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CiceroD

Germanic Religion

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I can see what you are arguing but I would tend to draw more of a distinction between any 'divine' status either claimed or implied by the Imperial Cult and how individual Roman patrons may have been seen by their clients, or more likely their tenants, after their death.

 

While some patrons may have been seen as particularly favoured of the gods and generally 'good' men and as such to be honoured I do not think that most Roman citizens would have ascribed to them 'divine' status. Depending on how badly they may have 'gouged' their clients/ tenants, they may have been placed into an entirely different 'spiritual' category.

 

To adapt a quote 'we bury/cremate our dead so they stay dead' may have closer resonance to the truth of the matter in most cases. ;)

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True, the Romans had a patron-client relationship to their gods, but that's probably not the reason why a very small selected number of powerful Roman patrons (emperors and their relatives) could become deified. What I was trying to come at is that nobody, as far as I know, outside the Imperial family was ever given the statues of god after his or her death. It was a thus an imperial monopoly, constructed to secure the throne for the heir and the dynasty, as far as I know.

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What I'm getting at is that we're seeing godhood as a defined and discreet level of being. That's a modern christian view, in that we're accustomed to the idea of a single unique god whose power and status is absolute and unquestionable - not to mention unattainable. The pagan Romans saw no such distinction.

 

Now it is true that the Senate gave official qualification to a small number of individuals by deifing them. This has nothing to do with spirituality, but represents the ultimate honour. In the same way the Senate might invite a man to become emperor, so they invite a deceased man of suitable reputation to become a god. Please note the idea of assignment by the senators. It's as if they 're sending an application form on the behalf of the deceased to Olympus and expect the gods to take notice.

 

You could argue that there was a measure of political expendiency involved. I agree. Roman ambivalence is never far from their motives.

 

The persistence of reputation is the important issue here. Note that if you ask anyone to name a Roman, the chances are they will mention Julius Caesar (along with a couple of julio-claudian emperors who were accused of having divine ambition). It's that mythic status that defines the reality of deification in the minds of those who accept the premis that a human being can ascend to the ranks of Olympian deities.

 

But bear in mind the subliminal level of ancestor worship present in Roman society. Whilst it was never a primary spiritual belief, a Roman should always speak well of the dead, because they a supernatural force to reckoned with, second only to the vengeful gods that interfere directly in the affairs of man.

 

It is true that many of the revered deceased would fade in the memory of the public quite quickly and their tombs more often used to host cheap sex with prostitutes that cannot justify a better office, but this indeed measures the importance and reputation of the individual and to some degree mirrors the mans virtus acheived during his lifetime. In other words, whilst the Senate made political recognition of divine status, the reality was in the minds of the public. A patron might have been powerful and influential, but was he revered as a great person during his lifetime and more importantly, afterward? Just as status in the mundane world varies in scope, so did the status of deities in Roman eyes.

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