Olsztyn: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Warmińsko-Mazurskiego (2001)
Divus Augustus Pater. The cult of divine Augustus under the rule of the Julio-Claudian dynasty Summary The cult of divine Augustus was one of the most important phenomena of ideological nature under the rule of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. The crucial point of its development was the apotheosis conducted on 17 September 14 AD. The new cult was derived greatly from numerous borrowings from the rites of various gods of the Roman Pantheon. As divus, Augustus received a separate priest, a private priestess, and a college of priests. The first flamen Augustalis became Germanicus. The holder of this title enjoyed many privileges. It seems unlikely, however, that flamen Augustalis controlled the entire cult of divine Augustus. This was the role of the emperor as both the supreme priest and the inheritor of political power. Sodales Augustales also had special cult functions. This religious fraternity had a mixed private-state character just like many of the institutions of the early principate. It was a cult college of gens Iulia and, most of all, of Augustus. From its beginning it enjoyed high prestige. The members of this religious fraternity were recruited among the Senate elite and the family of the emperor. Sacerdos divi Augusti occupies a different place in the priesthood established to worship Augustus. This female priesthood, despite its humble cult and political role, is of great interest to scholars. In spite of discerning investigations by researchers, there seem to have been only two priestesses in the Julio-Claudian dynasty – Julia Augusta, the widow of the creator of the principate, and Antonia Augusta. There is even no certainty that the latter had preformed the function at all. Augustus, as a god, was given a separate temple under a Senate decree. However, the construction work went slowly ahead. Therefore, divus Augustus was initially worshipped in other places of worship. At first, it was the temple of Mars Ultor. He was also worshipped in the sacrarium on the Palatine. One encounters certain difficulties when trying to identify the places of Augustus’ worship in Rome. Ultimately, there seem to have been two sacraria in the capital of the Empire. There is no certainty, however, whether yet another temple was located next to the templum novum divi Augusti on the Palatine. In trying to analyse the phenomenon of the divinity of the Roman emperors, and Augustus in particular, it is necessary to refer to the genesis of Emperor worship. Within the framework of official religion it is important to distinguish such elements as genius and numen. Although the consecratio act conducted by the Senate meant the crossing of the boundary between the human Augustus and the divine Augustus, it is important to remember that Augustus had prepared his apotheosis for a long time and already enjoyed divine honours during his lifetime. Certain elements of Augustus worship developed under his rule continued to exist for some time after the death of the creator of the principate. Augustus divinity was guarded by the law of maiestas. At the beginning of the rule of Tiberius it mostly protected divus Augustus himself. Gradually, despite some opposition, the law began to serve the ruling emperor. There is little certainty of how many cases were brought under the crimen laesae maiestatis against those who insulted the divine Augustus. The issue of trials for offending the law of maiestas is accounted for one-sidedly by ancient historians, which complicates the work of contemporary researchers. There is, however, no denying that for Tiberius (Augustus’ successor) the trials on the charge of maiestas turned out to be a trap. The cult of divus Augustus was approved throughout the Empire. Nevertheless, some weaker voices of opposition could be heard. These were present in the Senate circles cherishing the memory of the last defenders of the Republic, as well as among some ethnic and religious communities. The latter included Judaism and emerging Christianity. The political consequences of Augustus’ deification were very serious. He significantly contributed to the ruling of the Julio-Claudian dynasty for over 50 years. The main reason for that was the fact that in the Rome of that time the tradition of power succession was not yet well-grounded. Directly after the principate creator’s death, his consecratio took place – he was assigned priests and many godly honours and a temple was erected in his honour. These actions obviously took place under Augustus’ successor Tiberius who, during his rule, constantly tried to emulate the divine predecessor and referred to his decrees on numerous occasions. Tiberius was the emperor who contributed to the cult of his adoptive father to the greatest extent. However, one cannot fail to notice that his actions were somehow ambiguous. It has to be remembered that, in addition to his sincere respect for the divine Augustus, Tiberius also tried to use the authority of the creator of the principate to strengthen his power. This is exemplified by the motto imprinted on coins: DIVVS AVGVSTVS PATER. Caligula took a different approach to the Augustan cult. When assuming power after Tiberius, he was in a different position. The 20-year rule by Augustus’ successor greatly contributed to the strengthening of the idea of the principate ’s stability in the minds of the Romans. This allowed Caligula to pay less heed to the Senate aristocracy, as well as other institutional elements of the Republic. Under these circumstances, the cult of Augustus underwent modifications. Divus Augustus still remained at the heart of the religious propaganda of the Roman state and gens Iulia, but also other members of the family of the young Emperor received a number of honours drawing them closer to the world of gods. Drusilla, for that matter, was made a diva. By this, the idea of domus Augusta received a new confirmation. Caligula himself did not cease to participate in, and support, the rites performed to worship his divine grandfather. The available sources lead us to believe that Augustus constituted for the young princeps a role model and a character to which he often compared himself with. For Claudius, the use of the cult of divine Augustus was important as a tool to strengthen political power. But due to the fact that his personal links with divus Augustus were rather weak, Claudius focused on the cult of his grandmother Livia, Augustus’ wife. He also emphasised the function of sacerdos divi Augusti which his mother Antonia Augusta was to fulfil. Claudius faced the task of the ‘reconstruction’ of the cult of Augustus which had deteriorated, especially during the second part of Caligula’s rule. Claudius took a different direction in imitating Augustus than his two predecessors. Augustus’ model was very capacious, allowing him to find examples which could be adjusted to fit his own political goals and personality. Claudius avoided the stiffness characteristic of Tiberius and, at the same time, respected Augustus’ traditions which he Caligula inadvertently abused. Claudius’ attitude to Augustus is not quite clear. Undoubtedly he kept alive the memory of the first princeps, however, there is a lack of testimony about the new honours conferred on divine Augustus during the rule of this Emperor. Almost all of them concentrate around the person of Claudius or his family. There are, however, no honours conferred on the creator of the principate. This type of attitude caused the cult of divine Augustus to be eclipsed by the cult of the ruling Emperor. Nero, the last representative of the Julio-Claudian dynasty descended, unlike Claudius, directly from the line of Augustus. The new emperor deified his predecessor by using the model of Augustus’ apotheosis. In the first part of his rule he drew greatly from the Augustus model of exercising power. Nero ’s ideological platform seems to be the richest in comparison with other emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. The tradition of links with divus Augustus was, however, only one of many different elements. With time, the tradition appeared to play a still smaller role. The departure from the Augustus model took place on many levels. Some of the steps were very radical, whereas others were less significant. The most serious was the elimination of the members of gens Iulia and gens Claudia, and those who could prove their kinship with both the houses. The devastation in Nero ’s closest family put an end to the concept of domus Augusta. Formally, the Emperor did not renounce the divine creator of the principate but, in practice, the idea of the new domus Augusta no longer aimed at presenting Augustus’ descendants united in a single family. Nero was now alone and any creation of ideological concepts of power under those circumstances had to be based around him. These actions ended in disaster. By giving up the Augustan model, Nero lost the support of the army and, as a result, lost power. Apart from the worship of the state religion in the capital, divus Augustus was the subject of a provincial and municipal cult. Here, the worship of divine Augustus was often a continuation, sometimes in an extended form, of the honours Augustus had been granted during his lifetime. In the cult of divus Augustus, in the provinces one can observe a mutual interweaving of elements copied from the capital model and local traditions. The beginning of the provincial cult of Augustus dates back to the rule of Tiberius. The crucial point for the establishment of the provincial cult in the West was the request of the citizens of Hispania Tarraconensis to build a temple for divine Augustus. It is important to emphasise here that he was appointed on a local initiative. In the East, the genesis of the provincial cult is related to the functioning of koinon. In comparison with the western regions, the cult here was characterised not only by longer history but also an extensive system of priesthood and rich ritual. The intensity of development of municipal and private cult in the West depended on the level of social and economic development of the regions. It assumed the most complex forms in the provinces with well-developed city life – generally in the eastern provinces. Whereas the cult of divine Augustus in the western municipal provinces was similar in character to the cult of the principate’s creator in Italy. The greatest testimony to the cult’s development comes from relatively strongly romanised and, at the same time, the wealthiest regions which had been part of the Empire for a long time. These included the mainly proconsular Africa, Spain and Narbonese Gaul. The sources coming from these regions constitute not only an illustration of the development of the cult of divine Augustus and members of domus Augusta, but are also a sign of the processes of romanisation of great numbers of city populations. It is necessary to note that outside Rome we do not encounter an isolated cult of divine Augustus. Whenever we deal with information concerning temples or rituals dedicated to the deified creator of the principate, other members of the family are also worshipped. In fact, during the whole rule of the Julio-Claudian dynasty we actually deal with the cult of divine Augustus in close association with the worship of domus Augusta – domus divina.
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Architectural Symbolism of Imperial Rome and the Middle AgesThe Railroad Station.Zucker, Paul; Smith, E. Baldwin & Meeks, Carroll L. V.
Augustus and the Greek World.Badian, E. & Bowersock, G. W.
Divinisation des morts dans la Rome ancienne.Liou-Gille, Bernadette
The Senatus consultum de Cn. Pisone patre.Damon, Cynthia & Potter, D. S.
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