Research Areas of Prof. Dr. Heike Grieser
  • Social history and legal history (slavery, war, charity)
  • Cultural history (funerals, concepts of the afterlife; ancient Christianity and pagan environment; popular belief)
  • Hagiography (ancient Christian saints and their reception in later times, e.g. Legenda Aurea)
  • Historical women’s studies (e.g. Olympias of Constantinople; functions and role models of women in Christian societies; family life)


Current research project:

The cultic topography of Greece: Continuities and discontinuies from Roman conquest to the Byzantine period

Project leaders: Heide Frielinghaus (Classical Archeology), Heike Grieser (Early Church History and Patristics) and Vasiliki Tsamakda (Christian Archeology and Byzantine Art History)

It is well known that the sacred landscape of Greece – like many other regions – constantly changed over the course of long periods of its history. The foundation, utilization/upkeeping, expansion/reduction, termination and, as necessary, renewed use of cultic spaces were not only dependent on the ever-changing settlement system itself; other factors include, for example, changes (at varying rates) in the public’s expectations/demands regarding religion and cult or the particular location. External pressure, influential domestic and international political and religious events, and the relative power distributions among political and religious factions as well as individuals were important factors. Therefore, a context of long-term developments is essential to a comprehensive evaluation of the nature of varyingly dependent changes or – despite such influences – the continuity thereof.

Through a characteristic, inter-disciplinary framework, the project focuses on the continuity, adaptation, and change of cult and cultic spaces in Greece as a geographically isolated and, despite the variance among its individual 'landscapes', culturally nearly uniform, central region of ​​the Old World. The respective timeframe allows for the consideration of several centuries of pagan, Jewish, and Christian cultic practice in three regards: as part of a century-long development, as (partially) simultaneously occurring phenomena, and as not only superseding but mutually influential rivals. Topography, architecture, numismatology, votive and ritual objects, iconography, and epigraphical and literary sources regarding the various aspects of cultic practice are critical components of the investigation.


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Kos, Asclepeion:
Christian altar within the pronaos
of the temple of Asclepios
(© G. Beutmann)