Honouring the gods in the classical Mediterranean realm and on its fringes



Spring in Arabic. The toponymy is revealing: many places where inscriptions have been found are today known as “Ain”.


A subgroup of the Belgae people. They settled the centre of the current département of the Somme.


An odoriferous plant used for embalmment in antiquity.


Eremitism, the withdrawal for religious reasons, from secular society so as to be able to lead an intensely prayer-oriented, ascetic life.

Anepigraphic stelae

Uninscribed stelae.


That is demonstrable, or self-evident.

Aqua Septimiana

The spring hard by Timgad which fills with its water a pool around which a major sanctuary was built in the 2nd century. The sanctuary had its hay day under the Severan dynasty but it is not fanciful to suppose that the cult of the spring goes back to the pre-Roman era and points to local religious feeling seeping into the life of the Roman colony.

Archaid period

Period set between 620 BC and 490 BC. It is marked by the shift from vases with black figures on a red background (from 700 to 530 BC) to vases with red figures on black background (from 500 BC). Around 650, craftsmen also progressed from statuettes to statues. Greek temples became adorned with full scale statues (Kouroi and Korai) recognisable at their so-called Ionic smile.

Architectural code

It includes all human constructions (houses, synagogues, temple, etc.) and rests on the irreconcilable opposition between “sacred” and “profane” with such polarisations as “house versus “synagogue” and “temple” or “chamber” versus “courtyard”.

Armorican peoples

Probably Lexovii and Aulerci Cenomani. These Armorican peoples dwelt at the time in a region situated between Lisieux in Normandy and Le Mans in the Maine.


The name given to a treatise belonging to the Corpus Hermeticum.

Asclepius Fluvius

Name by which Antoninus of Piacenza referred to the Bostrenus in the 6th century (AD). It flows hard by the temple of Eshmun; parting Mount Lebanon from Southern Lebanon, it flows into the Mediterranean in Sidon. Its waters had ritual as well as domestic purposes.

Ashāb al-Rass

People of the ditch or of the well. This term appears twice in the Quran (XXV, 38 et L, 12). Commentators have little to say about their whereabouts or times: the Anqa bird is purported to dwell on their mountain.


The name of a Muslim festival which, in the Maghreb bears no relation to the Shi'a commemoration of Hussein's martyrdom on that day. In Morocco, it is called Zamzam day.


French name for the Roman city of Auzia before Algerian independence, today Sour El-Ghozlane in Algeria.


Upright plain stone, considered sacred; it stands for the divinity's presence. Widespread in the ancient world even after the adoption of Christianity it drew strong criticism from the religious authorities viz. St Augustine.

Bellovaci territory

Currently the region around Beauvais.

Benben stone

A square platform on which has been laid a pyramid-shaped stone or pyramidion, which looks like a thick set obelisk.


That people's name in Greek was evolved from an ethnonym attested in Egyptian (Brhm). It was to outlast its bearers through the arts after Pliny applied it to some imaginary headless monsters whose eyes and mouth sat in the middle thereby inspiring books and medieval iconography.


Building probably used for the purpose of meetings. In Athens, this building was the Boule's centre.

Bronze Age

Proto-historic period set between the Chalcolithic and the Iron Age. In Europe the Bronze Age lasts from around 1800 BC and 800/700 BC.

Cap Soloeis

Cape Cantin, now Cape Meddouza on Morocco's Atlantic coast (Mauretania Tingitana, a province created under Emperor Claudius and the capital city of which was Tingis, modern Tangier).


A Latin word meaning “small room”. In an ancient temple, it refers to the inner chamber dedicated to the god and sacred objects.


A Latin word meaning small room. In an ancient temple it refers to the inner chamber dedicated to the god and sacred objects.

Celtic peoples

Between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC, there was no Gaulish political unity. The Gauls' territory was split between different peoples. The Belgae themselves consisted of diverse sub-groups, so that around Gournay-sur-Aronde can be found Ambiani, Viromandui and Suessiones. Those peoples had their own political structures and formed small independent states, comparable to Greek cities.


Withdrawal from the world within a religious community. In Christianity, the first rule was set by the monks Antony and Pachomius, in Egypt at the beginning of the 4th century.


Roman senatorial magistracy regarded as the highest dignity in the state. Indeed in the last centuries of the Republic, it was normally achieved after fulfilling consular duties. The censors were elected two at a time for five years in order to ensure the census of Roman citizens and the revision of the lists of senators and equites. The superintendence of public works also fell to them.


Region neighbouring Alexandria in Egypt.

Chthonic god

An underworld deity.

Church Fathers

The first theologians to seek to explain and define the contents of the Christian faith. They were involved in the first councils whether directly or indirectly. They endeavoured to lay down the terms of Christian dogma (Trinity, Incarnation, Resurrection) before their non-Christian opponents, be they Jews, polytheist or newly excluded from Christianity for rejecting said dogma.


Aniconic cult object. Often a truncated column without its capital, it could serve as a boundary post or as a funerary monument.

Civic cult

The cult of poliad deities embodying the city (from polis, city in Greek).

Civic religion

All the cults celebrated by the citizens of a given community (city-state) to honour the gods protecting that community. See also civic cult.

Civitas (pl. Civitates)

City-state gathering in a fixed territorial unit a community of citizens subjected to the same laws, honouring the same gods and administered from a capital or administrative centre.

Civitates peregrinae

City-states the citizens of which enjoyed neither Roman nor Latin status. Civitates peregrinae were subjected to the provincial governor's jurisdiction, to direct taxation payable to Rome.

Commensal sacrifice

A sacrifice wherein part of the meat is shared and eaten by participants during a shared meal.


Action aiming at dedicating a person (in that case) or an object to God.


Term originating from the Arabic Qubt, itself drawn from the Greek Aiguptos, it refers to members of the Coptic Church, who speak the Coptic language, derived from ancient Egyptian. The Coptic Church adheres to Cyril of Alexandria's formula “One Nature of God the Logos Incarnate”. Because of this doctrine it was called monophysite notably following the Council of Chalcedon in 451. In the 18th century, it would spawn a Catholic Coptic church that abandoned the monophysite doctrine but upheld its traditional liturgy, and, in the 19th century, a protestant one. The Copts consider themselves the descent of the ancient Egyptians.

Corpus Hermeticum

A body of texts in Greek and Latin, dating back to Roman times and expounding a revealed doctrine emanating from Hermes Trismegistus (thrice greatest), behind whom is concealed Egyptian Thot, as understood by late Greco-Egyptian philosophic speculation.

Council of Chalcedon

This council was aimed at the resolution of the so-called Monophysite crisis. Responding to Nestorian views condemned by the Council of Ephesus (431), a monk from Constantinople named Eutyches asserted that human nature and divine nature are intimately combined, setting hence monophysitism (monos, "single" and physis, "nature"). This position was rejected by the Council of Chalcedon, at the request of Pope Leo I, but it led to a schism by the Coptic church, the Armenian church and the Jacobite churches.

Council of Ephesus (431)

This council was aimed at the resolution of the so-called Nestorian crisis. In thrall to the School of Antioch, the bishop of Constantinople, Nestorius proposed a radical distinction between Christ's human and divine natures. This position was rejected by Pope Celestine I as well as by Cyril of Alexandria for whom there is union without confusion of both natures within one person: Jesus-Christ. Nestorius was deposed as a result of this council but a Nestorian church – that would later split further – lived on in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire.

Council of Nicaea

It was the first ecumenical council of the Christendom. About 300 bishops set in Greek the dogma of the divinity of Christ: Jesus is described as 'Son of God', being 'from the substance (ousia) of the Father', and 'begotten', not 'made'. Arius and his disciples refused that point and maintained that the relationship of God the Father to the Son of God is only adoptive, and convinced Constantine to promote the idea that the Christ was of like substance with the Father rather than of the same one substance. Arianism spread with the help of several emperors repressing opponents such as Athanasius of Alexandria, Pope Liberius or Hilary of Poitiers. Basil of Caesarea attempted to conciliate an arianist-leaning East and a nicean-leaning West, saying that there is "one God in three persons". The Council of Constantinople (381) clarified the divinity of the Holy Spirit, the third 'person' of the Trinity. Roman Emperor Theodosius I facilitated this conciliation meeting and arianism died out during the following century, except in the fringes of the Empire.


The range of observance and honours rendered to the gods and genies of springs and rivers including the ceremonies and rites supporting their worship.

Cult sites

This term was chosen because the sense it carries is broader than that of “sanctuary”. The cult site, is in J. Scheid's words “a place where archaeological evidence of religious activity of one kind or another have been unearthed”.

Customary rites

Personalised rites known as “protective”.


An island in the Aegean Sea dedicated to Apollo where he had a sanctuary.


This word was already used by the Greeks to refer to an Egyptian script thus termed “popular” as against the scholarly hieroglyphic script; the word addresses both the late Egyptian language and the simplified script system in which it was written. Several letters from the Coptic alphabet are drawn from demotic.


The term comes from the Latin discipulus meaning literally “learner” from the verb discere = to learn (Greek equivalents: mathētēs from manthanō). In broad terms, it could refer to the pupil of a master or a craftsman's apprentice. In the Gospels, the word essentially describes the essence of those who follow Jesus. But we also find it in reference to John the Baptist's followers or to members of the Pharisean sect.


Tradition of the druids, an ancient priesthood whose knowledge of rites and stars, and interpretation of divine signs were prerequisite to Gaulish cults.


High ranking magistrate in Roman colonies and civitates latinae within the Roman provinces.


The people from the district of Elis in the North-West of the Peloponnese peninsula.


Pertaining to the Emporion, the locus of exchange between greek traders and the outside world.


Early Christian trend of thought asserting utter disregard for all things material perceived as the work of an “evil spirit”. Consequently, its adepts abstained from marrying as well as from consuming alcohol and meat.


Solitary way of life which grew in the Christian world. It sought the relief from all temptation towards a greater intimacy with God.

Fanum (pl. Fana)

Type of temple found in Gaul, Germania and Britannia the cella (cult chamber) of which was entirely surrounded by a gallery.


The word refers in Islam to the period separating two prophets or two successive messengers. The length of such a period varies and all Muslims do not agree on the names quoted. The most critical period comes after Jesus for which it must be decided whether there could have been non-polytheist people outside Judaism or Christianity.

Five zones

Namely Northern France (Champagne-Ardennes, Ile de France, Nord, Basse-Normandie, Haute-Normandie, Pas-de-Calais, Picardie), Western France (Britany, Pays de la Loire), Center-Eastern France (Auvergne, Burgundy, Franche-Comté, Rhônes-Alpes), France from the centre to the Pyrenees (Aquitaine, Centre, Limousin, Midi-Pyrénées, Poitou-Charentes), South-Eastern France (Languedoc-Roussillon, Midi-Pyrénées, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur). New discoveries can now be added to those recorded in that publication, for instance in Corent in the Puy de Dôme or on the site of the Mormont on the Swiss Plateau.


Priest assigned to the cult of a particular god.


Fruitful. An adjective the Romans applied to their gods of fecundity.

Gallia comata (or long-haired Gaul)

Territory corresponding to modern day France minus Provence plus Belgium and a part of Switzerland.

Gallia narbonensis (or Narbonensian Gaul)

Territory corresponding to Provence in contemporary France.


This figure pertains, according to G. Ch. Picard to “an evolution of the sacred that personalises the “genie” but keeps its nature blurred, not as developed as that of a god”. To the Romans the genius was a tutelary divinity of people as well as places. That is what Servius asserts (ad.Georg.I, 302): the ancients used to say that the genius is the natural god of every place, each object, each person”. Genies hold a key position in Maghreb countries' traditional beliefs, especially on rivers banks and around springs.


This figure pertains, according to G. Ch. Picard to “an evolution of the sacred that personalises the “genie” but keeps its nature blurred, not as developed as that of a god”. To the Romans the genius was a tutelary divinity of people as well as places. That is what Servius asserts (ad.Georg.I, 302): the ancients used to say that the genius is the natural god of every place, each object, each person”. Genies hold a key position in Maghreb countries' traditional beliefs, especially on river banks and around springs.

Geopolitical code

It includes references to specific places: towns, villages, regions, etc.), and relies on the opposition between “familiar” and “foreign” with polarisations such as “the land of Israel” versus “foreign lands” “Galilee” versus “Judea” and so on.


Divine name awarded to a reputedly healing spring by the Ligurians, a Celtic people established around Glanum (Glanon).

Greek Attic style

Style hailing from the region of Athens. This style sets the canons of a balanced, harmonious, elegant and refined art form.


According to Muslim tradition, recorded “saying” or “deed” attributed to the Prophet of Islam, or his tacit approbation of words or deed he witnessed.


Greek name for Lower Egypt's metropolis in the 13th century, going by the name of Iunu in Egyptian, probably pronounced *Āwanu and assimilated to the ruins of Tel Al-Hisn to be found in modern Cairo's north-eastern districts. Solar cults were celebrated there and made the city a religious capital.


Originally, a heroon is a grand building dedicated to a hero or a heroine and built above their tomb or cenotaph.

Ikhwan al-Safa

Followers of Ismailism a Shi'a doctrine. Their Epistles, of which there are 52, fail to enlighten as to the identity of their authors (based in Basora) or the date of their writing (thought to be the 11th century).


Roman commanders with full military power to command, the imperium (in principle, absolute authority to apply the law within the scope of their mandate). At the end of the Republic this term applied to the leading military chiefs to whom it was granted by acclamation of their troops following a victory and betokened a growing capacity to influence Roman politics.

Independent Gaul

Pre-Roman Gaul. This expression broadly covers the four centuries before the Roman conquest half way through the first century BC.

Interpretatio romana

Refers to the identification of an indigenous god as a Roman one to whom comparable powers were attributed.

Iron Age

Proto-historic period marked by the prevalent use of iron. Its timescale varies according to the cultural and geographic area under review. For continental and central Europe, the Iron age is further broken into two categories based on eponymous sites the Hallstatt culture (930-430 BC, in reference to the village of Hallstatt, Austria where 19th century discoveries stood as a template for the first Iron Age civilisation) and the La Tène period (c. 450 -50/30 BC in reference to the site at La Tène, on the banks of Lake Neufchâtel in Switzerland which sets the template for the second Iron Age, or La Tène culture. Historians working on Northern Gaul do their chronological setting in terms of La Tène culture, those working on Southern Gaul also known as Mediterranean Celtic, tend to refer to an Iron Age culture.

Isiac cults

During the Greek-Roman era the cults of Isis can be understood as an international and Hellenised version of the traditional Egyptian religion.

Julio-Claudian era

Refers to the period during which reigning emperors belonged to the Julio-Claudian dynasty, from Tiberius (14 AD) to Nero (68 AD).


During the Archaic period, sculpture observed strict rules. A kouros was the image of a naked young man. It may have represented a god, an athlete, an Olympic victor, a servant, a loved one on their grave. They may symbolise fertility and a family's permanence. Their religious purpose dictated conservatism. They made it possible for the gods to admire the perfect body of beings created in their image. Typical of these statues was the ironic smile, the still head and stiff arms held tight fisted against the body while their leg, nearly always the left leg, stepped forward.

Latin colony (colonia Latina)

A Roman colony (Colonia) was a city-state founded and occupied by Roman citizens in a Roman province. A Latin colony was a city-state enjoying Latin rights (whereby its citizens enjoyed a number of rights protected under Roman law, among which access to Roman citizenship for city magistrates at the end of their mandate, and extended to their direct family.


The term Libyan was applied to a whole range of peoples living in Northern Africa before the Phoenician's arrival; According to some classical historians taking their cue from Pliny the Elder: “Africa was called Libya by the Greeks and the sea in front of it the Libyan sea.”


From the latin limbus = margin, fringe. From the 18th century, the word emerges in Christian theology to refer to two places in the hearafter: 1) a dwelling place (or state) for the souls of the just who, although purified from sin have been excluded from heaven until the triumphal return of Christ took them there (limbus patrum = the limbo of the patriarchs); 2) the dwelling place (or state) of unbaptized children (or others) who died unsullied by serious personal sin and are excluded from the beatific vision on account of the original sin alone (limbus infantium ou limbus puerorum = the children's limbo). By extension in ordinary speech, this word is often used figuratively to describe an uncertain, ill-defined condition or an in-between blurred state.


The term drawn from the Latin word limen refers to the threshold of the entrance door. Introduced for the first time by the French ethnologist Arnold Van Gennep (Ludwigsburg, 1873 - Bourg-la-Reine, 1957) and later developed by the Scottish anthropologist Victor Turner (Glasgow, 1920 - 1983), the concept of liminality is used in anthropology to describe the situation of ambiguity and disorientation which intervenes in the intermediary phase of a ritual (particularly in rites of passage) when the participants, having lost their former, pre-ritual status, have not yet reached the new status specified by the ritual: “they are on the threshold”, that is in a state of expectancy.

Ludi saeculares

They were held in Rome to mark the end of a saeculum and the beginning of the next, a saeculum amounting to the longest conceivable human life span that is 100-110 years. The games lasted three days and three nights and included theatre shows and sacrifices to the gods of the underworld. The first reliably attested celebration of the games dates back to 249 BC, the second took place in 149 or 146 BC as it could not take place during the period of civil strife. The games were reintroduced by Augustus in 17 BC.


An epiclesis (or qualifier) of Apollo attested in several places in the greek world. Its etymology is disputed but the most likely tracks it to lykos a wolf.


Maenads are considered posessed women, known for their physical strength. They are the followers of Dionysus. They are also called Thyiades or Bacchantes.


The word means “divinely guided one”. In the Muslim tradition, he is the person who must appear at “the end of times” to bring justice and to reform what has corrupted the human condition. A number of people have claimed the title in the course of Islam's history; mostly they are considered “usurpers”. The Mahdi is sometime titled Al-Muntadhar = the awaited.

Matres Glanicae

Gaulish goddesses of fecundity and nature.


A people of Mauretania Caesariensis, who joined in the revolt of Firmus, but submitted to Theodosius, A.D. 373. The Amazighs are related to them.

Mens divina

“Divine intentionality” divine intellect, perhaps akin to neo-Platonist nous.

Mercenary War (autumn 241-end 238 BC)

Revolt lead by the foreign (Lybian, Numid, Iberians, Celts) fighters in the Carthaginian army because they were poorly paid prior to demobilisation.


Emerging in the 4th century this trend of thought proposed that “Satan” was the “son of God” who had rebelled against his “father”. He thus created a material world thereby intrinsically bound in evil.

Monumental trophy

This term is preferred to that of “ sanctuary”. The Belgae erected a “trophy”, that is a site commemorating a victory and which integrated what was found on the battlefield, be they human and material remains.


Native of today's Morocco, the Roman's Mauretania Tingitana.




The process whereby the provincial peoples were reorganised in civitates complete with a legal and fiscal status.


In Pharaonic Egypt, the naos was an inner sanctum built within the larger sanctuary and housing the god's statue. In a Greek temple, it is the inner chamber where the statue of the divinity is erected.


In Pharaonic Egypt, the naos was an inner sanctum built within the larger sanctuary and housing the god's statue. In a Greek temple, it is the inner chamber where the statue of the divinity is erected.


A sacred space. This word originally referred to a “sacred grove” before its meaning evolved to mean sanctuary, in Gaulish.


Festival celebrating Neptune in Rome on 23-24 July each year. This is an archaic and ill-understood rite. According to Varro, the Romans built on the occasion foliage huts where to find some shade.


Type of nymphs. They were benevolent and formed Poseidon-Neptune's escort.

New Testament

In Greek Hē Kainē Diathēkē, it is the compilation of the 27 texts considered normative by Christians. It includes in this order the four Gospels, the book of the Acts of the Apostles, the Corpus Paulinum (including the Deutero-Pauline and the Pastoral Epistles) amounting to 14 letters, the seven so-called Catholic Epistles and John's Book of Revelation. All these texts have reached us in Greek.


Taken from Greek and Latin roots numphe meaning “bride”, the word refers to secondary female divinities dwelling in the woods, rivers, springs, pools, meadows and hills. Though a minor order of divinities, they were sometimes included in Olympus and were the object of a religious cult. They were credited with many powers: they prophesied and gave oracles; they cured the sick and watched over flowers, meadows and flocks. Though normally well disposed towards mortals, they may turn against them and drag their victim to watery depths.


Place consecrated to the nymphs.


A place dedicated to the nymphs. It may be a natural or artificial cave sheltering a spring. The building is usually set around a pool or some fountains and adorned with statues, vases, porticoes. In Rome such a place was used for meetings and for resting.


Place consecrated to the nymphs.


The greek term oikos, like the Latin word domus (or familia) and the Hebrew word beth, do not refer to the family in its current sense. Rather, they refer to the tight link between a social group and its dwelling place independently from family ties (consanguinal or affinal). Anthropologists tend to define the household as a group of people who, under the authority of the housefather, live together under a same roof, sharing labour and resources.


The inhabited universe, such as it was known.

Old Kingdom

Egyptian history is broken down into several periods during which the Upper and Lower Egypt were brought together to form a single kingdom: the Old (circa 2635 – 2140), the Middle (2020 – 1720) and the New (1539 – 1069 BC.).


Broken chunks of pottery which carry some writing.

Pagus (plur. Pagi)

Administrative subdivision of a civitas.


The patriarchal institution is linked to the major evangelising centres in the Early Church: Rome Alexandria and Antioch. The precedence of these Episcopal sees, augmented with Jerusalem was confirmed by the 325 Council of Nicaea. Constantinople was added in 381 with second ranking right behind Rome, establishing the Pentarchy. A patriarch is a religious leader with jurisdiction over all the faithful in his community.

Pax deorum

One of the founding principles of Roman religion. Being at peace with the gods meant to the Romans' mind that they could rely on their support. Any breach of the peace with the gods dictated expiatory rites.

Persian world (beliefs)

In antiquity, the Persians, who observed the Zoroastrian religion, held that corpses were impure. As a result, they could not be buried, thrown into fire or water as this would sully either of these three elements. They were therefore exposed in large open towers called “towers of silence” where birds of prey would devour them. This was referred to as a “sky burials”.

Phenician-Punic world

The Romans called the Carthanginians “Punic”. This Latin word is drawn from the ancient Greek “phonix” meaning “Phoenician”.


A title focussed on Apollo's solar nature.

Poleis Massalias

City allied to Massalia (Marseilles), hence its institutions modelled on those of Greek cities.


From the Greek root polis meaning the city. A poliad divinity is the protecting god of the city; its inhabitants honour them by a special cult.

Popular assembly

The majority of Carthage's population consisted of citizen with few possessions. Craftsmen formed an intermediary class. A minority of well-off merchants played an important part in the management of city affairs. Slaves and freedmen did not have any political rights; conversely, some “foreigners” succeeded in obtaining civic rights, especially in the event of service rendered to the city during a conflict for instance. The “popular assembly” referred to in Aristotle's text appears to include only free men. The citizens were summoned by the suffets and/or on the occasion of exceptional events such as wars, natural disasters or epidemics. From the 3rd century BC, those citizens also elected the generals as they did the suffets. According to Polybius, this indicated a rise in the assembly's powers in the 3rd century BC.


During the Republican era, those Roman politicians who championed measures favouring the people without such a trend uniting them in a political party as understood today.


A porch leading to the entrance of a building, or extended as a colonnade, with a roof structure over a walkway, supported by two rows of columns or by walls on one side and columns on the other.


The Egyptian clergy was endowed with many priestly titles.


The political regime gradually set in place by Augustus starting in 27 BC. It replaced the Republic and is akin to a monarchy.


Act of worship, taking for instance the form of an inscription commemorating the visit to a holy shrine.


Greek word referring to an Egyptian priest.


Subdivision of the territories conquered by Rome and ruled by a Roman governor.


In Greek cities, the prytaneion was a building that represented the political heart of the city. In Athens it was the place where the prytaneis sat, who were in charge of the boule (see Bouleuterion) and during the classic age it was the assembly that drafted the citizens' bills to be later voted by the ecclesia (assembly). In Glanum, it probably was the town magistrates' centre.

Ptolemaic Egypt

The Ptolemaic dynasty also known as the Lagids (after the name of the first Ptolemy's father: Lagus) ruled Egypt from 323 to 30 BC, from Alexander's conquest to Roman Rule.


Term drawn directly from the Latin publicanus (from publicum = treasury). Technical term referring to high-ranking public servants in the Roman treasury dealing with taxation. That is why, stricto sensu, the word is not best suited to refer to the small local tax collectors the gospels talk about (in Greek telōnai; from telos = impôt + the verb verb ōneisthai = buy)

Punic Wars (264-146 BC)

Set of wars opposing Rome to Carthage during just over a century. First Punic War (264-241): Rome broke its treaties with Carthage to intervene in Sicily where the Greeks were exposed to Carthaginian pressure. An initial naval victory was followed by the failure of the African expedition that followed (255) and further naval defeats but Rome won a decisive battle in 241. Carthage signed a peace treaty, paid a war tribute and renounced a part of its territories among which Sicily. Rome seized the opportunity of a revolt of Carthaginian mercenaries to seize Sardinia and Corsica but Carthage undertook the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. Second Punic War (218-201): resulting from the growing rivalry between the two powers this conflict - which saw Italy invaded by Hanibal and Rome's legions thoroughly trounced (see chapter on The cult of Apollo) – still concluded on a second Carthaginian defeat at the hands of Scipio Africanus. Carthage must pay a tribute, surrender Spain, and its fleet and commit to never undertaking a war without Rome's assent. Third Punic War (149-146): The conflict between Carthage and Massinissa (c.238-c148) king of a unified Numidia lead to Carthage rearming in breach of the 201 treaty. Isolated, Carthage was defeated and raised to the ground.


Philosophical set of beliefs developed by Pythagoras of Samos at the turn of the 5th century. Starting in the 2nd century BC it had a significant following in Rome.


Known as the Oracle at Delphi, she was the priestess of the temple of Apollo and delivered her prophecies mounted on a tripod seat over a chasm whence raising vapours induced her prophetic pronouncements.

Ratio omnis

Overall explanation, universal rationale.


Inserted between the two verbs of movement: eiserchomai (= to go in) and exerchomai (= to go out), the word menō (= to remain) makes clear that the stay may last for a time but remains temporary.

Remission of sins

That is the release or freeing from sin. The word remission is drawn from the latin remissio and corresponds to the Greek aphesis which means literally to send back or throw away, that is to re-mit, a word used when cancelling a debt, or granting a pardon, thence the forgiveness of a wrong.



Salyen territory

The Salyes were a federation of Southern Gaul peoples living in a geographic area corresponding to the 21st century départements of Bouches-du Rhône, and part of the Vaucluse, Var and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. The Salyes' neighbours were the Massaliots living in the Phocean city of Massalia (Marseilles). Tension ran high between Salyes and Massaliots. In the 2nd century, Massalia called its Roman ally to the rescue. In 125 BC, the Romans defeated the Salyes and in 122 BC they went on to found Aquae Sextiae, the future Aix-en-Provence.


A site chosen and developed for the purpose of a regular religious activity vital to the proper exercise of religious practice. The sanctuary stood as a place detached from the world.


A demigod in Greek mythology. A spirit of the woods and mountains known for his constant sexual arousal he may be associated to the great god Pan. He joins the maenads in the Dionysian procession. He is often represented with a hairy human body, with the legs of a goat, long ears, horns and a tale.


Coastal river in Troad. In Greek mythology, he is also the river god that impersonates it. Its spring is on Mount Ida, it runs in the Trojan plain before joining the Hellespont.


A division between people within a religious denomination resulting from a doctrinal dispute and yielding two opposing religious authorities.


Persons whose job was to write.

Sea of Galilee

Also known in the bible as the Sea of Tiberias or Sea of Kinneret (Luke's Lake of Genneseret). The term “sea” (Greek thalassa) also reflects the Hebrew yam (Aramaic yamma), a fairly broad tem used to refer to a vast quantity of water (lake sea, ocean, river).


In the Roman world, a consultative council bringing together a city-states' former magistrates.


Carthage's political structure is not well known as sources are scarce and for the most part sketchy and biased but it would appear that the great city's government borrowed from monarchic (kings, suffets), aristocratic (senate) and democratic (people's assembly) systems. Phoenician cities such as Byblos, Sidon or Tyre chose early to have kings. Phoenician kings ruled by hereditary power surrounded by councillors, usually chosen among the wealthy and with the support of a people's assembly.


Shia religious sect named after one of its leaders Yahya ibn Abi al-ShumaytIt. It recognised as imām and successor of D̲j̲afar al-Ṣādiḳ his youngest son Muhammad, who not only bore the name of the Prophet but also is said to have resembled him physically.


He who has breached God's law or opposed his will, that is who has sinned. Jesus' association with sinners (in Greek hamartoloi) has always raised question, specifically regarding the nature of the subjects falling in this category in the gospels. Nowadays, however, New Testament specialists seem more and more disposed to range them among actual transgressors, not to be confused with the poor or ordinary people (referred to in Hebrew as Am haaretz).


Name of a mythical bird appearing in pre-Islamic – and indeed Islamic – Persian legends (Notably the Conference of the Birds). In Arab stories, the Simurgh is given the name of al Anqa and conversely the Arabic ‘anqa' is often translated by ‘simurgh'.


Rhetoric and philosophy master who taught the art of public speaking as designed to achieve a goal, either that of persuading or convincing others or of getting the better of an opponent in debate.


A philosophical school of thought created in 301 BC by Zeno of Citium. In the 3rd century, stoic philosopher Cleanthes identified Apollo with the sun, on the basis that the sun is the lyre's plectrum by which means Apollo resets the world in its original harmony. In the same spirit, his successor Chrysippus believed fire to be the original element of the universe: after each cyclical conflagration destroying the universe, the fire was the seed of each rebirth.


Radical eremitism wherein to secure greater remoteness from the world the hermit settled atop a column, viz. Simeon the Stylite (5th century).


Title of Carthage's highest judge-magistrates. They held power for one year. Suffets were in Carthage what consuls were in Rome. According to some ancient sources several suffets ruled in Tyre for some ten years in the 6th century BC. For the record, consulship appeared in Rome in the 5th century BC.


Attitude consisting in lending to events or objects supernatural powers or a hidden ruling force. This attitude can appear within or without a religious context.


From the Greek synagogē, meaning "assembly" (adapted from the Hebrew beyt knesset, meaning “house of assembly”). There were debates on the status of the synagogues in the “Land of Israel” in Jesus' days. However, thanks to a 1st century inscription coming from a Jerusalem synagogue (the Theodotus inscription) researchers today are more and more convinced that synagogues as infrastructures already existed in Palestine before the seventies. It is also known that they were “multi-purpose” buildings where, besides prayer and Torah classes, many activities unconnected to religious practice also took place (e.g. the sheltering of pilgrims and travellers).


That can be seen as a whole, at a glance (from the Greek syn = together; opsis =view). The three synoptic gospels show some similarities in term of text content, form and structure. The Synoptic Problem, one of the most discussed questions among New Testament specialists, deals with these issues.


A sacred space marked off from common uses or the precinct around it.


Here the temple of Jerusalem, built in 516 BC, after the return from the Babylonian captivity: also known as the second temple as it replaces the “First Temple” (the “Temple of Solomon”) destroyed in 586 BC by king Nebuchadnezzar II. To the Jews of Jesus' days, it represented the ultimate sacred place.

The Twelve

Also known as the twelve apostles, specifically chosen by Jesus they formed an inner circle of disciples with distinct status and tasks. The number twelve is clearly symbolic and reflects the twelve tribes of Israel. The term “apostle” is drawn from the Greek apostolos meaning literally “sent, representative” (from the verb apostellō = to send).


Nom porté par une divinité.


Etymologically, the word combines theo, meaning “god” with phore, the idea of “bearing”. A theophoric name refers to a noun made up from the name of a god.


The archaeological site at Thugga is situated in the North-Western region of Tunisia. Before Rome annexed Numidia, Thugga already had a six-century long history. It was the first capital city of Numidia. It enjoyed great prosperity in the Roman period but went into decline during the Byzantine period. The impressive ruins that can be seen today give some idea of the resources a Romanised Numid city could enjoy.

Topographic code

It includes all references to physical places (seas, mountains, rivers, roads, etc.) and rests on the opposition between “promise” and “threat”, with polarisations such as “sky” versus “earth” versus “sea”, “deserted areas” versus “populated areas”.


This term broadly refers to a central episode in Jesus' life which figures in the three synoptic gospels. In this episode Jesus reveals to three of his disciples his “true” identity as his appearance changed before their eyes. The English word “transfiguration” reflects the Latin translation of the Greek word metamorphosis, literally “change of shape”.

Translation of relics

The removal of the remains of a person deemed a saint from one place to another; also the removal of objects sanctified by contact with that person.

Trinitarian doctrine and Christology

Doctrines establishing the conception of God “Father”, “Son” and “Spirit”, formalised for the most part at the Councils of Nicea, Constantinople, Ephesus and Chalcedon.

Tyrian Purple

Circa 1500 Bc, in Sidon and Tyre, on the coast of Ancient Phoenicia, an impressive new source was found to achieve a purple which could range from a bright crimson to a dark purple. Whether dyed into wool, linen or silk its hue, between crimson and violet, invariably rich, bright and lasting contained more red than current English or American purple.


A unique instance.


Cities, town.


A college of priestesses dedicated to the cult of the goddess Vesta, an Italic goddess later assimilated to the Greek goddess Hestia, goddess of the hearth. Chosen between their sixth and tenth year, the Vestals fulfilled a thirty year long priesthood during which they kept watch over the public fire in Vesta's temple situated on the Roman Forum.

Yom Kippur

In Hebrew yom ha-kippourim, that is to say “day of atonement”. One of the holiest days in the Jewish liturgical calendar. Sacrificial rituals (with notably the rite of the Scapegoat) are described in Leviticus Chap 16.


Mesopotamian religious structure. Its pyramidal shape was obtained by the superimposition of receding tiers topped by a shrine, apparently intended as a meeting zone between gods and men. Its top could also be used to observe the stars.

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