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The Cult of Caesar

In ancient Rome, the phenomenon known as the cult of Caesar arose from the worship of Roman emperors. A cornerstone of ancient Roman culture, the emperors of ancient Rome were considered gods across the Empire. Julius Caesar represents the epitome of the deification of ancient Roman emperors.

Divus Iulius

Caesar was awarded the title of a god upon his return from the successful battle in Spain, during which the Pompeians were crushed. Upon this victory, Caesar was elected dictator for life and made Roman consul for a period of ten years; he was declared to be a sacred being.

This produced the culture of Divus Iulius, that is, the deified Caesar. The term Iulius refers to the month of July, which was named in honor of Caesar’s birth upon his deification. Divus Iulius was made a god that was equivalent in power to the highest god Jupiter and he was decreed god of the Roman empire. Temples and statues were built in his honor throughout Rome.

In 44 BCE, Caesar declared himself dictator for life and allowed a statue of himself to be built with the inscription, Deo Invicto, meaning “to the unconquered god”. The statue became a symbol of his authority.

Caesar’s power increased after his death. He was named Dictator Perpetuo, giving the deceased emperor jurisdiction over the earthly world from the other realm. Pillars and statues were erected in his honor and the cult of Caesar diffused throughout the Empire, reaching cities such as Alexandria.

In 29 BCE, the temple of Julius Caesar (Aedes Divus Iulius was commissioned in honor of the late emperor. The temple was constructed in the Italian style and featured two Corinthian columns. The temple, of which only the front podium and circular altar remain today, also included a speaker’s platform.

Some individuals associate the chevron with the cult of Caesar and in fact, the symbol was representative of emperor worship in ancient Rome. It has been linked to the temple of Augustus, specifically to the roofline and shield symbol. The same symbol appeared on coins bearing the image of Herod Philip II.

The cult of the emperor of ancient Rome only waned with the rule of the emperor Constantine, who rose to power in the year 324 CE. Constantine led to a rise in the popularity of Christianity among the Roman Empire, and also legalized Christianity in 313 CE with the Edict of Milan.

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