Sacred trees are easy to dismiss as a simplistic, weird phenomenon, but this book argues that in fact they prompted sophisticated theological thinking in the Roman world. Challenging major aspects of current scholarly constructions of Roman religion, Ailsa Hunt rethinks what sacrality means in Roman culture, proposing an organic model which defies the current legalistic approach. She approaches Roman religion as a 'thinking' religion (in contrast to the ingrained idea of Roman religion as orthopraxy) and warns against writing the environment out of our understanding of Roman religion, as has happened to date. In addition, the individual trees showcased in this book have much to tell us which enriches and thickens our portraits of Roman religion, be it about the subtleties of engaging in imperial cult, the meaning of numen, the interpretation of portents, or the way statues of the Divine communicate.
Ailsa Hunt is Isaac Newton Research Fellow in Classics at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge.
1. Rooting in: why give time to sacred trees?; 2. A brief history of tree-thinking: the enduring power of animism; 3. How arboreal matter matters: rethinking sacrality through trees; 4. Arboriculture and arboreal deaths: rethinking sacrality again; 5. Confronting arboreal agency: reading the Divine in arboreal behaviour; 6. Imagining the gods: how trees flesh out the identity of the Divine; 7. Branching out: what sacred trees mean for Roman religion.