Hello and a warm welcome to my homepage! My name is Jens Fischer, and I am currently a postdoctoral researcher in the field of Ancient History at the University of Potsdam, located close to Germany's lively capital, Berlin. On these few pages, you will find all the most important information about me and my work. If you want to know something more or are interested in any kind of collaboration, please do not hesitate to contact me!
I would describe myself as a cultural historian of ancient Greek and Roman religion, with a specific focus on religious beliefs and the media that spread and contained them. My main research focus is on religious pseudepigraphy, that is, texts that had a special kind of authority because their authorship was ascribed to mythical figures. However, my main interest is not so much in reconstructing the specific contents of these texts. Instead, as we are again living in an age where the dissemination of all kinds of beliefs by an ever-expanding world of media is increasingly important for understanding the world, I am particularly interested in their place in ancient culture and societies, as well as their impact on contemporary politics and our tradition. Therefore, my research is based on questions such as: Who composed these texts? Who read them and for what purpose? How did authorities deal with them? And what was their relationship to other cultural phenomena and religious practices?
In 2021, I completed my PhD thesis on the role played by Sibylline Oracles and the god Apollo during the crisis of the Late Roman Republic and the early years of the Augustan Principate. In my thesis, I challenge the commonly held view that Apollo was Augustus's personal patron deity. Instead, I argue that Apollo had a close and long-standing relationship with one of Rome's most powerful priesthoods, the quindecimviri sacris faciundis, which was responsible for the famous Sibylline Books. These books consisted of oracles that contained politically highly relevant messages and were widely circulated among the Roman population. During the times of the republic, the priests had firm control over these oracles. However, due to the political struggles of the Late Republic, the priesthood lost control and the oracles were repeatedly exploited by the conflicting parties. Augustus regained control of the oracles by reuniting the priesthood and placing the books in the newly built temple of Apollo on the Palatine, located right next to his private quarters. My work was published in 2022 as my first book in the well-respected series "Studien zur Alten Geschichte" by the established German publishing house Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (Verlag Antike), which is now owned by Brill.
Shortly after the publication of my PhD thesis, I was fortunate enough to win a generous research grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) for my postdoctoral project titled "Göttliche Botschaften aus sterblicher Feder – Pseudepigraphische Orakel und ihre Verbreiter im Athen des 6. bis 4. Jahrhunderts v. Chr." (Divine Messages from Mortal Pen: Pseudepigraphic Oracles and their Disseminators in Athens from the 6th to 4th Century BCE). This project builds partly upon the results of my PhD thesis, but also greatly expands its focus. Its goal is to analyze how pseudepigraphic oracles and other religious texts attributed to mythical authors such as Orpheus, Musaios, Bakis, the Sibyl, Epimenides, Abaris, Aristeas, and others were anchored in Athenian society from the 6th to the 4th century BCE, and what influence they had on contemporary culture and politics. The chronological focus of this study therefore lies on the emergence of the Athenian Democracy and its first crisis, the Peloponnesian War. Thus, a better understanding of the religious media, which are at the center of my study, and how they specifically influenced the culture and politics of this first and most prominent democracy in human history, is of high interdisciplinary interest.