History, archaeology, historiography, peoples, and personalities of ancient Rome and the Mediterranean.

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Postby Valerius Claudius Iohanes on Fri Jul 20, 2007 9:26 pm

Avete, Sodales Omnes -

When emperors were deified, this was shown by adding the epithet DIVVS to their names. It seems to be always the same adjective, divus, which in English is commonly translated as "god".

But the form makes me wonder. Wasn't the meaning a shade different, meaning more "divine" in some respect, rather than actually identifying the former emperor as a new deity?

Has this been discussed here before?

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Postby Aldus Marius on Sat Jul 21, 2007 5:12 am

Salve, mi Iohanne!

Nothing to back this up except gut instinct, but I've always likened it to the making of a Catholic saint. (Indeed, the tradition of sainthood may be a holdover from imperial times.) Saints are not considered gods...yet they get prayed to, shrines are built in their honor, people try to emulate their lives, and sometimes they are said to work miracles.

The divi augusti were mostly the ones whose lives and reigns were considered exemplary, who any Roman--and especially any Roman ruler--would want to be like. I am actually rather impressed at how resistant this practice of deification was to politics and other pressures. The Senate might grovel before a tyrant in his lifetime, but nothing could make them declare him divus if they were not already inclined to do so.

My duo denarii...
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