th century solely in large administrative centres, such as the provincial capitals of Tarraco and Augusta Emerita. The causes for the decay of the sanctuaries that settled in the Iberian Peninsula for two centuries can be found in the recession of certain economic sectors that affected most of Hispania’s territories. The maintenance of these sacred spaces largely depended on the munificence of the aristocracies and on the financial contribution of public institutions, which were interested in sustaining a system that provided them with prestige and possibilities of social promotion. However, the economic difficulties and the structural transformations which operated in Hispania from the end of the 2nd century to the beginning of the 4th resulted in a municipal crisis, which led to the collapse of this religious system in many parts of the Iberian Peninsula. When comparing Hispania to other regions of the Roman West, one might say these changes took place prematurely. In contrast to some scholar’s statements, the abandonment of sanctuaries did not lead to a privatisation of the religious practices that previously belonged in the public or collective sphere. There was no increase in the number of lararia, votive figurines, or domestic altars. Nor was there any construction of private temples that could have filled the religious wilderness resulting from the collapse of the religious system. And yet, this process did not lead to the end of polytheism. It was not The Last Pagans. It was a change in mentalities which led to desist from the use of the traditional Early Imperial religious’ materiality and, consequently, the transformation of rituals. The closure of the temples and the failure of the Early Empire’s ‘administrated religion’ was not initiated by the introduction of Christianism, but by a crisis of the own religious system. The evolution of Christianity in Hispania was slow. The first major Christian religious complexes did not begin to be built until the 5th century. This illustrates that, up until that moment, the Spanish Church did not start to have a certain economic solvency, derived from a widespread acceptance among the population. Furthermore, an actual Christianisation of the rural territory did not begin until the 6th century. In light of this data, we are able to assert that in Hispania, during the 4th century, there was no clash between the structured polytheism and an emerging Christianity. If there ever was a religious repression, it must have been after the 5th century, when peninsular Christianity had strong institutional support. By that time, Early Imperial religion had been unrecognizable for centuries.
Mención Internacional en el título de doctor
Arqueología romana, Hispania romana, Religión romana, Politeísmo
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