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).


  1. ‘A portrait of the Roman empress Julia Domna’, Medelhavsmuseet. Bulletin 30, 1997, 27-45.
  2. ‘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. ’Kritik av astrologin i tidigkristna Hexaemeron-kommentarer’, Bysantinska Sällskapet. Bulletin 16, 1998, 5-10. [’Critique of astrology in Early Christian commentaries on the Hexaemeron’]
  4. The light and the luminaries in Early Commentaries on the Hexaemeron, (Studia Minora, ed. G. Iversen, vol. 9), Stockholm 2004.
  5. ‘Identifying incubation areas in pagan and Early Christian times’, in Proceedings of the Danish Institute at Athens VI, 2009, 237-276.
  6. ‘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.
  7. Greek incubation rituals in Classical and Hellenistic times, PhD Diss. Stockholm 2011 (240 pages).
  8. ‘The titulus Lucinae and the saint Lucina’, in San Lorenzo in Lucina. The transformations of a Roman quarter, Series Prima in 4o (ActaRom-4o), ed. O. Brandt, Stockholm 2012, 151-172.
  9. ‘Talking a walk in the Roman villa garden. Affirming social status and entertaining guests’, Trädgårdshistorisk Bulletin 27, 2014, 20-21.
  10. Greek incubation rituals in Classical and Hellenistic times, Kernos Supplément 29, in press, (266 pages).
  11. ‘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. (Les Études classiques (Namur, Belgique), no. 83 (2015) (accepted for print, manuscript of 12 pages).
  12. ‘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 2016 (accepted for print, manuscript of 29 pages)
  13. Hedvig von Ehrenheim and Marina Prusac eds., Reading emotions in ancient visual culture. The semiotics of a pre-modern world (Acta of the Swedish Institute in Rome), all articles under review, planned 2016.
  14. ‘Taking a walk in the Roman villa garden – affirming social status and entertaining your guests’, in Reading emotions in ancient visual culture. The semiotics of a pre-modern world (Acta of the Swedish Institutes at Athens and Rome), eds. Hedvig von Ehrenheim and Marina Prusac, planned 2016 (submitted, manuscript 30 pages).

Publications in popular science

  1. 'Frisyrer och peruker - kroppens hantverk', i Ett skepp kommer lastat. Hantverk och handel under antiken. Katalog, Medelhavsmuseet, Stockholm 1997. [’Roman hairdos and wigs’, in Craftsmanship and commerce in antiquity. Exhibition catalogue, Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm 1997.]
  2. ’Medusa på pränt’, Medusa 2, 1999, 49. [’Medusa on paper’]
  3. ’Så läser man det romerska datumet’, Medusa 4, 1999, 38. [’How to read the Roman date’]
  4. ’Medicin genom gudstro och drömmar. Kristna helgon i Asklepios’ fotspår’, Medusa 4, 2002, 2-12. [’Medicine through belief in gods and dreams. Christian saints in the footsteps of Asclepius’]


  1. Review of Anthologia palatina. Grekiska kärleksdikter. Epigrammata erotica, [Greek love poems] translated from Greek to Swedish by Gottfried Grunewald & Stig Rudberg, Jonsered 1996, in Medusa 2, 1997, 46-47.
  2. Review of Aulus Tibullus, Elegiae. Dikter till Delia och Nemesis, [Love poems] translated from Latin to Swedish by S. Köhler, Jonsered 1996, in Medusa 2, 1997, 47.
  3. Review of Aristoteles, Politiken, [Politics] translated from Greek to Swedish by K. Blomqvist, Jonsered 1993, in Medusa 1, 1998, 44-46.
  4. Review of H. Furuhagen, Rom. Marmor och människor, [Rome. Marble and people] Stockholm 2000, in Medusa 3, 2000, 45.
  5. Review of Divination and portents in the Roman world, eds. R. Lorsch, Wildfang& J. Isager (Odense University Classical Studies, 21), Odense 2000, in Medusa 2, 2002, 43-46.


Last modified: 2022-03-29