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May 31, 2007

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Peter Kirk

But surely Augustus was accepted as a god only after his death? Ironically this was during Jesus' lifetime. I had understood (but this could be an invention of Robert Graves) that the first open worship of a living emperor as a god in his own right (and ignoring the self-proclaimed deity of the mad Caligula) was the worship of Claudius here in Britain, in fact in Colchester only 25 miles from here. But I think this is supposed to have been by legionaries from the eastern empire, who may indeed have been used to worshipping living emperors before this but unofficially.

Michael W. Kruse

Peter, my understanding is that it was an evolving process from the first century B.C.E. through most of the first C.E. It varied to some degree by region and culture. Julius Caesar was proclaimed God after his death and Augustus came to be portrayed as the son of God. The specifics about what this status might mean seems to have varied by region and culture. Some in the East (maybe in Britan as well?) were predisposed to make these connections while traditional Romans were a little more resistant to these ideas.

My recollection is that it was Domitian (81-96 C.E.) who was the first to out-and-out claim he was god and demand he be worshiped as such. It didn't go over well. The Emperor cult continued on after him but became increasingly a symbolic thing. I have read that Augustus resisted the idea that he personally be seen as a god but was amenable to the idea of people worshiping his genius. I don't know enough of this history to speak how each of the succeeding Emporers like Claudius may characterized this.

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