Sacred Inscriptions from the Ancient Territory of Venetia
This project aims to investigate the interaction between writing and religion in ancient north-eastern Italy from the 3rd century BCE to the 1st century CE and covers the area described by the Roman historian Livy as the Venetorum angulus (5.33.10), which was later included by the first emperor Augustus in the administration of the tenth region of Italy (regio X). By adopting an interdisciplinary and cross-temporal approach, the project addresses cults and rituals through the lens of epigraphy to understand their role in promoting the religious and political integration of indigenous societies into the Roman world. Our dataset comprises a range of epigraphic documents from a variety of indigenous cultures (Celtic, Raetic, and Venetic), as well as a large body of so-called ‘sacred inscriptions’ written in Latin, ranging from the earliest contacts of the Romans in north-eastern Italy to the full integration of local communities into the Roman political system.
The project’s acronym, SaInAT-Ve, notably alludes to the Venetic form Sainat-, a highly debated divine epithet, through which several Venetic inscriptions identify the role of some of the most important local deities.
Sacred inscriptions (tituli sacri) have long played a crucial role within the taxonomy of epigraphic corpora. During the last decades, epigraphy has remarkably advanced not only as a discipline based on philological criticism, but also as part of a renewed scientific approach investigating ancient monuments and contexts through cutting-edge methodologies.
Within this epistemic reappraisal, epigraphic documents that relate to the sacred sphere have not lost their primacy, but the international scholarly community has increasingly become aware that the study of places of worship and the understanding of ritual practices essentially require multiple sets of evidence. In order to discern religious experiences through time and space, it is necessary to encompass a wide range of primary sources (literary, archaeological, topographical, epigraphic, numismatic, etc.) and combine them with different areas of expertise (historical, religious, anthropological, sociological, and linguistic). These principles have inspired recent publication projects, such as the proceedings of the Sacrum facere seminars and the Fana templa delubra corpus.
With regard to the ancient Venetia region, the relationship between epigraphy and religion has recently attracted more scholarly attention. A significant number of places of worship have been the object of specific investigations. All these sites have produced a variety of epigraphic documents in both Venetic and Latin, and – to a lesser extent – in Celtic and Raetic, all related with a votive function.
SaInAT-Ve aims at freshly building on the results of previous research, part of which has been carried out by specialist members of our team. In particular, we are focusing on ancient contexts, which have already been the object of archaeological excavations and have produced considerable written documentation related to the sacred sphere, such as the sites of Altinum, Ateste and Lagole di Calalzo.
The purpose of our project is to investigate the processes of integration of local societies into the Roman political system with a special focus on the role played by religion and its ritual aspects. By combining primary evidence with an interdisciplinary approach, the project intends to shed new light on the network of contacts woven between the indigenous communities from north-eastern Italy and Rome in a long-term perspective.
Since the practice of epigraphic writing played a crucial role in the religions of the Venetia region, special attention is devoted to the study of inscribed evidence. In particular, we are tackling the following scientific questions:
- can expressions or formulas (sacred prescriptions, calendars with festivals, offerings, fulfilments of vows, sacrifices) clarify rituals?
- can the study of the ways of writing texts (e.g., painted or engraved inscriptions, stamps, graffiti) help us identify their authors (professional stone carvers, priests and priestesses, or the worshippers themselves)?
- can texts provide information about the time (public festivals, recurrent ceremonies, seasonal cycles) and places of worship (display, storage, hanging, posting-up, removal, de-functionalization) in which sacred inscriptions were set up?
- do texts and iconographies (if present) reflect any ritual gestures and actions (prayers, sacrifices, processions, readings, songs, dances, music)?
We expect a comprehensive investigation to help us answer these questions and draw conclusions on specific aspects of rituals, their purposes and their spatial and social contexts. In order to investigate a diversified set of ethnic and cultural situations, we are devoting our attention to different cult places, which are firmly grounded in the recent results of archaeological research and reflect the state of the art in the field.
Our final goal is to trace primary sources back to their original contexts. We have also decided to diversify our geographic coverage and extend it to both cities and rural areas, in the mountains as well as in the plain. Given the major role played by rivers, lakes, springs, marshes, channels, and the Adriatic Sea, specific attention is devoted to the cultic role of water in different ritual landscapes.
The SaInAT-Ve project pays special attention to disseminating the results of the project to a wider -specialist and non-specialist - audience. In this respect, a varied range of digital products will be exploited, such as podcasts, 3D renderings and 3D prints, all embracing the standards of Open Research Data. We fully support the ‘Plan S’ and ‘cOAlition S’ initiatives, and our publications will be licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence. Each resource will also be linked to those already available on the web by adhering to the FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) and according to the paradigm of Linked Open Data.
In particular, SaInAT-Ve aims to fully comply with the standards of the new European Framework Programme for research and innovation “Horizon Europe” with regard to Open Science, social impact and the enhancement of the quality of life of European citizens.
Scientific results will be disseminated thanks to a final conference, which will be available for online viewing via streaming and recorded on the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice social media channels. The proceedings of the conference will be published in a peer-reviewed edited volume in Diamond Open Access format.
- International Centre for the Study of Religions in the Ancient Mediterranean, Ca' Foscari University of Venice
- Direzione Regionale dei Musei del Veneto
- International Association of Greek and Latin Epigraphy (AIEGL)
- Europeana Network of Greek and Latin Epigraphy (EAGLE)
- International Digital Epigraphy Association (IDEA)