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date: 29 June 2022



  • Jacob Latham


A procession (πομπή/pompa), at a basic level, is the ritualized escort of someone or something from one place to another by some group before some audience—an ordinary walk transformed by means of performance traditions and customary rules into a more or less spectacular pageant, whose significance derives, in part, from a variable calculus of honoree, cortege, itinerary, audience, and performance. The honoree(s), triumphant generals, the deceased, images of the gods, sacrificial animals, etc., were accompanied by a processional cortege, typically a specific social group (like the worshippers of Isis in a particular city) or a collection of groups imagined as a civic cross-section. The procession then traversed an itinerary, creating a symbolically charged pathway that transformed urban space into significant place. Processions may be produced with varying degrees of theatricality, while the same procession could vary from one performance to the next. Despite such variation, a shared set of production techniques and values, a kind of processional koine, spanned the Mediterranean. Processions were thus constrained by custom and open to innovation—and audiences could be attentive to both. In the end, ritualized walking (one way of understanding a procession) impacted both the urban imaginary, creating community, and urban practices, marking spatial significance.


  • Greek Myth and Religion
  • Roman Myth and Religion

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Article revised to reflect current scholarship.

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