International Conference "Crises in Early Religions"

17th International Conference for Ancient East-Mediterranean Studies in Tartu (ICAEM 2017): "Crises in Early Religions"


8–11 June 2017


General information

There is no registration fee for participating in the conference.

Help with accommodation will be available (there will be a discount for certain hotels).


Confirmed keynote speakers

Prof. Allan Janik (University of Innsbruck): "Religion: the Father and King of All"

Prof. Tim Whitmarsh (University of Cambridge): “When oracles don’t come true”





The programme of the conference will include the workshop Developments in Ancient Near Eastern Pantheon Structure’ organised by Peeter Espak and Vladimir Sazonov


Conference description


It is generally accepted that social and ideological, including religious, development is closely linked: religion often serves as the ideological fundament of a society and one of the foremost expressions of its culture. It is equally obvious that in the development of societies and civilizations the periods of relatively stable evolution can alternate with more or less rapid changes when the previous social relations and beliefs are questioned and transformed. It seems that from time to time cultures lose their faith in themselves, their old values, and start to look for something new, or at least criticize the traditional religion. The periods when this happens can be, and indeed have been, viewed as periods of crisis. These times are highly interesting in the history of ideas as intellectual freedom is triggered by the decline of traditional values.

However, the interplay of constant evolution and changes within a short time span, and the connectedness of social, political and religious development, makes the definition of a crisis a complex and often debated issue. In the framework of an examination of the usefulness of the concept of crisis for analysis of historical developments we want to dedicate this conference to crises in the field of religion. Our approach will be broad and comparative, gathering examples from different ancient religions and regions, in order to look at religious, intellectual and historical developments and their complex relationship.

We will ask how can a crisis in religion be defined? In which way is the questioning of traditional beliefs and values related to transformation and possible intellectualization of belief systems? For example, questioning divine justice, the problem of theodicy seems to be one indicator for a kind of intellectualization of religion. What are the causes for religious crises and how can they be understood and analysed? How do we, the moderns, perceive and describe crises in early cultures, and how were the crises perceived in antiquity? How does the internal and external view interact? To what extent are religious changes preconditioned by social and political realities? Do changes in religion trigger historical changes? How would a crisis be resolved: crisis versus reform? How can the relation between social crisis, moral crisis and religious crisis be defined? What was the role of individuals in triggering and resolving the crises in religions? How did power (of rulers) and charisma (of religious and intellectual leaders) interrelate?


Organizing committee


Organisers: Mait Kõiv, Märt Läänemets, Urmas Nõmmik, Ivo Volt, Vladimir Sazonov, Peeter Espak (Tartu), Thomas Kämmerer (Tartu/Münster), Sebastian Fink (Inssbruck/Kassel), Kersin Droβ-Krüpe (KasseL)

More information on the official webpage: