Hedvig von Ehrenheim


I have two Bachelor degrees from Stockholm University, one in the field of Classical Archaeology and Ancient History and one in the field of History of Ideas, and a PhD in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History. I have also been a visiting graduate student at New College, Oxford, and a visiting scholar at the Faculty of Classics, Cambridge. I have made several research stays at the Swedish Institutes in Rome, Athens and Istanbul. I work in the fields of Greek religion, Roman sculpture and Late Antiquity.

Current projects

My current project explores the effect that empirical thinking had on perception of the divine in the 6th to 4th centuries BC. The core of the study focuses on how Asklepios replaced his father Apollo as the healing god within a short period of time which coincided with the rise of Greek medical science. The project will address three main issues. First, how did the cult of Asklepios arise and replace Apollo as divine healer? Second, how were the cults’ rituals staged in order to allow or enable the worshippers to communicate with the god? And third, how were causality of diseases and their cures envisioned in the two cults and in Greek medicine of the time? My hypothesis is that both the ubiquity of doctors in the Archaic and Classical Greek world and the development of Greek medical science with its rational view on disease influenced the formation of both the cult and cures of a new religious healer, Asklepios.

I am also working on another project entitled Taking a walk in the Roman villa garden – affirming social status and entertaining your guests which has been submitted as an article, within a volume planned for publication in the Swedish Institute in Rome series (no. 14). This article explores the cultural context of visual representations in Roman villas and examines the ways in which sculptures reflected the social context of those villas.

Completed Projects

One of my previous projects  entitled Mobility of peoples and ideas as seen through Early Christian pilgrimage accounts demonstrated how popular discussions of faith among worshippers travelling to pilgrimage sites was no less important for the formation of Christianity than the official church concilia. A study of a selection of pilgrimage sites argued how both the cults and the rituals for veneration and healing arose on “popular demand” at the studied sites. (publication no. 12).

I have also written an article on the social psychology of Sparta’s prime festival, the Hyakinthia, where the death and rise to godhood of Hyakinthos was celebrated. The first part consisted of a ritual mourning for the dead Hyakinthos. During the second part of the festival, sorrow was transformed into joy. An interesting part of this celebration was that the slaves of Sparta were ritually treated as free, being served at banquets by their masters (no. 11) I argue that inversion in the myth (descent to and ascent from the underworld) parallel an emotional inversion from grief to joy as well as the structural inversion of social hierarchies in the enactment of the festival, serving to preserve the Spartan society during the rest of the year.

I contributed a chapter in a book on the Roman quarter of San Lorenzo in Lucina (no. 8), where I explained how the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina probably took its name from a founder of a nearby house church. I also analyzed the many different hagiographical legends of a saint called Lucina, ascribing them to different traditions originating at different areas around Rome. By doing this I was able to show the means by which Rome created a saintly geography in Late Antiquity, allowing it to compete with the Eastern cities, which had already established numerous cults of martyrs.

My doctoral dissertation Greek incubation rituals in Classical and Hellenistic times, submitted in 2011, presented and analyzed all extant epigraphic and literary evidence on incubation rituals in the Greek world (no. 7, and reworked for the Kernos Supplement series, no. 10). In this context, ‘incubation’ refers to a ritual sleep in a sanctuary accompanied by an epiphany of the deity of that place who appeared to the supplicant in a dream, leading to, in most cases, a miraculous cure for a disease.

I deconstructed earlier research and 'modern myths' pertaining to incubation rituals. I demonstrated that actions which were previously thought to be specific to incubation rituals actually belong to a category of what could be referred to as general sanctuary behaviour. As a result of this, I demonstrated that a single standard pattern for incubation rituals never existed. Aside from the practice of collective sleeping on holy ground, there were many variations. Refuting older attempts to interpret incubation rituals as chthonian rituals, rites of passage, or connected with mystery cult initiations, I analyzed the social context of incubation rituals, providing an explanatory model where incubation ritual could be seen as a cluster of "low intensity rites" performed in a "high intensity context".

My article on incubation space from 2009 (no. 5) differed from my dissertation because it dealt with the archaeological evidence present at Greek and Early Christian healing sanctuaries and deconstructed 'modern myths' about architectural evidence of a healing sanctuary for such a ritual. This evidence enabled me to discuss the differences between pagan and Christian incubation rituals.

I have also established a specialty in the field of Roman sculpture, with articles on Imperial portraiture and the reception of antique and 18th century forgeries (nos. 1 and 2).

Scientific publications


  1. Hedvig von Ehrenheim, The light and the luminaries in Early Commentaries on the Hexaemeron, 1996 (Studia Minora. Europeisk kulturhistoria i ljuset av medeltida latinsk liturgi, ed. G. Iversen, vol. 8), Stockholm 2004 (39s). ISBN 91-85369-07-1
  2. Hedvig von Ehrenheim, Greek incubation rituals in Classical and Hellenistic times, Ph.D. diss. Stockholm 2011 (240s). ISBN 978-91-7447-335-3
  3. Hedvig von Ehrenheim, Greek incubation rituals, Kernos Supplément 29, Liège 2015 (282s). ISBN : 978-2-87562-085-9

Peer-review granskade artiklar och kapitel i peer-review granskade böcker

  1. Hedvig von Ehrenheim,’Identifying incubation areas in pagan and Early Christian times’, Proceedings of the Danish Institute at Athens VI, 2009, 237-276.
  2. Hedvig von Ehrenheim, ’The titulus Lucinae and the saint Lucina’, i San Lorenzo in Lucina. The transformations of a Roman quarter, Series Prima in 4° (ActaRom-4°, 61), ed. O. Brandt, Stockholm 2012, 151-172. ISBN 9789170421792.
  3. Hedvig von Ehrenheim, ‘Talking a walk in the Roman villa garden. Affirming social status and entertaining guests’, Trädgårdshistorisk Bulletin 27, 2014, 20-21.
  4. Hedvig von Ehrenheim, ‘Death and ascent of Hyakinthos in Sparta: ritual mourning and Feasting’, Actes du Colloque international Katábasis, la descente aux Enfers dans la tradition littéraire et religieuse de la Grèce ancienne, à Montréal et Québec 2 - 5 mai 2014, eds. P. Bonnechère & G. Cursaru (Les Études classiques (Namur, Belgique), 83, 2015), 351-364.
  5. Hedvig von Ehrenheim, ‘Pilgrimage for dreams in Late Antiquity and early Byzantium: continuity of the pagan ritual or development within Christian miracle tradition?’ Scandinavian Journal of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 2, 2016, 53-95.
  6. Hedvig von Ehrenheim, ‘Causal explanation of disease in the iamata of Epidauros’, Kernos 32, 2019, 101-118.
  7. Hedvig von Ehrenheim, Patrik Klingborg & Axel Frejman, ‘Water at ancient Greek sanctuaries: medium of divine presence or commodity for mortal visitors’, Journal of Archaeology and Ancient History (JAAH), 2019, 1-31.
  8. Hedvig von Ehrenheim & Marina Prusac, ‘Introduction’, i Reading Roman emotions. Visual and textual interpretations (Acta of the Swedish Institutes at Athens and Rome 4o, 64), Stockholm 2020, 9-18.
  9. Hedvig von Ehrenheim, ‘Humour in Roman villa sculpture: laughter for social cohesion’, i Reading Roman emotions. Visual and textual interpretations (Acta of the Swedish Institutes at Athens and Rome 4o, 64), eds. Hedvig von Ehrenheim and Marina Prusac, Stockholm 2020, 69-88.
  10. Hedvig von Ehrenheim, ‘Mirakulösa helanden genom drömmar i antik och tidigkristen tid: likheter och skillnader’, Religion och Bibel LXXVI – LXXVII, 2021, 129-145.
  11. Hedvig von Ehrenheim, ‘Placebo factors at healing sanctuaries in pagan and Early Christian times’, i Healing, belief and placebo: Medical and religious plurality in late antiquity, eds. N. Hallvard Korsvoll & A. Mihálykó Tothne, temanummer Trends in Classics 2021, 95-121.
  12. Hedvig von Ehrenheim, ‘To purify from the head down in Greek ritual norms: mind and body?’, ZPE 223, 2022, 41-48.
  13. Hedvig von Ehrenheim, ‘The function of serving slaves a dinner at ancient Greek festivals’, Ancient Society, 52, 2022, 97-123.
  14. Hedvig von Ehrenheim, ‘From exclusive dream oracles to ubiquitous incubation dreams: a change in the perception of a divine healer?’, in Aspects of Ancient Greek Cult II: Sacred Architecture - Sacred Space - Sacred Objects. An International Colloquium in Honor of Erik Hansen, eds. J. Tae Jensen and G. Hinge. Acta Archaeologica Suppl. 93.1, 2022, Leiden: Brill, 219-233.
  15. Patrik Klingborg Hedvig von Ehrenheim, & Axel Frejman, ‘Ritual usage of water at Greek sanctuaries’, accepted for print, Klio 105(1), 2023, 1-50.

Redaktionsgranskade vetenskapliga artiklar

3.1 Hedvig von Ehrenheim, ’A portrait of the Roman empress Julia Domna’, Medelhavsmuseet. Bulletin 30, 1997, 27-45.

3.2 Hedvig von Ehrenheim, ‘A miniature portrait of a man with a clean-shaven head in the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities’, Medelhavsmuseet. Bulletin 31, 1998, 51-73.

3.3 Hedvig von Ehrenheim, ’Kritik av astrologin i tidigkristna Hexaemeron-kommentarer’, Bysantinska Sällskapet. Bulletin 16, 1998, 5-10.

3.4 Hedvig von Ehrenheim, ‘Greek incubation rites from the beginning in Archaic times up until the birth of Christ’, AIACNews. Bollettino quadrimestrale dell'Associazione Internazionale di Archeologia Classica Onlus 6:2, 2010, 7-9.

Antologier / Konferensvolymer

4.1 Hedvig von Ehrenheim and Marina Prusac eds., Reading Roman emotions. Visual and textual interpretations (Acta of the Swedish Institutes at Athens and Rome 4o, 64), Stockholm 2020. ISBN 978-91-7042-186-0

Recensioner i internationella vetenskapliga tidskrifter

5.1 Mary B. HOLLINSHEAD, Shaping Ceremony. Monumental Steps and Greek Architecture, Madison 2015. 1 vol. 20.5x26 cm, 233 p. ISBN : 978-0-299-30110; ISBN : 978-0-299-30113-2 (e-book), för Kernos 29, 2016, 463-465.

5.2 G. RENBERG, Where dreams may come. Incubation sanctuaries in the Greco-Roman world, vols. 1–2 (Religions in the Greco-Roman world 184), Leiden & Boston: Brill 2016, för Opuscula 10, 2017, 193-195. https://doi.org/10.30549/opathrom-10-11

5.3 Camilla Asplund Ingemark and Dominic Ingemark, Representations of Fear. Verbalising Emotion in Ancient Roman Folk Narrative (Folklore Fellows’ Communications, 320), Helsinki: Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, 2020. ISBN 9978-951-41-1156-3, för Clara, 9, 2022. DOI: 



Last modified: 2023-06-13