), the enrolment of a man amongst the gods.
While among the free Greeks and Romans all the dead were regarded as becoming
in a sense gods (χθόνιοι,
) and dwelling in a subterranean
abode, and received duteous worship from the family at the family hearth,
and in the case of the founders of cities and great benefactors of cities
were honoured by the city with sacrifices and festivals (e. g. Brasidas at
Amphipolis, Thuc. 5.11
), the privilege of a
celestial abode was regarded as belonging only to those who had performed
great exploits in the service of humanity. This privilege attached to very
few: Hercules is an example. But under despotisms, such as that of the East
and Egypt, the case is different. For there the king, who was generally also
priest, living in isolation, regarded with awe and terror, slave-master of
his subjects, was naturally looked on as a being vastly if not radically
different from the rest, and so was considered to become a god when dead. To
the polytheistic ancients, who did not believe in any impassable gulf
between divinity and humanity, this did not mean much more than that the
great social distinctions in this life were kept up in the next. The kings
even came to be regarded as gods while alive. Here then are the conditions
under which deification prevails, viz. a people who are inclined to
submission, and among whom accordingly great social distinctions arise.
So in historical times among the Greeks, who worshipped Adrasteia and were
wise, deification was slow in appearing. Lysander is the first we hear of:
he got divine honours from the people of Asia Minor (Plut. Lys. 18
). A temple was raised to Philip of Macedon in the
Altis at [p. 1.140]
). Demetrius Poliorcetes was deified at Athens (see the
hymn in Athen. 6.253
a; and Grote,
) and Sicyon (Diod. 20.102
). But it is among that portion of the Greek race
which conquered and amalgamated with the Eastern peoples that we find
deification quite common, a sign of the Greeks becoming Asianized. Alexander
the Great required divine honours to be paid to him even while alive:
witness the striking scene at Bactra and the noble Hellenic protest of
Callisthenes (Arr. Anab. 4.10
§ 7-9; Grote, 12.37): and the laconic decree of the
Spartans--“Whereas Alexander desires to be a god, let him be a
god” (Ael. VH 2.19
). His successors in
various countries continued the practice. In Egypt the Ptolemies gradually
assume the rank of divinities; they could not have done otherwise without
incurring the contempt of their subjects, for deification was in accordance
with the national ideas and practice of Egypt. Ptolemy I. (Soter) was
deified after his death (Theocr. 17.16), and even styled θεὸς
while alive (Eckhel, D.N.
4.9). So too we find Philadelphus and Philometor styled gods (Eckhel, l.c.
pp. 8, 16), also Euergetes II. and his wife
(C. I. G.
2620); and the titles of the chief priest of
Egypt, the ἱερεὺς Ἀλεξάνδρον,
thus--ἐφ᾽ ἱερέως τοῦ ὄντος ἐν
Ἀλεξανδρείᾳ Ἀλεξάνδρου καὶ θεῶν Σωτήρων καὶ θεῶν Ἀδελφῶν
καὶ θεῶν Εὐεργετῶν καὶ θωῶν Φιλοπατόρων καὶ θεῶν Ἐπιφανῶν
καὶ θεοῦ Φιλομήτορος καὶ θεοῦ Εὐπάτορος,
the plural forms signifying that the close relations of Soter, Philadelphus,
&c., were also deified (Welcker, Gr.
3.309). Among the Syrians Antiochus I. is
called a god; in the treaty between the Smyrnaeans and the Milesians
Antiochus II. was surnamed θεός
IV. has θεὸς ἐμφανὴς
on his coins
(Eckhel, D. N.
6.270); Antiochus VI. was called Dionysus,
&c. For all this see especially Eckhel, D. N.
and Welcker, Gr.
to which the
reader is referred for similar examples from Pergamus and Pontus.
The rising ascendency of Rome could not fail to obtain its meed of
deification from the Greeks. They bestowed divine honours on Flamininus, and
associated him with Hercules and Apollo (Plut.
). Smyrna raised altars to the goddess Roma, 195 B.C.
(Tac. Ann. 4.56
); and Alabanda built a
temple and instituted games in her honour (Liv.
). It appears to have been quite usual for the provincials to
worship and enrol among the gods the virtues
their governors (Cic. Q. Fr.
, 10, 31). And indeed it became so common for the provincial
governors to have temples raised to them and games celebrated in their
honour (e. g. Marcellea and Verrea in Sicily; Mucia in Asia, Cic. Ver. 2.21, 51
), that the Roman law made a special provision on the subject; and
while it forbade the governor to levy any extraordinary impost, made this
special exception, “ut al templum et monumentum capere liceret”
(Cic. Q. Fr. 1.1
26), thus encouraging the practice of deification. Theophanes, the friend of
Pompeius, was deified by the Mitylenaeans (Tac.
); and before this a boxer actually had been consecrated
as a god while alive (Plin. M. N.
But the Romans were on the whole slow to adopt this un-Roman custom. Since
Romulus had disappeared from the earth and had become the god Quirinus
)--and this is probably a Greek
fable (Mommsen, R. H.
1.174, 481)--no example of apotheosis
is recorded till the latest period of the republic. The Romans had not been
under a despotism and had had no really great men, and besides were inclined
to worship abstractions rather than individuals. But in the later times of
the republic, under the influence of Asianized Greek ideas, many even of the
cultivated classes of Rome held that while the souls of all were immortal,
those of the great and good were divine (Cic.
Legg. 2.1. 1
, 27), and that they ascended to
the heavens and the stars (cf. Hor. Od. 3.2
; Verg. A.
). Cicero, absurd as he declares the idea of a man becoming
a god is (Cic. N. D. 1.1.
, 38; Phil.
1.6, 13), yet when he had lost Tullia
longed to deify her (Cic. Att. 12.3. 6
it would not be contrary, he says, to the tenets of certain philosophers,
alluding to the Stoics (cf. Zeller, Phil. der Gr.
ed. 1865). Roman theology about this time
produced a book on the gods who had been men (Labeo, de
see Serv. ad
). If such opinions on the possibility of transition
from humanity to divinity were maintained by the enlightened, they were held
by the people too;--in the time of Sulla they had erected statues and made
offerings to M. Marius Gratidianus: Senec. de
3.18--a motley crowd, gathered from all nations, who had none
of the solid Roman virtues and were engrained with cosmopolitan, i. e.
Graeco-Asiatic ideas. The time was fully ripe for deification to be
practised at Rome.
And the man came. Julius Caesar's brilliant military exploits abroad, and his
overthrowing the tyrannical aristocracy at home, and thus becoming the
saviour of society, made him the adored of the people. He knew it, and he
meant to rule, and rule as the king-god (Mommsen, Staatsr.
2.732). An image of him standing on the globe of the world was set up in the
Capitol, with an inscription that he was a demi-god (D. C. 43.14
). His statue was placed in all the temples of Rome
and of the empire (id. 44.4). It was enacted later that public prayers
should be offered for him every year, that oath should be taken by his
genius, that there should be a festival to him every four years as to a hero
), that Luperci Julii
should be appointed and an additional day
should be added to the circensian games in his honour; that his golden chair
and jewelled crown should appear in the theatre like those of the gods, and
his car be borne in processions; and finally they called him plainly
and enacted that an altar should be set
up to his Clemency and Antonius should be appointed his priest, a sort of
Dialis (D. C. 44.6
); in fact, as Suetonius
(Suet. Jul. 76
) says, “nullos non
honores ad libidinem cepit.” All this, chiming in with the
enthusiasm and affection of the mass of the people, had the effect of
strengthening the idea that he was superhuman. The wild fanaticism of the
people, especially the foreigners, towards his remains when he was murdered,
was apparent by their raising an altar and organizing a worship to him where
he was burned (Suet. Jul. 85
). The upper
classes indeed wanted this ardour wholly; and Antonius (V. Max. 9.15.1
) and later Dolabella put a
summary stop to this worship at his altar (Cic.
Att. 14.1. 5
). [p. 1.141]
But the ardour continued
and was heightened a little later (Sept. 24 or 25) when Octavian celebrated
the games of Victoria Caesaris (or of Venus genetrix or victrix--they are
all the same--see Mommsen on C. I. L.
i. p. 397) and the
comet appeared (D. C. 45.7
), which seemed to
confirm the opinion that Caesar had become a god. Next year (43 B.C.) Caesar
was solemnly enrolled among the gods as Divus Julius (lege Rufrena,
C. I. L.
1.626, and Mommsen ad
also 9.2628). He was deified, says Suetonius (Suet. Jul. 88
), not merely with the lip-service
of those who decreed it, but by the sincere belief of the people. This shows
the different feelings of the upper and lower orders towards Julius. The
enthusiasm of the people was mainly due to their regarding him as their
saviour: indeed we find Caesar and Augustus very widely worshipped as
“saviours” (D. C. 44.4.5
C. I. G.
2368, 2957; Letronne, Recueil,
1.81; Eckhel, D. N.
4.45, &c.). From the time of this
deification of Caesar, divus
specific meaning of a god who had been a man, while deus
was a god from the beginning (Mommsen,
2.733, note 2). It is maintained in the Christian
Church, which applies the title divus
saints; and deification among the ancients corresponds in many respects with
Christian canonization (see Boissier, La Religion Romaine,
Aspiring to divinity was in the fashion of the time. Sextus Pompeius declared
himself son of Neptune (Plin. Nat. 9.55
and Antonius and Cleopatra were Bacchus and Aphrodite, or Osiris and Isis,
according to the country they were in (Plut. Ant.
and 54; D. C. 50.5
). Octavian was more
moderate. He would not allow himself to be worshipped except along with the
goddess Roma. In 29 B.C. he allowed the Romans in Ephesus and Nicaea to
erect a temple to Rome and Divus Julius, and the Greeks in Pergamum and
Nicomedia to erect a temple to himself (D. C.
, an important passage). Temples were also erected to him in
Nysa (C. I. G.
2943), Mylasa (ib. 2696), Cyzicus (Tac. Ann. 4.36
), Athena (C. I.
478). And not only in the East, but in the West--at Tarraco
(Tac. Ann. 1.18
: “templum ut in
colonia Tarraconensi strueretur Augusto petentibus Hispanis permissum
datumque in omnes provincias
” and more in Hübner's note, C. I.
ii. p. 540), at Lugdunum in 12 B.C. (Suet. Cl. 2
), at what was afterwards Cologne (Tac. Ann. 1.57
), at Narbo Martius in 10 A.D.
(Orelli, 2489; and cf. Desjardins, Géographie de la Gaule
)--rose altars to Rome and Augustus. [For this
provincial worship of augustus, and the important council of the province
that grew up around it, see AUGUSTALES
] The men of the world at Rome naturally despised all this.
No one, says Maecenas contemptuously (D. C.
), has ever become a god by a show of hands (χειροτονητός
). No one of any repute whatsoever
paid worship to him in Rome or Italy, says Dio Cassius (51.20). Perhaps not
officially, but spontaneously they did, by the infection of the general
enthusiasm; for we find sacerdotes or flamines Augusti, while he was alive,
in Pisa (Orelli, 643, last §), in Praeneste (id. 3874), in Pompeii
(C. I. L.
10.837), in Beneventum a Caesareum to Augustus
and the colony of Beneventum (C. I. L.
ix 1556), &c.
Later the practice spread everywhere. The temples were called Καισαρεῖα
(C. I. G.
2126, 2839, &c.):
the most celebrated of these are the one at Ancyra in Galatia, on the wall
of which his exploits have been found engraven, and the one at Alexandria
(Philo, Leg. ad Caium,
p. 567). Probably during the lifetime
of Augustus he was not publicly worshipped at Rome. Suetonius (Suet. Aug. 52
) is very explicit: “in urbe
quidem pertinacissime abstinuit hoc honore.” But we cannot deny
that the eagerness of the grateful people to give divine honours to the
giver of the Pax Romana, and desire to flatter on the part of the upper
classes, exhibited itself in worshipping him in private (Ov. Pont. 4.9
; Hor. Ep. 2.1
). Besides adopting the name AUGUSTUS
the emperor allowed
the senate to worship his virtues (Boissier, l.c.
137); and to gratify the enthusiasm of the lower orders he allowed his
) to be worshipped among the
Lares (Hor. od. 4.5
), the guardians of the state (praestites,
Ov. Fast. 5.129
), and these Lares were
henceforth called Lares Augusti (C. I. L.
worship was placed under the charge of the MAGISTRI
VICORUM and their subordinate ministri,
people in humble walks in life; and by thus enlisting
the lower orders, who had no part in the state hitherto, in the service of
the empire, Augustus established in them a strong conservative element for
his constitution. [For an admirable account of the worship of the Lares and
Augustus, see Desjardins, Géographie de la Gaule
a valuable discussion.]
Thus we see that Augustus was worshipped as a god in the provinces, but at
Rome, during his lifetime, permitted only partial divine honours to be paid
him--in this less bold than Julius--just as in the sphere of politics he
would not be monarch but only princeps (Mommsen, Staatsr.
Augustus died in 14. A.D., and by solemn decree of
the senate was made a god ( “caelum decretum,”
Tac. Ann. 1.73
). Other expressions for
deification are inter divos referre
(Suet. Aug. 97
), in numerum
(Suet. Cl. 45
caelestes honores decernere
(Tac. Ann. 12.69
D. C. 59.11
). After this, to preserve the cult,
a college of priests was appointed, the sodales
and besides these public
ministers there sprung up a number of private associations for the worship
of Augustus in Rome and throughout the empire, Livia setting the example by
establishing between the Palatine and the Basilica Julia a domestic
sanctuary to her deified husband, of which she was the priestess; and
further, she celebrated games in his honour (Tac.
). All this worship, public and private, was an
expression of strong devotion and loyalty to the empire, and as such was
encouraged by those in authority. Oath by the emperor's genius had already
begun under Julius (D. C. 44.6
). Subsequently it
was the practice in formal oaths to swear by Jupiter, the deified emperors,
the genius of the reigning emperor, and the Penates (Lex Salpensa, 100.25;
and Mommsen ad loc.
p. 460). For more see JUSJURANDUM
Tiberius, while rigorously enforcing the divinity of Augustus (Tac. Ann. 1.73
), rejected all divine honours for himself, [p. 1.142]
and would hardly allow them even in Asia (Tac. Ann. 4.15
). He was not made a god on his
death. Not all emperors were deified, but only those whom for good or bad
reasons (Plin. Pan.
11) the reigning emperor proposed to the
senate; for it was the senate who formally decreed divine honours,
“iudicavit de principibus,” as Vopiscus
4) says. And sometimes it was with great difficulty
that deification of the preceding emperor was obtained from the senators.
They refused it even under pressure from the soldiers to Domitian (Suet. Dom. 23
), who had been styled
“dominus deusque” during his lifetime (Mart. 5.8. 1
, and passim
). So Trajan was addressed by Pliny as aeternitas vestra
10.87). It was from the
earnestness with which Antoninus urged Hadrian's case that he got the title
of Pius. Under pressure from Severus, who wished to make himself son of M.
Aurelius and so brother of Commodus, divinity was decreed to the latter
11); and the violence of the soldiers extorted
it for Caracalla (Spart. Carac.
11). It had accordingly
become a mockery. All the succeeding military emperors were deified, and the
) continued to be given to deceased
Christian emperors down at least as far as Valentinian (Eckhel, D.
8.473), though we cannot suppose that “consecratio”
) was performed in their case.
But besides emperors many other members of the imperial family were deified,
amongst whom we find many women. On their coins these often take the title
of some goddess, e. g. Livia takes that of Heré, Julia that of
Aphrodite (Eckhel, D. N.
8.469). Women used to swear by the
just as men by the genius of the
emperor (D. C. 59.11
). And here it may be useful to give a list (taken from
3.446, with evidence added) of all
members of the imperial family who received divine honours down to Alexander
Severus:--1. Julius. 2. Augustus. 3. Livia (Suet. Cl.
). 4. Drusilla, daughter of Germanicus (D. C. 59.11
). 5. Claudius (Suet. Cl.
). 6. Claudia Augusta, daughter of Nero and Poppaea (Tac. An.
15.23). 7. Poppaea (ib. 16.21). 8. Vespasian
11). 9. Titus (Henzen, 7421). 10. Domitilla,
daughter of Vespasian (Orelli, 2231). 11. Julia Augusta, daughter of Titus
(Eckhel, D. N.
6.366). 12. Domitian's infant son (Eckhel,
6.400). 13. Nerva (Orelli, 783). 14. Trajan's
father (Orelli, 804). 15. Marciana, Trajan's sister (Orelli, 792). 16.
Trajan (Spart. Hadr.
6). 17. Plotina, Trajan's wife (Orelli,
3744). 18. Hadrian (Spart. Hadr.
27). 19. Sabina, Hadrian's
wife (Orelli, 836). 20. Matidia, Sabina's mother (ib. 2196). 21. Antoninus
Pius (Capit. Pius,
13). 22. Faustina, his wife
(ib. 6). 23. L. Verus (Capit. M. Ant.
15). 24. M. Aurelius
(ib. 18). 25. Faustina, his wife (ib. 26). 26. Commodus (Spart.
11). 27. Pertinax (Capit. Pert.
Sept. Severus (Herodian, 4.2). 29. Caracalla (Spart. Carac.
Sometimes consecration did not follow till after burial; e. g. Livia died in
29 A.D., but was not consecrated till 42:
sometimes the two acts were simultaneous. But in any case consecration,
after being decreed by the senate, involved a funeral ceremony. We have
three detailed accounts of such consecration: (1) that of Augustus (D. C. 56.34
and 42); (2) of Pertinax (id. 74.4
and 5); (3) of Severus (Herodian, 4.2). The first differed from an ordinary
Roman burial generally in its greater splendour, and specially in three
waxen images taking the place of the corpse which had been previously buried
(Xiphilin‘s supplement to D. C.
), and an eagle, the bird of Jupiter, being let loose from the
pyre, which was regarded as carrying the soul of the dead man to the gods.
Far more Oriental in its extravagance was the consecration of Pertinax, of
which Dio Cassius was himself an eye-witness. In the Forum Romanum near the
stone tribunal a wooden platform was erected, and on it an open pillared
structure was raised, adorned with ivory and gold, and in it a bier was
placed with heads of land and sea creatures carved thereon. The bier had
coverlets of purple and gold, and on it was placed a waxen image of
Pertinax, laid out in triumphal costume; and a fair youth brushed away the
flies with a peacock's feather, for Pertinax, they feigned, was asleep. The
emperor, the senators, and the senators' wives approached in mourning
garments and sat down, the women in the porticoes, the men in the open. Then
followed statues of all the illustrious Romans of old, choruses of men and
boys chanting a hymn to the dead man, brazen images of all the subject
nations in their national costume, representatives of the different guilds
) in the city, the lictors, the
scribes, the heralds, &c.; images of the great and illustrious in
deed or discovery or walk in life; then the cavalry and infantry in full
armour, the chief racehorses, the gifts for the pyre. (mostly aromatics; see
88) presented by the emperor or the senators or
senators' wives or equites illustres,
or by the
divisions and collegia throughout the city. Thereafter followed a gilt
altar, adorned with ivory and Indian jewels. When all these had passed,
Severus mounted the Rostra and delivered the funeral oration. Tears and
lamentations accompanied the speech, and burst forth louder when the speech
was ended and the bier was moved. The chief priests and the magistrates,
actual and designate, took it from the platform and gave it to some of the
knights to bear. The procession marched before the bier, which was borne
amidst droning flutes and beatings of the breast to the Campus Martius, the
emperor following last. There the pyre was erected, a tower-like structure
with three stories (four in Herodian's description, built like a
lighthouse), adorned with gold and ivory and statues, and on the top of this
was the gilded chariot which Pertinax used to drive. Into this pyre the bier
was placed and the funeral offerings. Then, Severus and the relations of
Pertinax having kissed the image, the emperor mounted a platform, and the
senators from raised seats viewed what followed. When everything was
prepared, the praefects and the knights, and the cavalry and infantry, went
through their customary and their elaborate (πολιτικὰς καὶ ποιητικὰς
) evolutions round the pyre (cf.
Verg. A. 11.188
); the consuls applied
the torch, and when the fire had caught an eagle soared up aloft. Herodian's
account of the apotheosis of Severus is not materially different, except
that for seven days previously the gradual death of Severus is acted, a
waxen image taking the place of the emperor, physicians visiting it, and so
forth. The orientalized [p. 1.143]
character of the whole
proceeding is obvious: and for this Preller (Röm.
p. 787) refers to the description of the pyre of the Assyrian
Hercules in K. O. Müller, Kleine Schriften,
to the obsequies of Hephaestion (Diod. 17.115
), and the elder Dionysius (Ath. 206
The oldest custom carried the dead to heaven on an eagle (Artem.
2.20), and this is the most common figure on the
representations of apotheoses. But we find Augustus represented on a Paris
cameo as borne on a winged horse; and in the apotheosis
Medal of Antoninus Pius, representing the funeral pyre at his
Consecratio. (Brit. Museum.)
of Antoninus and Faustina the winged genius of Eternity with two
eagles carries them to the skies. On the triumphal arch of M. Aurelius the
Consecratio of Antoninus and Faustina, from pedestal of Column of
Faustina is borne aloft by a winged genius holding a torch. On a medal we see
Julia Domna soaring up on the back of a peacock, Juno's bird.
The new god is represented with the caput
(cf. Verg. A. 12.162
first adopted by an emperor while alive by Nero (Eckhel, D.
first on the
coins of Antoninus
Medal of Julia Domns, on the back of a peacock. (Brit.
Pius, regular after Constantine (Preller, p. 784):--the image of the deified
emperor no more appears in the funerals of his family (D. C. 56.46
), but his statue appears among the statues of the
gods at the games, on a tensa drawn by four elephants, symbols of eternity
(D. C. 74.4
; Eckhel, 7.144, 328). This is
not exclusively confined to the gods, for in the 3rd century it was also
used in the case of triumphs over the Parthians (Capit. Gord.
27). All these accompaniments of divinity appear on the coins representing
consecration,--the caput radiatum,
peacock, pyre, altar, tensa drawn by elephants: further, the star on the
coins of Julius; the phoenix, another symbol of eternity, on Trajan's coins,
&c. For a full account see Eckhel, D. N.
Outside the imperial family we sometimes find examples of deification.
Antinous, the favourite of Hadrian, is the best known example (Orig.
3.36): it reminds us of Cicero
and Tullia. Survivors are prone to imagine blessedness for the loved and
lost: e. g. the Carpocratians, a Gnostic sect, built a temple to the son of
their founder, who died young (Friedländer, 3.456), and the same
impulse may be seen in inscriptions (Orelli, 4647, 4530; Henzen, 7418). Men,
too, paid worship to their human ideal: thus Plato, after his death, was
regarded by some of his followers as son of Apollo (Zeller, 2.1, 378, note
3, ed. 1875). Much of the sincere and lasting adoration paid to M. Aurelius
(Capit. M. Ant.
18) was probably due to this impulse.
Alexander Severus used to offer religious rites to many holy souls,--to
Apollonius of Tyana, Christ, Abraham, Orpheus, “et huiuscemodi
ceteros” (Lampr. Alex.
(For apotheosis the chief works are F. G. Welcker, Griechische
2.294-316, 1863; L. Preller,
770-796, 1858; Gaston
Boissier, La Religion Romaine,
1.109-186, 1878; and Eckhel
and the inscriptions passim.
additional information may be obtained in Mommsen-Marquardt, 2.731-740, 783
1078; 6.89, 264-5, 443-455; Baumeister in
pp. 109-111, and Mayor on Juv. 4.71
, and Index.)