This editorial introduces the articles published within the OLH Special Collection, ‘Healing Gods, Heroes and Rituals in the Graeco-Roman World’. The first two articles in this collection interrogate the figures of specific healing gods. Olympia Panagiotidou’s article ‘Asclepius’ Myths and Healing Narratives: Counter-Intuitive Concepts and Cultural Expectations’ focuses on the curative features that defined the image of Asclepius, the most famous of the healing gods. The next article in the collection, ‘The Fate of a Healing Goddess: Ocular Pathologies, the Antonine Plague, and the Ancient Roman Cult of Bona Dea’ by Leonardo Ambasciano, interrogates the religious figure of another healing agent: the Italian goddess Bona Dea who was particularly venerated in Rome and in the region of Latium and whose cult reveals the way in which ancient Roman androcentric control over women was institutionalised through religious figures.
The third article in the collection, Audrey Ferlut’s ‘Goddesses as Consorts of the Healing Gods in Gallia Belgica and the Germaniae: Forms of Cult and Ritual Practices’ considers the impact that cults dedicated to gods and goddesses had on populations in the wider area of the Roman Empire, focusing on the Northern provinces of the Western Roman Empire ( Gallia Belgica and the Germaniae). The collection’s final article, ‘From Textual Reception to Textual Codification: Thessalos and the Quest for Authenticity’ by Spyros Piperakis, moves the discussion from the question of cult practices to ‘alternative’ healing therapies in antiquity. Piperakis deals with astrological medicine, one of many alternative therapeutic methods that became popular during the Hellenistic and Roman period.
Taken together, the articles in ‘Healing Gods, Heroes and Rituals in the Graeco-Roman World’ demonstrate that we need to approach the study of ancient myths and cults within their socio-cultural context. These articles thus challenge traditionalist approaches to the history of religion and reveal the richness of interdisciplinary approaches in the twenty-first century: offering new paths of inquiry that could help us to extract new data and shape a new interdisciplinarity in the current and future research of the religions and cults of Antiquity.