Religions, institutions and society of Rome


John Scheid - Chair in Religion, Institutions and Society in Ancient Rome


Fana Templa Delubra

Corpus of places of worship in ancient Italy

Religion is an excellent tool to ask and analyze general questions on ancient history as religion is present in all communities as a central element of everyday civic and social life. In addition, monuments and other material traces left by religious practices have generally survived well and thus offer an effective way to better understand ancient civilizations.

The plethora of archaeological and literary material provided by excavations and texts is, however, very dispersed and not well published, which often prevents scholars as well as students, PhD students, and lovers of the ancient world from establishing the historical context of their finds, or even knowing about these documents.

To overcome this problem, we have decided to establish a corpus of all sources – literary and archaeological – between the seventh century BC and the seventh century AD, and inventory documentation that indicates the existence of a specific place of worship in order to provide full access to all the currently available ancient and bibliographic sources of information.

We adopted the approach that seemed most effective – creating an inventory of religious sources by classifying them according to places of worship. Only by relating them to location can we uncover their full meaning. The religions of ancient Italy cannot be understood as local subdivisions of a universal religion, be it Italic or Roman. They formed equivalent but autonomous microsystems. Thus we must examine evidence regarding religious life in relation to its geographical, institutional and social contexts.

As the general framework for the corpus, we have chosen the eleven Augustan regions, and within these regions cities of the Roman era. Roman Italy is then used as a starting point to reconstitute the territories of pre-Roman Italic communities, and also Christians dioceses from the fourth-fifth century AD onwards. This choice seemed best given that the regions of Augustan Italy and Roman cities are the only geographical and institutional units for which we have a satisfactory knowledge of boundaries.

Plan des lieux de culte

Augustan regions

Forms of the corpus

Livres Scheid

The corpus is published in a paper format as booklets in a collection by the Italian publishing house Quasar (two volumes have been published, two are being edited), and also in electronic form on OpenEdition Books in the Collège de France collections. We are currently creating a database linked to these publications. Findings from the already published booklets are already being integrated.

Organization of the booklets

In each booklet, an introduction discusses the history of each Augustan region before and after Romanization. References to other regions restore the unity of the Italic peoples, whose territories, too little known to serve as a framework for data entry, sometimes belong to several Augustan regions at once.

The presentation of the Roman cities under consideration as the context of religious life has two parts. First, an introduction summarizes the main historical, topographical and institutional facts about the city to provide an overview of Italic places of worship found at a specific time within the territorial boundaries of the Roman city – whether or not they still existed during the Augustan period. Secondly comes the table of places of worship during the Roman period, classified into urban and territorial places of worship and public and private worship. In this way, the reader immediately finds specific information on the religious life of the city in question.

As regards the actual records form the body of the book, each place of worship reasonably identifiable as such is described in a standard record. The necessary distinctions having been established in the introduction, places of worship, whatever their size, location and period, are now listed in alphabetical order under the corresponding modern Italian place names (so as not to prejudge identifications that are too often hypothetical). The easy-to-use inventory makes it possible to establish Greek, Italic and Roman sites on the same level without the risk of confusion or oversimplification and without unjustifiably attributing the characteristics of one site to another.

The order of the sections is always the same within each record. First, a brief presentation is given as objectively as possible (location, history of research), then written sources, texts and inscriptions are reproduced in full with a translation, possibly including a critical reading and commentary. Archaeological sources, such as structures and furniture, are also included with a summary description using standard descriptive grids. A comprehensive bibliography completes the record. The inventory is written in the language of the team involved.

 The iconography is designed as an atlas. Use of consistent scale facilitates comparisons. Maps of cities’ territories, with location of places of worship, general plans, and when possible, detailed plans and selected material descriptions are provided. Necropoli and domestic places of worship are not discussed in separate records. Being very numerous, this would unbalance the whole and also considerable complicate the project.

Carte de territoire

Map of the territory


Plan d'un site

Map of a site (SS. Annunziata Basilica)


The inventory was developed at the initiative of John Scheid through the Joint Research Unit No. 8585 (Centre Gustave Glotz), and publications are supported by the Collège de France. Colleagues and their teams of many different nationalities have joined the project. The inventory already includes several regions of Italy as part of a collaboration with the appropriate archaeological Superintendencies.


Pediment relief in terracotta, aulos player