Journal article

Sensing through dance in Roman religion


  • 2021
Published in:
  • Studi e Materiali di Storia delle Religioni . - 2021, vol. 87, no. 2, p. 507-519
English This essay addresses the physical and kinetic dimensions of Roman religion through the lens of dance. It takes a proverb and two strikingly “modern” observations on dance and religion in Servius’ commentaries on Vergil as points of departure for this enquiry (Aen. 8, 110; Ecl. 5, 73; Georg. 1, 347-350), which is informed by an aesthetics of religion (Religionsästhetik) and dance studies. Examining a number of poetic vignettes of rustic dances, the essay argues that dance has variable functions: it is both a crucial element in assuring the correct execution of religious rituals and an interface between ritual and ordinary experience; it serves at once to distinguish these dimensions and to connect them as a permeable frontier of sorts. Dance movements may differ from ordinary kinetic behaviour by exploring greater freedom of movement (as in the inexpert dances of rustics, e.g. Tib. 2, 1, 56) or else by imposing determinate patterns (as when Cynthia “imitates” rustic dances in Prop. 2, 19, 15). Either way, they make these different options, which are provided by the physiology of the human body, perceptible to both dancers and spectators and help to anchor religious practice in sensory experience.
Faculté des lettres et des sciences humaines
Département de philologie classique
  • English
License undefined
Open access status
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