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“The Names of the Gods!”

« Noms de dieux ! »

Exploring the potentials of the name in images, in narratives

Explorer les potentialités du nom : mises en images, mises en récits

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Published on Thursday, October 10, 2019


The ERC MAP Seminar “The Names of the Gods! 4: Exploring the potentials of the name in images, in narratives” pursues the investigation on the systems of naming of the divine. By focusing on names, images and narratives, we will look for connections but also discrepancies, in order to highlight, from duly selected cases or files, the specifications of the different languages used to unfold the potentials of the divine names. In the spirit of the MAP project, we will pay special attention to the links that the names, the images and the narratives convey.


ERC Advanced Grant MAP project

The ERC Advanced Grant MAP project (Mapping Ancient Polytheisms. Cult Epithets as an Interface between Religious Systems and Human Agency; 741182) works on the systems of naming of the divine in the Greek and Western Semitic worlds (ca. 1000 BCE – ca. 400 CE). Those systems of denomination are considered as testimonies to the way in which divine powers are constructed, arranged and mobilized, especially in ritual contexts. The analysis covers both the structural aspects of religious systems and their contextual appropriation by social agents. As elements of a complex language, onomastic sequences relating to the gods thus give access to a mapping of the divine, to its modes of representation and to the strategies of communication between men and gods.


In a letter (Julian, Letters 89b, 291 b) where he criticises the inconsistent behaviour of his contemporaries, who invoke Zeus Xenios and are more inhospitable than the Scythians themselves, Julian affirms that “the names (epônumias) of the gods offer us many drawn/written images (hôsper eikonas graptas)”. He established a link between names and images, which is what Seminar 4 of the MAP project aims to explore. Under the assumption that the gods are not people, but powers, we at once embrace the complexity of the “signals” driven by the onomastic sequences, simple or complex, which identify the gods. Thus, as confirmed by Euripides in The Bacchae (1388-1391) and in other tragedies (Alcestis, Andromache, Helen and Medea), “the forms of gods (daimoniôn) are multiple, as are the unforeseen effects of what the gods command; what was expected of them was not fulfilled; from the unexpected, the god itself has discovered the path”.

It is, specifically, the unexpected path that we want to examine within the framework of the Seminar by working on a triangulation that we consider to be fruitful: names give way to images, representations which, in their great diversity are, in as much, possible “readings” of the potentials driven by names like “Baal, Lord of the Heavens”, “Zeus Europa “ or “YHWH Sabaoth”. In parallel, and often in relation, with the images, the names arouse narratives which are intended to establish, explain and contextualise the use of one onomastic and/or iconographic attribute or another. Conversely, narratives about divine names can inspire artists. In any case, narratives and images of the potentials belonging to divine names, which are both frequent and deliberately polysemous, have fuelled a considerable corpus of data that it is worth exploiting; new approaches attempt to meet this challenge, such as the iconographic exegesis of texts. These pieces of information are fragments of knowledge, estimates and attempts to interpret a divinity which is fundamentally inaccessible to men, as its multifaceted complexity defies comprehension. In what Robert Parker describes as “archipelago”, the images and the narratives are like compasses used to approach the divine world.

We therefore hope to focus on names, images and narratives, seeking connections but also discrepancies, in order to highlight, from duly selected cases or files, the specifications of the different languages used to unfold the potentials of the divine names. In the spirit of the MAP project, we will pay special attention to the links that the names, the images and the narratives convey. As, far from judging, isolating and essentialising the divine figures, naming them, narrating them or “imagining” is rather to place them at the heart of a canvas, to decipher a signal which is then echoed by another signal, like lighthouses within a vast archipelago. Once again, approaching these matters invites us to reflect upon the link between unity and plurality of the divine, a common theme that the MAP project continues to relentlessly unfold.

Ultimately, we will approach the dialogue between names, images and narratives in context, specifically in a ritual situation, in order to measure the agency and the impact simultaneously. To spiral around the gods, using different forms of speech and action is also to give them form, to surround them with powerful objects and to construct their performative power using images and words.

The Seminar will be carried out in the form of monthly study workshops, from October 2019 to May 2020. Two guests will intervene each time, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, each one allocated a speaking time of one hour, followed by one hour of discussion.


  • 14/10/2019 (10.30-12.30 am): MAP Team: L'imagination au pouvoir: potentialités sémantiques des noms divins, entre textes et images
  • 14/10/2019 (2-4 pm): Christian Frevel: Baal Zebub - an epithet between mockery and reality
  • 18/11/2019 (10.30-12.30 am): Jonathan Ben Dov: Divine Epithets in Jewish Aramaic Apocalyptic Literature in their Levantine contexts
  • 18/11/2019 (2-4 pm): Charles Delattre: Juxtaposition, qualification ou équivalence ? Dynamiques de l’étiologie des noms divins dans quelques pratiques mythographiques
  • 09/12/2019 (10.30-12.30 am): Izaak J. de Hulster: God represented in images: picture theory, ancient Near Eastern iconography and biblical studies
  • 09/12/2019 (2-4 pm): Cécile Jubier-Gallinier: Panthéon en mouvement: jeux et enjeux de la nomination des divinités féminines dans les représentations attiques
  • 13/01/2020 (10.30-12.30 am): Astrid Nunn: Iconisme et aniconisme  dans les représentations religieuses de la Mésopotamie, une contradiction ?
  • 13/01/2020 (2-4 pm): Francis Prost: L'Apollon de Délos: quels noms, quelles images, quelles fonctions ?
  • 10/02/2020 (10.30-12.30 am): Christophe Uehlinger: Compagnes, rivales, objets ? Trois figures divines féminines et leur rapport à un dieu prétendu exclusif dans l’histoire des religions d'Israël et de Juda
  • 10/02/2020 (2-4 pm): Becky Martin: The Connotations of Abstraction in Herm Statues
  • 27/04/2020 (10.30-12.30 am): Bruno D’Andrea: Les dieux des tophets: formules onomastiques et images
  • 27/04/2020 (2-4 pm): Richard Veymiers: Panthée(s). Des noms et des images, entre singulier et pluriel
  • 25/05/2020 (10.30-12.30 am): Daniel Barbu: Le nom de Dieu dans le judaïsme ancien
  • 25/05/2020 (2-4 pm): Guillaume Dye: Les épithètes de Dieu dans le Coran: quelques remarques


  • Maison de la Recherche - Université Toulouse 2 Jean Jaurès, 5 allées Antonio Machado
    Toulouse, France (31000)


  • Monday, October 14, 2019
  • Monday, November 18, 2019
  • Monday, December 09, 2019
  • Monday, January 13, 2020
  • Monday, February 10, 2020
  • Monday, April 27, 2020
  • Monday, May 25, 2020


  • religion antique, monde sémitique, monde grec, dieu, nom, image, récit


  • Corinne Bonnet
    courriel : cbonnet [at] univ-tlse2 [dot] fr
  • Fabio Porzia
    courriel : fabio [dot] porzia [at] univ-tlse2 [dot] fr

Information source

  • Sylvain Lebreton
    courriel : sylvain [dot] lebreton [at] univ-tlse2 [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« “The Names of the Gods!” », Seminar, Calenda, Published on Thursday, October 10, 2019, https://calenda.org/688365

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