pompeyDivinity’s Journey
Augustus changed Rome in more than one way. It was not as readily available for ruler worship as Greece. In Greece, Nudity was closely connected with the Olympian Gods; hence any moment made of a nude individual was an attempt to closely relate them with the Olympian Gods. It is also important to see how Greece conditioned for divinity, since it is through a Hellenizing period that Rome came to embrace divinity like Greece before it. It is through Greece’s connection with the east that divinity came to Greece in the fashion that it did.

In 336 BC Alexander the Great led a conquest of the kingdom or Persia. It is in Persia that ruler worship found its way to Greece. Alexander’s experience in Persia is not all that pushed him to his own divinity, but also his experience in Egypt. The Oracle at Zeus-Ammon was a Personal experience that led Alexander to embrace divinity, in the Persian fashion. Alexander already held beliefs that he could be the son of Zeus. The Oracle greeted him as “Son of God”, which in Egypt was a typical greeting for the Pharaoh of Egypt, and as the king of Persia Alexander was the Pharaoh of Egypt. It is from this point on that Alexander believed in his own divinity.

The successor kingdoms of Alexander, known as the diadochoi, realized that they could not rule in the same fashion as Alexander if they were not divine themselves. The Hellenistic kings came to this conclusion due to the homage paid to Eumenes’ Cult of Alexander, and even the importance given to the ownership of Alexander’s body, which came to rest in the Ptolemaic Kingdom, and later resides in Rome according to Suetonius.

Early attempts at Roman Divinity
Divinity did not immediately take hold in the city of Rome, but in the outlying areas of the empire it slowly crept. It was because of the Hellenizing of Rome as it inherited Alexander’s successor kingdoms, as well as the movements of easterners in the empire. Early in this period, it was seen as defamation of character to be seen as receiving divine honors, such as the honors paid to Metellus Pius due to his success in the Spain. It is not actually known if Metellus Pius received these honors, but was added later by Sallust as defamation of Pius’ character. Sallust is also credited with forging a letter from Pompey to the senate claiming that Pius was cutting off his supply lines so that he could keep all the glory in Spain. I reality, both cooperated well in the endeavor in Spain.

After the death of the Gracchi brothers, a cult was established to sacrifice to them, but this type of cult was not out of the ordinary. Deceased Romans historically all received some semblance of divinity through the Roman Cult of Ancestors. Gaius Marius is also said to have set the pattern for the cult of the living by his own actions as praetor, by which he reasserted the traditional value of the denarius. Marius was rewarded with a statue on every street to which incense was burned. The late republic was a fragile time in Roman society.

Politicians were each considered to be close to the gods, even to be divine for their time in office, but they relinquished this upon the end of their offices. However, with the breaking of term limits it was the symbolism that office was not relinquished that helped to make humans into divine figures. A case in Cicero is allowed to show that his hosue was wrongly destroyed without the God’s permission, due to the Catiline Conspiracy, is deemed to be very important by Mary Beard. The case demonstrates that sicne the case was tried twice, and the outcome different each time, that: ”Religious rules of the late republic were not fixed”. [1]

The Triumph is also a very important symbol, during which the triumphant general dressed in the purple robes of Jupiter Optimus Maximus. Aemilius Paullus broke stride with tradition by being allowed to wear this costume at the games of Triumph, allowing him to assume the role of Jupiter for a longer period of time. Pompey was the next to do so in 63 BC, and Caesar furthered this pursuit by wearing such dress at all public gatherings in his time as dictator.

Pompeius Magnus and Megas Alexandros
Pompey the Great lived his life as the Alexander the Great of Rome. Plutarch believes that there was no individual that was as loved as Pompey and also no one hated as much as Pompey’s father. It is important that Pompey is such a polarizing character. Pompey celebrated three Triumphs, there are several Romans that have celebrated three triumphs, but there is significance to Pompey’s Triumphs. Like Alexander, Pompey conquered the World, but his conquest went far beyond Alexander; Europe, Asia and Africa. In his triumphs Pompey made sure that his audience knew how important and powerful he was. When asking Sulla for his first Triumph, he did not meet the criteria to do so, and so replied to Sulla said “More worshiped is the rising sun than the setting sun”.[2] To which Sulla replied: “Let him Triumph”.[3]

Pompey’s Triumphs are the main tool by which he made himself divine, even at one point wearing the battle clothing of Alexander in Triumph. His depiction of Alexander even goes as far as having Magnus added to his name as well as having busts of himself made to resemble Lisyppos’ Alexander with flowing hair. Plutarch even states that Pompey bore a resemblance to Alexander even from youth. Like Alexander, worship of Pompey began in the east where he was referred to as “Savior” by cults to him at Delos, Samos and Mytelene.[4] Pompey also makes a speech in Athens as recorded by Plutarch, which shows confidence in his own divinity, stating: “The more you know you’re a man, the more you become a god”.[5] Love of Pompey turns to admiration, which in turn becomes worship. Such worship is evident in Plutarch when Pompey takes to fever, the citizens begin sacrificing to the gods for his recovery, and the praising of the gods becomes praising of Pompey. “Villagers came to meet him, rejoiced and feasted for many days, tossing flowers and garlands at him as he went”.

The Triumphs are the tools that bring the god-like worship into the city of Rome, a city to which the man-god worship was slow to come to. It is in Rome that Pompey places his temple to himself, he constructs to Theater of Pompey, a temple to Venus Victrix (Vicotry), along with a house for himself attached to it; a Temple of Pompey. This idea is built upon by Caesar when he Constructs his massive forum, along with a temple to Venus Genetrix (the ancestor).

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[1] Beard-119

[2] Plutarch-14

[3] Plutarch-14

[4] Beard-147

[5] Plutarch-27