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Rulers as Gods: The Context of Ancient Religion

Why did ancient people in the Greek and Roman worlds sometimes consider political leaders as gods?  That’s the question I’m dealing with in this series of posts.  And I think now, after a good bit of background, I’m able to begin to answer it. The gods in Greek and Roman thought were considered to be superhuman.  Unlike, say, the (animal-shaped) gods of Egypt, the Greek and Roman gods were literally in human form.   When they appeared here on earth to humans they were often “bigger than life,” but they could assume regular human form when they wanted to and they were human-shaped even when attending to their heavenly duties.  In the Greek and Roman myths, they acted in human ways, they experienced the range of human emotions, they manifested human foibles, and so on. But they were different from humans in several ways.  For one thing, they were far more powerful than mere mortals.  They could accomplish things that no human could.  None of them was infinitely powerful, but on the scale of power, they [...]

2020-04-03T03:05:15-04:00September 22nd, 2016|Greco-Roman Religions and Culture, Public Forum|

The Divine Realm in Antiquity

I have started a thread on my current interest, the relationship of the imperial cult (the Roman worship of the emperors) to the rise of Christology (the understandings of Christ).  Both Caesars (especially deceased ones, but in some parts of the empire, also the living one) and Christ (by most of his followers, now that he too was deceased) were thought of and called “Savior,” “Lord,” “Son of God,” and even “God.” Most people would know that was true of Christ.  But why was it true of the Roman emperor?  Why would you worship your political leader?  Does this mean we’re going to have to call either Hillary or Donald “Lord” or “God”?  It seems unlikely.  So why did ancient people in the Roman Empire do it? That’s what I want to explore over a few posts.  To get there, I need to provide a refresher course (or, for those who don’t know this, simply a course!) on how ancient people imagined the divine realm in relation to the human realm.   I  have taken this [...]

2022-05-10T13:45:58-04:00September 16th, 2016|Greco-Roman Religions and Culture, Public Forum|
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