Paradoxographic mentalité and the sacred - a seminar by Dr Jody Cundy - 21st March 2019

Events > Paradoxographic mentalité and the sacred

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This lunchtime seminar is hosted by the Baron Thyssen Centre for the Study of Ancient Material Religion. Dr Jody Cundy will give a talk on "Paradoxographic mentalité and the sacred: thinking through (im)material collections in Pausanias' Periegesis Hellados." 

The talk will begin at 1pm, and a sandwich/buffet lunch will be available from 12.30pm. If you have any special dietary requirements, or any questions about the event, please email the organiser Jessica Hughes (

The seminar will take place in Seminar Room 4 in The Open University Library. Come into the main glass door entrance, and turn left to find the lift and stairs to the first floor. There will be signs posted on the day.

This is a free event but spaces are limited, so please follow the link below to reserve your place.


Nock remarked, “Miracle proved divinity.” But epiphanies and other miracles are necessarily rare and ephemeral phenomena that can only acquire permanence through commemoration in material and/or textual form. This paper explores votive dedications as material witnesses for miracles as ephemeral phenomena, and their collective agency in attesting to the power of the divine. Petsalis-Diomidis has remarked upon the “paradoxographic mentalité” in the collections of votives in the Pergamene Asclepieion. In particular, she explores the interplay between ‘real pilgrims’ and ‘pilgrims in stone’ embodied in the anatomical votives that commemorate the miraculous cures of the divinity. Each individual dedication gives permanent witness to the ephemeral phenomenon of the god’s healing intervention, and collectively the dedications construct a diachronic community of pilgrims. The Epidaurean iamata embody a similar logic and function, because each miracle cure makes the others more credible. As a collection of inscribed autobiographical narratives, the iamata function as both textual and material witness.

The catalogue form of the iamata is replicated in the so-called ‘Lindian Chronicle.’ This monumental Hellenistic inscription was commissioned by magistrates in 99 BC with instructions that the stele be erected in the sanctuary proper. The stated intent of the inscribed catalogue is to preserve of the memory of the dedications that have been lost over time. The monumental inscription both emphasizes the antiquity and prestige of the sanctuary, and draws a direct correlation between the impetus to offer dedications to the goddess and her epiphanies. The Lindian Chronicle compensates for the material loss of these dedicationsby creating of a virtual collection that any visitor to the sanctuary can experience by reading the stele, which is itself a permanent monument in stone.

The “paradoxographic mentalité” evident in the Pergamene votive assemblage, Epidaurean iamata, and Lindian Chronicle is also evident in the thematic catalogues that pepper Pausanias’ topographically structured Periegesis Hellados. Pausanias’ description of the temple of Athena Alea provides a species of temple inventory rendered as a thematic catalogue of the noteworthy dedications. The catalogue includes not only the extant dedications on display during Pausanias’ visit, but also those that had been removed or damaged over time. The catalogue creates a diachronic virtual assemblage and allows the reader, as virtual traveller, a proxy viewing experience of the hierophanies associated with Athena Alea. The interplay between material dedications and text in the Periegesis creates a virtual collection that attests to the special relationship between Athena Alea and Tegea that is perhaps more effective than actual pilgrimage to the site. 

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