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Research Centre for Religious Studies Research Centres CRASIS

Ancient World Seminar: Marlena Whiting (University of Groningen): ‘Travel in the Late Antique Near East: Conceptions of Space and Distance’

Wanneer:di 16-04-2024 16:15 - 17:30
Waar:Harmoniegebouw, room 1312.0012


Human movement through space - navigation, orientation - is as much a mental process as it is a physical one. Scholars have traditionally tended to apply one of two models to perceptions of space and travel in antiquity: the hodological (path-based) or the cartographic (map-based). However, new approaches reject this binary, instead combining approaches from linguistics, cognitive science, and computer programming in a “Common Sense Geography”. This has a dual connotation of “common sense” as reflecting an unintellectual, practical knowledge, and “common” as alluding to a shared knowledge derived from common cultural reference points. It is particularly appropriate for understanding the development of Christian long-distance Holy Land pilgrimage and explaining how travellers unfamiliar with the region organized and experienced their journeys. In this paper I will look at testimony of journeys in the 4ᵗʰ-7ᵗʰ c. Near East for evidence of “common sense” approaches to planning and executing long-distance journeys, including itineraries, maps and first-hand travel accounts, and advocate new concepts for describing the experience of travel in late antiquity.

About the speaker

Marlena Whiting is a Researcher and Lecturer in Ancient History at University of Groningen. Her expertise includes urbanism, built environment, lived religion, pilgrimage, travel, networks, epigraphy, gender, Late Antiquity, Anchoring Innovation