Category Archives: Greco-Roman religions and culture

GRA II: North Coast of the Black Sea, Asia Minor — Book now out!

GRA II photoNice to finally have a copy of my new book in hand now.  This one took more than 10 years (off and on)

Philip A. Harland, Greco-Roman Associations Texts, Translations, and Commentary, Volume II: North Coast of the Black Sea, Asia Minor  (Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 204; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2014), 565 pages, € 99.95 / $140.00 (De Gruyter order page).

Table of Contents:

Download (PDF, 909KB)

Now available for download: Associations, Synagogues and Congregations (2013 edition)

ASCCoverThe new, thoroughly revised edition of my book Associations, Synagogues and Congregations (2013) is now available for download.  On the companion site, you can read part one of the work for free online or download the entire book for a pay-what-you-will price ($0-15).  Simultaneously, I have refurbished and updated my websites for a better look.

The main advantage of this edition is that each of the inscriptions and sources mentioned is keyed to the new Associations in the Greco-Roman World sourcebook and there are direct, clickable links in the pdf of the book to the corresponding inscription on the AGRW companion website. You simply click on an inscription number (e.g. IEph 1503) and are brought to the description, Greek text, and a translation. There are also many, many new illustrations and figures (many in color).

Launch of Associations in the Greco-Roman World website

With the November release of Associations in the Greco-Roman World: A Sourcebook (book info), Ascough, Kloppenborg, and I have been busy preparing a companion website that I think you’ll find of some interest:

http://philipharland.com/greco-roman-associations/

Basically, users of the site can browse through hundreds of inscriptions (450 so far) involving guilds, immigrant groups, and other associations in the ancient Mediterranean. The user can browse by geography or by topics (including gods) using the right side bar. There is also a feature we called “selected exhibits” on (hopefully) interesting topics to a general reader (with about 10 inscriptions in each exhibit). There are many documents with English translations, and the user can choose to view just those (in selected exhibits). One of the selected exhibits is for Judeans (Jews) in the diaspora. The plan is to continue to expand the website with more inscriptions relating to these groups.  There are already 100 inscriptions that do not appear in the sourcebook (marked with an asterisk).

The AGRW sourcebook itself goes beyond the inscriptions to include literary excerpts on associations (from, e.g., Philo, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Tertullian), descriptions of meeting-place excavations, and an extensive annotated bibliography (table of contents here).  The book has been designed to be used as a text in courses as well.

Update: I should also add that I have previously released a podcast series on associations and you can access that all in one place here: Podcast series 6: Associations in the Greco-Roman World.

Richard sends the latest from the Society of Biblical Literature conference in Chicago:

Podcast 6.14: Cultural Minority Associations and Ethnic Stereotypes, part 2

This final episode in the series continues the discussion of how negative ethnic stereotypes (including accusations of human sacrifice, cannibalism, and incest) impacted immigrant associations and cultural minorities, including groups of Jesus followers.

Podcast 6.14: Cultural Minority Associations and Ethnic Stereotypes, part 2 (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 6.13: Cultural Minority Associations and Ethnic Stereotypes, part 1

This and the following episode explore ethnic stereotypes as they impacted associations of Judeans and Jesus-followers, placing these groups within the context of ethnic rivalries. In this episode, I discuss common negative stereotypes about Judeans found within writings of the elites, particularly the Roman Tacitus and the Greek Egyptian Apion.

Podcast 6.13: Cultural Minority Associations and Ethnic Stereotypes, part 1 (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 6.12: Jesus Groups as Associations and Cultural Minorities, part 2

Here I continue to discuss groups of Jesus followers in Asia Minor with case studies of 1 Peter and Revelation (John’s Apocalypse), focusing on both indications of identity construction or maintenance and signs of assimilation or acculturation.  This is part of series 6 (Associations in the Greco-Roman World) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 6.12:  Jesus Groups as Associations and Cultural Minorities, part 2 (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 6.11: Jesus Groups as Associations and Cultural Minorities, part 1

This episode introduces groups of Jesus-followers within the context of associations, Judeans, and cultural minority groups, setting the stage for case studies of Jesus groups in Asia Minor.    This is part of series 6 (Associations in the Greco-Roman World) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 6.11: Jesus Groups as Associations and Cultural Minorities, part 1 (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 6.8: Phoenician Immigrant Associations, part 2

This episode continues the discussion of  Syrian or Phoenician ethnic groups or immigrant associations, moving into the Roman imperial period.  This includes a discussion of two inscriptions involving Israelites (or Samaritans) settled on Delos.  This is part of series 6 (Associations in the Greco-Roman World) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 6.8: Phoenician Immigrant Associations, part 2 (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 6.7: Phoenician Immigrant Associations, part 1

This episode involves a case study of Syrian or Phoenician ethnic associations in the ancient Mediterranean, preparing the way for a comparison with other immigrants from the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, especially Israelites and Judeans (Jews).  This episode deals primarily with the Hellenistic period in the second and first centuries BCE and the following episode continues on into the Roman imperial period.  This is part of series 6 (Associations in the Greco-Roman World) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 6.7: Phoenician Immigrant Associations, part 1 (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 6.6: Approaches to Studying Ethnic Associations and Identities

Here I discuss concepts of identity, assimilation, and other sociological and anthropological tools for studying immigrant groups or ethnic associations in the ancient context, preparing the way for an investigation of Phoenician, Judean, and other immigrant groups or cultural minorities. This is part of series 6 (Associations in the Greco-Roman World) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 6.6: Approaches to Studying Ethnic Associations and Identities (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 6.5: Associations and the Roman Empire

Here I discuss the relation between associations and the Roman empire, including Roman authorities and the emperors. This is part of series 6 (Associations in the Greco-Roman World) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 6.5: Associations and the Roman Empire (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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A couple more reviews of Dynamics of Identity

There is a very well-written and thoughtful review of my book out in Journal of Religion by Joshua D. Garroway of Hebrew Union College and the Jewish Institute of Religion.  It was rewarding to hear my arguments accurately explained by someone else, and in this case the reviewer also offers very carefully expressed criticisms of my approach.  If your institution has a subscription to JSTOR, you can find the full review here:  http://www.jstor.org/pss/10.1086/661571.

Here are two excerpts:

“Harland does not deny the uniqueness of Christian or Judean groups, but to study them alongside  associations—indeed, as associations—requires him to lay stress on similarities rather than  differences. In his defense, this approach contrasts with much previous scholarship that emphasized—and, in light of Harland’s convincing studies, probably overemphasized—the uniqueness of Christians and Judeans.”

“Until recently, scholars of early Judaism and Christianity have generally pursued the differential quality. Harland’s effort to broaden that perspective by seeing what we might learn about Judeans and Christians by considering their similarities to other “cultural minority groups” in antiquity, even if it is overstated at times, therefore comes as a welcome alternative. The sharpness with which Harland presents that perspective makes it all the more rewarding.”

There is another somewhat less analytical review by Guy Stroumsa at the BMCR site:  http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2011/2011-08-42.html.

Podcast 6.4: Associations and Greco-Roman Society – The City

Here I discuss the relation between associations and Greco-Roman society with a focus on the Greek polis or city.  This is part of series 6 (Associations in the Greco-Roman World) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 6.4: Associations and Greco-Roman Society – The City (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Another review of my Dynamics of Identity in Church History

Catherine M. Chin (University of California, Davis) has now published a review of my Dynamics of Identity book in the latest volume of Church History 80 (2011), 371-73. She has some interesting observations on the book, as well as insightful critique.  You can access the article through Cambridge journals online here if your university has a subscription.  I also notice that findarticles.com has the full text of the review available for free at this point.  I’ll be adding some excerpts from reviews to the companion site here.

For now, here is an excerpt:

“The primary contribution of the work to early Christian studies, and to the study of ancient religion more generally, lies in how few pages are actually spent on “early Christians,” and how many are spent on their world. Harland’s work is a social-historical analysis of ethnic, familial, and association identity markers in the Eastern Roman Empire, and his limited discussion of early Christian sources is firmly embedded in this context. Harland uses contemporary social-scientific models of identity theory, ethnic studies, and migration studies, and applies these models primarily to understudied inscriptional evidence, in order to explore the social and ideological contexts in which early Christian groups first came into being. This is important and enlightening work, and the focus on contemporaneous non-Christian identity markers and identity groupings is a welcome addition both to the literature on religion in the Roman world and, more indirectly, on the growth of the new Christian movement.”

 

Podcast 6.3: Judean and Christian Groups as Associations

Using Josephus and Philo as a starting point, here I discuss how Judeans (Jews), Christians, and others in the ancient world could express the identities of Judean synagogues and Christian congregations in terms of association-life. Although peculiar cultural minorities in some respects, Judean and Christian groups can be studied alongside other associations in the Greco-Roman world. This is part of series 6 (Associations in the Greco-Roman World) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 6.3: Judean and Christian Groups as Associations (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 6.2: Social, Religious, and Burial Activities of Associations

Here I explore the internal activities of associations, pointing to intertwined social, religious, and burial purposes that these groups served for their members.  We take a close look at one particular association devoted to the god Zeus and the goddess Agdistis at Philadelphia in Asia Minor (LSAM 20). This is part of series 6 (Associations in the Greco-Roman World) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 6.2: Social, Religious, and Burial Activities of Associations (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 6.1: Introduction to Associations in the Greco-Roman World

In this first episode of the series, I discuss our evidence for associations and guilds in the Greco-Roman world and outline the various types of these groups, including family-based, occupation-based, cultic-based, and ethnic-based groups.  This is part of series 6 (Associations in the Greco-Roman World) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 6.1: Introduction to Associations in the Greco-Roman World (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 4.6: Honouring the Emperors as Gods

Here I explain emperor worship and the various types of honours for the emperors as gods, including imperial cults at the provincial, civic, and local levels in Asia Minor.  This is the final episode in series 4 (Honouring the Gods in the Roman Empire) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 4.6: Honouring the Emperors as Gods (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 4.5: Justice from the Gods in Lydia

Here I discuss the active role of the gods in punishing transgressors by focusing on indigenous practices in the region of Lydia, particularly the propitiation or confession inscriptions.  This is part of series 4 (Honouring the Gods in the Roman Empire) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 4.5: Justice from the Gods in Lydia (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Greco-Roman deities: Artemis of Ephesus 3

Two of the statues I recently viewed in Italy really convinced me (as they have others such as Fleischer and LiDonnici) that the protuberances were usually understood not as breasts but as part of the costume which decorated the statue of Artemis Ephesia.

This is a statue you can now see in the Capitoline museum in Rome.  This statue has many of the same characteristics that we found in the other statues in my series here (arrangement of arms and legs, decoration of Artemis’ outfit with animals) with one very important exception: the use of two different colours of stone in the carving of the statue.  The artist that carved this statue, those who commissioned it, and likely many who viewed it considered the protrusions on Artemis’ front not as breasts (which would need to be black here to match the skin of her feet and arms) but as part of the clothing decoration.  Clearly these are not breasts.  As Fleischer and others note, it is likely that the artist was representing an earlier statue of Artemis Ephesia (perhaps a statue of dark wood) which was literally dressed in special garments on particular occasions (dressing and feeding statues was somewhat common in certain cultural circles in antiquity).  The artist chose to distinguish the earlier statue itself from the clothing and paraphernalia that decorated that statue by using two different colours of stone, and the bumps on her front are part of the costume here.

That this understanding of the protrusions was not just an anomaly is confirmed by another artist’s rendition found in Neapolis, which is now preserved in the national museum in Naples (inventory no. 6278):

So although church fathers such as Jerome and Minucius Felix later tended to generalize about the “multi-breasted” Artemis (Minucius Felix, Octavius 22.5; Jerome, Commentary on the Epistle to Ephesus proem), this characterization in late antiquity arose less from common perceptions among worshippers of this goddess and more from Christian propaganda aimed at presenting “paganism” as ridiculous or bizarre.  What exactly these objects are is at this point generally unanswerable, but what is clear is that they are part of Artemis Ephesia’s outfit, not her body.

Podcast 4.4: Messages from the Gods – Apollo at Claros and Didyma

Here I discuss messages from the gods, or divination.  One way in which the gods were thought to communicate with individuals, groups, and communities was through oracles such as those of Apollo at Claros and Didyma.  This is part of series 4 (Honouring the Gods in the Roman Empire) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 4.4: Messages from the Gods – Apollo at Claros and Didyma (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Greco-Roman deities: Artemis of Ephesus 2

As you’ll see by comparing the photo here with my previous post on this Artemis, there are certain elements that repeat themselves in the images of Artemis Ephesia from about the mid-second century BCE on into the Roman era.  She is pictured standing upright with legs together, with upper arms tight against the body, and with her lower arms outstretched.  The statues have elaborate costumes decorated with animals, and there are those mysterious protuberances that have led to characterizations of this deity as the many-breasted goddess.  As in the previous statue I posted, these elements are also evident in the statue above that is now housed in the Vatican museum in Rome.  Here you find a crowned Artemis with garments decorated with lions on the upper arms and deer-like creatures lining the front.  Mythological and other figures appear on her sides and on her upper chest.

Although far from conclusive, there are hints here that the artist of this piece (and those who viewed this Artemis) may not have thought of the protuberances as breasts, since they are considerably low (and another statue of Artemis Ephesia which is now in the Antikenmuseum in Basel, Switzerland has even more clearly low-hanging protuberances that miss the chest area altogether).  The next statue photos will provide more conclusive suggestions regarding this issue.  Stay tuned.

My discussions of the statues are informed by the important work of Robert Fleischer, Artemis von Ephesos und verwandte Kultstatuen aus Anatolien und Syrien (EPRO 35; Leiden: Brill, 1973) and by Lynn R. LiDonnici, “The Images of Artemis Ephesia and Greco-Roman Worship: A Reconsideration,” Harvard Theological Review 85 (1992), 389-415.

Podcast 4.3: Salvation from the Gods – Asklepios at Pergamon (Pergamum)

Here I discuss the way in which people in Roman times believed that gods saved them in their daily lives, focusing on the case of the healing sanctuary of Asklepios at Pergamon (Pergamum).  This is part of series 4 (Honouring the Gods in the Roman Empire) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 4.3: Salvation from the Gods – Asklepios at Pergamon (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Greco-Roman deities: Artemis of Ephesus 1

Here is perhaps the best known statue of Artemis Ephesia (or Artemis of Ephesus) as preserved in the Selçuk Archeological Museum (room C, inv. 718) near the ancient site of Ephesus:

After my recent trip to the Naples archeological museum, I now have a number of depictions of Artemis Ephesia and other gods and goddesses in photo form.  So I will be making a series of posts on Greco-Roman deities. As I discuss in the current series in the podcast (Honouring the Gods in the Roman Empire), there were many different local understandings and depictions of a particular god: in other words, there were many Dionysoses, Zeuses, and Artemises.  Often one Zeus would be distinguished from another Zeus by an epithet: for example, there was a Zeus Soter (“Saviour Zeus”), a Zeus Brontos (“Thunderer Zeus”), and a Zeus Polieus (City-protecting Zeus). One local understanding of Zeus could be distinguished from another through art, in the depiction of the specific form of the god in statues.

Artemis of Ephesus is just one local way in which this goddess was understood.  You can hear more about her in episode 4.2 of the podcast. This Artemis Ephesia is consistently depicted as associated with nature and the wild, as the animals integrated within her garb and the deer at her side indicate.  And she is also always depicted with the strange protuberances which you will see in each of the photos I post.

There is some debate as to what these are.  Are they multiple breasts?  This may indicate notions of fertility and Artemis’ oversight over birth and life.  Are they part of Artemis’ outfit here (perhaps a garment made using bull-testicles, as some scholars suggest)?  Was this similar to an outfit worn by Artemis Ephesia’s main priestess and representative?  Did interpretations of these objects vary even among ancient observers and sculptors?  Actually, some of the photos I will show subsequently help to answer this mystery about the multiple breast-like objects.

More statues of this mysterious goddess to come!

My new book / website: Dynamics of Identity in the World of the Early Christians

In case you hadn’t noticed, my forthcoming book on Dynamics of Identity in the World of the Early Christians: Associations, Judeans, and Cultural Minorities is now available on Amazon.com for preorder (due November) at under $20.  I have also created a companion website (which may be expanded further in time) for the book.  As usual, that subsite can be found in the pull-down menu for “My Other Websites”.

The book considers early Christian identities in relation to other associations, Judean groups, and immigrants in the Roman empire.  Read more about it on the companion site.  Here’s a look at the book cover:

Pompeii 2: Rivalries among associations and a riot at Pompeii

As I discuss at some length in my new book on Dynamics of Identity in the World of the Early Christians, members of associations could feel a real sense of belonging in the group, and at times this sense of identity could express itself in rivalries with other groups.  Christians and Judeans were not the only ones involved in rivalries or tensions with other groups within society.   In fact, alongside areas of cooperation, competition was an inherent aspect of life within cities in the Roman empire, and associations sometimes took part in this.

Among the more interesting examples of rivalries between different associations (or collegia) is a riot that took place in Pompeii in the first century (59 CE).   This is one of those rare cases when we have more than one source regarding a violent incident involving associations, one of them being a painting from Pompeii.

One of the sources is the historian Tacitus, who relates an incident in which the tensions between different associations from two different cities (Nuceria and Pompeii) escalated into a mini-battle in the amphitheater at Pompeii.  Here is Tacitus’ description:

About this time there was a serious fight between the inhabitants of two Roman settlements, Nuceria and Pompeii. It arose out of a trifling incident at a gladiatorial show . . . During an exchange of taunts — characteristic of these disorderly country towns — abuse led to stone-throwing, and then swords were drawn. The people of Pompeii, where the show was held, came off best.  Many wounded and mutilated Nucerians were taken to the capital.  Many bereavements, too, were suffered by parents and children. The emperor instructed the senate to investigate the affair.  The senate passed it to the consuls.  When they reported back, the senate debarred Pompeii from holding any similar gathering for ten years.  Illegal associations in the town were dissolved; and the sponsor of the show and his fellow-instigators of the disorders were exiled (Annals 14.17; trans. by Michael Grant, The Annals of Imperial Rome [London: Penguin Books, 1973], 321-22).

Tacitus’ account shows us that rival associations from the two different cities played an instrumental role in the conflict.  So both civic and group identity played an important role here.  Such rivalries would not always lead to violent conflict, however.

The second piece of evidence is a painting that can now be seen in the National Museum of Naples.  In the painting is pictured people fighting in and around the amphitheater. Why exactly someone would have this painting commissioned is not completely clear.  Were they proud of the incident since their fellow Pompeiians had gained the upper hand in the rivalry?  Did they know some members of the associations involved?  Or is the painting reaffirming the action of the authorities in quelling and preventing such civic disturbances?  Was it made to celebrate the re-opening of the amphitheater after the imperial prohibition was lifted?

Riot at Pompeii

From the Casa della Rissa nell’Anfiteatro, or house of Actius Anicetus (inventory no. 112222).  Inscriptions depicted on the walls of the palaestra (to the right of the amphitheatre) proclaim: “Good fortune to D. Lucretius” (in Latin) and “Good fortune to Satrius Valens, Augustus Nero” (in Greek).  Photo by Phil.  Full Italian description in Bragantini and Sampaolo, La Pittura Pompeiana, p.512-13.

Podcast 4.2: A City and Its Patron Deity – Artemis of Ephesus

Here I discuss civic cults in Asia Minor and Ephesus with a focus on the relationship between a city and its patron deity (in this case Artemis Ephesia).  This is part of series 4 (Honouring the Gods in the Roman Empire) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 4.2: A City and Its Patron Deity – Artemis of Ephesus (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast 4.1: Introduction to Honouring the Gods

This is the introductory episode for a series that explores the various ways in which people in the Roman empire, especially in Asia Minor, honoured and communicated with their gods.  This is part of series 4 (Honouring the Gods in the Roman Empire) of the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean podcast.

Podcast 4.1: Introduction to Honouring the Gods (mp3; archive.org page with various downloading options here).

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Podcast series 4: Honouring the gods in the Roman Empire – Asia Minor

All episodes and series in my podcast (including some that are yet to be released) are available on my podcast collection page on archive.org (in various file formats and sizes) and those already released are available under the podcast category on my own website here.   This is one of several posts where I gather together each of the individual series in the podcast so that you can access or link to a specific topic.

This series has not yet been released in the official podcast feed and is not yet complete (more episodes to come).  Here are the available episodes (in mp3, about 40 MB each) in the “Honouring the gods in the Roman Empire: Asia Minor” series in playable and downloadable formats:

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Podcast 4.1: Introduction to Honouring the Gods

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Podcast 4.2: A City and Its Patron Deity – Artemis of Ephesus
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Podcast 4.3: Salvation from the Gods – Asklepios at Pergamum
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Podcast 4.4: Messages from the Gods – Apollo at Claros and Didyma
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Podcast 4.5: Justice from the Gods in Lydia
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Podcast 4.6: Honouring the Emperors as Gods
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Series not yet released in the official podcast feed.

More episodes to come!

For reading suggestions on this topic, please see the course outline.