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Dr Anna C. F. Collar BA (Hons), MPhil, PhD

Lecturer in Roman Archaeology

Dr Anna C. F. Collar's photo

I am a Classical archaeologist and ancient historian working on the epigraphy and material culture of religious practice; pilgrimage, sacred landscapes and the natural world; mobility and migration; emotion and experience; and interconnectivity, social networks and network analysis.

I studied Classical Civilisation and Philosophy as an undergraduate at Manchester, during which I was lucky enough to attend the British School at Athens’ undergraduate summer school. Visiting the incredible sites of prehistoric and Classical Greece fired my passion for the ancient world, and I went on to study for an MPhil in Classical Art and Archaeology at Cambridge, before moving to Exeter to write my PhD as part of Stephen Mitchell’s Pagan Monotheism in its Intellectual Context research project. I revised my PhD and published it with Cambridge University Press in 2013 as Religious Networks in the Roman Empire: The Spread of New Ideas. The book was a finalist in the American Academy of Religion’s book prize, Best First Book in the History of Religions 2014.

I moved to Aarhus, Denmark, in 2014 to take up an Assistant Professorship in Classical Archaeology, and to work with Troels Myrup Kristensen on the Emergence of Sacred Travel research project, and in 2019, I moved back to the UK to join the Department of Archaeology at Southampton.

Research interests

My current project is Mobile Gods. Syrian Migration, Social Networks and Syrian Cults in the Graeco-Roman World. The Syrian refugee crisis is prompting broader political and religious conversations about European identity and the capacity of Europe to respond to new groups of people with new religious beliefs and cultural values. This book aims to provide a long-term perspective on the current situation through a bottom-up exploration of Syrian migration in the Graeco-Roman world: examining the evidence for communities of Syrians across the Roman world, the religious beliefs they took with them; and the relationships that were built up between different ethnic groups that enabled Syrian religions to pass across ethnic frontiers to find a place among non-Syrians in the Roman Empire.

With the coming of the Roman Empire to the ancient Middle East around 2000 years ago, people from Syria underwent migrations: some were active choices connected to economic opportunity, continuing a longer-term trend among the seafaring nations of the Syrian coastline; some were passive dispersals enacted through enslavement or conscription to the Roman army; and some were desperate acts of abandoning a homeland that had been taken hostage by new and hated invaders. How did these multiple migratory practices and events contribute to the dissemination of new Syrian religious cults in Europe, and what is the long-term impact that these religious ideas, once termed ‘Oriental cults’, have on the global Roman world?

I approach the question using different theoretical frameworks, drawn from various disciplines, including the New Mobilities Paradigm, Network Theory, Sensory Archaeology, Material Agency, Cognitive Theories of Religion, Place Attachment and Landscape Phenomenology. This framing of the evidence in different ways enables me to explore the multiple sacred landscapes in Syria, to draw out different aspects of Syrian mobility and migration; to interrogate the social networks operating between different religious groups and across geographical space; and shed new light on migrant community practices related to religious identity construction and boundary demarcation and dissolution.

In related current and future research, I am exploring social emotion, memory and migration through epigraphy, material culture, landscape and deep mapping (particularly in relation to Commagene); the texturing of sacred spaces through memory, emotion and experience, and ways of accessing and representing this to heritage audiences; and sacred mountains and walking as part of sacred expression, sacred work, and pilgrimage practice.

Previously, I have looked at the cult of the Romanised Near Eastern storm god Jupiter Dolichenus and abstracted, (potentially) monotheistic cult of the highest god, Theos Hypsistos; and also at the spread of ideas in Diaspora Judaism. My book on this subject, Religious Networks in the Roman Empire: The Spread of New Ideas, was published by Cambridge University Press in December 2013.

PhD supervision

I am happy to supervise postgraduate research on topics relating to Greek and Roman history and archaeology across the Mediterranean world, ancient Mediterranean religion and spiritual practices, mountains, Social Network Analysis and connectivity in the Classical world, Commagene, ancient Syria and the Near East, migration, mobility and pilgrimage in the ancient world.

Geographically I am particularly interested in the East Mediterranean, to include Anatolia, Syria, Armenia, the Levant, Crete, and Greece.

Research projects

Between 2014-2018 I was part of the Emergence of Sacred Travel project, based in Aarhus, Denmark, which aimed to explore the extent to which Greece and Rome constituted the cultural and religious background to the development of early Christian and Islamic pilgrimage.

My main current fieldwork project is the Taşeli ve Karaman Projesi (TKAP) which is an extensive survey project in ancient Cilicia, Turkey.

Research group

Classical and historical archaeology

Affiliate research group

Classical Empires

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Book Chapters

ARCH2003: Power of Rome (instructor)

HIST1164: Consuls, Dictators and Emperors (instructor)

Dr Anna C. F. Collar
Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Southampton
Avenue Campus, Highfield
SO17 1BF
United Kingdom

Room Number : 65A/3025

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