Ex Asia et Syria: Oriental Religions in the Roman Central Balkans
By Nadežda Gavrilović Vitas
2021, Archaeopress, 978-1-78969-914-2, £42 e-book.
Reviewed by Caroline Stone on July 6, 2021
This book brings together monuments, artifacts and inscriptions, many of which no longer survive, in order to trace the impacts of several little-known cults, originating in Asia or the Near East, on the Central Balkans—roughly Serbia, Kosovo and parts of Macedonia and Montenegro. It considers each of the cults separately: the Magna Mater, the great mother, in her many forms; her controversial counterpart Attis, the dying god; Jupiter; Sol Invictus, the unconquered sun. It also gives attention to the arrival of these cults and how they interacted with pre-existing belief systems. Some, like that of Mithras, in western Serbia, were introduced by the Legions, others arrived with immigrants from within the Empire and beyond. The volume is immaculately researched and annotated, with numerous illustrations that otherwise would be very hard to access. A work of importance for archeologists, art historians, Balkanists and anyone interested in the spread and evolution of the pagan cults of the Roman Empire.