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AUGUSTA´LES the name of two classes of priests, one at Rome and the other in the municipia, frequently mentioned in inscriptions.

I. The Augustales at Rome, properly called sodales Augustales, which is the name they always bear in inscriptions, were an order of priests (Augustalium sacerdotium) instituted by Tiberius to attend to the worship of Augustus and the Julia gens. On this occasion they were chosen by lot from among the principal persons in Rome, and were twenty-one in number; Tiberius, Drusus, Claudius, and Germanicus, as members of the imperial family, were added as supernumeraries (Tac. Ann. 1.54). They were also called sacerdotes Augustales (id. Ann. 2.83); and sometimes simply Augustales (id. Hist. 2.95). The number was subsequently increased, but never exceeded twenty-eight. The form of election seems also to have been modified, as inscriptions show that in later times extraordinary, and probably also ordinary members were created by a senatus consultum following an imperial rescript (C. I. L. 6.1985-2000; Dessau, in Ephem. Lpigraph. 3.208; cf. Mommsen, Staatsr. 2.1055, n. 1). That there were priestesses of Augustus as well as priests appears from an inscription in Gruter (320, 10): this practice probably took its origin from the appointment of Livia, by a decree of the senate, to be priestess to her deceased husband. Even before the emperor's death we find that flamines and sacerdotes had been appointed to attend to his worship; but we have the express statements of Suetonius and Dio Cassius that this worship was confined to the provinces, and was not practised in Rome, or in any part of Italy, during the lifetime of Augustus (Tac. Ann. 1.10; Suet. Aug. 52; D. C. 51.20). In this respect Augustus showed himself more moderate than the dictator Julius, who among other divine honours accepted M. Antonius as his flames and lupercus (Cic. Phil. 2.43, 110; 13.19, 41; Suet. Jul. 76). Similar priests were appointed in honour of other deified emperors: thus we find in inscriptions sodales Augustales Claudiales, Flaviales (after Vespasian), Flaviales Titiales or simply Titiales (Titus; in this case the most admired emperor of the gens gave his name to the gentile priesthood, rather than the gentile name itself, Dessau, l.c.); Hadrianales, Antoniniani (Ant. Pius), Aureliani, perhaps. also called Marciani (M. Aurelius). The last instance is that of the sodales Alexandriani after Alexander Severus (Lampr. Al. Sev. 63). A man's place in these priestly colleges was called his decuria (Mommsen, Ephem. Epigr. 3.75, note 1, who however adds a caution against extending this analogy to other cases where it cannot be proved). The imperial sodales were under three magistri changed annually (Orelli-Henzen, 6046, with Henzen's note); and were taken indiscriminately from patricians and plebeians (Dessau, l.c. p. 218 n.). Each of these sodalitates had likewise a flamen or sacrificing priest; we find frequent mention in inscriptions of flamines Augustales and flamines Divorum; but the precise degree of connexion between the flamines and the sodales has been disputed. The most probable opinion is that of Dessau, in accordance with which Marquardt has now corrected his former views. A member of the sodales Augustales was sometimes a flamen also (Orelli, Inscr. 2366, 2368); but the flamines were not, as such, members of the collegium or sodalitas. The flamines Augustales were necessarily patricians, and were most likely nominated, like the three great flamines, by the emperor as Pontifex Maximus; the sodales, as already stated, were under no such restriction. For further details on the imperial flamines, see FLAMEN (H. Dessau, de sodalibus et flaminibus Augustalibus, Berlin, 1877, and in Ephem. Epigr. 3.205 ff.; Mommsen-Marquardt, vi. (iii.), pp. 449-455.)

II. The Augustales in the municipia are scarcely mentioned in ancient literature, but the constant growth of epigraphic material throws increasing light upon their organisation. There is no doubt that (1) they were, as a rule, libertini, though ingenui Augustales are sometimes mentioned in inscriptions; that (2) they formed, in conjunction with the seviri, whose precise relation to them remains to be discussed, an intermediate class (ordo) between the municipal senators (decuriones) and plebs (municipes); and that (3) they and the seviri alike had for their object the worship of Augustus, with which succeeding emperors came to be associated. They cannot. have been, as was formerly supposed, instituted in the municipia in imitation of the Augustales of Tiberius at Rome, just described; they appear in the lifetime of Augustus, the others only after his death: the social status of their members is in striking contrast with that of the sodales (Tac. Ann. 1.54; see above); and while the more dignified priesthood honoured only consecrated emperors, those we are now considering descended to the cultus of the living, who perhaps in the end were never deified at all (e. g. Nero, C. I. L. 3429). Another view, based on the scholiasts of Horace (Porphyr. and Acron, ad Hor. Sat. 2.3, 281), was that they were a class of priests selected by Augustus from the libertini to attend to the worship of the Lares, which that emperor set up in places where two or more ways met [COMPITALIA]. This was held by Orelli (Inscr. ii. p. 197) and Egger (Append. ii. p. 384 ff.), but Henzen showed (Zeitschr. für Alterthumsw., 1848, p. 193) from the fuller evidence of inscriptions that the magistri Augustales and magistri Larum Augustorum were distinct [p. 1.259]from the Augustales properly so called and the seviri Augustales (see especially Orelli-Henzen, 6062, 6093, 7115). The same evidence allows us to trace the worship of Augustus in his lifetime to private persons, provincial towns, and existing priestly colleges, especially those of Mercury: hence the allusion in Horace (Od. 1.2, 41-4). The six principal members of the college were called seviri, but the distinction between these and other Augustales is not always clear. The evidence of the inscriptions leads us to the following conclusions. In the municipia of Southern Italy, including parts of Samnium and Campania, the intermediate class are called Augustales, but no seviri are mentioned, except at Rhegium and Puteoli. They have officers of their own,--a curator, quinquennales, and quaestores. In the provinces of Gallia Narbonensis and Lugdunensis, we find seviri only, without Augustales; the seviri as annual officers, three equites and three freedmen, in an important inscription at Narbonne (Orelli, 2489). In most cities of Central Italy both seviri and Augustales occur; and this is pronounced by Henzen and Marquardt the most regular type of the institution. In this case the seviri appear to have served for a year, providing sacrifices at their own expense, and afterwards to have become life-members of the ordo under the name of Augustales. In particular places we read of sexviri seniores and juniores. Nor was the number six invariable, as in some rare cases there are triumviri Augustales and octoviri Augustales. Under later emperors the institution spread throughout the empire, and one object of it was probably to open a career of honour elsewhere to the libertini, who were purposely kept down at Rome (Marquardt, pp. 204-5). There was a property qualification required, which is not stated, but must have been considerable: besides the sacrifices, they had to pay a fine on admission (summa honoraria) and give games and other treats to the people. These admission fees went into the chest of the municipality, not into a corporate fund of their own; they were thus an ordo, not a collegium. In return they had the distinction of the praetexta while in office, and might also be buried in it; that of the bisellium, with a place of honour in the theatre; and were accompanied on state occasions by two lictors bearing fasces (ib. 206-7). We are reminded of some of the incidents of municipal dignity in modern times. (Egger, Examen critique des Historiens anciens de la Vie et du Règne d'Auguste, Paris, 1844, Appendix II. p. 357 if.; Zumpt, de Augustalibus et Seviris Augustalibus Commentatio Epigraphica, Berol. 1846; Henzen, in Zeitschr. für Alterthumsw., 1848, Nos. 25-27 and 37-40; J. Schmidt, de Seviris Augustalibus, Halle, 1878; 0. Hirschfeld, in Zeitschr. für die österreichischen Gymnasien, 1878, p. 292 ff.; and especially Marquardt, iv. (i.) pp. 197-208, ed. 2 (1881).


hide References (11 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (11):
    • Homer, Odyssey, 1.2
    • Homer, Odyssey, 1.4
    • Homer, Odyssey, 1.41
    • Cicero, Philippics, 13.41
    • Cicero, Philippics, 2.43
    • Cicero, Philippics, 13.19
    • Cicero, Philippics, 2.110
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 52
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 76
    • Tacitus, Annales, 1.10
    • Tacitus, Annales, 1.54
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