National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Carolyn Laferrière

Affiliation: University of Southern California Dornsife

Dr. Carolyn Laferrière is a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Center for the Premodern World at the University of Southern California Dornsife; she was previously a Postdoctoral Associate in Ancient and Premodern Cultures and Civilization, and a Lecturer in the Departments of History of Art and Classics, at Yale University.  She holds her degrees from Yale University (Ph.D., M.Phil, and M.A.), and the University of British Columbia.  Her research interests are Greek art and archaeology (black- and red-figure vases, votive reliefs), Greek religion (sanctuaries, ritual, representations of cult), ancient music (social and religious performance), and the Grand Tour and the reception of Greek art in 19th-century Europe.  Her current publications include “Hermes Among Pan and the Nymphs on Fourth-Century Votive Reliefs” (in Tracking Hermes, Pursuing Mercury, 2019 Oxford University Press) and several forthcoming articles; she is working on a volume on Listening to Divine Music in Archaic and Classical Greek Art.


Religious ritual in ancient Greece regularly incorporated music, so much so that certain instruments or vocal genres frequently became associated with the religious veneration of specific gods, such as Apollo, Dionysos, and Kybele. The rural, Attic cult of Pan and the Nymphs should also be included among this group: though little is often known about the specific practices in each individual cult, the literary and visual evidence associated with the cults make repeated reference to music performed on the pan-pipes — and to auditory and sensory stimuli more generally — as a prominent feature of these gods’ worship. Taking the Vari Cave, sacred to Pan and the Nymphs, as my case study, I consider it together with the surviving marble votive reliefs from that space, in order to explore the sounds and sensations associated with the veneration of the rural gods. I argue that the sensory experience offered by the cave and the images within it would have enhanced the worshipper’s experience of the ritual and the gods for whom they were performed. In this way, visual and auditory perceptions blurred together to create a powerful synaesthetic experience of the divine.

Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Borgeaud, Philippe. The Cult of Pan in Ancient Greece.  Chicago: 1988.

Laferrière, Carolyn M. “Sacred Sounds: The Cult of Pan and the Nymphs in the Vari Cave.” CA (2019, forthcoming).

Schörner, Günther, and Hans Rupprecht Goette. Die Pan-Grotte von Vari. Deutsches Archäologisches Institut Athen.  Mainz am Rhein: 2004.

Weller, Charles Heald. “The Cave at Vari. I. Description, Account of Excavation, and History.” AJA 7, no. 3 (1903): 263-88.

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