New Publication: ‚Religion in the Roman Empire‘

Kohlhammer will publish a new volume in the series ‚Die Religionen der Menschheit‘ at the end of January. The title of the English-language book, edited by Jörg Rüpke, Greg Woolf, Richard Gordon and others, is ‚Religion in the Roman Empire‘.

The Roman Empire was home to a fascinating variety of different cults and religions. Its enormous size, the lack of a precisely definable state religion and the constant exchange with the religions and cults of conquered peoples and neighbouring cultures led to a multifaceted religious beliefs and practices. This volume offers an overview of central aspects of cult and religion in the Roman Empire, including the distinction between public and private cult, the complex interrelationships between different religious traditions, their mutual developments and spreads, and the diversity of regional differences, rituals, religious texts and artefacts.

On 7 February 2022, the editors, Jörg Rüpke (Max-Weber-Kolleg of the University of Erfurt) and Greg Woolf (UCLA, USA), will present their new publication. The event will take place online and in English. You can find more information in our event calendar.

Jörg Rüpke, Greg Woolf, Richard Gordon a.o. (eds.)
Religion in the Roman Empire
(series: ‚Die Religionen der Menschheit‘)
Kohlhammer, 2022
ISBN: 3170292242
319 pages

Jörg Rüpke receives honorary doctorate from the University of Graz

A particularly solemn event can be experienced at the University of Graz today, 27 October 2021, as the University of Graz is today honouring two outstanding academics for their special academic achievements with an honorary doctorate in philosophy. In addition to the historian Professor Ivan Părvev, the religious scholar Professor Jörg Rüpke, co-director of the Max-Weber-Kolleg at the University of Erfurt, will also be awarded this special dignity.

Rüpke is being honoured as one of the world’s leading experts on the history of ancient Roman religion, as well as for his services in cooperation with the University of Graz, especially as one of the initiators and idea providers of the International Graduate School „Resonant Self-World Relations in Socio-Religious Practices in Antiquity and the Present“.

But honorary doctorates are not only an honour, they also entail an obligation. Following the custom of the University of Graz, „honorary doctorates vow to keep an honourable memory of the University of Graz and to support its concerns, furthermore to keep the honour conferred upon them unharmed and without reproach, and finally to apply their erudition, knowledge and wisdom – according to their humanity – for the salvation and welfare of mankind and never to stray from this task.“

This reminder of the task of the sciences in society has always been taken particularly seriously by the Max-Weber-Kolleg. Hartmut Rosa, Director of the Max-Weber-Kolleg: „We are pleased with Jörg Rüpke about this outstanding award for his scientific oeuvre as well as for his tireless commitment in the sense of promoting young researchers and transferring scientific knowledge to society.“

International conference examines religious phenomena in urban space

Under the title „Blurring Boundaries: Diffusing and Creating Urban Religion beyond Urban Space“, the Kolleg Research Group (KFG) „Religion and Urbanity: Mutual Formations“ at the University of Erfurt invites you to an international conference from 23 to 26 November. It will be organised by Professor Jörg Rüpke and Dr Emiliano Urciuoli and will take place at Ettersburg Castle (Weimar).

This conference intends to explore possible avenues of research and sources for the study of religious phenomena associated with or produced in urban space but diffused beyond and customized outside cities.

This conference is an invitation to think “urban religion” as a processual category that captures attempts to blur as well as to stress any topographical boundary between supposedly rural and urban religious traditions. We are not looking for fixing origins to given territorial habitats or confining survivals to certain spatial determinants (thus engaging in the production of urbanity and rurality ourselves). Instead, we are interested in observing and interpreting the ongoing traffic of religious signs, carriers, practices, and institutions across a more or less externally demarcated city border, thus testing their changes under different socio-spatial conditions.

Within the wide range of possible movements, in this exploratory conference our focus is on the direction of diffusion out of cities and towns directly into their hinterlands. Based on our group’s research framework, we are interested in questions as:

  • Which religious phenomena are diffused outside of the city?
  • How are they marked or perceived or “unseen” as urban?
  • Who are the agents of diffusion? How do they relate to the rest of rural societies?
  • Under what conditions is religious change induced beyond such agents?
  • How is change conceptualised, perhaps explicitly justified in spatial terms, that is, how is it renegotiated as either urban or rural?
  • How does such rurality in religious terms produce repercussions in urban religion?
  • How do such processes produce (our) sources and their legibility?

With contributions by Handan Aksünger-Kizil (Vienna), Roberto Alciati (Florence), William Elison (Santa Barbara),Laszlo Ferenczi (Prague), Audrey Ferlut (Lyon), Valentino Gasparini (Madrid),Barbara Happe (Jena), Jens-Uwe Hartmann (Munich), Marietta Horster (Mainz),Elisa Iori (Erfurt),Sara Keller (Erfurt),Rachna Mehra (Delhi), Katharina Mersch (Bochum), Jörg Rüpke & Emiliano R. Urciuoli (Erfurt), Yogesh Snehi (Delhi),Marika Vicziany (Melbourne), Benno Werlen (Jena), Ingrid Würth (Potsdam).

The Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies (Kolleg-Forschungsgruppe/KFG) “Religion and Urbanity: reciprocal formations” investigates the historical contribution of religion to urbanization and the long-term co-constitution and co-evolution of religion and the urban. The Centre inquires what role religion has played for urbanity, how urbanity has changed religion, and how they continually influence one another. By focusing on religion, the goal is to gain insight into the formation of human settlements and thereby to describe different paths of urbanization and their inter-relationships with the development of religion (Rau, Rüpke 2020).

A series of conferences explores selected phenomena or concepts in order to lay the ground for further research. Until now, we have explored the concepts of urbanity and religion, heterarchy, co-spatiality, religion in proto-urban phases, neighbourhood religion, death in the city or ‘guides to urbanity’. Information on our bygone conferences and other events can be found on our website or the UrbRel Blog.

Discussion event: „I want to be happy NOW!“

The Max-Weber-Kolleg of the University of Erfurt and the Catholic Forum in the State of Thuringia cordially invite all interested parties to an event on Monday, 25 October, dealing with modern life design and religious hope. It is entitled „I want to be happy NOW!“ and will take place in digital form. It starts at 6 pm.

The focus of the event is the book „Fulfilment in this world. How Contemporary Utopias Challenge the Christian Message of Salvation“ by Josef Römelt, moral theologian at the University of Erfurt. Moderated by Jörg Rüpke, Hartmut Rosa from the Max-Weber-Kolleg and Cornelia Richter from the University of Bonn will discuss this evening.

Registration for this event is now possible by email at After registration you will receive an access link.

Stream on Youtube