Religions in the Roman Empire

Dr Ralph Häussler

The Roman Empire affected the cult activities, myths and religious beliefs of the local, provincial population in countless ways. We are not dealing with the imposition of Roman cults, but with individuals making particular religious choices, challenging existing cults, re-interpreting, re-defining and sometimes re-invigorating local cults. The first adoption of, for example, a Greco-Roman-style statue in an Iron Age sanctuary in Britain, Gaul or Iberia would have had long-term repercussions on people’s perception of their local cult; together with new forms of architecture and language, the environment will change how people will experience a cult place, how they interpret a particular cult or deity. In the ‘global’ world of the Roman Empire, people are constantly faced with new cults, myths, believes, practices and votive offerings. Across the empire, local people will insert their cult in this ‘global, imperial’ narrative, associate it with Greco-Roman myths and discourses about the emperor. This research strand focuses in particular on the archaeological and epigraphic evidence from across the Roman empire to study the nature and transformation of cults between the 3rd century BC and the 3rd century AD, notably from Italy, Gaul, Germany and Britain. In addition, a project on the municipal and provincial flaminicae / archiereiai of the imperial cult is in progress.

Conferences include:

  • 5th - 7th May 2014: organisation of a conference “Sacred Landscapes: Creation, Transformation, Manipulation” at UWTSD Lampeter cf. www.viasacra.org.uk

Previous conferences: e.g.

  • Organisation of a F.E.R.C.AN. workshop at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, London, 2005,
  • Organisation of a conference “Interpretatio romana / graeca / indigena” at Osnabrück University, Germany, 2010. http://www.interpretatio.uos.de/
  • Organisation of conference sessions, e.g. on religious individualisation at the Roman Archaeology Conference, Oxford, 2010.

Applications are currently in development with European partners

Through the work in this research area the School has active research links and collaborations with researchers across Europe, notably in France, Italy, Germany, Austria and Spain, as well as in the U.S. and Canada. There are particularly close links with the University of Zaragoza, University of Pays Basque (Vitoria-Gasteiz), University of Lisbon, University of Aix-en-Provence, University of Franche-Comté (Besançon), L’Année Épigraphique (CNRS, Paris), Freie Universität Berlin, University of Osnabrück, University of Graz, and many more.

Dr Ralph Häussler is, inter alia, project coordinator for the international and interdisciplinary F.E.R.C.AN. project (Fontes Epigraphici Religionvm Celticarvm Antiqvarvm, organised by the ÖAW/Austrian Academy of Sciences, cf. http://www.oeaw.ac.at/praehist/fercan/fercan.html). The aim of the project is to provide a corpus of testimonies relating to Celtic theonyms, deities and cults from Antiquity. Two epigraphic corpora are currently in progress, one on the deities of Roman Britain, the other one on the province of Gallia Narbonensis. 

G.F. Chiai, R. Häussler and C. Kunst (edd.) 2012. Interpretatio. Religiöse Kommuni­kation zwischen Globalisierung und Partikularisierung (proceedings of the conference at Osnabrück University, 9th-11th September 2010). Roma: Mediterraneo Antico.

Interpretatio romana/graeca/indigena was an important mechanism to overcome cultural differences in Antiquity. This volume focuses on the indigenous population and their interpretationes indigenae of Graeco-Roman cults and myths in the context of the global world of the Hellenistic period and the Roman empire. The comparison between East and West provides disparate data that will allow a profound reorientation of our methodologies.


R. Häussler and A.C. King (edd.) 2007-2008. Continuity and Innovation in Religion in the Roman West, 2 volumes. Portsmouth, Rhode Island (JRA supplement volume, no. 67.2).

This volume, containing the proceedings of the 2005 F.E.R.C.AN. workshop in London, includes some 30 papers on various aspects that demonstrate religious continuity and change between Iron Age and Roman period in the western provinces of the Roman empire. (cf. www.journalofromanarch.com)


R. Häussler 2011. “Beyond ‘polis religion’ and sacerdotes publici in Southern Gaul”, in: Federico Santangelo et James Richardson(edd.), Priests and State in the Roman World. Stuttgart: Steiner (Potsdamer Altertums­wissen­schaft­liche Beiträge, 33), S. 391-428.

This article explores how marginal public priests were for shaping cults and religious activities in Southern Gaul. Instead the role of suburban and rural sanctuaries is emphasised, often without any attestation of elite activity. 

For the Sacred Ways Project of UWTSD: www.viasacra.org.uk

For more information on the F.E.R.C.AN. project on epigraphic testimonies for (Romano-)Celtic religion, cf. http://www.oeaw.ac.at/praehist/fercan/fercan.html

Downloads of articles by Ralph Häussler on academia.edu, for example:

2008. “Pouvoir et religion dans un paysage gallo-romain: les cités d’Apt et d’Aix-en-Provence“: https://www.academia.edu/1904503/Pouvoir_et_religion_dans_un_paysage_gallo-romain_les_cites_dApt_et_dAix-en-Provence

Personal homepage: http://ralphhaussler.weebly.com/ancient-religion.html