I mentioned in a previous post the scarcely-remembered-these-days Diogenes Poliorcetes (Diogenes, the Conqueror of Cities), who was acclaimed as a divine being by a hymn-writer (and others) in Athens because he liberated them from their Macedonian overlords.   I should point out that this great accomplishment paled with time, and he did some other things that the Athenians did not find so useful or approve of, and they rescinded their adoration of him.

My point was that sometimes military men/political rulers were talked about as divine beings.  More than that, they were sometimes *treated* as divine beings: given temples, with priests, who would perform sacrifices in their honor, in the presence of statues of them.  Does that make the person a god?  In many ways, they would be indistinguishable.  If it walks like a god and quacks like a god….

Best known are the divine honors paid to rulers of the Roman Empire, starting with Julius Caesar.   We have an inscription dedicated to him in 49 BCE (five years before he was assassinated) discovered in the city of Ephesus, which says this about him:

Descendant of Ares and Aphrodite

The God who has become manifest (θεὸν ἐπιφανῆ)

And universal savior (σωτῆρα) of human life

Before the God Julius Caesar

Prior to Julius Caesar, rulers in the city of Rome itself were not granted divine honors.  But Caesar himself was – before he died, the Senate approved the building of a temple for him, a cult statue, and a priest.  None of these were actually put in place before he was assassinated in 44 BCE.  But soon after his death, his adopted son and heir, Octavian (who later was to become Caesar Augustus) promoted, successfully, the idea that at his death Caesar had been taken up to heaven and been made a god to live with the gods.

Octavian had reasons of his own for wanting the divinization of Caesar….

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