Expecting epiphany : performative ritual and Roman cultural space
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When ancient people entered a temple or other sacred space, how did the art and architecture of the site work upon their senses as mediators of divine presence? This thesis demonstrates that the ancient perception of the deity's actual presence in visual images created a tension that was intensified by the spatial environment and the theatricality of ritual performance. Visual representations acted in concert with cultic ritual to manipulate the visitor through a revelatory experience and create the phenomenon of epiphany. Epiphany, from the Greek word epiphaneia, is the visible manifestation of the deity. Epiphany in the ancient world could manifest as miracles, signs and natural phenomena; however, my thesis will focus primarily on visual epiphany of deity. My aim is to describe how the elements of the built environment and performative ritual combined to create not only the expectation but the actualization of an epiphanic experience for the beholder. The phenomenon of visual epiphany has been largely overlooked until relatively recently. Scholarly examination of temples and other ritual spaces has focused more on archaeological description, formal analysis, mythic narrative, and social and political structures. There has been very little exploration of the actual ritual and neuro-phenomenological experience of religious participants as it relates to the visual environment. With this work my aim is to contribute to the scholarly knowledge of the ancient viewer's experience of epiphany as it was shaped by sacred space and mediated by religious ritual in the ancient world.